Archive for the Gothic Revival Category

Downtown Neo Gothic, LA’s Medieval Fashion District

Posted in 20th century, architecture, Florence C.Casler, Gothic Revival, William Douglas Lee on November 29, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Amidst the hub-bub of downtown LA , most particularly the Fashion District, a mock gothic fantasy looms overhead. Easy to miss with the purveyors of cheap fabrics, suspicious fashion, and peculiar craft items. Frankly, the architectural marvels maintain my sanity.

One such marvel has just undergone a major overhaul, what had been one of many light industrial Temples to Efficiency will soon be the new home for the Downtown Women’s Center, 442 South San Pedro Street.

Downtown Women’s Center

née W.Douglas Lee building

1926

442 South San Pedro Street

architect- William Douglas Lee

builder-Florence C. Casler

This medieval fantasy is one of many collaborations between the female builder Florence Casler (1869-1954) and the architect Wm. Douglas Lee (1894-1965). It is of course fitting that a pioneering female builder would ultimately (if unintentionally ) house her more unfortunate sisters.

We have the opportunity to check out the transformation first hand December 8th, 2010, a designer showcase that evening making that possible.

showcase link

The following image gives a sense of the extent of rehabilitation that the building has undergone. although I must confess I love the gaudy colors, so robust.

image source

Although I hesitate to promote events, this is most worthy. Plus it is quite a lovely building. I look forward to attending.

As I mentioned Florence C. Casler was a busy gal, in collaboration with her business partner Jesse K. Lloyd, they have bejewelled downtown LA with some true gems.

Florence C. Casler

ca. 1931

b.1869

d. 1954


Lloyd and Casler Inc. were responsible for the tremendous Textile Center. This building has added much joy to my downtown jog, I always slow down to soak in the details.

Textile Center

1926

315 E. 8th Street

LA

source

Textile Building

source

I have had less luck unearthing info concerning the architect William Douglas Lee, although quite prolific I was unable to find a photo of the fellow. Quite busy from the 20’s through 1961, he ultimately teamed up with his son Douglas Everett Lee, the following link provides a list of accomplishments.

The following images, just a small sampling.

Garment Capitol Building

ca. 1926

217 E. 8th Street @ Santee

image source

I particularly love the Bendix Building, all ghostly chill, wide open floors, glorious light. Plus Bendix is just a super name.

Bendix Aviation Co. Building

ca. 1929

Maple and 12th

image source

I do hope you consider joining me in  attending this worthy event.

Until then,

Babylon Baroque


 

 


Afton Villa, a Southern Gothic Tragedy

Posted in Afton Villa, American South, architecture, Belter, George Greig, Gothic Revival with tags on August 23, 2010 by babylonbaroque

This blogging is a curious business, the following , is a suggestion from a reader. In my opinion, a reader of great merit, not only an avid history buff and preservationist, she happens to be the great, great, great niece of the artist George Miller Grieg. Mr. Grieg was the painter commissioned by Queen Victoria, to paint the interiors of Holyrood. I posted about Holyrood and it’s interiors in June. I suggest you take a peek , marvelous stuff.

Through this happy meeting I have been introduced to the fantastic, now lost, antebellum estate, Afton Villa.

Afton Villa

St. Francisville Parish, Louisiana

Gothic Revival plantation

ca. 1840

destroyed by fire 1963

The following images taken by the WPA ( now available through the Louisiana Historical  Photographic Collection) testify to the magnificence of this lost treasure. Always fond of American Gothic Revival, this 40 room plantation house , was a stunning example.

B&W photo, circa 1940’s

charming image

Afton Villa, front entrance

detail of porch

detail of entrance gallery

Definitely my favorite image in the series, the lack of interior shots curious. Perhaps the then unfashionable interiors were not deemed  a worthy subject for documentation.

a particularly romantic image

A striking image showing the stair tower.

Just look at that thing!

Incredible.

Avenue of live oaks.

Southern enough for you??

We all need a gatehouse.

Another romantic view of this great beauty.

Rear view?

I love this shot, slightly ungainly,  a charming quirkiness.

As a contrast to these tasteful images, I present a few of those really garishly colored 60’s postcards I so love.

Rather forlorn image

The reverse describes Afton Villa as “a famous French Chateau (????), now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Percy’, it goes on to describe “it’s hand carved Rosewood suite”, one assumes Belter or some knockoff.

another image, same room, same “Rosewood suite”.

I love how stiffly formal interiors appeared in the 60’s.

The following is of a bedroom, presumably Master.

The reverse describes the “original Rosewood bedroom suite by Mallard.

Love the crucifix.

I sincerely thank the great, great , great ,niece of the talented Mr. Grieg. I will close with an image of Mr. Grieg from her family photo album, a treasure.

George Miller Grieg

 

 

Good Night.

 

 

Recquiscat in Pace Sts. Peters and Paul, Trenton Churches

Posted in 19th cent., architecture, Blessed Virgin Mary, Gothic Revival, Sacred Architecture, Trenton on August 3, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Saints Peter & Paul

The Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry

The Cloisters

My intention had been to finish the second installment of my Gems of the Centennial Exhibition.

In my research I stumbled upon some sad news. Sad on a personal, perhaps spiritual level.

My beloved little church in my hometown of Trenton, Sts. Peter and Paul, was on the auction block.

Peter and Paul’s as the natives referred to it as, was the home base for my paternal grandmother, a Slovak woman, born and raised in this industrial part of South Trenton. One of many little ethnic neighborhoods making a claim to the American Dream; establishing families, communities, and churches, wondrous churches. My ancestors poured , what seems from my perspective, ridiculous sums of money as donations to establish churches that would represent their particular ethnic interests. This was happening all over the East coast, Trenton has it’s share of really lovely churches, Italian, Slovak, and Pole. So many folks built so many impressive churches, sacrificing effort, time, and hard earned cash.

Unfortunately neighborhoods change, the factory worker’s children become middle class, leaving behind charming neighborhoods, shops, and sadly these really lovely churches and the communities built around them.

Peter and Paul’s was one such church.

Sts. Peter and Paul

395 -403 Second Street

Trenton, N.J.

Although possessing a modest exterior, a dour grey stone, softened only by our Blessed Mother gazing down upon her faithful, I quickly grew to love  this church.

When I was nineteen my first partner Douglas and I purchased a charming little rowhouse around the corner from the church, in the late 80’s, we paid $5000.00, cash.

The neighborhood had fallen terribly, gangs, welfare folks, illegals. I didn’t notice the squalor, it was a delightful little house to claim as my own, with a teeny patch of land in which to plant radishes. When we told my Grandmother where we had moved she was delighted and startled. I hadn’t known my new neighborhood had been  where she was raised; she regaled me with neighborhood tales, but her spirit was dampened by her fear for my personal safety. She took comfort in that we were “two boys”.

I discovered Peters and Paul’s through her stories. I was looking for a church, looking for something, I’m still looking. Peters and Paul’s seemed like an opportunity.

It was. They had an early Mass, 5:30 am, I would stumble out of bed, slip through the alley between my street and the Church, and enter the rear side door, past the altar to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I quickly secured my own pew and my own position in this odd ball little congregation. The last few Slovaks left, loyal to the neighborhood, it’s traditions, and this church.

Or they were just broke.

I was enchanted time and again. In May, the month devoted to our Blessed Mother, homemade bouquets, often sweet blue hydrangeas from their gardens, were gathered by the Altar Guild. They were adorable in their coffee cans decorated by tin foil and ribbons. So much more wonderful then the costly spiritless arrangements made by the local florists. These tender bouquets, modest and sweet against the faded grandeur of this really magnificent neo-Romanesque interior really touched my personally, spiritually, and aesthetically.

If the exterior was essentially un-inspired, the interior compensated for the modesty. Romanesque influences abounded, a magnificent painted ceiling complete with strangely large Archangels. A very impressive High Altar ,resplendent in it’s polychromed marbles, intricate carvings, ignoring  Romanesque archetypes but delighting this particular peasant’s eye. Early electrical fixtures, elaborately fashioned Seraphs from which one bare little electric bulb offered illumination.

Amidst this splendor, were water stains, broken pipes, and neglect due to lack of funds.

But certain traditions were not to be ignored, finances be damned.

The front doors, which in the sad photo show as an unfortunate dingy white, were initially finished in a vernacular form of  faux bois. A curious finish which included adding beer to the paint, the result, an almost alarming orange-ish “oak”. I spoke to the artisan, he lived in the neighborhood, had been taught his craft as an apprentice, finishes such as this were mandatory if you were to be a reputable painter. He bemoaned the fact that cheap latex paints and a desire for economy had all but eliminated the use of his talents. He donated his services to the church. God love him.

Secular maintenance, though important, was not as valued as sacred tradition. The Sacristan’s duties were stringently enforced, Vatican II be damned.

Statuary was draped in purple during Holy Week, the Blessed Sacrament interred in a mock Sepulcher, the ceremonial procession making theatric use of the thurible (censor) and patent sprinkler. Our Lord protected under the umbraculum, a strange handheld umrella, ornamental in it’s swags, tassels, and embroidery. Charming, emotionally touching, and doomed. I knew, as a very young man, that these traditions were coming to an end. No more would our Virgin receive her purple shroud to signify Her, and our heart’s mourning for the dead Lord. The “ombrellino” would go into storage as an artifact of a primitive faith.

#1-holy water pot

#2 patent sprinkler

#3 thurible

#5 baldacchina

#6 umbraculum, “ombrellino”

And so it happened.

As I was moving away to brighter happier places, Peter and Paul’s was in the process of  it’s own changes. To accomadate the evergrowing Hispanic flock, Spanish masses were added. Initially there was some Slovak grumbling, but the transition went surprisingly well. The new members were dutiful, sincere, and frankly young, with children, energy ,and joy. The mutual love both communities shared for the Holy Mother smoothed the way.

I had hoped that would ensure the  future of Sts. Peter and Paul.

I guess not. The auction  sheet states that the sacred elements will be removed prior to closing.

But what about the devotional window of St. Anne, donated through sacrifice by some long dead parishioner. What about the crumbling fresco of St. John in the Baptistry? Will he be primed out and given a fresh coat of Contactor’s white?

My heart breaks at these changes.

I treasure my being able to witness the last moments of this one little sweet church.

I close with a few of the churches that seem to still thrive in the Capital City of Trenton.

Basillica Church of the Sacred Heart

founded 1819

Final construction, 3rd, as shown, 1899

another view of Sacred Heart

St. Hedwigs

A thriving church, popular with the Polish community

Interior of St. Hedwigs

This particular type of splendor, is frankly quite typical of so many Trenton churches. The desire to outshine Rome apparent.

Again, the strangely large painted Archangels.

Detail of St. Hedwig’s interior.

The light Rococo coloring, lovely and fresh.

Church coloring has always influenced my own work. The altar angels are wonderful, I covet them.

A procession at St. Hedwig’s making happy use of the Baldacchina.

The Umbraculum apparently wouldn’t have been sufficient to protect our Lord from the noonday sun.

Immaculate Conception

built 1888

This church, built and loved by Trenton’s  Italian community, was my father’s church. As a boy I looked up with  wonder at  the Neo Gothic architecture, it’s rich carvings, and it’s paintings, endless painting.

Immaculate  Conception inspired me to be an artist. I will never forget this church.

To indulge our Protestant brothers I include a few beauties.

St. Michaels Episcopal

established 1703

Last major alteration 1870, in the Fantasy Gothic style, after Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I close with this country church, outside of urban Trenton. This Methodist church is in Groveville, where I was raised. Groveville is an early little town, rural in nature, mid-19th century  architecture, as far away from the Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and Real Housewives as you can get. It is my particular understanding of  what being from “Jersey” is all about.

Groveville Methodist Church

established 1837

built 1887 in the vernacular Methodist “plan-book” style.

Sts. Peter and Paul

chromolithograph 19th cent.

Have a great day.

Gems of the Centennial Exhibition, part I

Posted in 19th cent., Allen & Bros., Centennial Exhibition, furniture, Gothic Revival, Minton, Neo Grec, Philadelphia, Renaissance Revival, Tiffany & Comp. on July 29, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As I am always keen on the topics of Design Exhibitions and my beloved Philadelphia, I was very pleased when the exhibition catalog “Gems of the Centennial Exhibition” became available.

I have been aware of miscellaneous objects created for our Exhibition, but to tap into contemporary criticism is a great privilege.

If you wish to take a peek, follow this link,Gems of the Centennial Exhibition .

Part of the  fun is to be able to find clues as to why certain design decisions were made. I can think of no other time in which peculiar little quirks drive me mad. Other centuries seem to have allowed reason and conventional notions of beauty  to influence aesthetic decisions. The 19th century, in it’s mad dash quest for novelty, progress, and historicism , produced many perplexing details.

Once such example is this Neo Grec  centre table.

Centre Table
Messrs. Allen & Brother
Philadelphia, Pennsyslvania
ca. 1875
Cherry with opaque white paint, marble.
approx. dimensions 32x45x30
Brooklyn Museum
Although this particular piece was not exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition, Messrs. Allen & Bros. did exhibit two equally peculiar cabinets.
I admire the Neo Grec treatment of ivory paint, the incised decoration being gilded, the attempt at restraint.. Although aspiring for Classical refinement. I find the legs with their scrolling vine work to be in the Neo Gothick style of the Audsley Bros. From my perspective, this centre table is a hybrid Neo Greco-Neo Gothick.
But I digress, back to peculiar design decisions.
The curtain rod rings, why? Was fabric to be hung? That would conceal the handsome palmette on the brace. If it had been a folio cabinet containing  light sensitive watercolours  and engravings, perhaps a hanging would make sense, but this is a centre table. Perhaps a decorative lambrequin-like hanging was employed. It is puzzling.
I was unable to find an answer, just another peculiar example in the “Gems of the Centennial…”
Pardon the quality, I scanned it myself, rather poorly.
What is apparent on this cabinet are the rings. Once again employed as a decorative motif, once again making no apparent sense,although this time they appear fixed, merely a conventional treatment. This particular image is on page 145.
Not a great mystery, just one of those little peculiarities that fascinates and piques  the interest of this Victoriana Nerd.

On to other objects listed in the “Gems”.

This great beauty by Tiffany has been making the rounds of the more exuberant blogs, chateauthombeau.blogspot.com. It is certainly a treasure.
Fruit Dish in Silver, by Messrs. Tiffany & Co., New York
And here it is , page 15,
A great favorite of mine is this circular settee.
by Marchand?
Paris
The text does not attribute the maker, although the photo seems to say by Marchand.
The text of “Gems…” goes on to describe this marvel of the up-holster’s art as being 14 feet high, 10 feet in diameter. It is in the Renaissance style, and covered in green satin. I would have thought charcoal from the image.This bit of fantasy is topped with a functioning fountain of red marble and bronze, lovely with the green satin.To finish off the confection”the whole is gracefully surmounted by a chandelier of fifty burners.” I love the purple prose, I love the setee.
A lovely Aesthetic Movement chimney piece follows.
Love the lady casually reading, oblivious to the maddening crowd.
and now, pg. 97
This fascination with contemporary images and responses may appear silly, it most likely is. But it helps to answer a few of the oddball questions I have whenever I gaze upon a 19th century room;particularly one before the Reform Movement had great influence. With the endless draping of mantle pieces, jardinieres, “artistic” easels, and Turkish Corners, I am often puzzled . The “Gems of the Centennial Exhibition” puts the period in context.
I end with a few gems that had exhibited at the Exhibition.
“Monumental Centerpiece”
Minton
made for “76 Exhibition
27″w x 24″d x 33 1/2″h
Wilson Sewing Machine
LOVE the Herter Bros. influence on so modest a piece of “furniture”.
Burdett Organ
trade card
BTW,
the proper title of the catalog is as follows:
Gems of the Centennial Exhibition:Consisting of Illustrated Descriptions of Objects of an Artistic Character, in the Exhibits of the United States, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Russia, Japan, China
Perhaps the most exuberant title ever.
The poor dears were really trying to prove their legitimacy.
Good Night

Teutonic Splendor, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, and the Great Exhibition of 1851

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, 19th cent., chair, George Greig, Gothic Revival, Memento Mori, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, sideboards on June 18, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In continuing my mania for all things Teutonic, prompted by my Ring experience, I present this architectural wonder.

Last week I showcased a Gothic Revival chair, part of a set shown at the Great Exhibition of ’51. the set included a sideboard, the sideboard follows.Sideboard or buffet

ca. 1851

designer, Ferdinand Rothbart

makers, Thomas Hoffmeister and Thomas Behrens

carved oak and brown plush

place of origin, Coburg

acquired by the V&A in 1967

In addition to last weeks chair,shown below, and in last weeks post,

the sideboard was commissioned by the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg, Albert’s neck of the woods. As I mentioned last week the chairs and this splendid sideboard,  described as “in the German-Gothic style of the middle ages”, were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

by G. Baxter

from Lane’s telescopic view of the ceremony of Her majesty opening the Great Exhibition of All Nations,

designed by Rawlins, London, August 15th 1851

It would have been difficult for the dashing and reform minded prince to resist the pieces. Aside from their great beauty and craftsmanship, his ties as a member of the house of Saxe-Coburg, and a childhood raised in Coburg , would have made the set irresistible. Typical of so much that I love about these ponderous 19th century sideboards, more like an entire Gothic city block, is that they are overwrought with a particular theme. In this case Germanic “Gothick”, and the ever present love the Germans have for the forest. Forest dwellers such as deer, boars, and a bear frolic about, unaware of the huntsmen with bugle and spears in hand. I’ve mentioned before my love of hunt themed sideboards, this one combined with a motif of rose windows, gothic arcades, a central shield and accented in brown plush, is just too wonderful to resist.

Good purchase your Majesty.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha

ca. 1842

b. 26th August 1819

d. 14th December 1861

by Franz Xavier Winterhalter

(He was a handsome devil.)

Initially intended for Balmoral, it and the chairs ended up as I mentioned last week in the Evening Drawing Room of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.

The sideboard and chairs, two of which are shown, are illustrated in a watercolor by George Greig  ca. 1863.

George Miller Grieg

artist to the Queen

The image is especially poignant as it is most likely a memento of the Queen’s loss. The Prince had just died and the two female figures are in deep mourning dresses.

The image is small but the sideboard and chairs are visible if you look closely.

On that happy note, Happy Father’s Day dear Prince.

Have a great weekend.

BTW, the watercolor, ” Palace of Holyroodhouse: the presence Chamber or Evening Drawing Room”, by George Greig, 1863, is part of the Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Wouldn’t want to offend the Queen.

Ring Cycle Seating week 14

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, 19th cent., Achim Freyer, Arthur Rackham, Eastlake, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Gothic Revival, Placido Domingo, The Ring Cycle, Wagner with tags on June 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In the throes of my Teutonic frenzy, Ring Cycle in high gear,I thought this weeks chair should be one suitable for the Maestro Wagner.Chair

ca. 1850 , Coburg

Ferdinand Rothbart, designer, Thom. Hoffmeister and Thom. Behrens , makers

Oak and pine, with original plush upholstery, wool tassels, and brass nail

V&A

NOW this is my kind of chair, although it does indeed appear to be a throne, it is was intended to impress upon the world German craftsmanship and taste. Initially shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, this chair, part of a set including a sideboard, were well received. Raves included praise for work “in the German-Gothic style of the middle ages”. So well  received ,that her Majesty used the set to furnish the Evening Drawing Room at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh.

Multiple Drawing Rooms, Morning, Noon, Evening, different castles, ain’t monarchy just grand!

To make this chair more lust worthy, the tassels were initially bright pink, now faded to this sober tasteful coloring,a bit mud like.

I am fully entrenched in Master Wagner’s masterpiece, his Der Ring Des Nibelungen, last evening being Die Walkure. As I mentioned before I have my reservation concerning Achim Freyer’s production. From my nose bleed seats I feel as if I were the one viewing from Valhalla.

The production from this distance makes much more sense, Fricka’s ridiculously attenuated arms are less comical ; although her appearance onstage elicited loud guffaws from rubes in the audience, my sympathies to the fine soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk.

Fricka in background, Wotan foreground.

I hesitate to identify who is performing, but this is the costume scheme for the characters.

The first act of Die Walkure has a most tender and intimate quality to it. Never has incest been so romantic, so lovely, so enviable. Siegmund and Sieglinde have truly found their other half. This production seems to great to great lengths to distance itself from that intimacy, the Black and White Cookie costumes aside.

I am well aware of my conservative, at times pedantic taste. I  value Mr. Freyer’s vision, at times I am swept up in it. But so often I am left with the feeling that it is best as a conceptual rendering, the actual, very expensive, production often feels distracting.

With that said ,back to dear Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), Rackham captured the intimacy of this young attractive couple perfectly in sepia line drawings.

A smokin’ hot Stranger Man receives refreshment from a nubile Sieglinde.

Grumpy hubby Hunding not pleased with above mentioned smokin’ hot Stranger Man sharing a meal with them.

Wise and lovely Sieglinde pulls a sleep aid for grumpy husband from a very attractive Eastlake cupboard.

Sieglende explains to Stranger Man/ Siegmund the tale of the Sword, Notung,while hubby snoozes.

She tells how Wotan (pictured) disguised as a wedding guest to celebrate her arranged marriage to Hunding, plunges said Sword (Freudian subtlety) into The Tree. A sword Siegmund must remove to protect himself against Hunding.No man thus far has been able to do so.

This image “Sigmund’s Schwert” 1889 by Johannes Gehrts

Post pulling out the ever so subtle “Sword”,the smokin’ hot Siegmund declares his  incestuous  passion for Sieglinde .

The music climaxes,  passions explode (Siegfried next act)and they run off together.

The less smokin’ hot Placido Domingo as Siegmunde aids the exhausted Sieglinde, Anja Kampe, ’08-’09 production.

Battle between Hunding and Siegmund. Sieglinde once again feels faint.

Outcome, go see the Ring.

Image unknown to me.

Wotan’s faithful/faithless beloved daughter Brunnhilde, yet another aspect of this complicated tale of love, family, and passion.

I will close with the Maestro himself, thank you Richard.

Wagner at Luzern, 1868

I do like this  chair as well.

Have a great weekend.

Good Gothic Revival Shabbos,( a little late), week 8

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, chair, Gothic Revival, Uncategorized on April 10, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Crazy hectic schedule and tax time to boot!

My mania for all things Gothic Revival inspires this weeks offering.

Both revival chairs are from the holdings of my hometown museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, both spins on the Gothic, both wonderful.

Gothic Revival Chair

Robert Venturi, born 1925

designed 1979-84,made in U.S. 1984

Bent laminated wood and painted plastic laminate

approx. 41x20x23

This chair in it’s cheery camouflage has been a favorite of mine since youth, it is made by Knoll, and may be one of the few chairs I present that I have an actual chance of owning.

Side Chair

Maker Unknown 1850-70

possibly Philadelphia or New York

Rosewood, rosewood veneer, ash, yellow poplar,cherrywood;brass approx. 46x18x23

A complicated composition in lumber for a pretty conventional side chair. I of course love it, crave it, would upholster it in Venturi pink, but it is a bit dull. I understand the Bloomsbury reaction to all of that stuffy furniture. But again, I wish I had inherited a stash of this horse haired stuff!

Have a great weekend