Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

the shaft is four: the base thirty lines, and the capital the same. This order may support even the Doric.

The great architectural remains of the Romans, peculiarly their own, are the cloaca, circuses, acqueducts, columns, amphitheatres, and baths.

With the overthrow of the Roman empire, architecture, as a fine art, vanished; and it is only in more extensive works that its decline and revival can be recorded. The Goths robbed the beautiful specimens of art to form castles and strongholds-the Lombards followed, even more rude than their predecessors-Christianity raised churches, and, even in the dark ages, infused some life into architectural science. Then followed the Arabian, Saracenic, and Moorish architecture. And the Arabians, imbibing science and taste from the nations they subdued, produced a fanciful style of architecture, combined with great skill, taste, and science, from the models of antiquity; and kept distinct from the temples of Pagan or Christian, equally abominations in their eyes. They adopted the Roman arch. They invented the pointed arch, and the sacred or horse-shoe arch. The Turks are the only Mohammedans who have adopted Christian architecture, which is attributable to their conquest of Constantinople.

Specimens of Mohammedan rchitecture are to be seen in many parts of the world, but the most worthy of admiration are the mosques of Benares and Lucknow.

For the Norman architecture we must refer to others; only remarking that they adopted the cross for the form of their churches, and the tower or steeple as an ornament: but the Gothic, into which it passed in the eleventh and twelfth century, as it is still imitated, we must pause upon.

The Gothic style differs from all others. By whom invented is yet in dispute. A plausible conjecture is, that it arose in Spain during the struggles of the Goths and Moors. In the twelfth century it was adopted in France. The doors, like the Norman, were deeply recessed, and three were adopted as typical of the trinity. The windows were narrow, and terminated with the sharp arch-columns were clustered pillars encircled with fasces-the capitals formed of flowers or delicate foliage-projecting buttresses and the spire were introduced.-Little turrets and parapets were adopted from the castles.

By degrees this style improved in magnificence, with the rule of the clergy. The doors were enlarged, and surmounted with triangular pediments, and ornamented with sculptures. The windows were enlarged and ornamented with pillars, whose tracery imitated the most beatiful flowers. The columns

[blocks in formation]

became more delicate and elevated. The crocket or crochet was introduced at the angles of spires, tabernacles, canopies, and turrets. Buttresses were made more projecting and ornamented with tablets and niches. The 14th century increased this gorgeous style, and statues evince the improvement of sculpture. The vaulting of the naves and aisles became more complex and rich in ornament. The specimens of this best style are the Church of St. Owen, that of St. Sepulchre, and St. Stephen at Rouen, Paris and Caen.

To this succeeded the Florid style, and this is the period of decline. This style, in the 15th century, degenerated into false taste and fantastic refinement. By degrees every species of architecture was combined with the Gothic, and finally the Gothic gave way to a pure taste in the revival of the Antique or Grecian style. As in sculpture so in architecture, the Greeks are our models and our masters. We have not at all times (when speaking of Greece) been sensible of the obligations which Greece proper owed to her colonies. Not only the two most perfect orders of architecture, the Doric and Ionic, were invented by the colonists, but the history of Heroditus, and the poems of Homer, were bestowed by the colonies on the mother country and the world.

English writers tell us that in the land of our forefathers architecture has declined since the days of Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren, and they complain of the want of invention and taste, and even common sense in their late architects. They complain of abortive attempts at Roman, Grecian and Gothic architecture-of ornaments so misapplied as to become ludicrous, and of monuments which are only monuments of absurdity.

Let us now come home, hoping that our brief sketch may elucidate the rise and progress of this inestimable art in our own country. Public architecture seems principally connected with our subject, but the effect of domestic architecture upon the moral feelings and character of mankind, renders it a subject not to be disregarded by us. This is beautifully illustrated by T. Dwight, D. D., president of Yale College, in the 2d volume of his travels through the eastern and middle

states.

The learned and amiable president has enforced the utility of the fine arts, and shown how intimately utility and the most refined and ennobling pleasure are connected. Roscoe has beautifully said, "Utility and pleasure are bound together in an indissoluble

336

City of Washington.

chain. And what the Author of nature has joined let no man put asunder." These reflections are applicable to other fine arts as well as architecture. Dugald Stewart has said, “A man of benevolence, whose mind is tinctured with philosophy, will view all the different improvements in arts, in commerce, and in science, as co-operating to promote the union, the happiness, and the virtue of mankind."

Before speaking of such architects as have imprinted their names on our public works, in hopes of a short-lived immortality, I will republish a "few remarks respecting the city of Washington, the capitol, and those who have contributed, by their talents, wealth, or industry, to raise" the metropolis of the United States.

"The design for the capitol was made by Dr. Thornton, who received the premium for the same. He was a scholar and a gentleman-full of talent and eccentricity—a quaker by profession, a painter, a poet, and a horse-racer-well acquainted with the mechanic arts at the head of the patent office, and was one of the original projectors (with John Fitch) of steamboats, and the author of an excellent treatise on language, called 'Cadmus.' He was a man of infinite humour' humane and generous, yet fond of field sports-his company was a complete antidote to dullness.

6

"The north wing of the capitol was chiefly built by Mr. George Hadfield. He was a man of uncommon talents, and was selected by Colonel Trumbull, in London, under the authority of the commissioners for laying out the city, to superintend the building of the capitol; but, unfortunately, a dispute arose between him and them, which ended in his leaving the public employment, by which we were deprived of his eminent talents. He gave the plan of the public offices, the City Hall, Custis's Mansion, Commodore Porter's, Gadsby's Hotel, (when Weightman's buildings,) Fuller's Hotel, the United States Bank, Van Ness' Mausoleum, &c. He died 1826. "Mr. Latrobe built the south wing, and gave the final plan for finishing the capitol. He also was a man of brilliant talents. He died some years ago in New-Orleans. Mr. Chas. Bulfinch erected the rotunda, improved the design of the eastern front, and finished the building.

"Mr. G. Blagden was the chief builder-a worthy man and an excellent workman. He was killed three or four years ago by the falling in of some earth at the capitol.

"Mr. Lenthall, the clerk of the works, was killed by the falling of an arch over the room of the supreme court some years before Mr. B.

History of improvements at Washington.

337

"Mr. Lenox was the chief carpenter, and the late Mr. Andre the chief sculptor. They were both distinguished men, and the public spirit of the former (lately deceased) has contributed much to the embellishment of the city by good buildings.

"The trees and shrubs around the capitol, and other public places, were chiefly planted by our friend, Mr. John Foy. In this business he has shown much skill, and his labours have been attended with complete success. In after ages, when the old and the young shall take shelter from the heat under their shade, they will bless the memory of the honest Irishman who planted them.

"The great Chesapeake and Ohio canal owes its first suggestion to the sagacious mind of Washington; but it received its impetus and beginning, its noble dimensions, and admirable execution, from the enlightened and indefatigable Mercer.

"The conveying of the pare water from the source of Tiber creek to the capitol, in pipes, is the suggestion of the Columbian Institute, a committee of which took the levels for that purpose about four years ago, by which it was ascertained that the source of the water was about thirty feet above the base of the capitol; that sixty-five gallons of pure spring water per minute could be delivered; and recommended, in a petition to congress, that the water be brought into a reservoir in the capitol square, and afterwards thrown up in a jet in the Botanic garden. This work is in a state of forwardness, but the main reservoir, it is feared, (as mentioned by Mr. F.) is in too low a situation, and is too near the capitol. By placing it in the east or upper side of the square, all the grounds might have been irrigated, which would have given them a green and beautiful appearance in the heat of summer.

"As to the enlargement of the grounds around the capitol, as suggested by Mr. F. and others, my opposition is founded on preserving the original plan of the city entire-a plan beautifully consistent in all its parts. And a serious question may one day arise, whether the plan of the city can be altered to the injury of private property.

"During the administrations of Presidents Washington and Adams, the plan of the city was laid out, and the capitol, president's house, two of the executive offices, and navy-yard were commenced, and carried on to a considerable extent.

"Mr. Jefferson adopted Mr. Latrobe's plan of the hall of representatives and senate chamber, and caused Pennsylvania avenue to be opened and planted with trees. Owing to the restrictions on commerce and the late war, little was done in Mr. Madison's administration for the benefit of the city, except

[blocks in formation]

by friendly feelings, &c. In Mr. Monroe's administration two new executive offices were built, the president's house nearly finished, the north entrance of the square in which it stands ornamented with a handsome gateway and iron railing, both wings of the capitol restored, the centre building commenced, and the capitol nearly completed; the square surrounded with an iron railing, and trees and shrubs planted.

"During the administration of Mr. J. Q. Adams, the east front and the rotunda of the capitol were finished, the west partially altered, a penitentiary erected, the general post-office enlarged, and a new patent office and city post-office erected.

"The present aspect and future prospects of the city are encouraging; and it is hoped that the present administration of General Jackson will leave further marks of its munificence to the metropolis."

MAJOR L'ENFANT-1789.

This gentleman was a native of France, and the first I know of him is his being employed to rebuild, after a design of his own, the old New-York City Hall in Wall-street, fronting Broad-street; making therefrom the Federal Hall of that day. The new building was for the accommodation of congress; and in the balcony, upon which the senate chamber opened, the first president of the United States was inaugurated. A ceremony which I witnessed, and which for its simplicity, the persons concerned in it, the effect produced upon my country and the world, in giving stability to the federal constitution, by calling George Washington to administer its blessings, remains on my mind unrivalled by any scene witnessed, through a long life, either in Europe or America.

This building gave way, as perhaps it ought, to utility and the convenience of the citizen. It projected into Wall-street, and the foot passage was under the balcony made sacred by the above-mentioned inauguration. It likewise projected into Nassau-street. The late custom house was upon a part of the site of Federal Hall, as Major L'Enfant's building was called; and the great custom house now erecting has likewise its foundation on a small part of the same building.

When congress removed to Philadelphia, Major L'Enfant accompanied them. Whether any public building in that city was designed by him, I know not; but many will remember the enormous house began by him for Robert Morris, the great financier of the revolution, the foundation of which exhausted a fortune, and which, being discontinued, is now

« PreviousContinue »