Category Archive 'Architecture'
05 Apr 2021

Doors of the Pantheon

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“The oldest doors still in use in Rome. Cast in bronze for emperor Hadrian’s rebuilding, they date from about 115 AD.

Each door is solid bronze seven and a half feet wide & twenty-five feet high, yet so well balanced they can be pushed or pulled open easily by one person.

Becky for scale.”

HT: Kimball Corson.

Wikipedia Pantheon article.

13 Feb 2021

From Mary Wallace Crocker’s “Historic Houses of Mississippi,” 1973:

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Very old photograph of Cedarhurst from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” from Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VII (1903).

Cedarhurst and Airliewood are both located on Salem Avenue and were constructed of brick in the late 1850s. The houses incorporate features promoted by A. J. Downing in his books concerned with appropriate architecture and landscaping for country houses. Downing considered the Tudor Gothic style ‘. . . to be the most convenient and comfortable, and decidedly most picturesque and striking style, for country residences of the superior class.”[Andrew J. Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening Adapted to North America with a View to the Improvement of Country Residences, C.M. Saxon & Company, New York,1857, pp. 400-401.] Evidently Gen. US Grant thought the houses were to be a superior class also because when he came to Holly Springs in 1862 he selected Airliewood for his headquarters, Cedarhurst for General Ord and Walter Place for Mrs. Grant.

Cedarhurst and Airliewood are picturesque, with their high-pitched roofs broken by decorative gables that are embellished with fanciful bargeboards and accented with finials and penants. The tall, paired, octagonal chimneys are considered a major part of the Gothic design and are sharp contrast to the simple chimneys of Greek revival houses.

The repetition of the pointed arch in the fenestrations underscores the fact that the houses are Gothic. The pointed arch is achieved in Cedarhurst by shaped bricks whereas labels or hoods emphasize the pointed arch on Airliewood. According to Downing “. . . the windows in the best Tudor mansions, affect a great variety of forms and sizes. . .” [Ibid., 398.] Both Cedarhurst and Airliewood meet this qualification as they have single, double, and bay windows. The front windows on the principal floor extend to the floor.


In addition to the Gothic features already mentioned, Cedarhurst is trimmed with octagonal colonettes, pointed-arch tracery, and a balustrade — all cast by the local antebellum industry — the Jones, McIlwaine, and Company foundry. The tall trees of holly, cedar and other varieties are in harmony with the vertical lines of the building.

Cedar Hearst was built for Dr. Charles Bonner, a Pennsylvanian of Irish descent who married Mary Wilson of Holly Springs. The house is frequently referred to as the home of Sherwood Bonner, the second child of the Charles Bonners, who became a writer of Southern dialect stories and secretary to the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Catherine Sherwood Bonner had strong feelings for her home place. She frequently referred to the house in her correspondence with Longfellow. [Jean Nosser Biglane, An Annotated and Indexed Edition of the Letters of Sherwood Bonner, M.A. thesis, Mississippi State University, 1972.] On October 31, 1877, she wrote from Holly Springs to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Cambridge, Mass.:

    Did I ever tell you what a beautiful home mine was? The places not well-kept up now, but nothing can take away the grander of the old trees, or make the flowers less fragrant. The wide gallery in front is all overrun with Madeira vine; it is in full blossom now, and we sit on the porch every evening in the moonlight, talking of the past days that its aromatic sweetness, more than anything else seems to recall.

Sherwood Bonner returned to Holly Springs to care for her father and brother who died on September 9, 1878 during the yellow fever epidemic. In November, 1878, Ms. Bonner wrote to Longfellow concerning cleaning the house after the epidemic: “You know all the carpets have to be taken up, the rooms fumigated, the walls calcimined, and everything thoroughly aired. It is an immense undertaking.” In the same letter she wrote: “I do not know what I shall do. There is some talk of a division of property. I know that my father would wish that I should keep the house we love so well; yet I know I should be so unhappy here, shut in with sorrow; and it is so large house for my Aunty, Helena, and myself. I cannot bear to give it up; and yet I want a home in Boston. In December she wrote: “I had hoped to leave Holly Springs before Xmas; but I’m detained here by business matters. It breaks my heart afresh to be here at the time that has never failed of happiness, in the home that always threw open its hospitable doors to welcome Christmas guests.” On April 18, 1879: “We are all here together in the old home. Aunty has made up her mind that she cannot live away from it, so she will stay here for the present at least.”

By August 7, 1881, Sherwood Bonner was faced with the possibility of having to sell her home at a public auction if she did not pay her brother-in-law $1500 for her sister’s share of the house. She wrote to Mr. Longfellow:

    It is cruel but he is determined — Of course it will be sold at an utter sacrifice — as things always are forced sale — and we must see this beautiful home go. For myself I would be reckless enough to make no effort to save it — but there is Aunty’s old age and Lillian’s future to be considered. All the cares of the world seemed to crowd upon me — and I am alone. My attorney strongly advises me to close with his offer — saying it is absolutely securing me at a small sums a very fine and valuable property — and that he can borrow the money for me for long term of years. But you can imagine how I shrink from incurring such a debt. I should have to mortgage my part of the plantation — and in the case of my death it would be sold. And this is where our only income comes from. The house is nothing but a white elephant. I have asked time to consider and I lay the matter before you, because I know you will help me to some extent. If I could pay them a certain part of the sum, I should be willing to borrow a smaller sum. I shall have three hundred dollars in a week or so, from the Lippincott’s — so there is a beginning. And I’m trying as well as I can, for the perturbation of my soul, to complete a Harper story, though not to fetch one hundred more — And you will help me, will you not to save my home — to secure for myself a retreat for my ruined life where I may die with dignity . . .

Mr. Longfellow wrote that he would send the money after the middle of the month. He died before fulfilling his promise; however, Miss Alice Longfellow, his daughter, sent the “generous gift” to Miss Bonner.

Sherwood Bonner died of cancer in Holly Springs on July 22, 1883. Her daughter Lillian sold the house around the turn of the century to Mr. W. A. Belk. Cedarhurst is now owned and occupied by Mrs. Fred M. Belk, Sr.

–Mary Wallace Crocker, Historic Architecture of Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1973, pp. 166-168.

Original article with photos.

12 Feb 2021

Quote of the Day

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–John Ruskin.

12 Jan 2021

Towers of Bologna

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26 Oct 2020



09 Oct 2020

Visigothic or Mozarabic?

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Daniel in the lions’ den, Church of San Pedro de la Nave, Zamora Spain.

Wikipedia says:

The traditional interpretation is that the church foundation goes back to the reign of Egica in the seventh century, having been built between 680 and before the Muslim conquest of Hispania in 711; San Pedro de la Nave would thus be one of the last works of Visigothic architecture. However, the most recent archaeological studies have proven it to be not Visigothic, but Mozarabic (so, 9th century or 10th century in date).

Mozarabic or Vizigothic, it’s still Pre-Romanesque and very, very, cool.

37 photos here.

03 Oct 2020

Superb Newel Post by Thomas Day

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After some years of enjoying the festive social life of Virginia Hunt Country, Karen and I are finding the absence of society here at our farm in the Central Pennsylvania boondocks a little dull. Moreover, with old age comes arthritis and one feels the winter cold in the knees.

Despite my Northeastern Pennsylvania Coal Region origins, I have old-fashioned tastes and apparently a natural rapport with Virginia. When I arrived at Yale, a number of my classmates misspelled “David Zincavage” as “Davidson Cavidge,” having leapt to the conclusion based on the formality of my dress and manners that I was of Virginia gentry background.

A return to Old Virginia is tempting, but Occupied Virginia inside, and now sprawling over the beltway, loaded as it is with functionaries and bureaucrats all battening on the Federal purse, combined with the welfare class of the Commonwealth’s handful of large cities, recently successfully outvoted the natives and returned Virginia to a revolutionary Reconstruction regime run by Scallywags, Carpetbaggers, and African-American demagogues and mountebanks. I’m not sure my blood pressure would stand a closer proximity to Virginia politics. So we’ve been looking for an affordable very old, very large house (we have an enormous library) further South, hopefully in proximity to an organized fox hunt.

I came, last night, upon a really beautiful North Carolina house (in Milton) which is unfortunately too small, but which has really beautiful architectural detail apparently by a local free black cabinetmaker-woodworker. I think his newel post is a delightful piece of imaginative design. If you lived there, you’d smile every time you saw it.


Thomas Day (1801-1861) was a free black furniture craftsman and cabinetmaker in Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina. Born a free black man in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, Day moved to Milton in 1817 and became a highly successful businessman, boasting the largest and most productive workshop in the state during the 1850s. Day catered to high-class white clientele and was respected among his white peers for his craftsmanship and work ethic. Day came from a free and relatively well-off family and was privately educated. Today, Day’s pieces are highly sought after and sell for high prices; his work has been heavily studied and displayed in museums such as the North Carolina Museum of History. Day is heralded in modern society as an incredibly skilled craftsman and savvy businessman. …

With his furniture designs so popular and highly sought-after, it was no surprise that Day began to provide architectural work to homes in his region as well. In this architectural work, Day employed many of the same design motifs as in his furniture, playing again off his own interpretation of the Grecian/Greek Revival Style. For large plantation homes in the North Carolina and Virginia areas, Day provided mantle pieces, stair brackets and newel posts, and door frames among other architectural work. His work focused on symmetry, and he often incorporated similar or complementary designs in the newel posts and stair brackets to create a balance of design and to emphasize his furniture designs, since many homes he did architectural work for also boasted multiple furniture works by Day. As with his furniture designs, it appears that Day’s initial architectural designs stemmed from popular architectural pattern books; to these, Day would again add his personal design motifs to create unique products.

In his work on door frames, scholars agree that Day created both sidelights and transoms for interior doors in many homes he worked on. These architectural elements are characterized by the repetitive use of rectangular patterns. Day also often created newel posts for staircases, which he commonly designed utilizing s-curves and elongated scroll shapes, which represented Day’s interpretation of the traditional newel post; Day’s posts were both larger and longer than the classic Greek Revival Style posts, and are emphasized by the simplistic stair banisters that accompany them. As with his furniture, Day took the popular design of the newel post and added his own stylistic flair through his scroll curves. In crafting these newel posts, Day employed four different types of newels: s-shaped, traditional, a fusion of the two, or completely unique designs; today, twenty-five s-shaped newel posts have been attributed to Day. Day crafted stair brackets to match and complement these newel posts, again employing curvatures and wave motifs that, combined with the newel posts, suggested a tranquil fluidity.

20 Jul 2020


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I do hate it when a great image appears on Tumblr without any identification whatsoever. Especially when I like the rooms so much that I’m wondering if the place is possibly for sale…

07 Jul 2020

Left-wing Psycho Essay of the Week

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Street bridges over the Chicago River.

There are so many recent examples of prestigious establishment media outlets publishing absolutely bonkers essays that could only have been produced by people so impacted by toxic ideologies that they are not properly oriented toward reality and actually belong in mental hospitals that it’s become impossible to link, and marvel at, them all. So I’m simply going to try to pick the occasional particularly exceptionally deranged example.

This week’s winner has to be Leslie Kern for her “‘Upward-thrusting buildings ejaculating into the sky’ – do cities have to be so sexist?“:

Toxic masculinity is built into the fabric of our urban spaces, writes Leslie Kern, author of new book Feminist City. And the results aren’t just divisive – they can be lethal

Glass ceilings and phallic towers. Mean streets and dark alleys. Road names and statues of men. From the physical to the metaphorical, the city is filled with reminders of masculine power. And yet we rarely talk of the urban landscape as an active participant in gender inequality. A building, no matter how phallic, isn’t actually misogynist, is it? Surely a skyscraper isn’t responsible for sexual harassment, the wage gap, or even the glass ceiling, whether it has a literal one up top or not?

That said, our built environments can still reflect patterns of gender-based discrimination. To imagine the city and its structures as neutral places where complicated human social relations are staged is to ignore the simple fact that people built these places. As the feminist geographer Jane Darke has said: “Our cities are patriarchy written in stone, brick, glass and concrete.” In other words, cities reflect the norms of the societies that build them. And sexism is a deep-rooted norm.

As far back as 1977, an American poet and professor of architecture named Dolores Hayden wrote an article with the explosive headline “Skyscraper seduction, skyscraper rape”. Hayden tore into the male power fantasies embodied in this celebrated urban form. The office tower, she wrote, is one more addition “to the procession of phallic monuments in history – including poles, obelisks, spires, columns and watchtowers”, where architects un-ironically use the language of “base, shaft and tip” while drawing upward-thrusting buildings ejaculating light into the night sky.

If the sexism of the city began and ended with architectural symbolism, I would’ve happily written a grad school essay about this then turned my attention to more pressing matters. But society’s historical and ongoing ideas about the proper gender roles for men and women (organised along a narrow binary) are built right into our cities – and they still matter.


All versions of Leftism seem to boil down to pathological self-absorption, leading to the concoction of the most far-fetched sort of grievances, flattering the leftist’s self-importance and providing leverage for his (or her) gaining power through the guilt and sympathy of the normal majority.

01 Jul 2020

Those McCloskeys Have One Helluva House

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When you learn more about it, and how much work they did restoring it, you wonder why Mark had not gotten himself an M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun, just in case…

St. Louis Magazine, 2018 feature:

When attorneys Mark and Patty McCloskey bought their home in February of 1988, it was the color of cigarette ashes. Still dirty from the days when St. Louis lay under a blanket of coal smoke, the home’s Carthage marble facing “had quarter-inch-thick carbon on it in some places,” Mark says. The two Carrara marble urns out front, copies of a pair at the Vatican, had turned black, obscuring Neptune and his attending dolphins. The imported Caen limestone in the entry hall had been painted battleship gray, and the intricate wood carvings in the dining room (which, as Mark points out, are so detailed, you can see the birds’ individual claws), were smothered in layers of white and robin’s-egg blue. What had once been St. Louis’ most dazzling mansion now felt more like a haunted house. It didn’t help that the first time Mark and Patty turned the key in the door, the temperature had fallen to 4 below zero and the house didn’t have a functioning furnace. The prior owner had heated the house with 48 kerosene space heaters that had since been removed.

The McCloskeys joke that they were too young and naïve to know what they’d signed up for. But 30 years later, the house is as magnificent as it was when Edward and Anna Busch Faust held court here, meeting guests at the top of the grand staircase for afternoon tea or smoking cigars around the billiard table in the sub-basement.

Adolphus and Lilly Busch, the story goes, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by giving their children money to build houses. “August Sr. built Grant’s Farm,” Patty says. “Hugo Reisinger, who was married to one of the sisters [Edmee Busch Reisinger], built a big house on Fifth Avenue. Wilhelmina built a castle in Bavaria…”

And Anna and Edward—son of Tony Faust, Adolphus’ best friend—set out to build a Renaissance palazzo. “The goal was to build one of the most lavish and grand houses in the Midwest,” says Patty. …

The dining room is a re-creation of a residence chamber in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, constructed in 1458 by Luca Pitti, though its more famous residents included the Medicis and Napoleon Bonaparte. It took six people an entire year to carefully remove multiple layers of paint glommed over the intricate woodwork. The ceiling murals, however, were in great shape: “The guy who owns St. Louis Architectural Bronze said that when he was an art student at Wash. U., he lived here for two years, restoring the ceiling,” Mark says. “This is all on canvas, and it had all fallen in. He put it back up and repainted the parts that needed to be repainted, and you can’t tell.” Across the way in the solarium are gorgeous reproductions of 16th-century stained-glass windows decorated with cartouches, putti, and stylized vegetation, copies of the famous ones in Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence. And beyond those glowing panes is one of the most remarkable parts of the house: the ballroom.

It’s 70 feet long and 45 feet wide, a reproduction of the second-floor reception hall at the 14th-century Palazzo Davanzati in Florence. “The glass in the windows is actually from there,” Patty says, “and the shutters, at least the ironwork, are probably original.” That’s because in 1916, the year the ballroom was built, most of the palace’s contents were sold off; the McCloskeys found two of the original chairs at auction, and they now sit in the entryway. (The matching table is on view at the Frick Collection in New York.)

One significant divergence from the original, Patty says, is the floor, which was Portuguese tile. This one was once described as “the most beautiful dance floor in America,” a flawless plain of glossy teak joined by small, carved pieces of ebony, made without a single nail. It also boasts a hidden trapdoor (“For theatrical entrances!” quips Mark). The other whimsical detail: The ceiling beams are equipped with confetti boxes. “You pull the rope, and they dump confetti,” Mark says. “Mrs. Faust said that at Christmas parties, they’d put fans on the top of the mantelpiece and dump confetti so you’d have snowstorms.”


12 Jun 2020

Tempietto del Clitunno

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Tempietto del Clitunno (Clitunno Temple), Umbria, Italy

The temple is actually a small Christian chapel, built in the 7th century, probably by using the remains of some pre-existing Roman building.

Google Maps


12 May 2020


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An unidentified Tumblr image that showed up on Facebook today of a rather alarming structure presumably built in defiance of any local building codes somewhere in South America or India. Despite all that, I think it does possess a certain charisma. It looks old and reminds the viewer of some of the overhanging Medieval buildings that survive in a few ancient towns in Europe. the air conditioner sticking out provides just the perfect touch of insouciance.

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