AMERICAN ARCHITECT AND BUILDING NEWS

LETTERS FROM PHILADELPHIA




 

  December 23, 1876
Page 43





 

CORRESPONDENCE

THE DI CESNOLA AND THE CASTELLANI COLLECTION–SALE OF THE CENTENNIAL BUILDING–NEW BUILDINGS–THE CENTENNIAL NATIONAL BANK BUILDING

[43] The cold weather which has set in during the past week has rather put a stop to building operations where outside and exposed work has been in progress throughout the city.

The Centennial Exhibition has directed a very general interest towards the subject of interior decoration, so that it is very interesting in many of our private houses to fall in with numerous objects which in the Exhibition we had grown to regard and admire as old friends; and then, too, it is not unfrequently quite as amusing to observe the knowing way in which their present possessors talk of them, when one considers that, prior to the opening of the Exhibition, many of these same good people were not aware that such objects were manufactured.

In view of the general educating and cultivating school which the Exhibition has proved, and considering how very little regard there is existing in this country for antiquity per se, it seems strange, almost pitiable that while in New York there has been raised a sum sufficient to secure the Cyprian collection of antiquities of Gen. di Cesnola, so little effort should have been made here to retain the collection, or any large part of it, which Signor Alessandro Castellani exhibited in three of the rooms of Memorial Hall. No doubt the Cyprian objects are of very great interest, but it can hardly be denied that that interest is mainly of an antiquarian character; and the fact must strike any student of such matters, beholding those already in the Metropolitan Museum, that there are not in this country such objects, much less collections, as would form connecting links between these examples and those from which they descended, or those which descended from them. On the ground of fitness should not the great body of these Cyprian objects have been located in some European museum, where there are more students and writers on such matters, and where they might readily be compared with collections already rich in all the different periods of Egyptian, Greek, and Etruscan art, with which they are so nearly related, and of which we have so few examples that these new acquisitions of the Metropolitan Museum seem isolated and out of their element in New York? With regard to the Castellani collection, however, the case is very different. Here the objects, mainly Italian, have clearly an important art-educational value, apart from their antiquity. One section, classified chronologically, commencing with some crude Phoenician jewelry, and through the Etruscan, Roman, and Byzantine periods, brought us down very nearly to the period of the discovery of America. The major line also of this collection was probably the most wonderful and exquisite display of reflected color ever seen in this country. As to the marbles, apart from other and far greater merits, almost any connoisseur would readily concede that in very few European collections could be found the same relative proportion of heads having their original noses. And now when the country is just awakening to the necessities of commencing its own art-career, that such a range of study, so much more profitable and living than the other, which seems scarcely less than fossil, should be taken out of our midst, seems in the highest degree aggravating. If neither were able to do so singly, Philadelphia and Boston should have jointly managed to secure this entire collection, and divide its owners, as their respective art museums already have the precious oriental textiles which formed a part of it.

Several of the foreign establishments represented at the Exhibition have established agencies of branch houses in the city, mostly in a quiet way; while of the Austrian exhibitors, a bent-wood manufacturer, a table glass exhibitor, and the Vienna Bakery have struck out in a decidedly demonstrative way for this quiet Quaker city. The public sale of the buildings on the Exhibition Grounds on December 1st was probably the largest in value, as represented by the catalogue, of any which has ever taken place in this country. The day was exceedingly cold and disagreeable, which accounted in a great measure for the small attendance; and the result showed that, of about four hundred present, there were hardly twenty who were attracted by anything more than curiosity. The amounts realized were in absurd contrast with the cost of the buildings, but this was in most instances owing doubtless to the difficulties anticipated in their removal and reconstruction. The catalogue prepared by the auctioneers, Messrs. M. Thomas & Sons, was most complete, giving very full details of all the principle buildings from the original specifications.

The Main Building, which cost $1,600,000, was sold to the representative of the International Exhibition Co., for $250,000. The sanction of the Park Commission having been obtained, it is expected that it will remain as it stands, to be used for the permanent exhibition. Judges Hall, costing $80,000, was sold for $1, 500 to the same company. The next principle purchaser was Mr. R. G. Dobbins, the well known Philadelphia builder, to whom the following buildings were sold: Agricultural Hall, which cost $275,000, for $13,100; the Carriage Annex, which cost $55,000 for $4,100; the Shoe and Leather Building, which cost $30,750, for $3,000; the Homological Building, which cost $10,000 for $1,250; and the British Workmen Headquarters, adjoining St. George House, for $125,000. The Annex to Horticultural Hall, and a Music Pavilion, were sold to Mr. John Welsh, chairman of the board of Finance, for $600 and $100 respectively. The British Police Barracks, another framed house put up by the English government and adjoining St. George House, was sold for $350 to W.S. Kirk of Abingdon, Penn. The building of the Boston Daily Advertiser, a portable house-constructed in sections, was sold to H. Kraus of Reading, Penn, for $160. The total amount realized by the sale was $288,500. The hotels which were erected to accommodate the visitors to the Exhibition have nearly all been disposed of with their furniture; and houses which were in demand in the spring, and filled during the summer with people glad to find any place to lodge, are many of them empty; and yet during the months of November there were 400 permits issued from the office of the building-inspector, of which 318 were for new buildings, 18 for alterations of back buildings, 161 for other alterations and additions: of the whole number 207 were for dwellings.

Property owners were beginning to be nervous about the anticipated inquiries of the tax-rate, which it would thought would be necessary to cover the city expenses for the coming year; but it has been fixed at $2.25, a slight increase, and the floating debt, which was the great bugbear, was provided for by the suggestion of one of the city fathers to “let it float."

The new building of the Centennial National Bank on Market Street, west Philadelphia, by Mr. Furness, is for the same institution that at the Exhibition grounds furnished change and took account of the vast quantities of half-dollars which were the recognized tickets at the turnstiles. The building is of red pressed brick, with bands of black brick, and brown sandstone dressings, standing on the corner of 32nd Street, the angle is cut away to form the entrance: this is a sort of shallow porch which is carried up to height of the roof, finishing in a sort of crooked gable, the tympanum of the arch just under this gable been decorated with the same character of brilliant glass tiles, sparkling with gold and color, which were used in the front of the Academy of the Fine Arts. The windows, which have pointed segmental heads of brick with sandstone skewbacks, appear quite large, and are so much wider in proportion to their length than one is accustomed to seeing that the small size of the building is rendered much more apparent.