Universal Portland Cement Co. Exhibition

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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Oops! Overlap.

So, SDR, how does that conclusively disprove the existence of the Buffalo building? I don't have the second edition of The Companion; is it addressed therein?

I notice on the site Panam1901.org that a listing of buildings does not include anything credited to Universal Portland Cement Co. That may be enough to discount it, but not emphatically.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

One fact Eric O'Malley uncovered is that the Universal Portland Cement Company didn't exist untiil 1906 . . .


Eric wrote to me yesterday, as follows:


A few years ago, I was corresponding with Kathryn Smith about some Wright exhibition-related things for her "Wright on Exhibit" book. In doing some digging around the web, I came across some interesting information
published in the Universal Portland Cement Co. Monthly Bulletin for Dec 1910 that describes the company's exhibition spaces at the New York Cement Show at Madison Square Garden and the Frank Lloyd Wright-
designed exhibit display of ornamental concrete (screen shots attached).

Although she was familiar with the project, she was not going to originally include it (curiously) in her list for the book. Since she had not seen this reference before and her interest was piqued, she subsequently went to the
Getty and looked at the FLWF drawing photographs and their printout of their database. The 1910 pavilion for Madison Square Garden has 5 drawings. Plan, elevation, and details. Pfeiffer describes it as built, but
"dismantled." So she decided to include it in her list of exhibitions.

I decided to look into the statement in the 1910 UPC Co's Bulletin that said that the Wright pavilion would travel to the Feb 1911 Chicago show. However, this description from the UPC Co.'s March 1911 Bulletin alluded
that the Wright-designed display was not shown there after all. This would lead one to surmise that the Madison Square Garden tiled display was only used for those 4 days�surely the most fleeting of Wright's built designs!

Looking into the 1910 exhibit lead her to look into what was at the Getty related to the mysterious 1901 Universal Portland Cement pavilion. It was suppose to be at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, May 1 - Nov. 2,
1901. There are no drawings � or what Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer called "NIC" (not in collection). She said this does not mean all that much as they could have gotten lost over the years. Pfeiffer called it a project, thus he means
never built. She said William Storrer seems to believe in his book that it was built, but gives no citation about how he knows that. She searched the internet for clues and confirmed the Exposition was rather a big deal in
Buffalo, so there are some sources there and decided to email Pat Mahoney and see if he knew anything more. Pat subsequently wrote back that he has looked quite a bit "but has yet to find any evidence that this project was
designed or built (but it doesn’t mean that I won’t keep looking.)"

I concurred that the 1901 UPC Co. pavilion is a mysterious Wright topic for sure. As far as I knew, no one has ever discovered an image�which is hard to believe considering how many people went to that Exhibition and how
much material was generated as mementos, photos, etc. as a result. I asked her where it was even originally referenced that Wright did something for UPC Co. for the 1901 Buffalo Fair. It was assumed it was Hitchcock's "In
The Nature of Materials" and subsequently in Storrer's "FLLW Companion".

Kathryn ended up reaching out to Storrer to get his input on the 1901 pavilion and what evidence existed that it was built.



[Prof Storrer replied, in essence, "Delete the Buffalo listing." Eric continues:]



In light of this statement by Storrer, I went back to Hitchcock's book to see what was written (see attached). Interestingly enough, the index has "1910" in brackets..almost as if HRH is making an editorial aside. Kathryn said that
although Hitchcock made efforts to do scholarly work on this book, FLLW had veto control and Hitchcock was subject to the information Wright gave him.

Although Bill Storrer basically refuted the 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition pavilion design existing, I was not totally satisfied with his word on it. After a little more digging, I came across a couple of more information
tidbits that I feel definitively disproves its ever existing.

I contacted the administrator at the fairly extensive Pan-American Exposition website known as panam1901.org and asked them to check their info to see if the Universal Portland Cement Co. made the list of exhibitors at the event.
A nice woman replied that there is no record of the Universal Portland Cement Co. having exhibited at the 1901 event. I thought this was very curious.

So, I decided to do a search for the Universal Portland Cement Co. incorporation date (thinking that might tell us something). Lo-and-behold, the Universal Portland Cement Co. was not even fully incorporated until
1906! Here's a link to a February 13, 1915 "Construction News" which has the critical piece of info (and I've attached a screen shot, too).

So, to me (and Kathryn Smith concurred), this information would collectively prove-out that Wright never did a pavilion design in 1901 for a company that was not even incorporated until 5 years later. He must have mixed up the
dating all those years later when working with Hitchcock on his book and the myth persisted going forward.

It's not like this news shakes the foundation of the Wright world, but I think it's good to ask the questions and do the research work to solve mysteries like this, instead of letting them persist. I published this finding in one of our
short-lived "Explore Wright" newsletters, but I don't think it got much exposure.

Anyway, that's the "concrete" evidence I have!

[End communication]

S

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

A photo appears on p. 111 of The Early Work, a reissue of Ausgeführte Bauten, dating the design to 1910. As I never noticed until this conversation started, everything (possibly excepting the foliage) appears to be a retouch. Wright was in Europe at the time. Perhaps he delivered the design and, having no way of seeing it executed or even of knowing if they had executed it, cooked up a photo.

If it lasted four days it was probably less fleeting than his 1959 Rose Parade float for Phoenix.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Meisolus wrote, " It looks to me as if the picture was retouched specifically so they [the colored tiles] stood out. Incidentally, I'd love to see a version of the photo without the retouching. I'm sure it's pretty drastically different."

A photo can be retouched until almost nothing is left of the original image. A photo-realistic drawing, on the other hand, couldn't be described as a "retouched photo". . .?

This photo of Pauson seemed a bit iffy in places. Closer inspection revealed a number of touch-ups, some of them surprisingly careless:



Image


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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

That leaves only one detail: Did Universal Portland Cement exist before its incorporation? Not that it makes any difference. My guess is that FLW transposed '10' as '01'.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Yes. The question then arises, "Why is there also a listing, eight pages later in the same book, at 1910, for the Universal Portland Cement Co exhibit at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY ?"

S

SDR
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Post by SDR »

More puzzling yet is Hitchcock's comment, "One wonders if this motif [the "boldly cantilevered roofs" of the Yahara project] might not have been introduced the
previous year in the Universal Portland Cement pavilion at the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo. Of this no trace in photograph or drawing seems to be extant."

Did Wright not only assert this earlier object, but describe it to Hitchcock as well ?

S

Meisolus
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Post by Meisolus »

I got a copy of Jack Quinan's Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo Venture. I've read other of Quinan's books before, and thought well of them, but found this one particularly nice. Unfortunately for me, there was no additional information about the Universal Portland Cement Exhibition. All it mentioned was the 1901 exhibition and it's dubious nature. I quote from page 200: "no documentation has yet appeared to prove that such a project was designed or executed in 1901 for the Pan-American Exposition."

Looks like I have two drawings and a photograph.

If anyone has Carla Lind's contact info, could you please PM me? I think she may have a bit more info based on her Lost Wright book.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

A recommended means of contacting an author is to address his or her publisher. "Lost Wright" was published (in 1996) by Simon & Schuster Editions, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

S

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Meisolus, Carla Lind was the first Director of FLWBC. The office is the likeliest place to get contact information.

Meisolus
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Post by Meisolus »

SDR, Roderick, thank you both. I'll follow your leads.

PrairieMod
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Post by PrairieMod »

Roderick Grant wrote:That leaves only one detail: Did Universal Portland Cement exist before its incorporation? Not that it makes any difference. My guess is that FLW transposed '10' as '01'.
The Universal Portland Cement Co. was incorporated as a new concern in 1906 to take over the cement business of the Illinois Steel Company after it joined with other steel companies first to form the Federal Steel Company in 1898 and then was acquired by the United States Steel Corporation in 1901. They basically spun off the growing cement business as another company from the steel side of things.

This notice from the Feb 13, 1915 Construction News was the critical piece detailing the incorporation date of UPCC:

https://books.google.com/books?id=h-BaA ... te&f=false

PrairieMod
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Post by PrairieMod »

Paul Ringstrom wrote:
PrairieMod wrote:One of the past "Explore Wright" newsletters explained the details of busting this Wright myth, if anyone has a copy.
Eric,
Please explain what the "Explore Wright" newsletters are. When were they published and by whom. Are copies still available?
Sorry�like the 1910 Universal Portland Cement Co. pavilion, this publication of ours had a Mayfly's life span of only a few issues and is no longer available.

Meisolus
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Post by Meisolus »

Alright ladies and gents, here it is. This wasn't nearly the nightmare that Spaulding was, but it wasn't a cakewalk either, and there are still some issues with it.

Before I get to the items I'm still struggling with, I have a few notes as to how I proceeded. Originally I went with the overall dimensions shown on the drawings (12' x 24") but as I began modeling, I realized that they just don't work. The table as built is quite a bit shorter lengthwise than shown in the drawings, as well as the space on either end of the table between it and the wall. Like everything I've ever seen from Wright, the finished product doesn't match the drawings and in this instance I was trying to make what was actually built rather than what the drawings show. The drawings were a great guide though, and I relied on them for heights and how items related to each other. In some instances, I could tell the finished product differed, but unless I was sure (or at least pretty sure) I tried to follow the drawings.

My biggest guide for the dimensions was the little tile squares. I assumed (right or wrong) that they are 1" square and have a 1" gap in between them. The clearest you can see them is in the lower left corner of the photo and it definitely seems to be the case there, so I'm assuming Wright was consistent unless I could tell for sure they were closer together for artistic effect. This has been significantly hampered by the fact that the photo is highly retouched (can you see the erased pillow that used to be on the bench?). It’s so heavily retouched that the two totem poles (my term) don’t actually match each other. It’s been a fun adventure, and I hope with all of your help and advice we can make the model even better than it is.
To be honest, I was never terribly impressed with this design. It always felt a bit overdone to me, but now that I’ve modeled it I can see how great it is. Wright clearly thought so as well. When the second edition of the Little Wasmuth was published for the American market, he not only had it added, but gave it a full page photo. I really think it dazzles, and must have really stood out at the exhibition.

Here are my issues, in no order:

-In the photo, if you look at the low wall on the right, it appears that the concrete below the lowest band of tiles is a different color. I think this is artistic license on the part of the heavy-handed retoucher as I see no evidence of it on the left, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

-If you count the tiles to the left of the table in the photo, you get seven full tiles and a partial. Try as I might, I couldn’t get this to work. They are currently 6� tiles. I felt like 5� wasn’t a very Wrightian dimension, and 4� was way too small. In the drawn plan they are somewhere between 9� and 12�. Then again, the retoucher could have changed them, but it still bothers me.

-I have no idea what is going on with the end of the arms of the totem poles and the same element all the way at the top. What the heck are these things? They look open, but I’m not sure. Were they lights? Is that some kind of tile decoration on them? I have honestly no idea and of all the problems, this is the one that is bothering me the most.

-I'm not sure about the width of the decorative panels at the back above the bench. I feel like the central rectangles (one empty, one with all the tiles in them) seem a bit too wide proportionately. However, I feel like the white tiles above and below and the grooved lines look correct. I tried making the rectangles smaller and then couldn't get the rest of the design to work properly. This may be wrong, but it seem less wrong than the other way. Also, dimensionally the panels worked pretty well with the overall length of the bench.

-Speaking of the decorative panels, do you think the grooved recesses I showed are actually that? Do you think they could have been some kind of tile inlay instead? Ditto for the ones on the totem poles.

-At either end of the bench there are piers that stick out a bit. On the inside you can clearly see some tiles in the photo, which I included. Do you think there would be some on the outside? It doesn’t work as well dimensionally, and the drawing shows that face to be blank.

I think that’s it for now. What do you all think?

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Last edited by Meisolus on Sun May 26, 2019 9:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

You refer us to the photo; could you provide a link ?

It looks smashing, and I don't immediately see anything to question. In every one of your arguments, you appear to have made a logical and supportable
choice---so I am not motivated to second-guess you. Perhaps this object, dazzling as it is, has not become one of Wright's more important essays, for
me. Still, seeing it well for the first time, one can't help being impressed, even delighted. You've probably done at least as well with Wright's numerical logic
as did those who actually built this thing.

Knowing Wright, and the times, I would expect that the terminal points might well be electric light fixtures . . .

I'll wait til I see the photo(s) again, before commenting further. In the meantime, congratulations once again, for the effort and for your results !

SDR

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