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Taylor, Jacob N; Crooks, M. O. Sketch Book of St. Louis: Containing a Series of Sketches of the Early Settlement, Public Buildings, Hotels, Railroads, Steamboats, Foundry and Machine Shops, Mercantile Houses, Grocers, Manufacturing Houses, Etc . St. Louis: George Knapp and Co, 1858. [format: book], [genre: guidebook; narrative]. Permission: Tulane University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=taylorcrooks.html


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Chapter V. Public Buildings (Continued).

THE MERCHANTS' EXCHANGE.

The Merchants' Exchange Company of St. Louis, with a liberality that has characterized their whole proceeding, with honor to themselves and greatly to the credit of St. Louis, whose commercial dignity they so worthily represent, have erected a very elegant building on Main street, between Market and Walnut, which merits a particular notice in our sketches. It is not yet completed, but is so far advanced that its general effect may be readily discerned. It is built of a fine specimen of the Allen stone, obtained from the quarry near Allenton, on the Pacific railroad — a fine-grained and shaded limestone, admirably suited to building purposes. The style of architecture is Italian, simple, dignified, and in happy keeping with the design of the structure, as the palace where the merchant princes of St. Louis will hold their daily commercial levees.

The building stands with a facade on Main street, of 153 feet width by 70 feet in height. In depth it is 86 1/2 feet, with a front on Commercial street 92 feet in height to the square of the roof. It is divided on Main street into three stories — the first, fourteen feet and four inches in height; the second, twenty-six; and the third, seventeen feet.

The lower stories are supported by a massive lintel course,

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and bold moulded cornice, supported by nine principal piers three feet by two, with handsome moulded caps and base. There are also eight intermediate piers of smaller dimensions, similar in architectural finish, the whole having an air of great strength, for the support of the structure above.

The north and south entrances have projecting porticoes, supported by fluted and carved columns of Corinthian pattern, with bold moulded capitals, with an entablature surmounted by a large carved work, in the centre of which is a medallion with the device or coat of arms of the Chamber of Commerce.

The second or principal story is the chief feature of the building. It presents to the eye of the spectator on the street, a front divided into eight compartments by iron couple-pilasters with handsome moulded caps, supporting eight circular arches enriched by bold moulded architecture. Between the pilasters are eight large circular-headed windows, twenty feet in height by nine in width, indicating by their magnitude the character of the building. These windows are divided into two compartments, as high as the springing of the arch, with a circalar compartment above. The style is one of which our readers have seen examples in the Union church, in the Methodist church on Washington avenue, and in some warehouses.

The third story has large windows of a similar pattern and finish, set on a richly moulded and panelled water-table, forming the sill of the windows. The entire facade is crowned by a massive iron cornice, divided into spaces by large modillions, with intermediate panels enriched with ornaments in terra cotta. The crown moulding is likewise enriched with similar ornaments, representing countenances, said to be lions, but intelligent, grave and dignified enough to pass for what they have been pronounced by some — the portraits of the President and Board of Directors of the Exchange Company. The effect of the

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whole gives an idea of great solidity, elegance, purity and repose of form and proportion. The walls are three feet two inches thick to the top of the second story.

Passing into the building, the Exchange Room is reached by a broad flight of steps, thirteen feet from the landing of which the visitor enters the spacious hall of the merchants, which for magnitude and boldness of design will surpass any room erected in the United States for the same purpose. By its very proportions and magnificence, it fittingly symbolizes the extent of our commerce, the enterprise of our merchants and the liberality and public spirit of the founders of this enterprise. This room is one hundred and five feet in width by eighty feet in depth. It has a central rotunda, sixty feet in diameter, with a height to the dome of fifty-eight feet. The interior will be elaborately frescoed throughout, the dome of the rotunda being thrown into four compartments richly painted in fresco, with large medallions, portraying the four quarters of the globe. The south end of the hall is to be fitted with a reading room, elevated about seventeen feet above the main floor, and reached by a circular iron staircase. The room is eighteen feet by eighty, supported by eight Corinthian columns, and enclosed by a second tier of columns and tasteful iron railing. This reading room is exposed and visible from the main floor.

The third story of the building is devoted to offices, twenty-two in number, felicitously arranged so as to form a square around the basin of the rotunda, with a gallery four feet wide, protected by an iron railing running around the entire square. These offices are constructed with an eye to convenience and comfort. They are divided from each other by glass partitions, are seventeen feet in height, spacious, well-lighted and ventilated, and easily accessible from the gallery of the rotunda. For business purposes, no offices could be more advantageously

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located or arranged. The Directors and Secretary are provided with very handsome quarters, liberal in extent, finished with elegance and good taste, and cheerful as abundant light can make them.

When this structure is entirely completed, supplied with its massive oak furniture, and decorated by the painter's art, it will be the noblest architectural ornament in the city; in its strength, as substantial as St. Louis credit — in the liberality of the division and height of stories, fitly typifying the broad spirited views of St. Louis merchants — in its general aspect of magnificence, foreshadowing the grandeur of the city that St. Louis is yet to be. Money has not been spared in its construction wherever strength or beauty could be attained. It is a building that can withstand all the ordinary vicissitudes of time, and if not assailed by fire or earthquake, will witness the gradual passing away of the present generation of merchants, the advent within its doors of another and another generation until its thick-clustering associations will speak of hundreds of honored commercial names of those gone to their rest, who once with busy activity filled the place, and with community of feeling and of aim laid broad the foundations of the future honorable greatness of the Empire city of the west.

We should remark in this connection, that this costly structure, involving an expenditure of nearly $150,000 for the house and lot, was projected with no view to profit, but with the public spirited design to erect a building that might in a becoming manner represent the commercial dignity and wealth of the chief city of Missouri, and furnish suitable quarters for the daily transactions of the yearly augmenting business that finds its theatre and centre at the Exchange.

The excellent management of the Exchange Company, however, notwithstanding the liberality of their expenditures, has

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been such that the building will prove fine stock, and pay at once a fair dividend, after paying the instalments due the city. The stores on Main and Commercial streets have already been engaged at remunerating rents.

Hall of Merchants' Exchange.

Mr. L. D. Pomarede, the artist of this dome, is by profession a fresco-painter — peintre en fresque. He has not, however, painted this ceiling in true fresco, though the peculiar effect of fresco-painting is nearly obtained, with some advantages that fresco does not possess. The method adopted by him is called encaustic, and consists essentially in the use of oil colors upon a prepared ground, so as to present a dead absorbent surface, avoiding the reflections of light, which render painting in oil unsuitable for such works. There are various styles adopted with this general purpose, encaustic, distemper, and fresco-proper, which consists in using water-colors upon the fresh plaster.

This last — fresco in the strict sense — is in every respect a quite peculiar Walk of art, and has been considered its grandest walk. It is that kind and sphere of pictorial art which touches on to architecture and sculpture, and is designed for the decoration of great public buildings — princely halls, forums, senate-chambers and churches. Michael Angelo pursued this branch of art, and is said to have disdained oil painting as unworthy of a man of genius. It is only in fresco-painting, indeed, that the very grandest achievements of the imagination are possible in the art of painting. The figures are large and colossal, because they are seen at a great height. Hence there is no petty detail admissible. It would be lost. This is especially the case when the art is applied to the ornamentation of domes and ceilings, where indeed it culminates. The ceiling

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of the Chamber of Commerce was painted in encaustic by Mr. Pomarede within two months from the first stroke of the brush, and he composed it as he painted. Of course the design as a whole was in his conception. It need not be said that it will not do to compare such a ceiling, thus extemporized (as it were), with the glorious and consummate domes on which patient genius has expended the thought and passion and artistic labor of a score of years — works which money could not buy, and only the blending of artistic enthusiasm with religious devotion could inspire. But the ceiling of Pomarede has its own peculiar merits, and there is not, perhaps, one of the same size anywhere that is in some respects so striking.

The beauty of every work of art consists in its unity with multiplicity. The more it is varied and multiplied, so long as it still impresses and seizes the imagination and the senses as ONE — as an intellectual whole, the finer it is. Now this simple, beautiful unity, is the first thing that strikes in the ceiling of the Chamber of Commerce. As soon as you enter the noble hall, and lift your eye to its dome, you behold a surface, richly ornate, splendid with color and with effective contrast, vigorous forms, action, grouping, symbolism, but all forming one ensemble — one whole, in harmony with itself, and over all the members of which the eye runs delighted, without meeting a shock. The design is simple. Four panels in color, very light and brilliant, are embraced by cornice work of chiaro-scuro, enriched with arabesques, caryatids, and rosettes, while the spandrels (triangular spaces, where the ceiling descends in the corners of the dome) are enriched by grand medallions, with colossal figures, also in chiaro-scuro, or light and shade.

Now here note the effect of the sober grave-stone color of the chiaro-scuro in giving brilliancy and glow to the colored panels, and that of the light and thin colors of the panels in

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giving force and relief to the sobriety of the chiaro-scuro. If either of these elements were altered — if, for example, the panels had been painted in deep rich colors like an ordinary oil painting — the harmony and effect of the whole ceiling would have been ruined.

The four panels of the plafond are filled respectively with allegorical representations of the four quarters of the globe.

America (to come to the panels) is a youthful female figure, standing on a platform or pedestal. Her tunic is yellow, and defines a graceful form; her peplum is red, embroidered with stars; her air is animated and gracious; her countenance open and inviting, to represent the freedom of America. At her feet is the eagle. In one hand she holds the caduceus, or or winged rod of Mercury, the god of eloquence and commerce. The arm reposes on the fasces, the symbol of Republican majesty and law. The pose of this figure is extremely elegant, and the neck and bust are really beautiful. On her right hand are representatives of the nations of the Old World, bringing the mechanical arts and productions of commerce to her shores — a Chinese with tea, a Turk with jewels, a Smyrniote girl with perfumes, an Englishman (much idealized) with an anchor and cog-wheel; behind we see a locomotive and the spars of ships, men carrying burdens, and even a monk, who transports religion from the old to the new world. On her left hand stands a half-nude Indian, with arrows and eagle plume — the aborigines; and beyond approach figures representing the European immigration — Labor, half-nude — and three majestic women: Germany, with the emblems of agriculture and the grape — France, with the sciences and arts — Italy, with the fine arts, Germany and France are noble figures, and the whole group is varied, finely composed, imaginative, story-telling, and full of life and poetry.

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Next in our order is Europe, another female figure, crowned as a queen and sitting on a throne. Her expression is a little stately; her attitude of ease mixed with command; the right hand holds and rests on the sword, symbol of justice and force; the left is on a globe, sign of her universal dominion and supremacy; her tunic is light blue, her mantle royal crimson; one knee is crossed on the other, which is certainly not conventional, and is intended to represent the ready life of Europe, which is not fossilized into dignity. On her right, Columbus presents to Europe three Indians, figuring the New World; in the background are helmed knights, crusaders, plumed cavaliers, medieval figures, rich and stately — the historic Europe. On her left, three female figures, representing the arts — Poetry, Architecture, Sculpture. Poetry is a figure of perfect elegance — a lovely face, a head bound with laurels, a full yet graceful form. A dreamy, well-drawn aerial personage, floats in from the extreme left, and, by a gesture over the indistinct and misty blue, invites Europe to send the arts to the New World.

Asia comes next, and is opposite to America, to which she offers a complete contrast. Here liberty — there despotism. A magnificent Turk, in rich Oriental costume, and with a parasol of ostrich plumes borne over his turbaned head by a black slave, is the principal figure. Another servant, kneeling behind him, bears his hookah. Before him, on the right of the picture (our left), a Greek pirate, in the picturesque costume of the Arnauts, is leading forward a beautiful Circassian girl, whom he offers for sale; in the background some regular Circassian merchants (we will suppose) are looking on, among whom is a lady, a mother, who, instead of pitying the poor captive, is coveting her lot for her own daughter — all in accordance with the well-known customs of the East. Still further back, the picture is filled up with elephants, with their drivers

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loaded camels and distant palm trees. Some persons criticise the blue aerial tint of the elephants, which ought to be a deep and substantial brown, approaching to black, say the critics. They might as well object to the whole scene being represented on the clouds, instead of a solid sandy desert. This aerial lightness is necessary in a ceiling, first, to give perspective; second, not to overpower the chiaro-scuro; it belongs to the style, and one might as reasonably complain that Miss Hosmer's statue is not flesh-colored (inasmuch as all real women are of that hue) as of the aerial tint of those elephants, which, if they were painted after nature in that respect, would seem to threaten to come down on the heads of the people below.

Last is Africa. A female figure of a light tint, like the complexion of the Nile, with a sort of an Egyptian head-dress, pearl-strings on her neck, naked to the waist, and draped for the rest with rich, barbaric skirts, is the fourth continent. She holds a lance in her right hand, and her left grasps the mane of a Numidian lion; her right hand group is a black warrior or king, who offers for sale a female negro slave, with a baby in her arms, and having only a slight drapery about the hips; and whose soft features and elegant contours are all the more attractive for not being too African. For this, however, the artist has ample authority among the travellers, who describe the women of Upper Egypt black as coal, but with the most supple and seductive contours possible, sweet in features and modeled like the finest statues. This slave-woman in Africa is one of the most charming figures on the panels, and is universally admired. On the left of Africa, are blacks sorting ostrich-plumes and carrying burdens; in the background we have more slaves, Arab merchants, camels, ostriches, palm-trees, and the blue gigantic crystals of the pyramids piercing the sultry sky. A very fine panel, simple but effective, and the inherent difficulties of the subject very well disposed of.

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To come to particulars as far as is necessary — Atlantic, in virtue of his ancient fame, is represented by Neptune, bearing his trident and attended by a mermaid. Reeds spring up on his shore, the waves roll around his island throne. Pacific is an ideal figure — bearing a rudder, with reeds and tropical trees on his shore; the form of the mermaid, whose back is turned to us, extremely graceful. Her face is turned to us over the shoulder, reminding us of the coquetry of the Pacific isles. Oregon (we suppose) pours his flood from the urn. Mississippi, is a grand old man, with a beaver and beaver huts among his reeds. The eagle is at his side, and he sits at the confluence of the Missouri. Amazon is an Amazon; woman to the waist, and nude; below the hips, which are draped, assume the masculine type; the hand grasps a spear; the lama protrudes his tall neck and head behind, and the composition is balanced by a sister Amazon, sitting with her back turned, which affords the artist the opportunity of introducing again the finest outline that nature knows. In short, the dignity of the subject is perfectly well sustained, and the meaning is well explained.

MECHANICS AND MANUFACTURERS' EXCHANGE.

The Exchange Rooms of this Association are at No. 63 Chestnut street, between Third and Fourth streets. The avowed objects of this Association are the encouragement, development and promotion of the mechanical and manufacturing interests of the city. The arbitration of all errors and misunderstandings between its members, and those of the community having business with them.

The rooms are kept open on business days from 7 o'clock, A. M., till 6 o'clock, P. M., yet the general assembling hours are from 11 till 12 o'clock, M. Here are found all the principal

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builders, manufacturers and mechanics of the city, commingling together, cementing the bonds of good-fellowship which have heretofore existed between them. Each member is entitled to a communication box, the use of the reading room, library, stationery, &c., &c., without extra charge. The terms of membership are ten, dollars per annum, payable half yearly in advance.

The following gentlemen are the officers for the ensuing year of 1858:
W. STAMPS, President,
N. M. LUDLOW, 1st Vice-President,
E. N. LEEDS, 2d
R. M. PARKS, Treasurer.
HENRY WEISSENFELS, Secretary.

Commitee of Arbitration. — John Andrews, Wm. Barren, Philip Wilson, Jas. L. Gage, P. Gregory, Jno. B. Gibson, P. Harvey, Andrew Middleton.

Committee of Appeal. — Chas. H. Peck, Sam'l Robbins; W. F. Cozzens, John Evill, W. G. Clark, L. D. Baker, W. H. Markham.

Avocation of Members. — 110 architects, superintendents and builders; 4 hatters and fur dealers; 60 bricklayers; 1 wire manufacturer; 3 boot and shoe dealers; 2 paper hanging establishments; 3 stationers and booksellers; 5 carriage and wagon makers; 9 stone masons; 13 lumber dealers; 8 stone cutters; 9 tin and stove dealers; 3 hardware dealers; 2 wood turners; 7 galvanized iron work; 15 saw milling; 4 stone pavers; 1 varnish manufacturer; 9 terra cotta work; 8 painters; 6 lime burners; 2 cement dealers; 5 gas-fitters; 10 plumbers; 5 planing mills; 2 mastic work; 17 wrought and cast iron work; 20 brick-makers; 11 plasterers; 8 marble dealers; 14

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sition, metal and slate roofers; 24 sundry other kinds of business. — Total 401.

Persons not members, residing in or out the city, desirous of exhibiting models or works of art, &c., may have the privilege of using the large hall for that purpose if acceded to by the Secretary or any other officer of the institution.

MERCANTILE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION.

This Association has been in operation over twelve years, and compares favorably with any similar institution in the Union. The buildings erected for the purpose of a Library hall are elegant, spacious and admirably adapted for the purposes to which they are dedicated. They are situated on the south-west corner of Fifth and Locust streets, having a front of 115 feet on Locust and 127 1/2 on Fifth street, and are 87 feet high to the eaves, and 200 feet to the top.

The first story is arranged for store rooms, and is now occupied as such; it is 12 feet high. On the second floor are to be found the Library hall and small Lecture hall, the former of which is 80 by 64 feet, with a ceiling in the clear of 20 feet; the latter is the same height, with a length of 80 by a width of 44 feet, and has ample room for comfortably seating six hundred persons.

We now come to the grand feature of the building. It is the Grand Hall — the most popular place for concerts, lectures and exhibitions in the city. It was here that Ole Bull, Mme. De Vries, and Paul Julian, held their concerts. It was here that the distinguished lecturer and statesman, Hon. Edward Everett, repeated his famed lecture of "Washington" to listening thousands, and held them spell-bound by his magic eloquence. Here it is that the ladies hold their pleasant strawberry festivals.

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It has a depth of 106 feet with a width of 80 feet, the height of ceiling being 36 feet in the clear. A splendid stage is erected in the west end of the hall, while from the ceiling is pendant a series of gorgeous chandeliers, with upwards of a thousand jets of gas which, when lighted, shed their rays with brilliant effect upon the beauty gathered beneath. This Hall is the most magnificent one in the United States, and has capacity for seating comfortably 2,300 persons.

The Library is stocked with a large collection of valuable books, numbering some 14,000 volumes; besides having on the shelves and files all the periodicals, magazines and newspapers of the day. There are a number of magnificent paintings decorating the walls; but a beautiful piece of statuary from the chisel off Miss Hosmer is the most prominent ornament. This is a rare piece of art, and deservedly attracts much attention.

There are 1300 members belonging to the Association, and by reference to the report of the last year's proceedings we learn that in 1857, 17,800 volumes were issued to 1193 members, one hundred and six members having taken nothing.

The following gentlemen are the officers for 1858:
Matthew V. L. McClelland, President; John B. S. Lemoine, Vice President; George H. Loker, Treasurer; George R. Wilson, Corresponding Secretary; Calvin W. Marsh, Recording Secretary.

John Christopher, John A. Brownlee, Robert H. Davis, F. R. Alexander, Sydenham R. Clarke, Sol. Scott, Jr., George W. Tracy — Directors.

Wm. P. Curtis, Librarian; Stephen Massoch, Jr., Assistant Librarian; Samuel Clegg, Janitor.

Mr. Curtis has held the responsible post of Librarian for upwards of ten years. He is a general favorite — so much so as to have had no competitor for the post he fills, for

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several years. A more pleasant, courteous and affable gentleman can not be found in St. Louis than Mr. Wm. P. Curtis; and we would urge upon strangers visiting St. Louis a visit to the Library Hall. We are sure they will have a better opinion of us after having done so.

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Taylor, Jacob N; Crooks, M. O. Sketch Book of St. Louis: Containing a Series of Sketches of the Early Settlement, Public Buildings, Hotels, Railroads, Steamboats, Foundry and Machine Shops, Mercantile Houses, Grocers, Manufacturing Houses, Etc . St. Louis: George Knapp and Co, 1858. [format: book], [genre: guidebook; narrative]. Permission: Tulane University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=taylorcrooks.html
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