Tag Archives: James Riely Gordon

Let’s Go to the Fair!

Back in February, I discovered the guidebook to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago in APL’s Special Collections. As part of the blog entry for this Friday Finds, I included the image of the Texas State Building. After reading the post, Nancy Sparrow notified me that the Alexander Architectural Archive had material related to the building from the archive of James Riely Gordon (1863-1937), who designed the pavilion for Texas. We decided to hold off on sharing the material, because one of the drawings (see the image below) was to be included in the Harry Ransom Center’s  upcoming exhibit, Frank Reaugh: Landscapes of Texas and the American West. The exhibit opened on Tuesday and will run until November 29, 2015, which means I now have the opportunity to share the archival material with you!

Accepted Competitive Design for the Texas State Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 93, Riely Gordon, architect, San Antonio Texas. Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

I am following Chris Meister’s interpretation of the evolution of the design of the Texas State Building (Meister, 89-101). Initially James Riely Gordon entered the competition with his partner D.E. Laub; however, the final entry belongs to Gordon. Meister writes of the significance of the competition for Gordon:

Designing the Texas pavilion for the great world’s fair would garner national attention for the energetic San Antonian and put him in contact with some of the leading lights of his profession. Publicity accompanying the fair probably did more to raise his countrymen’s awareness of architecture than any other single event. In addition, after two redesigns, the Texas State Building as built represents an important step in Gordon’s development of his signature courthouse plan. (Meister, 89)

I very much enjoyed the chance to look over the drawings and photos and discuss the project with Nancy. She pointed out details of the buildings of which I was not aware such as the longhorn skull over the entrance or the design of the windows as copied from the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo in San Antonio. I am also rather fond of the statue holding the lone star atop the dome in the initial design.

If you are interested in learning more about James Riely Gordon, Chris Meister’s book, James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture is an excellent place to start. He provides extensive evidence for the development of and influences on the Texas State Building as well as a description of the completed building, highlighting the longhorn as well (Meister, 89-101, description 95 and 98)! You can also make an appointment with the archive to examine the archival collection. For more information on the design of the award, the American Historical Association has a discussion on it in Perspectives on History. And if you are interested in learning more about the Columbian Exposition, a great read is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and one of my favorites.

Meister, Chris. James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 2011.

James Riely Gordon lecture and open house

Ellis County Court House presentation rendering

Wednesday, March 7th, the University of Texas School of Architecture’s Spring Lecture Series will feature Chris Meister.  Chris recently published his book James Riely Gordon: his courthouses and other public architecture.  Chris’ research took him near and far, but he spent a significant amount of time investigating Gordon’s core collection held at the Alexander Architectural Archive.  In conjunction with the lecture, which will be held in Goldsmith Lecture Hall 3.120 at 5pm, the Archive will open its doors from 10am to 4pm that day to share some Gordon gems.  The open house will also extend after Chris’ lecture, from 6 to 7pm.

The Gordon collection is an amazing resource and Chris has done a fine job scratching the surface for scholarship.   Gordon was also an early proponent of copyright, passive energy design, professional associations, and the development of building codes in NYC.

Hope to see you there!

Treatment of architectural watercolor rendering of Havana courtroom interior by James Riely Gordon, ca. 1911

For many years now the Alexander Architectural Archive and iSchool lecturer and paper conservator Karen Pavelka have collaborated on preserving works on paper from the archive collections.  Conservation students at the Kilgarlin Center for for the Preservation of the Cultural Record gain experience treating archival works as part of the Paper Laboratory taught by Pavelka. Second year Conservation student D. Jordan Berson describes his process of treating an early 20th century watercolor by Texas architect James Riely Gordon.

To see other images of this installation, visit the slide show on the Architecture & Planning Library flickr page.

Gordon watercolour before treatment
Gordon watercolour before treatment

The goal of this treatment was to stabilize the fragile drawing in order to lift access restrictions and enable safe handling by researchers. It was also desired to reduce detracting visible damage. The object had tears and surface distortion, creases and a damaged acidic mat that was adhered directly to the artwork. It was evident that large areas of additional artwork were obscured by the existing mat. In addition, there were several areas along creases where the paint had been burnished or rubbed completely away, exposing the paper substrate.

The first part of the treatment was to mechanically remove the mat and adhesive residue as much as possible. Where residue remained adhered to the object, it was scraped away as possible by introducing very light amounts of moisture to soften it, then scraped away with a microspatula or wiped away with cotton swabs. This process took many hours. Then the piece was dry cleaned on both sides using soot sponges, and white eraser shavings. Tears were mended and splayed corners were consolidated using wheat starch paste. Thick Japanese tissue mending strips were glued down on the reverse side of creases to reduce planar distortion. Detracting media loss was remedied through inpainting. First a gelatin sizing was painted into the areas of loss, followed by inpainting with color-matched watercolors. Finally, a new acid-free mat was hand-cut using a Dexter mat-cutter. Instead of adhering it to the object as the old one was, a new “T-hinge” design was used that replicated the design of the original mat while enabling viewers to see the long-hidden artwork underneath.

Gordon watercolour after treatment
Gordon watercolour after treatment

To see other images of the treatment, visit the slide show on the Architecture & Planning Library flickr page.