Tag Archives: Texas

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.

East Texas Architecture

Garner, John S. East Texas architecture: a select study / prepared for the Texas Society of Architects by John S. Garner. [College Station, TX: J. Garner], c1979.

John S. Garner’s East Texas Architecture: A Select Study is a labor of love describing more than 150 buildings across 33 counties in East Texas. This incredibly useful study, undertaken through a grant from the Texas Society of Architects to further scholarship in the “History of Architecture and the Southwest,” spotlights a myriad of forms – from log or “dog-trot” cabins to Gothic Victorian mansions and Greek revival courthouses. The book is organized according to city (Texarkana, Longview, Tyler, Mexia, Lufkin – to name but a few), with each community featuring several structures of varying styles. The buildings are represented by a single, yet straightforward image, and a description detailing the building’s history and significance. Although this publication is not glamorous or glossy (like many of the books in the Architecture & Planning Library), it provides a wealth of information on historic, regional architecture.

Library of Congress call number: NA 730 T5 G37 1979