Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Edward B. Green and his firm
A modern marvel of architectural industry: construction in Chautauqua a century ago
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 8:58AM
Winter in Chautauqua County is long and discouraging: deep snow, cold temperatures, the heavy, protective clothing that hinder people as they try to get around. Say nothing about the roadways. Factors like these make it all the more remarkable that Chautauqua Institution’s Colonnade and Post Office building were constructed between January and June 1909.
To help Chautauqua audiences understand such a feat of architectural construction, Ed Evans, longtime Chautauquan, journalist, teacher and appreciator of modern marvels, will give a lecture titled “A Chautauqua Miracle: Two Buildings in Two Months” at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.
The 2009 Chautauqua Heritage Lecture Series is made possible by the Chautauqua Foundation’s Richard Newman Campen “Chautauqua Impressions” Fund.
Like many Chautauquans, Evans walked the grounds during his youth, recognizing the fine buildings, but not really thinking about who designed or built them.
“The architecture is a part of our lives,” Evans said.
But that does not mean people know much about it. Evans said that Chautauqua presents a particular dilemma of knowledge: Its architects might be known in their own particular area, but when they build one or two buildings at Chautauqua, people may know the name, but not the architect’s significance.
Architect Edward B. Green is one example. Green and his firm have connections to many of Chautauqua’s buildings, including the Miller Bell Tower and the Hall of Philosophy. But full recognition of the firm’s name and influence did not come until Phil Brunskill, a former vice president at the Institution, generated an interest.
In the spring of 2000, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum conducted a contest to select the Great American Post Office. The nominator had to include, among other things, the name and significance of the architect. Always interested in Chautauqua architecture, Brunskill identified Green as the building’s designer.
Fire destroyed many hotels in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among them were many wooden hotels that used to contribute to the landscape around Chautauqua Lake. Only two remain, the Hotel Lenhart in Bemus Point, N.Y., and the Athenaeum Hotel on the grounds. Unfortunately fire took more than hotels.
On October 19, 1908, fire consumed the Colonnade on Chautauqua’s grounds. The building needed to be rebuilt. Within the building had been the Institution’s main offices: the Chautauqua print shop and post office. They were both features of the Institution’s smooth running that, effectively, were left homeless.
In stepped E.B. Green, architect for Buffalo’s captains of industry, a man whose connections to steel manufacturers gave him ready access to manpower and materials. Evans said that a number of articles in The Chautauquan Weekly, the newspaper of the time, described breaks in weather when they could pour concrete.
Within six months, two new buildings bordered what is now Bestor Plaza.
The buildings’ records and architects were not forgotten so much as overlooked, until Brunskill nominated the Chautauqua Post Office for the Smithsonian award — which it won.
Evans’s book, Hidden Treasure: The Chautauqua Commission of Buffalo’s E.B. Green, is on sale in the Chautauqua Bookstore, and he will be available to sign copies after his lecture this afternoon.
by George Cooper, staff writer
Architect Edward B. Green his firm have connections to many of Chautauqua’s buildings, including the Miller Bell Tower and the Hall of Philosophy.