Home -> John J. Newbegin -> The Jewel City -> Chapter XI. The Palace of Machinery

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The Palace of Machinery

A vast rectangular hall, saved by Ward's successful architecture from being a huge barn - Modeled on the Roman Baths of Caracalla - Patigian's finely decorative sculptures, symbolizing the mechanical forces and labor - Beauty of the interior - A Cathedral of Dynamics.

A mighty hall is the Palace of Machinery. (See p. 105, 106.) Beachey flew in it. The Olympic might rest in its center aisle with clear space at both bow and stern, and room in the side aisles for two ocean greyhounds as large as the Mauretania. Vastness is the note of the architecture which Clarence Ward has employed to give body to this enormous space. It is an architecture of straight lines in all the outer structure, lending itself admirably to the expression of enormous proportions. In general ground plans the palace is a simple rectangular hall. Think, then, of the task the architect had before him to avoid making the palace a huge barn. His work succeeded, as any great work succeeds, because he used simple means.

First of all, a Roman model was well chosen for so vast a building. The Greeks built no large roofed structures. Their great assemblages were held in open-air theaters and stadia. The Greek masterpiece, the incomparable Parthenon at Athens, was considerably smaller than Oregon's timbered imitation at the Exposition. On the other hand, the solid Roman style lends itself to bulk. The models followed in the Machinery Palace were the Roman Baths, particularly the Baths of Caracalla. They have been used once before as a model in this country, in the building of the Pennsylvania Railway station in New York. There, too, travertine was first successfully imitated by Paul Deniville. Looking at the Palace of Machinery, indeed, it is not difficult to imagine it as the noble metropolitan terminal of a great railway system. It would hold many long passenger trains, and an army of travelers. The distinctive feature of the perspective is the triple gable at the ends of the palace and over the great main entrance. By thus breaking up the long roof lines, as well as by lowering the flanks of the building to flat-roofed wings, a barn like effect was avoided. In the triple gables, also, the three central aisles which distinguish the interior show in the outer structure. Under the gables the huge clerestory windows above the entrances relieve the great expanse of the end walls. Similar windows open up the walls above the flat-topped wings. In the main entrance, the gables are deepened to form a huge triple vestibule where the row of columns is repeated. The long side walls are relieved by pairs of decorated columns flanking the minor entrances.

Thus, by entirely simple devices, the long lines and vast expanses of wall are deprived of monotony. The architect has given majesty to the palace, not merely a majesty of hugeness, but of just proportions and dignified simplicity. In the general architectural scheme of the Exposition it forms one end of the main group of palaces, at the other end of which is set the Palace of Fine Arts. Machinery Hall, with its severe massiveness and solidity, is a balance to the poetry and spirituality of the Fine Arts.

The main entrance is on the west side, looking down the avenue between the Palaces of Mines and Varied Industries. Perhaps it is better, though, to take a first view of the sculptural decoration at the entrance at either the north or the south end, where almost everything is shown that appears in the more complicated main vestibule.

The three clerestory windows make three arches with four piers. In front of each pier stands a great Sienna column crowned with one of four symbolic figures, each, in the strength of the male, emblematic of force. First on the left is "Electricity," grasping the thunderbolt, and standing with one foot on the earth, signifying that electricity is not only in the earth but around it. The man with the lever that starts an engine represents "Steam Power." "Imagination," the power which conceives the thing "Invention" bodies forth, stands with eyes closed; its force comes from within. Wings on his head suggest the speed of thought. At his feet is the Eagle of Inspiration. "Invention" bears in his hand a winged figure, - Thought, about to rise in concrete form.

The eagle appears as a symbol of the United States, on the entablature carried across the opening below the arch on two Corinthian columns in each embrasure. The lower third of each of these shafts is decorated with a cylindrical relief representing the genii of machinery, flanked by human toilers and types of machines. The genii are blind, as the forces developed by machines are blind. There are only two of these cylindrical friezes, but they are repeated many times on the columns at either end and at the main entrance, and on the pairs of columns that flank the minor openings in the western wall.

Over the main entrance the gable is extended to enclose a majestic triple vestibule, backed by the same effect that appears at the palace ends, but with the entablature and its supporting columns repeated across the outer arches. (p. 111.) With the exception of the spandrels on the transverse arches, the sculptural decoration here is the same as that described for the end entrances, though more often repeated. The spandrels represent the application of power to machines. All this decoration is the work of Haig Patigian, of San Francisco.

Before the main entrance stands the only example, in the Exposition sculpture, of the work of the dean of American sculptors, Daniel Chester French. This is his noteworthy group, the Genius of Creation. (p. 147.) Other statues by French will be found among the exhibits of the Fine Arts Palace. The Genius of Creation was placed here at the last moment. It had been intended for the Court of the Universe, while Douglas Tilden's group of "Modern Civilization" was to have stood before the Palace of Machinery. When this was not completed, the Exposition wisely decided that the great court already had enough statuary, and ordered French's group erected in its place.

According to French himself, this group might well have been called "The Angel of Generation." The winged figure, neither male nor female, but angelic, is veiled, suggesting the creative impulse as a blind command from unknown sources. The arms are raised in a gesture of creative command. It has wings, said French, because. both art and the conception demanded these spiritual symbols. The man and woman against the rock whereon the angel sits are emblems of the highest types created. The man looks upward and outward with one hand clenched, ready to grapple with life. The woman reaches out for sympathy and support; her fingers find this in the hand of the man at the back of the rock. Man and woman are encircled by the snake, the earliest symbol of eternity and reproduction, a figure appearing, curiously enough, in every religion, and with much the same significance.

Without ignoring the majesty of the exterior, glowing with color and adorned with statuary, it may be said that the real nobility of this great structure appears in the splendid timber work of the interior. Here, where every bone and rib of the huge hall stands bare as the builders left it, is a note of true grandeur. The long rows of great timbered columns, the lofty arches that spring from them, the almost endless vista of truss and girder, tell of vastness that cannot be expressed by the finished architecture outside. The finest character of the palace is within. From the outside it is a great and well-proportioned hall. Within it becomes a vast cathedral, dedicated to the mighty spirit of Dynamics.

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