Saturday, March 20, 2010

West Virginia State Building at the World's Columbian Exposition

In about 1888, influenced by the Classical Revival sweeping across America, Joseph Silsbee began designing shingle-clad Dutch Colonial homes for clients along the shores of Lake Michigan.  By 1891, he had expanded his classical vocabulary to include Greek, Roman and Georgian influences and was designing masonry structures for clients as well.  Classical Revival architecture became widely fashionable in Chicago and was the style of choice for structures of the World's Columbian Exposition, a world's fair held in that city in 1893.

Joseph Silsbee designed several structures for the fair.  One of these was the West Virginia State Building.  Though the style did not dominate his work, he continued to design Classical Revival buildings until the end of his career.  Very few of these designs share the rigid symmetry and formality of the West Virginia Building.
Image of the proposed design published in the "Inland Architect".

The structure was designed to resemble the architecture of colonial Virginia and West Virginia.  The building functioned as a social spot for West Virginians and other visitors to the fair.  To this end, the ground floor contained a gracious Stair Hall, a Gentleman's Parlor and a Ladies Parlor.  The second floor was a single large Assembly Hall.  Wide piazzas extend on the front and sides of the building, creating additional exterior gathering and lounging areas.

The structure, like most of the state buildings, was designed with the intent that after the fair it would be sold and moved to another property for use as a residence.  It appears that it was not sold and was demolished after the fair.

No comments: