Silloway's Statement of Facts
Statement of Facts, Concerning the
Management of Affairs Connected with the Rebuilding of the Capitol, at Montpelier,
by Thomas W. Silloway,
Architect of the Building
Daily Times Job Office
Statement of Facts, &c.
A pamphlet entitled "Vermont Capitol and the Star Chamber.--Testimony and Defence of the Superintendent of construction," &c., has been presented to the public.
Like kindred productions lately ushered into being, it figures in the character of a FOUNDLING;--no one being held legitimately responsible for the diseases entailed upon it.
As was the case with curtained spirits in the days of Cotton Mather, "Invisible hands have put forth an astonishing visibility," and a discerning public will be its own judge, as to "who the antic is, that so insolently intrudes upon this common theatre to the world’s view."
The vulgarity and falsehood with which the document is freighted, has sunk it below a depth soundable with the plummet of reason or sense, and its element of unprincipled character deprives it of respectable notice, or honorable mention.
While no review of the thing is tolerable, the public are entitled to a possession of correlative facts. Such of them, therefore, as appear to be of service, are herein compiled and transmitted.
At the risk of incurring a charge of egotism, I shall assume the privilege of speaking in the first person, and somewhat in narrative style,--a conviction that in this manner I can best aid an abused public, being my shelter and defence.
In the year 1854 I was first introduced to Thomas E. Powers, and by him employed to furnish drawings and specifications for a new Court House at Woodstock, Vermont. These were furnished, and, ostensibly, under his superintendence the building was erec ted.
Inexperienced in the construction of large buildings, or anything of like nature, as will be supposed, he soon proved himself unequal to the task he has undertaken. A skillful and well-known master builder, Mr. Julien O. Mason, of Boston, contracted f or the erection of the structure.
It was principally by his integrity, and the vigilance of his father, Mr. Marshall Mason, a native of, and long resident in, Woodstock,--a man of acknowledged faithfulness and unusual abilities in his profession, and who had sole charge of all the cont ract work at the Court House, that the building was produced.
My own labors were so largely increased, that by special consent of the Superintendent I was paid $50 more than had been promised me in the original agreement. So much deviation from the drawings and specifications had been made by his orders, and so many mistakes had occurred in consequence of bad management, that at the completion of the building, a bill of nearly $1,000 one-fifteenth part of the whole cost, had been incurred for ‘Extras.’ $800 of this sum was, after a long and costly arbitration, p aid to the contractor.*
Possessing such knowledge of me as he had gathered by the experience before recited, this same Superintendent was pleased of his own accord, to recommend me to the people at Montpelier as one competent to advise them in regard to repairing the recently burned State House — It being at that time proposed to simply repair, and not rebuild.
By instruction from him, and at his written request, in behalf of some gentleman of Montpelier, I visited the Capitol, and prepared estimates of such repairs as would put the building in its original condition and form. At the Extra Session he publicl y spoke of me as one with whom he had had experience, and he there took occasion to endorse me without qualification.
In process of time he was appointed Superintendent for rebuilding the State House, under an act (reported to the House by a Committee of three, of which he was a member, if * It may be well to state here, that after much deliberation it was agreed by the parties, to refer the whole matter to the Architect for adjudication; each party binding itself in a penal sum to abide by the decision. It was so referred, resulting as st ated above.
4not its chairman,) which, according to his interpretation, in thirty days from the commencement of their labor, left the Commissioners with their work but begun, and him as sole authority.
I had by him been introduced to the Commissioners, and contrary to the (then) judgment or inclinations of Judge Porter, was accepted as Architect for the new building.
At the close of my labors with the Commissioners, having received from them a synopsis of their opinions and desires in relation to the remaining work, I was employed by the Superintendent to perform the duties of Architect for the capitol, from beginn ing to end, for which service I was to receive a specified sum, and was to hold myself in readiness to go to Montpelier whenever requested by the Superintendent, provided it should not be oftener than once in two weeks--the State paying my expenses of tra vel and board, while at Montpelier.
Being aware that Doct. Powers was without Architectural education, or experience in the construction of buildings, other than what he obtained in building the Court House, before named, it never occurred to me as possible, that he would install himself as Architect of the Capitol, keep me at a distance of two hundred miles, laboriously answering his written questions, and make me responsible for his blunders, without even an opportunity of protesting against them. I did not therefore stipulate to be allowed to visit work, on a successful accomplishment of which my reputation as an Architect depended.
On the first day of March, 1858, one year had expired, and I had been called to Montpelier four times only!
From the commencement of the work until its close in the following October, general and costly mismanagement existed. My labors and anxieties had both been greatly increased by his mode of procedure, and I felt that we were approaching a portion of th e work where a continuation of this course would ruin my reputation, and deeply injure the interests of the State.
On the 15th day of October, 1857, I had been immediate employ o f the Superintendent, and on work at the State House, for over eight months.
I had made every drawing for stone work required for erecting and completing the building; all those required for either brick or iron work, also many for the wood work, and the larger part of all named, had been carried into execu tion.
With this experience, and knowing me well, the Superintendent, near the close of his first annual report to the Governor, remarks as follows:--
"Before closing this hastily prepared report, "I must be permitted to acknowledge the deep obligations which I feel myself under to THOMAS W. SILLOWAY, Esq., of Boston, upon whom has been conferred the appointment of Architect of the work; for his very valuable professional services thus far rendered upon it. Whoever, it is believed, shall be permitted to contemplate the magnificent structure when completed, if he be a lover of Architectural beauties, cannot fail to recognize in the work before him th e hand of one thoroughly skilled in his profession, possessing not only a superior taste for the beautiful, but a thorough knowledge of Architectural proportions, as well as of that which constitutes utility, convenience and durability."
Early after the closing of the out-door work, a large work-shop was rented and men employed to prepare the finish of the dome,--to make doors, sashes and blinds for the windows, and finish for various parts of the building.
I have but to sum the whole up in a single paragraph, which is, that it was by strenuous efforts on my part, and vigilance on that of the Master Carpenter, that drawings were executed as designed, or work properly done;--a continual desire and inclinat ion being manifest on the part of the Superintendent to alter my designs. In some instances I was compelled to submit to the influence of his "indomitable perseverance." All of which I now freely acknowledge, and as truly deplore.
In a great degree discouraged with the results of the past, yet hoping for a better condition of things for the future, I resolved on making an attempt at; reform and in furtherance of the object, as an introductory step, I addressed to the Superintend ent the following letter: --
BOSTON, March 2d, 1858.
Doct: -- Since you last left Boston, I have arrived at a conclusion in regard to a matter that has for some months been with me a subject of careful attention, viz: that for most, if
5not all the time during the coming year, I ought to be at Montpelier. During the past year, work at the Capitol was carried on well. It was of a nature that you could do, by such aid as I was enabled by letter, &c., to render. Of the past, I have n othing now to say, and will refer to it only for illustration, so far as work of the future may require. During the year, you have rendered the State a large and valuable service; and have produced the walls of the building nearly ready for the roof; to accomplish which, the amount of labor required, no one can know so well as yourself. I have during the whole period, felt anxious to lighten your burden, and consequently, my attempts to render service, may at times have amounted to officiousness and in discretion. That I have at times stepped out of my legitimate sphere, and walked in yours, is herein duly acknowledged; I have, however, from first to last, stood by, ready to do any, and everything, that your judgment, and the good of the State required ; keeping myself in the main from general outside business; preferring to be unentangled, and free to attend to my more legitimate work. Since I commenced for the capitol, I have kept myself entirely within, as it were, hearing distance, so that at no ti me have I been so engaged, or at a distance where a telegraph could not reach me, and myself be transported to Montpelier inside of 48 hours. Nine-tenths of the time I have been at my office in Boston. The State House work has had my personal and undivi ded attention. As you were confident of your abilities to do the kind of work that has been done, and in anticipation of my going to M. often, I saw no necessity for urging anything different; and in that way we worked. I have, in addition to dr awings, visits, &c., written you something more than one thousand pages (great and small). Thus far, all is well, but what is now to come, I am confident demands a different course.
The major part of all the remaining work is intricate and difficult in the extreme, and I seriously question my ability to do what ought to be done, unless I can be present to advise, and be consulted in person. I am not entirely prepared to say, that I so much distrust both of us, apart, that I should not feel warranted in attempting to proceed as we have: but I must say that things have to me that kind of look. If at any time I am convinced that a failure would be the result, I will honorably resign my post in favor of any one who may appoint.
I trust, Doctor, you are considering what I say, if you do not endorse and approve it.
The past year is no criterion for that which is to come. The work is but begun yet, and let us be together and consult each other as best we may, we shall be far enough behind, then. First, is to come the roof of the main building. The wings are of small account. It is of moment that much be said and done in regard to it. The big dome, weighing over one hundred tons, is to rest entirely upon trusses. — I have not the slighted apprehension that all is not properly designed, so as to give am ple support; but in spite of all, drawings and letters are, at best, but imperfect and intricate;--many things need to be carefully watched, and guarded step by step. You, nor Gunnison, nor my written opinion, nor all, are entirely sufficient; not hing but personal observation and consultation with each other, is to be relied upon. You are entirely usused to this, and the other work we are to do. I have had but a comparatively limited experience. We should not rely too much on our knowledge. We are at work for a State, and should not deceive it, by flatteringly deceiving ourselves.
That large dome is to be finished. Singular and unusual-shaped furring are to be used--none of which are yet drawn. Gunnison has never built a thing of the kind,-- you have never seen one built. I only know of it as I have learned, by experie nce in constructing church-steeples, and things of like nature.
From the day that dome is framed and raised, till it is ready for painting, some person will be required to be on the spot, and give directions for furring, to aid in lining out the objecting parts. &c, &c.
Letters, nor occasional visits, cannot perfectly do it. I might say much more about the dome, but forbear.
The next thing is the STAIR WORK; special patterns are to be made, fitted to the brick work, and floor above. Detail drawings in abundance, and more than this, actual watchings and explanations, during the construction of the work, are required . There is hardly a straight line about them. When I think of my drawings of the carved work, so much like Hebrew to you, I dislike to think of what is to come, in regard to the stair drawings. Next, the stuccoing. I hope you have some conception of th e difficulty of ever writing about it. I cannot make full working drawings, only by actual measurements; and one should be on the spot while they are being made. It is a long job to make them at best. Nothing is yet defined, and can only be done by con sultation, and then slowly, proceeding step by step.
The small committee rooms you can do well enough.
The vestibules, will be first in order to trouble you; next, the Representatives Hall, the Governor’s room, and the Senate Chamber and Library. Many furrings are to be struck out full-size and the work laid out on floors and walls, which, with all the patience, intelligence, and good humor we both can command, will be mastered but with difficulty.
I have named to you, hastily a few of the leading points, --the rest you may imagine. If I have failed to make out the case, I am sorry, as I have done my best, to show the thing as it is. I want the work to
6end properly; with glory to you, and respectable honor to myself. We now have it in our power to do as we should. I have freely spoken to you of my conscious inability to carry out what is proposed, unless I can be situated so as to favorably do it.
When I think of the work for the past year, and what is to be done during that which is to come, my own idea is, that I should go to Montpelier as soon as the first day of May, and there remain, except perhaps at intervals of a week or so at a time, ti ll the May following. -- This does not at all doubt your ability to do a thing that you would claim for yourself, and I cannot think you would consider me as at all interfering with your work. To me, the thing I propose would be an injury, so far as business is concerned. I could not hope to leave here, and returning, find things as I leave them. However, I should surrender, and make Montpelier, for the time being at least, my home; trusting to the future for something to do, that would be induced by this work, I would give up Boston and its interests. I do not wish to go Montpelier as an ostentatious superintendent, but as Architect of that building. This in my opinion, the good of us all demands.
I will not write more at present, but will let you report your opinion, and will then consider and do what shall appear to me best in the end, for each, and all. My fate, as an Architect, depends upon that building. If you consider my personal presen ce not required, it will surely not be there, and I will either stay here and work, or, if I think it more judicious, will honorably resign my position to another. If you have discovered, or do now discover, your need of the aid I propose, for a f air remuneration, I will sacrifice my business in Boston, and get into the Montpelier harness for the year.
It has been hard work to write this letter, for it involves a great deal, but I have finished it, and shall send it to you.
With respect and esteem,
To the foregoing I received the following reply:
Montpelier, March 3, 1858Friend S.,--
Yours of yesterday is received, and I confess to a little surprise at what seems to me to be its special purport. I had supposed that during the coming year your visits would necessarily be required more frequently, than they have been the p ast. But I had not supposed that a visit once in two weeks (if required by me) would sufficiently often to afford all the personal attention or examination which might be needed. For the year past, I have seldom called on you for a vis it, for the reason that I desired to save to the State the expense of frequent journeys, and to favor you as much as possible. You are aware as well as I am, that on public works generally money is spent lavishly, and but little regard is had for economy expenditures. In this case, I resolved in the outset to make the most of a dollar, and turn it to the best possible account. The State has no money to throw away, and I felt bound in honor to conduct the business of my agency with as strict a regard to economy, as I would if the business were my own, and thus far I feel no particular upbraidings of conscience for any very palpable short-comings in that respect. We have got along with the work so far passably well, and the expense of frequent journeys from Boston has been saved to the State. I know very well that my labors might be lessened very much (and perhaps dispensed with) if you were here a greater share of the time; but I expected to earn my money ( if I ever get any). As to the diffic ulties which you seem to anticipate, they may all prove to be realities, but I don’t see it so yet. If they do, let us meet them as they arise. I have no doubt that men can be found that can work from good plain drafts on this work, as the y do on other jobs. If they cannot, it will be a misfortune which I did not expect to be called upon to meet.
Stairs, I suppose, can be made as well this year, from drawings as they could last. Furrings and inside finish always have been made from drafts, and I see no reason why they cannot be again. At any rate, if we get into the fog in any o f the intricate matters before us, you will most likely be within hailing distance.
T. E. POWERS.
This response tended to surprise as well as discourage. After consultation with those deemed best qualified judge, I resolved, if possible, to sever my connection with him, the building, and its interests; and accordingly on the tenth of the month, se nt him the following letter:
Boston, March 9, 1858.
DOCT. -- Your letter of the 3rd came duly to hand. I have deliberated till now, lest I be too hasty. I was pleased at the outset to discover that you had already decided, that my personal attention would be needed the coming year more than the past. Your reasons for permitting me to remain at Boston as much as you did the past year, were humane and kind, and I doubt not judicious, since I was where you could write every day. I appreciate what you say in regard to saving money for the State. The principle is good, and the spirit of it to be encouraged; but we must remember that economy may be so intensified, as to make it more that equivalent to extravagance. It is well to buy medicine as cheap as possible, provided the quality is qu ite as good; but it is not advisable to dispense with the physician; nor is it wise to let the nurse alone decide
7when he shall call, especially if the saving of the patient’s money, and his well being, are of equal moment in the judgment of the nurse. -- That unnecessary sums of money are expended in erecting public buildings I admit, but in the present case nothing of the kind can, or will, occur. I ask no chance or opportunity to incur a cent of expense, that you could not in reason approve. I wish for no privilege to disburse a cent, or even to know how, or for what, you disburse it. Your letter is couched in terms so friendly that I have it not in my heart to say a harsh thing; the spirit of it induces me to write a reply, although I had promised myself not to make any defence of my position, but, after hearing your deliberate opinion, to eithe r withdraw my opinion or myself. I shall pass over that part of the letter which begins, "The State has no money to throw away," &c. I leave all of that section as though it were unsaid. I come then to your opinion of what is to be d one the coming year. The difficulties I speak of you say "may prove realities, but I don’t see it so yet." I see them, and have misgivings in regard to the propriety of your suggestion. "If they do, let us meet them as they arise." Prevention is better than cure, and do you not know it? This last page of your letter, --entirely respectful and well indited,-- has convinced me of the entire propriety of what I wrote in my last. The confidence you repose in your own ability, when viewed in connection with the mistakes that have occurred, and also, in contrast with my own convictions of the magnitude of the thing to be done, greatly shakes my confidence in myself. If you are able, then I am not, for experience and observation on my part is of use, inversely, as its extent. I have done things of the kind we are to do, and have learned the difficulty; --you have done neither. --
I am not too rash when I write as I do. Your remark about men’s abilities to work from drawings, compels me to say it. Drawings are aids, only. They are not possessed of a head, a heart, or a tongue. They are but imperfect representatives. You say , "If the men cannot work from them, it will be a misfortune I did not expect to meet." You are already unfortunate in the fact that you have not discovered it. What you say of stair construction, this year, as compared to last year, is we ll said, but there is something back of it. My experience during the past year convinces me that we have already used as complicated drawings as can be explained by letter, or occasional visits. The carving drawings are proof too positive to mistake. The same remarks apply equally well to stucco work, and all dome-furring and finishing. Your anticipated alternative, in case, as you say, you "get into the fog," is not to me sufficiently potent. My "being within hailing distance" will not "cure all diseases." I have now briefly noticed the leading points of your letter. From the general terms of it, I am disposed to think that you consider my conclusion as simply a false alarm, and that you are adequate to do all that will be req uired. If you can produce what you hope to, so be it; my opinion is, that we each of us have a work to do, and that State or individual at the other end, we should do it. After fully reviewing the matter many times, I write you again. Two thing s hinder me from rendering the State the service that ought to be rendered, and which is rendered, in the construction of buildings of much less moment. First is expense. Twenty-six visits to Montpelier at $12 each, and board, at least $130, you anticipate paying, if need be. Second, your opinion, that my services are not needed. In regard to the first reason, I have nothing to say. I leave you to say what you will buy with the money; and as to the second reason, I cannot with propriet y say anything more, if I would.
After considering the matter as I think in its proper bearings, I am constrained to believe it injudicious to undertake the work unless I can be near enough to it to see it, as well as hear of it, and hence I must tender to you my resigna tion as Architect of this building. Anticipating this, I wrote a letter to Mr. Gunnison a few days ago, in order that he might not be alarmed by any sudden stir in the matter. I hope he will be able to retain his place.
I wrote him as encouraging a letter as I could in regard to your opinion of him.
Thankful for past favors at your hands, I close my last official letter;-- not without unpleasant feelings, but with a consciousness of propriety that outweighs them all, and which I hope will he ratified to you during the progress of the work, and to me from time to time, during my business life.
As ever, I am,
THOMAS W. SILLOWAY.
This letter he received the next day, and the same evening replied to it as follows:
Montpelier, March 11, 1858.
Dear Sir, Yours of the 9th inst. is this evening received, and I must confess it occasions in me greater surprise than did the one last preceding it. I infer from its contents that you think a contract, deliberately entered into between parties , can be broken by either, with not only impunity, but with the highest honor to him who, after receiving
8large sums of money in advance of services performed, from whim, caprice, incompetency or other cause, seeks to bow himself out whenever he pleases, under the delusive plea of "tendering a resignation!!" I am just foolish enough to think otherwise .
Will you be pleased to return to me, at your earliest convenience, the three drawings for the ornaments, which I left with you when I was last in Boston? I am anxious to see if we know enough to cut them.
Thos. W. Silloway, 121 Court Street Boston, Mass.
I had always considered our agreement in the light of a contract, but hoped he might, by definite, yet gentlemanly remarks, on my part, be induced to accept a tender of resignation. His letter was an unmistakable and peremptory refusal to accep t my proposition, and on his declaration I relied. Acknowledging allegiance to the contract, as he had done, and not wishing to refrain from recognizing it, if need be, myself; knowing that if I could not legally insist on the accept ance of a resignation on my part, neither could he extort from me the like, against my will, I resolved to remains as Architect; but to rid myself, from that hour, of all responsibility of such wrongs as he might commit, and that even the possibili ty of misunderstanding, on the part of either, might be avoided I addressed him by letter as follows:
March 14, 1858.
DOCT: -- Your letter of the 11th is received. I return the drawings as you request.-- As I have written to you long and explicit letters, in explanation of my opinions in regard to the work to be done at M., nothing further is needed. As a matter of propriety I will notice one or two things said in your last letter. First, let me inform you that I have no desire to do a thing at all dishonorable; no contract do I wish to break; what I proposed to do would cost me ten times what it would cost the St ate. My own opinion is, that you need help (personal) to complete this work. I wished, at the proper time, to do what the good of all concerned requires. I have done it, and am entitled to an honorable consideration, without being considered as desirin g, either from caprice or incompetency, "to bow myself out." It is for you to say what shall be done. If I must work, then that ends there. -- Your suggestion of incompetency was ill-timed, for you know my whole desire was, instead of evasion, to put my shoulder to the wheel and work; I was to put myself into your presence; no evasion or bowing out in that. As I see it, I was employed by you to work for the State through you; and an unfaithful servant should I be, did I hold my pe ace, when the good of all becomes me to speak. My record has been made, and I repeat that if I work under your administration, it must me such, and not mine. My first proposition to you was fairly and honestly made, --one no person would not bear me ou t in. The reply considered all a false alarm, leaving me to consider myself a mere tool, and suggesting that any opinion I might entertain, would be subject to reductions, dilutions, and the like, to any extent you might see fit to make. If this is so, and there is remedy, so be it. Your last letter, being written at a time when you refrained from considering, I will not judge too harshly. If I am still, notwithstanding my resignation, to work, would it not have been well to consult the interes ts of each, enough, at least, to show me that I was wrong, if so I am. I ask, however, for no favor that justice does not demand. If I work, and must work to disadvantage, never say I was not willing to sacrifice; that I did not at the proper time, s ay, and do , all I could, to convince you of what ought to be done to make the most of my services. Difficult work is to be done, and time alone will determine whose idea was best.
I am, respectfully, yours,
To this he made no reply; and, so far as I have ever learned, neither he nor myself supposed that my resignation was accepted.
I next informed the Commissioners of my situation, and received from them, through their Chairman, the advice, that, since I was holden by contract for the performance of services as Architect, and a resignation of that trust was not permitted, I shoul d recall my tender of resignation, and remain, faithfully performing my every duty, to the best of my ability; and that, to attain that end, I should visit Montpelier, not merely so much as Doct. POWERS should invite, but as much as my own judgment infor med me the interests of my real master, the State of Vermont, required.
As the season had far advanced, and outdoor work would soon be commenced, I went to Montpelier, and then personally informed the Superintendent that it was my intention
9to remain as Architect, and that I withdrew my tender of resignation. He treated me with usual respect, and talked freely in regard to the prosecution of the work, until I made a statement of what I should urge, for the future.
He then refused to hear to my advice, vociferating, in a manner and style of which he is master, that he was "head in this matter," "never undertook a thing yet, without carrying it through,"--that I had "agreed to work under him, and he would make no new contract," &c. I then declared that I "would not be his subordinate," but was determined on working a reform.
That the public may be better informed in regard to the reasons which induced me to take so decided a stand, I will say, that Mr. Marsh had already discovered that work was being done contrary to his expectations, and had written me that he hoped I "ha d not advised it;" also, that at this visit to Montpelier, I had myself discovered much that was wrong, in various parts of the work; in addition to which I learned from the master stone-cutter, that it was the intention of the Superintendent, tp prepare for use in the building, twenty-two large stones, that were very badly damaged by fire. These, and various things of like nature, convinced me that immediate action of some kind was demanded.
From that day, is dated a series of hostilities, which yet exist.
On the 23rd day of April, Mr. Marsh, by a previous agreement, met me at Montpelier, and made examinations of the work. Stones, entirely unfit for the purpose, were being prepared for use, and other, yet unmistakable, evidences of a need of radical ref orm were manifest.
While the examination, alluded to, was being made, to the astonishment of us all, an article was published in the Bellows Falls Times, informing the public that a new Architect had been employed to complete the building! -- Having resolved to r emain, -- withdrawn my resignation, and at that moment, in company with the Chairman of the Commissioners, attempting to perform my duty as Architect, by virtue of a contract, I determined to reply to the article alluded to; which I did as follows:
[For the Bellows Falls Times.]
MR. EDITOR: An article in your paper of the 23d inst., informs the public that Mr. Joseph R. Richards has been appointed Architect for completing the new Capitol at Montpelier. Permit me to say that if such is the case the State of Vermont has in its employ two Architects instead of one. A brief statement of the case may tend to enlighten the public. The Superintendent, having assumed work for which he had no proper qualifications or practical knowledge; using in the constructio n of a new building, stones so materially injured by fire, as to make them entirely unfit for use; wood, for external finish of the dome, unseasoned, and unsuitable in many respects; departing from the designs of the Commissioners ad libitum, and i n short, producing anything but what they and myself anticipated; I felt myself called upon to attempt a reform. Finding myself at last unable to longer do justice to the interests of the State, I tendered to the Superintendent a resignation of the offic e I held. The resignation was not accepted and was withdrawn. The Commissioners were then consulted and their attention called to the condition of the work, and the position in which I was placed. By their advice, and in virtue of an existing contract, I remained, and up to this date have acted as Architect.
I shall so continue, using such means as I can command to have the building properly constructed, in accordance with the design of the Commissioners.
THOMAS W. SILLOWAY.
Montpelier, April 24, 1858.
This article was written by myself and handed to Mr. Marsh, with the request that he would consider it, and make such amendments as the facts in the case, and the end we had in view, would demand. He amended it as his intelligence suggested, and, in t hat amended form, took it to Burlington, and it was, under his sanction, published, for the first time, in the Free Press. I have only to add, that those not conversant with the facts in the case, can never know how extensive was the good which re sulted from its publication. Notwithstanding hundreds of dollars had been expended in patching up, and recutting badly burned, and discolored stones, some of which were cut three times,--they were all abandoned; and a reform immediately took place in nea rly everything against which an issue had been made.
On the same day that I sent the article to Burlington, I sent to the Superintendent the following letter:
10Montpelier, April 24, 1858.Mr. POWERS,
My Dear Sir: An article appears in the Bellows Falls Times of yesterday, informing the public of the appointment of Mr. Richards as Architect of the Capitol. I t hereby inform you, in writing, as I have heretofore done, verbally, that I still c onsider myself as Architect, and shall defend myself accordingly.
I am respectfully yours,
Thomas W. Silloway
He replied to the same on the 26th as follows:
Montpelier, April 26, 1858.Thos. W. Silloway,
Sir: -- Having most distinctly informed you, several times, in our personal interviews of two or three weeks ago, that the resignation which you tendered me in March last, of your place, as Architect of the Capitol, was accepted, and that I should requ ire nor accept of any more service in that capacity, your note of Saturday last, asserting that you still consider yourself "as Architect," surprises me! I now notify you again of my acceptance of that resignation, and that no further aid will be require d or accepted of you, in any capacity whatever, further than to inform you that I am fully satisfied of your incompetency to perform the work you entered upon, and that the interests of the State as well as my own reputation and comfort, demand that it sh ould be committed to the hands of another. I deem it unnecessary at this time to say more.
Yours in haste,
T.E. Powers, Sup’t
The burden of this letter, and its whole tenor, being so entirely new, and distant from truth, I considered it beneath notice, and made no reply.
Soon after these transactions, Mr. Marsh convened the Board of Commissioners at Montpelier. The Superintendent was invited before them, and there declared that he had no intention of deviating from the designs of the Commissioners or using bad materia ls. At the time, supposing they were not possessed of much, if any, legal authority to act, and the Superintendent having "bowed himself out" of the charges preferred, they were compelled to return with but that much effected. Each one, however, as he l eft, tendered to me his sympathy, and one of them remained over night to make an attempt at reconciliation, between the Superintendent and myself. Other facts in relation to this point will be found in his letter on a future page.
With the foregoing, I will leave this part of the subject, simply adding, that I considered the good of the State demanded a continuance of my presence at the old post of duty, and that, anticipating co-operation on the part of the Chairman of the Boar d of Commissioners, to whom the other two informed me they should refer all things pertaining to taste, &c., I remained, and attempted to perform my work.
I visited the building at intervals of three weeks, during the summer, remaining nearly a week at each time, ‘and giving such instructions to the workmen as the case demanded. The same line of policy and action was continued by the Superintendent as h e had before pursued, and my only help came as results of "letters of protest," sent to him at particular times as preventive of his rash proceedings.
They were as follows: --
Montpelier, June 29, 1858.
Mr. Powers, -- I have, to-day, examined the work at the State House, and as Architect of that building, call your attention as Superintendent, to the following things, against which I now protest. First, in the rejection of the trusses I had des igned, and which you have, at a cost of hundreds of dollars, employed Mr. Gunnison to frame. I am prepared to demonstrate, and notwithstanding your eminent builder’s opinion, by actual calculation to prove them, (the same having been rectified by six of the first Architects of the city of Boston,) to be sufficiently strong to support twice the weight designed to be put on them. Second, I object to the using of those you propose. I now pronounce two of them at least, entirely unsuitable for the pu rpose for which they are designed. Having, at an expense of some hundreds of dollars procured them, you will doubtless be disposed to urge their use. I now inform you, that they are simply a poor imitation of "Howe’s Bridge." Lest you be disposed to q uestion my conclusion, I refer you to a work on the subject, published in New York. The book was written by Herman Haupt, and is standard work on Engineering. The book named has tables, &c., in full, for calculating the exact strength of things of t he kind. By Mr. Haupt’s Tables the trusses you propose are altogether too weak, and I now protest against their being used.
11I next object to the use of that wet timber while a part of the trusses is composed of dry. The dry, will not yield; the wet will shrink, and the dome be subject to a constant tilting. I am confident, the sag of the trusses, and the constant trembling w ill ruin the plaster below.
I further, and decidedly object to the incredible outlay for cast iron. The sum is so enormous, I refrain from naming it, your dome will weigh enough, without loading it with cast iron.
Third, I object to the use of those rods across the arched openings of the partition wall. The ends of the arch abut against very strong piers. No rods were used in the old arched. The large iron straps above them, held the portico to the pri ncipal building. The design always was, to finish a dome over those stairways, with a colored glass center or opening at the top. The tierods will run directly across the proposed dome. They are of no use, and entirely in the way of the dome, or it mus t be made low, and cramped beneath them.
Fourth, the wall of the building back of the Senate Gallery, is at least five feet higher than it was ever intended to be. Mr. Andrews never thought to build it higher than the springing of the arch of the Senate Chamber; you are loading the fl oor with an immense weight, and all to no purpose. The rods you propose, to aid in holding it up, are out of place and needless.
The foregoing facts I communicate to you, hoping you will take such steps as the case demands.
I am yours respectfully,
Thomas W. Silloway.
Boston, July 2d, 1848.
MR. POWERS, -- As Architect of the State House at Montpelier, I respectfully request you, as Superintendent of the construction of that work, to refrain from using brimstone, in joints between the stones of the raking cornice, and all places of like na ture, about the building.
In any position where ice will remain, or where water can stand, the action of frost destroys the cohesive properties of brimstone. The stone base of the front fence is evidence of the fact. Be not deceived with the idea that the expansion of iron ca used the trouble. I assert that lead may be so used as to make the work secure.
After experience at the Capitol at Montpelier, Mr. Young used lead at the new Custom House in Boston. The work is secure to this day.
I next protest against the use of any such curve to the Dome of the Cupola, as is marked out on the floor of the depot hall, and, in fact, against any deviation from the drawings I have furnished you. Also, against the use of such constructed ribs for the frame, as you have marked out on the floor named. You are using--if these be executed--something more than twice the quantity of lumber used in the dome of the State House at Boston. That dome is more than ten feet larger in diameter than one at M ontpelier, and it is, after a service of sixty years, as good as when new. In addition to the great outlay of money for the work against which I protest, you are unwarrantably loading the trusses upon which the dome stands.
I am yours, respectfully,
Thomas W. Silloway.
Boston, Aug. 13, 1858.
DR. POWERS: -- A note from Joseph R. Richards, yesterday, invites me to a conference with him on the question of inaccuracy, in figuring the dome of the Capitol. He will, undoubtedly, forward you my letter. If he does not, I have only to say to you, that I am, as I ever have been, ready to render any service, as Architect of the Capitol, that may be required. I say ever, for, according to your letter to me, as well as in accordance with the facts in the case, a tender to you of my resignatio n as Architect not being accepted, of course the contract, "deliberately made," could not be broken by either party, and so I remain, and am, the lawful Architect. As such I now inform you, that I recognize no person, save yourself, as with me; an d Mr. Richards, one architect, or a dozen,--I have nothing to do with. He intimates discrepancies in my figuring. No discrepancy, of any nature, exists. You, and those who advise you, not knowing my intentions, are making yourselves much trouble by mistaking what, in some instances, are my own data for framing, and in others for finish. No mistake exists. -- All is in perfect harmony, one part with the other. I must explain my own work, and then no trouble exists; but if you take figures for one part, that I never meant for that purpose, you must bear the consequences, if you refuse to permit me to do my legitimate business.
No one is more fully aware than myself, that figures of finish, will not foot up and suit figures of framing. They cannot be made to do it. It is not required that they should. There is much furring out to do on that dome and drum; I h ave figures there, that I can understand and can explain. They answer my purpose, and I can let others take care for themselves.
There are other things in regard to disagreement of figures, that in good time shall be explained. You are not ignorant of the fact, that the original columns were sixteen feet long; that the drawings were so made, but amended in figuring afterwards. The paper section was the original. Your letters and my own show, the dates of the alterations. My book shows
12the date of the different parts of the work, and as before stated, I am prepared to prove my work right; but the drawings and figures must be interpreted by your amendments, &c., as defined in the letters.
I now say, once for all, no figure is wrong. You are assuming to interpret them for me, and hence the story of discrepancy. I am disposed to do as near right as I know how, and am bound to see to it, that the work at the Capitol is done right, if I a m able.
When my efforts are powerless, I put my protest on record, and go on the next thing. Had Mr. Richards acted an honorable part with me, I should have felt bound, as a matter of courtesy, to grant him the conference he asked; but he has forfeited all cl aims to honorable mention. He spent an hour with me since you employed him, and then avowed that he had, for months, refused your importunities; and finally, after eleven o’clock at night, he agreed to simply visit Montpelier once; that the building bein g so near done, no honorable man would permit himself to be employed. -- He left me as a friend, and was, then even, employed! Since that time he has busied himself in informing all he pleased, that I began the work, "broke down," and that he is t o take up what I could not do. My business shall not be injured by him; and the first official report of like nature that I get again, will be lodged in court. He has already made himself appear foolish, to use no harsher term, in what he has done.
I am, yours, respectfully,
THOMAS W. SILLOWAY.
Boston, Sept. 18, 1858.
DOCT. POWERS: -- I am convinced that I should write to you to-day, in regard to the stairs that are proposed to be built at the Capitol. Nothing yet has been attempted that in my estimation would be a greater misfortune than to do this work as propose d. I shall state to you a few facts which I trust will be of service to you, and of benefits to the building.
First, I must earnestly protest against the use of that large quantity of combustible material in the very heart of the building. I can hardly find words to express my dislike to even think of it. After so much has been expended to have the bu ilding fireproof, to build such large roof and dome, is a deplorable thing. I can only hope that you will be induced to refrain from the step. The old avenues were bad, but these are infinitely worse. If you will but re-examine what is proposed to be done, you must be satisfied that the step proposed is wrong. I hope for be tter things than is now proposed.
Next, I would name two things which, to me, appear bad. One is, the very mean and unsightly manner in which it is proposed to finish the lower end of the rail, against the column of the first story.
Nothing could be meaner or more in bad taste. The rail should come entirely outside, with a good sweep encircling the post, and end somewhere on the side of the column, like this: [A drawing here represented the work.] The opening at the foot of the stairs is wide, providing expressly for this idea.
The small plans, of course, are not details. I always meant to have the details, as has been done for the rest of the work, made so as to produce the thing as it should be.
The other of the two things, is the way the rail is to sweep around on one of the upper floors.
It should, to look well, come in, more than the one below. If for nothing else, it should be so in order to hide the unsightly flights of stairs designed to be put over them. The two things named, will be misfortunes, if they are permitted to exist.< /P>
The other things of which I would speak, are first, the 3d flights. If they must be built, put them in any place but where it is proposed. To have them cross out directly over the well room, or opening, up through which one from below looks, will be too bad to think of. Why mar those fine parts of the building by such crowded and unskillful things?
I will say no more in regard to these flights. They can be built, and that is all I will say of them. I will not think you have not studied those drawings, but I must think, that before having them built, you will examine the work and think of the effect they must inevitably produce. I once wrote to you in regard to the domes, &c., that should be built over them, and how they should be finished. Now, one thing more, and I will close.
Let me say to you, that the top, or fourth flight, cannot be built as drawn, (by Richards) or anywhere near. If you have them made, they cannot be put up, (I will say nothing of two flights not being needed) unless the top of them is near the roof.
I am well enough informed of the hights, and every part of that building, to know what can and what cannot be done. What I have before written in this letter, has to do with matters of taste; — this, is a financial affair. — To be charita ble, I will say, that to draw them was a mistake, but that to build them, would be worse.
I wish to inform you further, that notwithstanding, men have estimated, and drawings been made for them, up to this moment, the thing is problematical. When the day for the proof comes, I am possessed of it, and it shall be forthcoming.
If you would use the State’s money with economy, you will see to it, that things can, and are to be, done, before contracts are made, and not after the contract is concluded. As poor an opinion as you may entertain of me, you never, yet, discovered me getting estimates for work from drawings, and after the thing was concluded, instructing men to ascertain
13if the work could be done! I am now speaking of the top flights of stairs, for which $300 is to be spoiled.
I know well what I have written. I have written it for the good of all concerned, and when I am right, I fear no danger.
In closing, I will add, that I know not who is to build the stairs. The drawings were common property, with estimates for a time, and the evils I name have been freely discussed.
I am respectfully yours,
THOMAS W. SILLOWAY P.S. -- As soon as one who is now absent from the city, has returned. I may have an important letter for you , in regard to your stucco bill or project. T.W.S.
The foregoing were put into the mail, and sent to him at the dates they bear; and, as appeared by abundant and uncontradicted evidence before the Committee on Public Buildings, they were productive of much good.
Justice to all parties demands that it should be here stated, that the Superintendent declared before the Committee he had not received these letters; and, and had the case been otherwise, he should not have read them. It should also be added, that, to my knowledge, I have never failed to receive a letter sent by him to me; nor, save in the case in question, has one been sent by me to him been said to have failed to reach its place of destination. Some three hundred, in all, have passed between us.
At times during the summer, and frequently during the early part of autumn, I corresponded with Mr. Marsh, who was pleased to render me all the aid that lay in his power, and I am constrained to add, that to his untiring labor is to be attributed much of the success which attended my efforts produce the building as the Commissioners designed.
I come now to notice a few facts attending the hearings before the Committee on Public Buildings. Prior to the day of their first meeting, I had not spoken to, or to my knowledge seen, one of its members. The Superintendent, at the time of their appo intment, was recklessly driving the work along, and many things were on the eve of being done, which, if produced, would be more unfortunate than those which preceded.
A large Steam Boiler was in a few days to be put under the building; work on the big chimney was progressing, and nearly a thousand dollars was to be wasted on the project;-- two sets of continued flights, of more than ordinarily combustible wooden sta irs were to be constructed from the floor of the second story to the dome, --these were bargained for, and men were already at work on them in the City of Boston; --on the twentieth day of October they were to bring their work to Montpelier, and put it up . -- Nearly eight thousand dollars had thus far been expended to make the building fire proof. The large quantity of combustible material named, being prepared to put into the very heart of the building, threatened to jeopardise the whole edifice , and make a virtual waste of the large outlay before named. These, and may other things of like nature, demanded immediate attention. At an early day after their appointment, I called the attention of the Committee to these facts, and requested a hear ing before them. This was granted, and a series of examinations commenced, which, to use the language of another, "were characterised by a patience and thoroughness, unparalleled in the history of legislation in the State of Vermont."
The Superintendent was ably defended by Timothy P. Redfield, Esq., of Montpelier, and myself by J. D. Bradley, Esq., and F. F. Merrill, Esq., of Montpelier.
It is useless to say that no detailed review of the evidence adduced before the committee is needed; but so far as it becomes me to speak, I may add, that the well known character, integrity and intelligence of its members, put beyond question the prop riety and truthfulness of the conclusions to which they arrived. There are, however, three points to which attention may with propriety be called. These are: --the project of putting a steam boiler under the building; the rejection of trusses for the r oof,-- which operation cost the State over $800,-- and the propriety of my connection with the building as its Architect. As pressing business demands my present time, I will, instead of special remarks on the
14steam project, here insert extracts from an article prepared for and published in the Burlington Times, of January 8, 1859.
* * * "From first to last, I have opposed the project. My hope and belief is, that no boiler will be put under the building; still, so far as authority to prevent this is concerned, I am entirely powerless. If money is furnished, and the reigning aut hority is permitted to follow out his idea of the matter, I shall see to it that my name is not coupled with his, as perpetrator of so indiscreet a thing.
With this public denial of any participancy whatever in the affair,--save in condemnation of the proposed scheme, I will let the matter rest.
I know not that either of the commissioners ever advised the Superintendent to put a boiler beneath the building. They said, if competent engineers should recommend it they should make no objections. Having been informed by the Superintendent that he was possessed of such recommendations, they have understood that the boiler was to be in the basement. The above was all the evidence on the point, adduced before the Committee.
Neither of the commissioners made an investigation, and they have repeatedly so informed me.
* * * The land was filled in with large and loose stones, which it was necessary to remove, before the foundations for the new walls could be laid. The excavation having been made, it was decided, rather than fill it up, to use it as a cellar. It was not, however, till a late day that I was informed the Superintendent designed to use it for the location of a steam boiler. When I was so informed, I opposed it, and had my suggestions been heeded, the money would have been saved which has been wasted in this rash experiment. My intention, from the first, was to erect a cheap building of waste materials, in the rear of the State House. I so reported to the Legislature, at the extra session, as the printed record will show. When I found the Superintendent invincible, and determined to put the boiler within the building, the next step was to provide suitable smoke flues. This I did or rather attempted, at the request of the Superintendent. A large flue was drawn, and shows on the lithographed plans. It was designed by him for this express purpose, and was built under his immediate supervision. He had his own way in the matter, with a plenty of the State’s money in his hands to pay for constructing it, as was the case with the big chimney. If both experiments are failures, he alone must bear the responsibility for the waste of money.
An excavation was made in a solid rock, some sixty five feet long, and two feet square, for the purpose of laying a large cast iron pipe, as a flue, from the basement to the big chimney. This pipe, bricking it over, and the blasting, cost nearly $375. I knew not that so foolish a thing was to be done, until the work commenced,-- then in spite of protest, it was continued, as was the big chimney, until the pipe was all laid, and the contemporary project died a premature death. * * *
Something over $800 was wasted in the experiment. It was, from the beginning to the end, a conception of the Superintendent, --too unfortunate to be charged to the brain or even his consulting Architect. The latter informed the Committee that he did not project nor advise it, but on reflecting that it was a production of his master, he informed them that in his opinion, it was the best thing that could have been done. *************
Your article demands (of those best known to the public as identified with the State House construction) in behalf of the public, information on this question.
I herewith transmit two affidavits, sustaining me in the ground I have, from first to last, stood upon. They were in the case evidence, before the Committee."
Affidavit of C. C. Walworth.Boston, Nov. 8, 1858.
THOMAS W. SILLOWAY ESQ:
Dear Sir: -- In compliance with your request, I make a statement of facts in relation to the plan advised by me for warming the Vermont State House.
When at Montpelier, in August last, I advised Dr. Powers to put the boiler outside of the building, and did not advise him or give countenance to any other plan.
Dr. Powers asked many questions with reference to putting the boiler under the building, all of which I answered, advising the best manner provided he should adopt that plan, and also that a chimney might be connected with an Iron Flue, provided he wou ld protect it from water by mason work.
You will see, by referring to my estimate, dated August 19, that it was based on the plan of putting the boiler outside the yard, near the gate nearest the Catholic Church; the Dr. objecting to use of the small building back of the State House, as he wished to cut off a portion of that, to give more room for a passage way.
At Dr. Powers’ request, I also gave a statement of the difference in cost, at whichever of the three places named he should decide to put the boilers.
I was then, and am now, of the opinion that in a building like the State House, where life and property would be exposed to so great an extent, the risk of putting the boiler under the building would be unjustifiable and should not in any case advise i t, if it could be avoided; believing that with the best arranged apparatus, and a careful engineer, there is still the possibility of an explosion.
Since that time I had no communication from Dr. Powers, and know little of his plans.
C. C. WALWORTH.
STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS, Suffolk Co. City of Boston, ss.
I, Charles B F. Adams, Commissioner in said State, appointed by the Governor of the State of Vermont, to administer oaths and affirmations, and to take the acknowledgment of deeds and other instruments of writing, to be used or recorded in the said Sta te of Vermont, do hereby certify that, on the day of the date hereof, before me personally appeared C.C. Walworth, the person who subscribed the foregoing instrument, who being by me duly sworn, did depose and say that said instrument, by him subscribed, is true.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my official seal, at my Office, in the city of Boston, this ninth day of November, A.D. Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-Eight.
Chas. B. F. ADAMES,Commissioner of Deeds for the State of Vermont in the State of Massachusetts
Affidavit of David Hill.
I, David Hill, of Manchester, New Hampshire, do depose and say as follows:
I have, in the past years, had considerable experience in the use of steam boilers. I was last year partner in the firm of Colberth, Hill & Co., and so remained a partner until October of last year. The business of the firm was steam heating and gas pipe manufacturing, and fitting. The same business is now conducted under the firm of Colberth, Richardson, & Co., of Manchester, N.H., and New York City.
I further say that it is usual in all boilers for Manufactories or for heating hotels or public buildings, to place the boiler, when it can be done, out of the main building under some remote or unimportant part of the structure. In heating hot els, stores, libraries, lecture-rooms, and the like, in New York, the boiler is more usually placed under the side-walk adjacent.
This is done in the case of the St. Nicholas Hotel, the Cooper Institute, and indeed in most of the large buildings which have been erected within two or three years in New York.
I was a member of said firm when I first learned that it was in contemplation to put the boiler for heating the Capitol under one of its wings. I was much surprised to hear that such a project was thought of. I expressed my astonishment, and so did M r. E. P. Richardson, another member of said firm, that so needles a risk should be incurred.
As to the degree of danger from the use of boilers, the amount of danger to those in the building above, depends almost entirely on the degree of care with which the boiler is attended. If vigilantly and skillfully attended, the danger is littl e or nothing. If the hands who have charge of the boiler are often changed, or are unskillful and careless, the danger would be great.
In case of an explosion, I do not think the doors and windows of the wing would relieve the sudden pressure. I think all above, to the roof, would be displaced.
I further say that there is no importance belonging to having the water or steam run back into the boiler, the only value in having its origin back is to save the pumping of so much water; and as the boilers usually have a pump, either carried by steam or by hand, the pumping a little more or less, is of small consequence.
DAVID HILL. STATE OF VERMONT, Windham County.
At Brattleboro, this 6th day of November, A.D. 1858, personally appeared David Hill, and made solemn oath that the foregoing affidavit by him subscribed, to be used before a Committee of the General Assembly, contains the truth, the whole truth, and no thing but the truth. Before me, J. D. BRADLEY,Justice of the Peace
I leave this matter with but little comment, suggesting that either the money expended up to now is a shameful waste of the public property, or the first authorities in New England--including a party who at one time was peculiarly interested, and who o f all others should know well of what he speaks,--are of mind less account, and their opinions of less value, than are those an inexperienced but self-opinionated amateur. The committee condemned the project of putting a boiler under that building,--the common experience of those best informed in the matter,--reports of melancholy disasters, the united voice of the press and the people, sustain them. Notwithstanding a thousand dollars has been expended, things remain as they were, and up to this moment, the evil has been averted. To whom is the reform to be accredited? If to the Committee, why make the attempt to scandalize and abuse them?
I leave this question with an intelligent and impartial public to judge for themselves.
The next thing, and one of considerable importance, is the waste of money for re-framing the trusses of the roof. I had made drawings for this work, and they had been carried into execution by Mr. Robert Gunnison, one of the first Master builders in N ew England. As an indication of the Superintendent’s own opinion
16in regard to this gentleman’s experience, skill, and abilities, I need but name the fact, that he was employed by the Superintendent to frame, and did frame, both sets of trusses; and after having performed all the work of this kind required for, and used on, the entire building, he was continued as master carpenter and joiner, with charge of entire [w]ood work, at $3 per day, through the winter, and $8.50 per day through the summer, until the cessation of work, at the close of the session of the late legislature.
The trusses were framed under this gentleman’s supervision, and no one thought of doubting their strength and adaptation to the purpose for which they were designed, until the Superintendent’s newly-appointed Architectural adviser, discovering the buil ding nearly done, so far as drawings were concerned, with little to do one, or for, the building, and desirous of doing something to identify himself with the edifice, conceived the expedient of pronouncing the roof frame insufficient, and poorly adapted for the end in view.
Conceptions, and determinations, of this nature are of no unusual occurrence, where one Architect is permitted to interfere with the work of another. The campaign was commenced; the experiment succeeded, and the Superintendent became at once compe tent or incompetent, and the state paid for the process through which it passed its Superintendent, as the Committee report, $800.
As the public have been treated to a series of documents purporting to be the opinions of disinterested and competent men, it is well to consider the origin, and nature of the testimony named, together with suchother and opposin g facts, as were in evidence before the Committee. A great waste of the public money, had been made. A crisis was at hand, and an exposure was threatened. Something must be done as a defense. As a first and preparatory step, Mr. G .J .F. BRYANT of Boston, a man with whom the new Architectural adviser was an apprentice, was invited to Montpelier. He went, and remained in the village during the last two of the public sittings of the Committee. He employed himself during the larger part of one day, and the preceding night, in concocting what has been h eralded forth as an "affidavit." Scrupulously evading the Committee, and depriving all interested of the benefits of a cross examination, he was permitted to leave the place, and until his studied and carefully prepared document was presented to the Comm ittee, no one of them knew he had visited the place. A Mr. RANDALL was employed in like manner. He followed in the tracks of Mr. Bryant, and left the village, as did he,--never appearing before the Committee. A Mr. FLANDERS visited Montpelier, took suc h notes as he deemed advisable, and instead of testifying, returned to Boston, and there prepared what was forwarded as his affidavit. Mr. PARROTT, being detained in the village by other business, was permitted to testify, which he d id.
Anticipating a relish on the part of the community for affidavits, the author of the "Vermont Capitol" pamphlet has sent out an affidavit also, from this gentleman. I will take the liberty to digress here enough to say, that the advantages and disa dvantages of cross-examination were finely developed in the case of this witness; for, in testifying, his cross-examination was of much service to the Committee, for it brought to light an important fact, which in some way was overlooked when t he affidavit was penned, viz: that in the two buildings with which he had been personally connected, in arranging for steam-heating, the boiler of one (the Hospital at Deer Island) was originally put in the basement of the building, but that it exploded, materially injuring the building, and killed the one who had the boiler in charge. After the explosion, it was resolved to place the new boiler outside of the building, which was accordingly done. Experience, having proved that placing a boiler un der a building, was dangerous, as a precautionary measure, when he next had a like work to do, viz: at the new Jail, in Boston, he took care to put it is as unimportant a part of the building as the "steps."
The amount of misfortune which the Committee here experienced, by affidavits, instead of testimony, from Messrs. BRYANT, RANDALL, and FLANDERS, they will, probably, never know.
But to recur again to the documents, it may be stated that they were presented to the committee. A thing so unusual and manifestly
17unjust could not fail to excite surprise. After mature deliberation, they were unanimo[us] in the opinion, that such documents, as evidence made oath to, they could only receive, and use, for what the contemporary evidence in the case might convin ce them they were worth. On these conditions,--the consent of all parties being obtained, they were admitted into the case. They were received, to use the language of the time, "simply, for that which they were worth."
The public will, in turn, receive them on like conditions, and dispose of them in a similar manner.
An affidavit signed by Jonas Fitch, and another signed by his former business partner, Judah Sears, both of Boston, were prepared in the place named, and were in the case, as evidence before the committee.
Against these, no direct issue was made, but the Architect who procured them, testified that neither of the gentlemen saw the drawings but once, and they were not in his office more than thirty minutes; a part of which time they were employed in examining other drawings; and further, that neither of them, nor himself, nor any one, of his knowledge, ever made a figure for the purpose of determining the strength of the trusses rejected, or the weight of the dome that was designed to rest up on them; but that all was "guess work," &c.
So much for the published affidavits, in regard to framing. As before stated, the trusses had been framed, and were in readiness to be put up. No unprejudiced person doubted their strength, or adaptation to the purpose for which they were designed. The Master Carpenter declared them entirely proper, and desired the privilege of putting one of them together, and loading it with blocks of granite. This was never done;--in fact, he was never permitted to put one together, and in no way were they teste d. The new Architect desired to have them condemned. The Superintendent, at that particular time, being extremely susceptible to influence of the kind, as it were, instinctively availed himself of the opportunity, and wholesale waste and condemnation wa s the result. An experiment of so questionable a nature as the application of an actual, bona fide test, could not be permitted, and was, therefore, not made.
Anticipating an attempt at defence on the part of the Superintendent, I procured the following affidavits, and they were in the case, as evidence before the Committee.
Affidavits of Orrin Whipple and Stephen Holmes.We, Orrin Whipple and Stephen Holmes, both of Newton, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, testify and say, that we are by profession Master Builders,-- that we have had many years experience in the erection of large and costly edifices, that we have had submitted to our judgment a set of drawings for the framing of four large double trusses, designed by Thomas W. Silloway, for the support of the dome of the Capitol, at Montpelier, Vermont, and we give it as our opinion, that the trusses name are in ever y way admirably adapted to the purpose for which they were designed, possessing great strength, and ensuring permanency and stability to the work designed to rest upon them. ORRIN WHIPPLE STEPHEN HOLMES. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Middlesex, ss, At Newton, this eighth day of November, A.D. 1858, personally appeared the said Orrin Whipple and Stephen Holmes, and made solemn oath to the truth of the foregoing affidavit by them respectively subscribed, before me. H. N. HYDEJustice of the Peace
The Star Chamber Pamphlet contains an affidavit of one who testified, also. The door having been opened by "some one," I take liberty of passing through it, and giving to the public a corresponding document, although it was not in evidence befo re the Committee.
The following affidavit was quite as legitimate as the one made at Montpelier. It was written, and sworn to, some two hundred and fifty miles away, but arrived a few hours after the testimony before the Committee had closed.
Affidavit of Freeman Walcott.
I, Freeman Walcott, of Milford, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, do depose, testify and say, that I have been a master builder, and contractor, and, as such, have had the care of the erection of buildings for the last thirty years. That I have su perintended, in the above capacities, many large structures, and among them the State Reform School, at Westborough, Massachusetts, the Insane Asylum, at Northampton, Mass., and many churches in different parts of New England, as many, at least, as forty- seven in number; also, the State Normal School, at Framingham, Mass., several Town Hals, Court Houses and Hotels, and for
18the most of my time I have been engaged on Public Buildings.
I further depose and say that I critically examined the drawings prepared by T. W. Silloway, for the framing of four double trusses to support the cupola and dome of the new Vermont Capitol: I made estimates on them, with a view of contracting for thei r construction, and was then, and still am, fully satisfied that said trusses were abundantly strong, and admirably adapted to the purpose for which they were intended.
FREEMAN WALCOTT. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Worcester County, ss. Personally appeared before me, this fifteenth day of November, A.D. 1848, Freeman Walcott, and made solemn oath that the foregoing affidavit, by him signed, is true, Before me, T.J. KENT,Justice of the Peace
A certificate of eminent Master Builders was in the case and read as follows.
Certificate of Builders.
The undersigned, Master Builders and Contractors, having been acquainted with Mr. Thomas W. Silloway for some years, do hereby declare, that, in our opinion, he is one fully qualified to perform any work required at the hands of an architect. Having w orked from his drawings, we hesitate not to say, that we never followed those made by any architect, where more skill was manifest, and correctness displayed, than in those furnished by Mr. Silloway. And we further state that, having submitted to us, for judgment, a set of drawings for the framing of four large double trusses, designed by him to sustain the weight of the dome of the new State House at Montpelier, Vt., we give it as our opinion, that the trusses named are in every way adapted to the purpo se in view. We consider them to be possessed of great resistance and strength, and abundantly able to support the weight to be put upon them. MARSHALL MASON, Master Carpenter at Woodstock Court House, J. F. ANDREWS, Contractor for Stone and Brickwork at the new State House, Montpelier, ROBERT GUNNISON, Master Carpenter, at new State House, J. T. BLAISDELL, Watertown, Mass., GIDEON CURRIER, Boston, " GRISWOLD S. ADAMS, " " NATHANIEL CHESEMAN, Milford, Mass., HENRY O. LOTHROP, " " JULIEN O. MASON, Contractor for Court House, at Woodstock, STEPHEN HOLMES, Newton, Mass., ORRIN WHIPPLE, " "
I will add, in conclusion on this point, that the new truss work, finally adopted, was simply a poor imitation of what is familiarly known as "Howe’s Bridge," a thing too costly, and in many respects, poorly adapted for the particular purpose for which the trusses at the Capitol were designed; and that a copy of the trusses rejected, and also of Howe’s Bridge, had, for some months previous, been engraved on copper, as a plate for a work on the Science of Carpentry, then in process of preparation by my self.
Trusting the public have now a sufficient amount of facts pertaining to this matter, I leave the whole for their consideration.
The last and final point, is one of some delicacy to treat with propriety, but justice and right entitle me to a proper defence. I respectfully submit the following as a part of the testimony which was presented to the Committee.
Not being of the nature of "sworn evidence," like the Superintendent’s ex parte affidavits, it was presented to, and received by, the Committee, for what, in their opinion, it was worth; and my only expectation in presenting it to the public is, that they will as charitably receive it, and make use of it under such conditions as it was made use of by the Committee.
Testimony of Employers.
We, whose names are hereunto annexed, having employed Thomas W. Silloway in the capacity of Architect, to superintend, and also to design, buildings, give it as our opinion that he is every way qualified for the work he undertook, and performed. We co nsider him to be a man well skilled in his profession, and entitled to the entire confidence and patronage of any who may desire the services of an Architect. ORRISON UNDERWOOD, Chairman of Town Hall Building Comm., Milford, Mass. AARON C. MAYHEW, President of Milford Bank, Milford, Mass. EDWIN BATTLES, Boot Manufacturer, Milford, Mass. CHAS H. APPLETON, Trustee of Appleton Property, Boston, Mass. WM. G. LADD, Chairman of Church Building Comm., Watertown, Mass. JOHN PIERCE, do., do., Chelsea, Mass. JOHN H. BUFFORD, Lithographer, Boston, Mass. PRESTON WARE, JR., Dealer in Rubber Goods, Pearl st., Boston, Mass. THOMAS WHITTEMORE, President of Vermont & Massachusetts Railroad. JAMES M. USHER, Book Publisher, Boston
19Testimonial of Architects.
Testimonials from the following Architects were in the case as evidence before the Committee: WILLIAM WASHBURN, Boston, ALEXANDER R. ESTY, " EDWIN LEE BROWN, " SAMUEL C. BUGBEE, " HARVERY GRAVES, " ENOCH FULLER, " CALVIN RYDER, " LOUIS WEISSBEIN, "
Testimonial of Artizans, &c.
We, the undersigned, inform those interested, that we have worked on buildings erected from drawings made by Thomas W. Silloway, of Boston, Architect, and that, so far as we are able to judge, we consider him well skilled in his profession. We have ever heard his drawings and calculations spoken of as being reliable, and would recommend his services to any one in want of the services of an Architect. S. Q. & J. M. CURRIER, Sign Painter, Boston, S . P. TOLMAN, Stucco Worker, Boston, PETER McCANN, " " LOCKWOOD & LUMB, Plumbers, " ANDREW J. GAVETT, Gas Fixture Manufacturer, Boston. SAMUEL WEST, Manufacture of Stained Glass, Boston. B. W. DUNCKLEE & Co., Dealers in Ranges &c., Boston. PERKINS & SIMPSON, Iron Workers, Boston, STEPHEN MILLER, Pew and Pulpit Builder, Cambridge . PHILLIP GUELPH, Fresco Painter, Boston. JESSE FEWKES, Carver, Newton, Mass.
The following letter was received at, or near, his date. I take the liberty of publishing it, although it was not, probably, penned by its author for publication: Judge Porter’s Letter.
Quechy, Nov. 10th, 1858. Dear Sir, --
I received yours of the 9th inst. last eve., and in reply would say, that inasmuch as the Legislature adjourned last Friday, and the Investigating Committee separated without holding an evening session, on Friday, as agreed upon, for the purpose of tak ing my testimony, I gave, at the request of Dr. Powers, before I left Montpelier, my affidavit; and not having a copy of it, I may not recollect definitely the whole purport of said affidavit; but I believe that there were three points to w hich Dr. Powers called my attention. 1st, as to some discrepancy between you and him as to directions given by you in relation to the windows of the dome, &c.
My testimony is, that Dr. Powers’ version of the matter was sustained by showing to the commissioners the correspondence between you and him on that subject. 2d. As to the place for the steam boiler, &c., that it was understood when the Commissioners were in Montpelier (and the facts before stated occurred at the same time) that the steam boiler was to be under the East Wing of the building, provided that, in the opinion of good and experienced judges in such matters, it should be t hought to be the most suitable place. 3d. That, at the aforesaid time, after becoming fully satisfied that no reconciliation could be effected between you and Dr. Powers, I told you that, in my judgment, you had better leave the work, as the Comm issioners had no power of determining who should be employed by Dr. Powers as Architect; and that I understood you as assenting to it.
I have not testified that the Commissioners believed you incompetent, for that is a matter which they did not pass upon, but, on account of the difficulty between you and Dr. Powers, (which could not be reconciled) I advised you to leave, and not remain in a quarrel all the time. You will certainly, on reflection, recollect such conversation at the Pavilion, after the attempt, on the part of the Commissioners, of a reconciliation between you and Dr. Powers.
I regret very much that I could not have appeared before the Committee, so that you and your Attorney might have had an opportunity of putting such interrogations as you might judge proper.
I have just returned from Woodstock, having remained there last night, and have very hastily written the foregoing.
Very truly yours, JOHN PORTER . P.S. You refer to a letter of yours to me. I have looked for it, but do not find it. If I do find it, I will immediately forward it to you. I have no recollection of receiving a letter from you after the meeting in May. J. P.
As evidence of the propriety of my demand made to the Superintendent, by letter to him bearing date March 2d, 1858, I present the following affidavit, which was signed at Montpelier in April, 1858, but being, at a late day, sent to his place of residen ce, that Mr. Sherman might make oath to it, it did not arrive back in time to be used before the Committee. The door
20opened for the passage of the affidavit of Mr. Parrot being as yet unclosed, I take the liberty of again passing through it: -- Montpelier, April 27, 1858.
The undersigned, being the Master Builder at the construction of the State House at Montpelier, in 1832, presents the following as his convictions and opinions, regarding questions which have ben made to him by Thomas W. Silloway, Architect of the buil ding which is now being erected. No man, who is not familiar with drawings, and the practical construction of buildings, by experience, is qualified to superintend the construction of a public edifice. If the work is constructed by such, and the Architect who makes the drawings is not often present, as often, as a general thing, as once a week, at least,-- mistakes must inevitably occur, and the building be unscientifically constructed; and further, that no Architect can reasonably except to prod uce a building as designed, unless he is permitted to personally attend to the construction of the work. The above I give as my deliberate opinion, after an experience of thirty years in the construction of buildings,-- three years of which was at the ol d State House, under the Superintendence of both, Mr. Edgerton, and the Architect, Mr. Young. NATHANIEL SHERMAN.
At Plainfield, Nov. 13, 1858, personally appeared before me, Nathaniel Sherman, and made oath that the above statement is true. WILLIAM MARTING,Justice of the Peace.
With the foregoing, I bring to a close this extended "Statement of Facts." BOSTON, February, 1859.
A review of them reminds me, anew, of the unfortunateness of any Architect, who is without a Committee, or any authority superior to his Superintendent, to whom he can appeal.-- A parallel to the case under consideration is extremely unusual, and never to be advised, or looked upon with approbation. In work of such magnitude, competent and learned authority should exist, and to no one person,--skillful, persevering, or economical,-- should be entrusted supreme authority. By unusual, and for the most part, unlooked for, and unwelcome toil, the building has, thus far, been produced. The Commissioners have been my friends, and I have no cause nor inclination, to regret a thing they have done, or word they have spoken; and during all my sojourn ings at Montpelier, it is my privilege to say of its people, that, nearly to a man, they have stood by me, and done much to encourage me. Of the Superintendent, I have little to say. Unfortunate is he, who unwittingly contends with himself. Little now remains but to hope, that in good time, he will discover his mistake, and that, instead of attempting the task of destroying the reputation of one who has ever tried to aid him, he will soften down the asperities of his nature, calm the troubled waters of his being, and be permitted to pass the evening of his days, in such peaceful meditations, as befit the decline of an earthly life. THOMAS W. SILLOWAY.
The following letter from the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for building the new State House, --received too late for that early attention to which it was entitled, is here inserted.
Letter of Hon. George P. Marsh.
22, University Place, New York, Feb. 11, 1859. Dear Sir: -- In reply to your letter of February 10th, I have to say, that having been one of the Commissioners for building the new State House, at the Capital of the State of Vermont, I have had the best opportunities for becoming acquainted with your p rofessional abilities, in connection with the discharge of your duties as Architect of that building.
It gives me pleasure to testify that I, and I believe also the other Commissioners, were entirely satisfied with the proofs you gave of knowledge and practical skill, both in point of architectural design, and construction; and that I am not aware of a ny just ground of imputation error, want of fidelity, or want of experience, against you.
Yours, very truly, GEORGE P. MARSH. Mr. T.W. Silloway, Boston.
Persons of eminence, have volunteered their opinions in regard to the practical abilities and competency of him by whom the "Star Chamber Pamphlet" was projected, as "testimony and defense."
Without knowledge of their facilities for rightly judging the things whereof they speak it would illy become me to take issue with them.
It is, however, pleasant to contemplate, that after a wearisome experience, continued through months of calm, and others of storm and agitation, I am permitted to take shelter from the heated rage, and stormy passions of one who, seemingly, unconscious of the manner of spirit he is of, seeks to blast my reputation, --beneath the shadow of another, whose integrity is beyond question, whose architectural learning is proverbial, and who personal experience has afforded the "best opportunities for b ecoming acquainted" with my humble condition and lot. THOMAS W. SILLOWAY.