Letter from THOMAS WILLIAM SILLOWAY to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated April 15, 1857.
My Dear Sir your letter acknowledging the reception of my letter to the Doctor in
regard to the dome, and also a letter from you in regard to the pediment decoration
are received. The dome we will consider disposed of so far as the kind of material
is concerned. I will see to it that the contour amp;c.amp;c. cc. is not neglected.
You may depend on my doing my best in the matter. I think with examples, opinions,
and the like before me, that attention and good consideration will give us the right
kind of a dome. The remaining part of your letters had principally to do with the
sculpture in the tympanum I have had the matter in mind and am pleased to think you
also are giving it a proper consideration. In my last letter to the Doct., I speak of your
letter and promise to take it to him the next time I go to Montpelier which will be very soon. The letter you write me (received to day) in regard to decoration in lieu of the proposed sculpture I will consider, and as soon as I can get any opinion worth communicating you shall have it. A little time employed in thinking the matter over will be a service well rendered. You will in good time hear from me and then you can amend my ideas as you may deem expedient. I presume the other Commissioners will to a large degree depend upon you for advice in the matter. I have of late, read some little in regard to things of the kind. As I am busy in preparing drawings for immediate service, I am unable to give the attention I hope to give in a few weeks. I am not entirely agreed
with you that sculpture was put in pediments to avoid the ill effect of wind amp;c. To a certain extent this may have been true, but not entirely. However, as the thing is a matter of small moment to us just now, I will not discuss it, but will instead, make a couple of quotations which may do us more good. After speaking of Painting as allied to Architecture [Garbett?] says "Sculpture is more allied to Architecture than Painting. Figures of men and animals may be seen in the highest perfection in the Parthenon. They may be introduced in low, high, or full relief. In the last case their situation is usually that of a niche. We shall say no more on the subject of figures, then that of course, they must have relation to the end for which the edifice is erected, and if not in that respect are worse than useless" (The interlining is my own) Chambers says
"The face of the tympan is always placed on a line perpendicular with the face of the frieze; and when large, may be adorned with sculpture representing the arms or cypher of the owner, trophies of various kinds, suited to the nature of the structure, or bas-reliefs, representing either allegorical or historical subjects; ." (The underlining is mine)
You gave up the idea of an iron dome for the reason that you thought upon mature deliberation that it was better so to do. I shall for the same reason give up the sculpture if the good of the building demands it.
The subject shall be borne in mind and in good time you shall hear from me.
I am yours in haste but very trulyThomas W. Silloway121 Court St
References in this letter:
Dr. Thomas E. Powers, (1808-1876), of Woodstock, Vermont, was appointed by Governor Fletcher to be the Superintendent of Construction of the 1858-1860 project, to build a new State House in Montpelier to rebuild the structure burned in 1857. He and the architect, Thomas W. Silloway, were soon at loggerheads over their roles in the project. Powers became State Senator in 1861.
Governor Fletcher named three commissioners to oversee the construction of a new State House in Montpelier: Norman Williams, John Porter, and George Perkins Marsh. Dr. Thomas E. Powers was named the Superintendent of Construction.
Edward Lacy Garbett, Rudimentary treatise on the principles of design in architecture as deducible from nature and exemplified in the works of the Greeks and Gothic architects. London: John Weale, Architecture Library, 1850.
Sir William Chambers, (1726-1796), A treatise on the decorative part of civil architecture illustrated by fifty originals, and three additional plates, engraved by old Rooker, old Fouudrinier, Charles Grignion, and other eminent hands. London: Smeeton, 1862..
Thomas W. Silloway, (1828-1910), was only thirty years old in 1857 when he was chosen architect for the new State House in Montpelier. Silloway was from Massachusetts, and had worked in the office of Ammi B. Young, the architect who designed the previous building. Silloway and Dr. Powers, the superintendent of construction for the 1857 job, had worked together to design and build a new courthouse in Woodstock, Vermont, that burned in 1854.