Letter from THOMAS WILLIAM SILLOWAY to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated June 25, 1858.
Mr Marsh Your letter of yesterday is received. You inform me that if the sweep of the
dome is amended from the perspective it will be done without your consent. I am glad
to learn that. I hardly thought you would knowingly permit it to be done, and
thinking you would be led into it unawares I thought it well to caution you. I gave
you my reasons for thinking it will be done. First, Richards,
has publicly declared, that my working drawings need amending. 2d., Powers admits it, and has for some time been trying to fix them. Their
pretense is, to make them like the original. Who, if not myself, could do that? If
need be, I am prepared to show you, Power's written opinion on the subject of domes,
amp;c. entertained from the first. My argument in the case is this, inasmuch as I
have made all the drawings in full, and to have it precisely like the original there
is no demand for any of this talk of Richards & Powers. They are trying to
amend the dome. Under guise of getting the original,
they are consulting you. If so be that they get you to endorse what they do, it matters not to them whether it is like the original or not. I am prepared to demonstrate that my working drawings will produce just that, and nothing else; now if you have enough confidence in me to rely upon my judgement and written word, and will insist on their following my drawings, you will produce what you want, and what they pretend to want. The process is very simple, and if Powers had no other end in view, he would not trouble you in the matter. It carries on the face of it, a design for amending, when he refrained from telling you that he was in possession of a full set of working drawings, that would produce the original. You say you did not understand him that he wanted to amend; of course, nor will you ever learn that, till the dome is executed. Please read again what I give as arguments in the case, and then decide what, if not to amend, can be his reason for getting you to look
the thing over anew. You cannot tell by looking at the thing on the floor. It can only be done by following the perspective. That I have done. And it is only for Powers to follow. Here, I will leave the whole question. You speak of the truss framing. The advice Powers had, was from one of Richards' friends. I am fully prepared to defend myself from his libels on the question, and in good time will do it. He never tested them nor dared attempt it. Three of the first Architects of this city, and ten of the first master builders, give me certificates of their entire approbation. However, I will not trouble you on the question at all. I am preparing myself for a full defense. As soon as the proper day arrives, I shall make it known to the people of the State, --inform them of Power's incompetency and prodigality (induced by his ignorance of the work) making such charges against him, as will make it nesscessary to have the thing investigated, and evidence of facts produced. I have labored for the State a year and a half, am not paid, but few
dollars more than I have paid out, and more, am being libeled, and injured by him who of all others, should have treated me best. Had we not already talked so much in regard to the patching of the columns, I would say more than I shall now. I will say in an abreviated form, what few thoughts I wish to present. The Commissioners, understood, and gave me to understand, that the columns were to be repaired with new blocks. Powers always said he would do it. One of his letters to me before the extra session says this. "Remember Mr. Silloway, the State will be satisfied with no patch work" He never designed to patch these columns, till a time occurred when he & Mr. Hewitt got into a high dispute, Hewitt is the man who gets all the large stones. Powers & he had a hard word fight , and then, to spite Hewitt, Powers refused to buy the column blocks of him. Never till then did a man hear that the columns were to be peiced and patched up. This I can prove, every stone cutter, Andrews, the Contractor, all supposed they were to be mended with whole blocks. You thought so, and the first intimation that such was not to be done, was from you. One of your letters to me expresses the hope that I did not advise it, now from first to last I have been true to the commissioner's design in this respect. Powers wishes to carry out his [...]
with Hewitt, and to triumph in what he has undertaken, and will do it, if you at all encourage him. I am prepared to show, that he has expended as many dollars in fixing them, as he would have done, to put the new blocks in. He has already cut new blocks for the top peices from new stones. These should have gone in at the bottom, and the bottom ones been put at the top. I have the facts in the case, and also in regard to one of his blunders in regard to the new caps, where he is out more than $100. In good time, he will see in a form that will make him understand at a glance, what are the facts. I am glad to learn that you have not yet approved of the patch work, but still adhere to the design of the commissioners. He will construe any relaxation on your part, into countenance of his patching. The universal testimony of those who know best, and are interested the least is, that the frost, will contract those thin peices, and work them loose, so that water will get in behind them, and freezing, throw them off. You say that you informed him that if they were
peiced the architect, and not the commissioners, must advise it. Which Architect is the adviser? My advise has always been, and I put it on record, and shall do it at the proper time publicaly (so that by and by when the work is in best condition as it will if it be patched) to refrain from such botching. If Richards is the adviser, then the Commissioner's opinions, desires, and intentions are just no where, for there is realy, no architect. Powers has Richards as clay in the hands of the potter. Of course, Powers will desire your favor, and will keep in with you as best he can. His own ends however must be carried, and if it can be done by leading the commissioners along, he will do it. I hope you will urge the original, and proper course wich is, to turn a deaf ear to any " "patch work" for he gave it to me in writing, that the State would not be satisfied with it. Here I leave
this question. You ask me for the measurements of the dome at different points. All the drawings which relate to this question in particular, are at Mont. I shall go up on Monday, and will consult them, and give them to you forthwith. Any attempt at amendment on that dome I will resist. None of their pretences will so varnish the thing to satisfy me, for while they may patch columns amp;c. And do other things that may be at some future time improved, that, is a thing when once done, is done for good. Powers is no mechanic, and knows not what he is doing. He has a fancy in his head, and if permitted to go on, will disgrace us all. I demand of him a strict adherence to the design as adopted by you. I have made him good working drawings, and if he makes others they must be exact copies or I will come out, and put this and all other matters where they belong. I am
as I before stated, preparing myself with facts and figures for a full defence, and the public shall have them. When I am charged with incompetency, he must meet his own letters, and printed opinions. The thing is getting to be serious, and some people, outside of myself and him, must know it. The thing is already notorious throughout the State, and will in the end inspite of us, come to a crisis. I have been ill treated by him from the beggining, and must make my defence. It is a disgrace to us all, to be held in [...] to one who can lay no claim to anything which should be claimed by a supreme superintendent of a first class public building. Of late, I am [..] of his obsequiousness to you, but if his former conduct is anything he simply does it for effect. Your expressed convictions of him, and his non abilities, when I talked with you at the Tremont House, are to me, ratified daily. I will give you the measure you request while I am at M. I shall stay there till Thursday morning.
I am yours trulyThomas W. Silloway
121 Court St.
References in this letter:
Joseph R. Richards was the architect who replaced Thomas W. Silloway in early 1858, when Silloway resigned from the position.
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.
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.