Letter from THOMAS W. SILLOWAY to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated July 31, 1858.
My Friend Marsh, Your letter of the 29th. came to hand yesterday. No reply is
demanded but thinking you might have occasion to write to me again during the coming
week I will inform you that I shall go to Montpelier on Monday next. Think of
staying till the following Thursday. I hear nothing in regard to the dome. What they
will do I know not, however we have kept off any botching up to now. I shall as
usual make myself free about the whole building and every part of the work if all is
well so be it, it is then I shall . One thing I know
and that is my statement, to you are right. They attempted to amend but did not
succeed. They next tried to strike it out more in conformity with the original than
they had it at first, but made little of any progress. I know not whether or not
I informed you that they had it all struck out ready to build when I chanced to see it, and put a . Such was the case. The top of it was a complete semicircle, but the center was up some two or three feet All the ribs of plank (or rafters) were drawn in, and even the splicings shown. It may now probably be seen on the hall floor. I suppose an entire day had been used in drawing it. Had they to make one pointed, at the top, like the perspective you may depend they would never have made it flat at the top. Only one excuse exists and that is that they knew no better. I make these statements because they had pronounced their work right and not content with doing that, they finished it ready to execute. I pronounced it entirely wrong and for a time there was a cessation of operations. Powers looked it over and at last discovered that the thing was too patent to evade your condemnation and notwithstanding Richards
had spent so much time amp;c. on it and had gone home he was immediately sent for He went up and they worked over it a long time. He got mad with the concern, and not knowing what he was doing went off leaving his work where it was. The Doct blew him up in the depot saying he ought not to go amp;c. R was resolute and said he must. They blustered about and the cars were ready to go. Powers sung out to the conductor to stop He did so for 3 or 4 minutes, then said "all aboard" Richards jumped in, leaving P on the platform He agreed to draw some new ones down at his office and send them up, said he could not work so well up there!!!. What the new ones amount to I know not. He is the man who is Architect of the Capitol . No better chance could a man desire than a to stake the work out upon. What can the poor carpenter do with drawings on a small scale made by such an one? The whole truth is it is "children playing with edge tools" Reports say Powers has been in this city the larger part of this week. I have not seen him although I have been about home Does that look like honesty of purpose in him?
After your letter of the 19th to him one would think that when he and his architect was within a few rods of me, in some way, I should have been asked to explain my wrong figuring. You may depend all his talk at Mont. when the commissioners met, when he called a "miserable puppy" adding " I am sorry I have not counselded with the commissioners before this, and followed them instead of you" He has had their counsel, and it also but it was a mere pretense. I suppose the dome is now caring for itself. Reports say the Rail Road is his hobby now, and is to be for some time to come. He told me once that he was expecting to be in Boston as often as once in two or three weeks all summer. Gov. Fairbanks is quite indignant at the use Powers has made of his letter. Powers uses it as proof that he was recommended not to have much of anything to do with architects. Rev. Mr. Lord spent a Sunday with the Gov. a few weeks ago, and says he is anything but in favor of the Powers Dynasty. By advice of Mr. L. I wrote to the Gov. in regard to his letter. It was the one he sent to the commissioners. He wrote me a very friendly letter in reply. He quotes to me the remarks he made, after proposing a model specification amp;c. he said "with such plans and specifications a and will go forward with the work without embarrassment amp;c." He then says that he had in his mind at the time "such a mechanic,--a " Have we such an one? But there it is of little use to talk. We must be inflexible to duty. I intend to go to Mont two or three times more before the session and do my best for the good of the work As long as you and the friends will continue to me encouragement I will do my part.
Yours truly T. W. Silloway
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.
Joseph R. Richards was the architect who replaced Thomas W. Silloway in early 1858, when Silloway resigned from the position.
Erastus Fairbanks, (1793-1864) was a two-time governor of Vermont. His first term was 1852-3, and his second was in 1860-1, after a span of time out of office, probably because he signed the Vermont alcohol prohibition law. He was appointed to the committee which oversaw the reconstruction of the State House after fire destroyed the earlier building in 1857 but appears not to have served as a commissioner.
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.