Letter from THOMAS WILLIAM SILLOWAY to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated August 21, 1858.
My Friend Marsh,
A letter from you this morning is received. Yesterday, I wrote to you, and hence may
not be under the of writing again, but cannot bear to leave a
thing that may aid you in your adherence to . I will
not recapitulate in regard to my action with . I can only say that I was entirely without proof that he was possessed of any
authority to consult at all in regard to that work. I have worked very
in all I have done. Before replying I consulted two of the
first architects of this city men who know us boath, and whose opinions are of the
first order. They boath said to me unless your commissioners, or the superintendent
under whose employ you are expressly asks you to confer with hm by all means refrain
for you will if you work without a request from virtuely acknowledge
his authority. Two men of Mont. were in town. I confered with them They concurred in
the same opinon. A man of
this city who was the most important contractor on the additions to our State House where Richards pretends he was commissioned (when the printed facts show he was not there till the building was nearly done. I have the documents) said to me "In my opinion the most disgracefull thing Gov. Gardner ever did in our state was to be induced to put Jo Richards on that commission at that late day. You and he are well known in this city and let me urge you to refrain from any consultation with him unless he shows you . Your friends here will think less of you" Yesterday in presence of a noted man of Mont. this same gentleman chanced to be in a store where he called and he took occasion to report his remarks in regard to Richard's appointment by Gov. Gardner c. Richards here is looked upon except by a few builders who have been influential in geting him a little of the city work as anything but what he is in some places taken to be. But, I will not try to build myself up by pulling down
him. I can only add, that no man is there in Massachusetts into whose hands I had rather have had Powers fallen than his. He is doing his best to destroy me and I have thus far suffered for the truth sake, and I close this part of my letter by saying that when I think of his new architect's the wrong figures he has already given (I have copies of all) I spurn the idea of allowing him to criticise work or pronounce it . Your very decided remark that you will personaly endeavor to see justice done me encourages me to still labor for the good of the work. Your promise to do what you can to produce that original encourages me to do all in my power to aid you. I regret a that Powers was enabled to prevail upon me enough to get the columns lengthened. Had I refused, monthes before it did come a storm would have broken over me. I do hope you will pardon that deviation, when you think how I am being persecuted for taken grounds against him in matters of infinitely great importance. He has stubbornly refused to hear a word to getting
a new stone for that large apex. the old [ironed?] , but thanks to some one's ruling power he has backed down and I am informed he has ordered within a day or two a new one. Up to now a thousand dollars will not pay his bills for that he wasted on the . He has after expending the money virtualy acknowledge me in the right and as proof has thrown away . Still am with him anything but his friend. Today I send you a drawing of the . This is a copy of the one the perspective was made from (enlarged) I am prepared to produce the certificates of and to prove it correct, as near as a thing of the kind can be. Anything else will not be the original. I hope you will insist upon my figures being followed. I shall go to Montpelier a week from next Tuesday and stay till Friday. I will then fully inform the carpenter in regard to my , for the work or finish itself. If you will insist upon the I will see to the rest. You may like to know my reasons for the centers instead of or three. After consulting the best examples extant I thought the dome of St. Pauls was the best for purpose, but knowing your opinion of Sta. Maria I thought it best to make mine slightly higher that St. Pauls ([...]
I did so. You will find enclosed an exact copy of St. Pauls as given in Mr. Nicholsons' Carpenter's & Joiner's Assistant a valuable old work published in Scotland in 1797. The figure is a transfer, c. One thing you will need to keep in mind and that is this, in our (or any) perspective the back of the base falls so much that the presents a more elliptical effect then it would if we were up on a line level with the base. A geometrical elevation is just that, no more nor less. That hight has troubled Powers and in the absence of advice to the contrary he has been secretly trying to flatten it. One thing more our dome will be in effect from the top of the attic, including the plain plinth at the base of the dome. But I will not enter into detail here, I trust you have weighed all these things as well as I have. The drawing I send you is made by my own hands and I avouch for it. You will however do me the justice to that a thing struck out anything less than full size is in a degree conjectural. I always meant at the proper time to strike all out on the hall floor. Another item is to be considered. The framing
or skeleton of the drum is necessarily an octagon hence it must be furred out to a circle. My idea and to have ribs or rings made of the proper diameter at distances of 18" or so apart in hight to nail the vertical sheathing to. These rings would have short studs between them thus [image] on the top one of these ribs would stand the bottom of the ribs of the frame. Hence a portion of the ribs would be straight or some below the line of the base. I made this joint some below to make the intersection stronger. The figures on the left hand of my section show and with a straight amend-ment at the (all provided for) is right. Those on the right hand were my conjectural figures for the splicing of the dome planks or rafters. The whole story is here. The dome is to be struck out with 22' radius. The top is to be truncated at just such a point down as will fit the exact diameter of the timber curb, which is already made and on which is to stand the balustrade, from this curb's top so fitted to be dome rafter we are to date our calculation, to just take the finish, 19'6" down to the first moulding on the top of the attic and so continue adding together all the entablatures, bases c. c. down to the roof. As the whole is furred out from the posts or present
framing you will readily discover that all the hight of furring which comes from the lowest part of the drum is entirely governed by the starting point up at the top of the curve. With this idea in my mind, not being ready for the ribs or rafters of the dome I had left it till such time as it was wanted, and then I should go to M. and strike it out. The exact point down at which the curb would intersect (that is the data) could not be determined till struck out full size. I was content to put on the left hand figures as my guide for making the and then leave the rest or framing in [...] conjectural. Nothing is plainer than this. Not a figure is wrong. And if you will see to it that they are followed, and not let them mix up and you will produce what your desire. If any further explanations are required, you shall have them. There called in an old and experienced Architect to examine my drawings of this work in full, and shall use his evidence with that of others as defence if they make any attempt to prove my work wrong. A little more will put matters right. I am preparing for a defense.
The tracing of St. Paul's will aid you in two ways first you can determine the effect
of our dome
if executed as originaly designed. 2d, by comparing the two papers together you can see the effect of different size drawings. You have spoken of the perspective being different in looks from what the figures give. The drawing of St Paul's to me on the tracing looks higher than mine in proportion. I refer now to the section I send to-day, and it is only by folding the tracing that it can be made to look right. I informed you that to make ones more like Sta del Maria, that being your desire, I had made mine higher than St. Paul. You will discover that the center by which the latter was struck is about one eighteenth of the whole diameter past the middle of the diameter line. Mine is 2'7" or a little (6/31) less then one twelfth so you will see I carry mine up higher, the radius being more. I am now done. You have my date and figures. If Mr. Richards will refer you to better authority or give fuller explanations you will of course use him. I fear much that the whole thing will be botched up unless you get them to strike out one as he thinks and then compare it with the figures I give you. If by any delay you can make you can keep it along till I get there I will see to it. They cannot use the curved part for a month yet, as they cannot put it up till all the work below is prepared to put it on. They must begin at the bottom and work upwards. If Richard's striking out is anything in accordance with his operation in striking out an oblique arch over the stairs in the brick circular [...] wall he will make fun enough. Andrews the Master Contractor tells me that in all his experience he never yet saw such ignorance displayed as that. He went there and made a mould to build the arch upon but it would not fit, so he and Powers set up some studs on the circle and then with their eye chalked where to cut them off for the curve. They then bent a thin board over the top of the studs as cut off and furred it up c., in places standing off and looking at it. That was science with a relish. All this botch centering may be seen to-day.
Yours truly T. W. Silloway
References in this letter:
Joseph R. Richards was the architect who replaced Thomas W. Silloway in early 1858, when Silloway resigned from the position.
Henry Joseph Gardner (1818-1892) was governor of Massachusetts from 1855 to 1858.
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.
Peter Nicholson. The Carpenter and Joiner's Assistant.... London: J. Taylor, 1797.
Furring refers to the application of thin wood, brick or metal pieces to the joints, studs or wall of a building to form a level surface.
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.