Interested in men and women, in the ways of the world, White wanted his buildings to be useful: to be beautiful, of course; gay if possible; but livable first, and comfortable, not austere memorials to his art1 nor trivial tiers of cells piled one upon another. He loved life; and he knew (as who doesn’t?) that a cottage where the seasons pass in a clamor of activity is better than an office building gathering dust and decay among the clouds. He knew that business is not a religion, that it cannot raise monuments to itself; that it is not more enduring than brass. Business is, in fact, never gracious, no matter how honorable it may be; and the average business man is—more often than not —objectionable,2 with his foolish insistence upon the respectability of avarice and greed. Skyscrapers may impress the stranger as hives of activity, pillars of progress and symbols of man’s humanity, of service to one’s fellows; but they depress those who must live in their far-leaning shadows. They are like jails where men and women condemned to earn an honest living go through their routine motions.
KeywordsOffice Building Gathering Dust Architectural Problem Yacht Club Pacific Railway
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- 1.When Henry Adams returned from the South Seas in 1892, he went at once to Washington, D. C., to visit the memorial to his wife erected during his absence by White and St. Gaudens. He had previously refused to look at the preliminary sketches, saying that if they were futile and silly it would ruin his trip. When he saw that figure, so quiet, yet so alive, he could scarcely speak. Again and again he returned … and always when he went away he was at peace, with the world and with the fates.Google Scholar
- 2.Henry Adams’ brother, Charles Francis Adams, who had been president of the Union Pacific Railway, once said: “As I approach the end I am more than a little puzzled to account for the instances I have seen of business success—money-getting. It comes from a rather low instinct. Certainly, so far as my observation goes, it is rarely met in combination with the finer or more interesting traits of character. I have known, and known tolerably well, a good many successful men, men famous during the last half-century; and a less interesting crowd I do not care to encounter. Not one that I have ever known would I care to meet again, either in this world or the next; nor is one of them associated in my mind with the idea of humor, thought or refinement.”Google Scholar
- 3.After his death, his own home on Gramercy Park became first the Princeton Club, and, after the war, an officers’ club. Today it has given place to an apartment hotel.Google Scholar
- 4.F. Hopkinson Smith’s Colonel Carter of Cartersville is laid in the Tile Club.Google Scholar
- 5.When Dean Stanley complained of the surplus of dogmas in the English catechism, Disraeli replied: “Ah, but, my dear Stanley, you must remember—no dogma, no dean.”Google Scholar