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June 20, 1885
The Record and Guide.
THE RECORD AND GUIDE,
Published every Saturday,
191 Broad-wav, IvT. "X".
OIVE YEAR, in advance, SIX DOLLARS.
Communications should be addressed to
C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway.
J. T. LINDSEY, Business Manager.
JUNE 20, 1885.
The cholera does not make much progress in Europe. It is still
confined to Spain where, as yet, it is not virulent. At its former
swiftest xate of progress it could not reach all points on the c6nti-
nent of Europe this year. We may get some cases on our seaboard
from infected European ports, but it is extremely unlikely that the
scourge will obtain a foothold upon our mainland this year.
Then Asiatic cholera becomes less virulent as seasons pass by.
Sixty thousand persons were killed by it in 1883 in Egypt, the popu¬
lation of which is five millions. Last summer it raged in Italy, and
less than thirty thousand persons died out of a population of twenty-
six millions. It now looks as though it may die out in Western or
Central Europe. The strength of the choleraic poison seems to
decrease as it passes from country to country. The fear of its com¬
ing will save more lives than the pestilence destroys, for it enforces
cleanliness, and people are induced to improve their sanitary con¬
ditions, and in this way guard against the influences, which, in the
long run, are far more dangerous to life and deleterious to health
than is this Asiatic pest at its worst.
The fall of a house in Forty-eighth street on Tuesday seems to
have been clearly due to negligence. The owner, before beginning
the excavation, served notice on tlie owner of the house adjoining
the scene of his proposed labors that he was about to dig, and that
his digging might endanger the house. He seems to have had an
idea that this notification in some manner lessened his legal liability
for the result and threw the responsibility of protecting the build¬
ings which he was about to put in jeopardy upon other shoulders
than his own. It is impossible he can have taken this course under
legal advice. Any lawyer would have told him, or ho might
have informed himself merely by a perusal of the new building
law that he was bound to shore up the endangered house, and
bound to keep it while his work was going on and leave it when
liis work was done in as stable a condition as when he began to
excavate. His liability is defined and made specific by the build¬
ing law, but it existed before the building law was enacted, and
would have been the same in the absence of .any statute whatever.
It is the dictate of natural equity, expressed in one of the elemen¬
tary maxims of the Roman law that liave come down to us, that a
man must so use his own as not to injure any other persons. A
builder has no more right to undermine another man's house than
to blow it up. The case would be worse for Mr. Brierly if it were a
criminal case by the fact of his having sent the notice. The notice
showed that he knew tlie danger to which he was subjecting his
neighbors. Most fortunately for him, as well as for all others
concerned, nobody was killed or maimed by his carelessness,
although he deliberately ran the risk of killing or maiming a
number of people. The case, therefore, is not a criminal indict¬
ment for manslaughter, but a civil suit for damages, which, it
appears, the owner of the demolished building is fully entitled to
recover. In a minor point he committed a violation of law by
going to work before he had received a permit from the Building
Bureau. If his precautions had been well taken, a technical viola¬
tion of law arising from the hurry to complete his work would
not have deserved prosecution. But a builder's responsibility is
necessarily all the greater when he has illegally refused to share it
with the oflScial supervisor of his work.
The appearance of Mr. Henry J. Dudley as a witness in behalf of
Buddensiek will surprise architects and mechanics who are familiar
with Mr. Dudley's administration of the Department of Buildings.
There is little risk in saying that of all the incumbents of that place
Mr. Dudley was the most inefficient, that honest mechanics had
more trouble with him and dishonest mechanics had less than with
any one of his predecessors or successors. His inefficiency was not
only freely attributed to corrupt motives in ordinary conversation,
but one account of his acceptance of a bribe was so well authenti¬
cated and so circumstantial that a Grand Jury indicted Mr. Dad
ley for corrupt malfeasance in office.
The circumstance of an indictment having been found against
Mr. Dudley was referred to during his examinatioij, an(J bis only
answer was that the indictment had not been tried. That is quite
true and has been frequently pointed out by the public press, but
it has hitherto been considered not a vindication of Mr. Dudley so
much as a reproach to the administration of public justice. Noth¬
ing but a formal nolle prosequi can relieve a man legally from the
presumption created by having had an untried indictment found
against him. If the indictment had been found against a man
very solicitous about his own reputation it seems as if he would
have insisted that the indictment shoidd either be tried or formally
and explicitly withdrawn. Mr. Dudley appears to think that the
suspension of an indictment for taking bribes comes to the same
thing as an outright acquittal by a jury. The Assistant District
Attorney virtually promised to bring the indictment to trial after
the Buddensiek case was over. It is to be hoped he will do so, in
the interest of Mr, Dudley's reputation among other things, if
Mr. Dudley is innocent.
The Potter Building.
Somehow the Potter building recalls an anecdote of the Western
tavern, in which a number of belated travelers were condemned to
pass the night in the same room, while one of them snored furiously.
After a tearing note the snorer subsided, while from a bed in the
comer issued through the darkness a voice, saying, "He's dead;
thank God, he's dead."
The only point of resemblance between the snorer and the Potter
building is that the audience in the one case and the on-looker in
the other must have been intensely disappointed and exasperated
that the performance did not conclude before it did. But the Potter
building is completed; at least there will be no more of it. It is a
long time since it became artistically impossible to put on anything
more. It is now mechanically impossible to pile any more bricks
over the pediments and pinnacles without taking them down. Two
stories ago the architect seemed to have discharged his function of
design. But then, apparently at the instigation of the owner, who
had discovered that the walls would carry more weight and that
more rooms would command more rent, the luckless designer seems
to have braced himself and taken a fresh start, only to be punched
up again when he had added an architecturally superfluous story,
and to have produced another, relieving the strain upon his profes¬
sional feelings with a wild orgy of pediments and pinnacles, which
the owner will have to spend money in taking down before he can
add any more building. This final splutter refreshes the fatigued
public, which may at last exclaim: "He's done; thank God, he's
The Potter Ijuilding appears, as we have intimated, to have been
designed as a nine-story building, and to have been afterwards
increased by the e.xigencies of rental to one of eleven stories. Ver¬
tically the original arrangement was apparently for a base of two
stories, an intermediate division ti two, a principal division of four
and one upper story, as an appendage to the main cornice. An
arrangement grouping the lower three stories and interposing a low
mezzanime between them and the principal division would have
been clearer and more effective. As it stands the Park row front
consists of two lower stories in cast-iron, two in brick with piers
paneled with vertical reeding, four more with pilasters having
enormous capitals, apparently in terra cotta, but possibly in sand¬
stone, the upper story already mentioned below the main cornice,
and above this two stories of square-headed openings. Laterally,
this front is divided into five bays, or rather four and a half, the
northernmost being narrower than the others. Above this narrow
bay and above the two central bays are broken pediments with
ornaments in the nature of urns or finials of some kind in the open¬
ings. The skyline of the intermediate bays is serrated, and at the
southern end, where the Park row front makes an acute angle with
the Beekman street front, a pinnacle shoots up as the continuation
of the feature at this angle. This feature may be called a huge
roll-moulding, and extends from the bottom to the top of the build¬
ing, being furnished in the principal division with a capital corres¬
ponding to the capitals of the pilasters, and thus becoming a column,
while below and above it is treated with more or less reference to
the design of the adjoining walls.
The Beekman street front is signalized by the introduction of an
open court, similar to those of the Post and the Mills buildings, at
the centre, from which light is gained for the interior, and by
means of which the rooms on each side are made symmetrical in
spite of the irregularity of the lot; the irregularity, of course, appear¬
ing in the court itself. The lower three stories of this court are
closed with a cast-iron construction three openings wide, crowned
with a triangular pediment. At the sides of the court above this
feature are two eight-story buildings, practicaUy equal in magni¬
tude, divided into bays of coupled openings as already described.
The treatment of the Nassau front is similar to that of the Park row
front, but less ornate. The lintels throughout are in cast-iron, the
relieving arches turned over them, where these are introduced,
apparently of brownstone.
It is not easy to understand the use of metal in this building. It
is used in square castings of great size equal iu area to the brick