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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 15, no. 379: June 19, 1875

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. Vol. XY. NEW YOKK, SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 1875. No. 379 Published Weekly by THE REAL ESTATE RECORD ASSOCIATION. C. W. SWEET............Presidbnt and TEEAStnsER PRESTON I. SWEET........Secretart. L. ISRAELS......................Business Manager TERMS. One year, in advance...........310 00 Communications should he addressed to "" C TV. STTEEJT, Nos. 345 AND 347 B ioadwat ADVANCED ARCHITECTURE. Witliiu the last ten years a greater improve¬ ment in design lias beeu effected in this city than in the whole preceding half century. As we noted in a short article in the Keal Estate Record, published some fifteen months since, the best examples of this may be found in that quarter situated between Fifth and Lexiugton avenues aud above Forty- second Street. Before considering more par¬ ticularly in what this step toward the estab¬ lishment of style consists, it may be well to consider shortly those iron buildings which, really a product of our own life, have, to a cer¬ tain extent, shared in the progress that more especially applies to brick and stoue. Some six years since we stated the radical objections to iron as a building material. Those objec¬ tions were, for the most part, constructional^ holding, as w^e did, that poverty of design and neglect of details were faults in no way de¬ pendent upon the material used, but upon the inexperience of architects and the negligence of iron-founders. Time has fully justified the opinions then expressed. At least three fronts, one on Broome Street, two on Broadway, real cJiefs-d'oeuvre of decoration judiciously applied to strictly mechanical construction, show that the artistic objections so often raised to fronts of iron were founded on misconception of its capabilities. Even better examples may be seen in the first story of the Stevens building and in various single stories andiornamental work by other well-known architects. The constructional objections remain. They have so evidently forced themselves upon the atten¬ tion of owners within the last two years that we may confidently predict the disuse of iron in entire fronts at no distant date. The opin¬ ion at that time expressed, that the real utility of iron was as a substitute for heavy interior columns—either large shells or of brick or stone—has not been verified. Frankly, it seems as il we were trying too much. The coustruction of immense buildings wholly fire¬ proof necessitates the empleyment of columns almost as thickly set as those of an Egyptian temple. For such columns slender iron cast¬ ings are of course inadmissible, but we repeat that a wholly fii-e-proof building for any pur¬ pose requiring space, light, and air is, and al¬ ways will be, an impossibility. "When Ave rec¬ ognize the fact that a light interior within a carcass so substantial as not to be weakened by a conflagration is the real solution of the problem, then we shall be in a fair way to make iron a servant, not a master. To return to the consideration of our ad¬ vancement in design which is so evident in our present structures of brick and stone. Ten years since the architecture of our city was fajrly beginning to show the effect of cul¬ tivation and study. The younger men of the institute, succeeding to the race of " dada- architects," graduates of the foot-rule and mi¬ tre-box, who led our national taste till 1850, began to impress upon our streets their own artistic sentiments. Their errors were of in¬ experience or of eccentricity, mistaken for genius. English by taste, for the most part their feeliugs sided with that prej¬ udice in favor of Gothic, common to most cultivated Englishmen for the last forty years. Whether a natiu'al love of perfection induced their preference for the " decorated" period ; whether peculiar conditions have combined to weaken the effect of " early" or " perpendicu¬ lar," certain it is that their most successful ef¬ forts were in tlie former style. But the exi¬ gencies of a difl'erent country soon made themselves felt, and the cost of production quickly forbade the employment of any Gothic style in its full purity. Gradually thej'- learn¬ ed, as their Euglish cousins before them, that the spirit of Gothic architecture still possessed the power of infusing life into the more rigid exigencies of the present time. They chose then that modified style strongly tinged in or¬ namentation with the flowing and bizarre com¬ position of the French school, which has been called modern English Gothic. But again the question of cost stepped in, and at present, in spite of many really beautiful facades both in this city and tliroughout the East, one of our architects well known for his enthusiastic bias and esthetic taste, has declared Gothic in this country a failure. "We must respect¬ fully dift'er froin him, or at least qualify the assertion by adding that the cost of erection does effectually forbid any general use of that style. A most beautiful example of a Gothic, so hardy as to be rather French than English, is the Reformed Church corner of Forty-eighth Street and Fifth Avenue. In Thirty-sixth Street, near Broadway, is a most happy church- front of early English; and the house now completing corner of Fifty-seventh Street and Fifth Avenue is a perfectly successful specimen of modern Gothic. The exigencies of cost and situation called for some style which should combine classical repose with Gothic light and shade, while avoiding both the heavy cornices of the one and the interminable de¬ tails of the other. This style was found in the Neo-grec, though why so named it would be hard to say, since it is neither new nor Greek. A legitimate development of French renais¬ sance—which was always Gothic in details and classical in composition, while Italian re¬ naissance is the reverse—it owed its birth some twenty years since in the houses of certain Parisian artists in the Rue des Martyrs to the wants of modern city life acting upon whaf has been for three hundred of years the favor¬ ite Frencli school, not untinged, perhaps, by the Greek mania of the First Empire. Touch¬ ing on one side modern French Gothic, on the other pure Renaissance, it is susceptible of all variations, responsive to all thought, and in fine seems alone possessed of that natural elas¬ ticity which is an absolute necessity of mod¬ ern street architecture. "We shall precede to consider how, gradually impressing upon the public taste its great merit as a style, it has here become burdened with a solidity and harshness at variance with its real character. CONCRETE BUILDING. The frequent use of concrete in recent con¬ structions, and its important application for building purposes where strength, lightness, and protection from fire are involved, deserve more specific notice than has hitherto been given to it. Concrete building has received more attention in Europe than in this country, but of late a start has been achieved in this direction likely to prove valuable in all future experiences. "We take from English sources the following interesting and valuable review •. Until within recent years, little or no im¬ provement appears to have been made in the primitive apparatus for molding concrete walls, so that only the roughest kind of building was possible with such means. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that treating concrete arch¬ itecturally never received due attention, brick¬ work and stonework being more easily capa¬ ble of architectural treatment. In the use of these materials, dependence upon the bonding of the bricks or stones gradually increased, and the valuable properties of adhesion and cohesion to be obtained by the right use of good lime, has been increasingly neglected. Architects, engineers, and builders became careless and ignorant of the properties and proper treatment of lime, and the value of con¬ crete was entirely dependent on the binding material with whicli it was compounded. Thus lime-concrete, although possessing the advantages of economy in materials and la¬ bor, great ultimate strength, damp-proof, fire¬ proof, vermin-proof, and other good qualities, was subject to the greater disadvantages of re¬ quiring more time and space, and of being less capable of high architectural treatment. The modern system of cement-concrete building is ft'ee from all these disadvantages, and, in addition, possesses important advantages not hitherto attainable. The modern revival of the use of concrete can be traced to increased