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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 30, no. 751: August 5, 1882

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. Vol. XXX. NEW TOEK, SATURDAY, AUGUST 5, 1882. No. 751 Publislied Wetkly by The Real EstateRecord Association TERMS: ONE TEAR, In adyance $6.00 Communications should be addressed to C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway. J. T. LINDSEY. Business Manager. HONESTY IN BUILDINi&. Honesty" is, perhaps, more abused than that of any other ethical or intellectual virtue. It is applied as a cloak of ignorance, as the apology for bad manners, or even for worse purposes. The man who, without regard to time, place, or company, gratifies his vanity by blvirting out his crude notions on any possible subject, is too often called an honest fellow. In fact, he is only so.ill-bred and so ignorant as to be supposed in¬ capable of deceit. That may be so, or not. We have known cases—and no doubt some will recur to the memories of most of our readers—in which a man may be held to have purposely adopted the disguise of incivility, have lived for years under the title of " Honest Tom Speakforth," and at length, generally too late for human retribu¬ tion, have been discovered to have left behind him only an unexplained deficit, or sometimes an equally unexplained family of children. The honesty which causes this kind of pitying or even of affectionate regard is simply that, so far a5 it exits at all, of not telling lies; or rather of not putting matters in such a light as may be most agreeable to the sympathies of others. This land of honesty is sometimes applied to building. A man will declaim against the importance of stucco and will give you hideous brick-work in place of it. " Honest brick and mortar," he calls it, but he omits to mention two points. One that the imperfections of English stucco are mainly due to the very rude and imperfect way in which we treat our lime. Those who are most familiar with the use made of this material in Italy, from scagliola work to the preparation for fresco pain¬ ting, will be aware that this is the case. Second¬ ly, while there is a real beauty in brick-work, it requires so much care in the selection of clay, and in the making, burning, and the laying of bricks to insure it, that noble brick-work is al¬ most a lost art in England. Our honest friend, therefore, only gives the cheapest and meanest material that comes to hand, and excuses that slovenliness of his work by calling it "honest." —Builder. A WIFE'S CIVIL EXISTENCE. When Mrs rhomas F. Buck died, some time ago in Brooklyn, some property which she owned was sold under foreclosure proceedings, and there was a balance of $3,428 for her husband. A brother of the deceased, however, claimed one-half of this amount. The matter finally found its way into the Kings County Supreme Court, when the brother's counsel claimed that, under a recent decision of the Court of Appeals, the civil existence of a wife was ignored. It was held by Judge Danforth, of the Court of Appeals, that the idea of husband and wife being one was nothing more than a legal fiction. On Thursday Justice Cullen gave judgment in favor of the brother. THE BROOKLYN TAX RATE. The assessment rolls of Brooklyn property for 1882 were footed up Thursday. The following are the figures as compared with last year: 1881. 1883. Increase. Real.........$240,128,905 $264,420,112 $24,291,'<;07 Personal.... 15,137,400 19,334,301 4,197,261 Real&pers'l.$25o,265,945 $388,754,413 $28,488,468 The tax rate in 1881 was $2.45 on each $100 in the Western District, and $2.13 in the Eastern District, which pays no tax for the cost of Pros¬ pect Park. The average for the whole city was $3.38. President Truslow estimates that this year it will be less, and wiU probably be $2.40 on each $100 in the Western District, and $2.10 in the Eastern District, making an average of $3.33 for the entire city. Of the increase in valua¬ tions, $6,000,000 is due to new structures. So far as possible, valuations have been equalised in all parts of the city, BACKWARDNESS OF ARCHITECTURE. Although in painting and perhaps in sculpture also the United States are improving from year to year, it is astonishing how architecture drags behind. An enormous quantity of building goes on here. Wards spring into being in a few years. Burnt cities rise again before the ruins have done smoking. But the edifices, although sometimes loaded with ornament and constructed of costly materials, are seldoin the work of an architect in the true sense of the term as now used—namely, a master of building, as one says master of a fine art. They are the work of masters of mechani¬ cal and technical art as opposed to the fine' arts. In New York it will be the merest chance if the next public building or costly residence does not fall into the hands of men who are not able even to sensibly "lift" modern European ideas in architecture. For one, .lefferson Market Court House, with its pleasing, though not very origi¬ nal design in elevation and coloring; we have any number of buildings like the Post Office, the Metropolitan Museum, the Cathedral in Fifth avenue, the brown stone Vanderbilt boxes. What frightens one in these buildings is the com¬ placency with which owners and public regard them, and the silence of the press. They have the same vacuousness, thesame absence of idea or sentiment for outline, composition, light and shade and color, which startle and disconcert the ama¬ teur in an exhibition of pictures at the Acad¬ emy. Rich men and congregations are seldom able to secure for their large outlays the build¬ ings which can be approved by a cultivated taste; a club might be expected to succeed better. But the recent experience of the Union League shows that a wealthy and ambitious organization, con¬ taining a very large proportion of cultivated men aud an unusually high average of brains, cannot save itself from grievous and elementary mistakes in architecture. It ^is evident that in the building committees appointed by the general or State Legislatures, congregations and clubs, there is seldom or never a majority competent to select the best architect and get from him work that is worth the money expended. As things are now managed, an architect of genius has to stultify himself nine times to get a chance in the tenth instance to build something that he really approves of—and who can do this long without degenerating ? This fact reflects perfectly the state of the fine arts—nay, perhaps even of the government of the community that built it. Pretentious communities want pre¬ tentious buildings. If New York were not mis¬ governed would we have our present ct urt- house ? If Washington were not corrupt, would we have our present postoffice ? If New York society had aiiy dignity or back bone, would we have millionaires thrusting themselves forward by the mere weight of big houses, big picture galleries, and lavish decorations, with a cynicism worthy of our legislators ? The millionaires would not build palaces iti six months, but would employ real architects to build quietly and beau¬ tifully, just as they themselves would gradually enter society on their personal merits, not on their money bags. At Washington some pains would be taken that the great buildings eracted by the public funds all oyer the land were the very best to be procured. Our municipal government would slowly and. carefully foster architecture by discouraging hasty work and reckless expenditure of the tax-payer's money. Our clubs and congregations would make it their first business to judge of the qual- . ificattons ojf architects on artistic, not on per- *BdnaJ or Interested grounds. The main point is that the demand should be a demand of taste. Architects cannot be independent, cannot " edu¬ cate the public," cannot wait till they are dead for recognition. They depend almost as directly on the public as the actor, and tbeir audience is neither so numerous nor so ready to be pleased with what is set before it. Until the public shall reform, until the press shall begin to call owners and architects to account for vulgar, stupid, and ridiculous work, there is no hope for American architecture. At present it represents the mere brute force of money more than any¬ thing else. It shows also restlessness, vagueness of purpose, smattering of foreign styles. No wonder many people prefer the barren monotony of blocks of brick and mortar to the ineffectual efforts of our unhappy architects. And along with as thorough and searching criticism as the press can give, must go, on the side of architects and owners, the most elaborate drawings and models of projected buildings. For, alas! the building once in place is there practically for¬ ever. Criticisms are forgotten, and people ac¬ custom their eyes to the ugly mass. Then asso¬ ciations give it dignity, and thn city is saddled with a dull and pointless building to which the citizens cling with a fervor worthy of a St. Peter's or an Alhambra.—Tlie Critic.' AN ARCHITECTURAL PARADOX. Wood joists are being used in the construction of the building on Walnut street, above Fourth street, in preference to iron to guard against danger in case of fire. Strange as such a state¬ ment may appear, it is a matter of fact that many New England builders contend that the wood joists, encased in plaster, are proof against any ordinary fire, and for many reasons are much preferred by them to the ordinary regula¬ tion fireproof iron joists. The joists are " strip¬ ped " on the outside, and over these strips irons are run, and on these the plaster is spread. The theory is that in an ordinary fire these joists thus treated will be fireproof, and only when the fire has reached such a fury that the building must go anyway will they be affected. Here comes iu one of the advantages claimed for them. When a building is being burned by a furious fire the iron joists expand and crush out the walls and do other damage. The wood joists would simply be buraed up without injuring the walls at all.—Philadelphia Record. London builders, like London merchants, keep their manufactured goods in stock. Houses, of nearly eveiy grade, are built, finished and com¬ pleted in every particular, and are held for years. This gives an opporttmity to people who want houses for choosing such a building as may suit their requirements, and at the same time enables them to occupy their own house at once. This system also has other advantages; it does away with the necessity of hasty and imperfect build¬ ing, and lessens the risks and inconveniences that are sure to follow the occupancy of a newly fin¬ ished dwelling. It is not likely that builders will use unseasoned materials in houses that have to remain on their hands for several years before selling—it wouldn't pay. Of course, only wealthy builders who can afford to wait for results carry on a business of this kind, but they get their re¬ ward, inasmuch as needy builders cannot com¬ pete with them on this line. This system also tends to crush out " jerry building," as the build¬ ings referred to must necessarily be well con¬ structed, or the continual inspeotion to which they are subjected by intending purchasers would soon bring to light their imperfections, and thus give the houses such repute as would seriously depreciate the price set on them.—The Builder. What is said to he the largest flagstone in America is soon to be laid in front of the stoop of R. L. Stuart's house at Fifth avenue and Sixty-eighth street. The stone measures 26 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches, is 9 inches thick and weighs nearly 60,000 pounds. It was cut in Sullivan County, at the same quarry from which came Mr. Vanderhilt's great flag¬ stone. It was drawn by eighteen horses to its destina¬ tion. Work on the Brooklyn Elevated Railway has been resumed. It is rumored that the affairs of the road taken from the hands of the receivers, and that the rpad will be completed by a number oCcapi' tailets who are prgaBlzing for that purpose.