THE PENNSYLVANIA BUILDING AT THE SESQUI-CENTENNIAL EXPOSITION

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THE PENNSYLVANIA BUILDING AT THE

SESQUI-CENTENNIAL EXPOSITION

THE PENNSYLVANIA BUILDING* Plan and Structure

HE

building symbolized the glory of Pennsylvania’s contributions to the history of our country the Commonwealth’s spiritual and material wealth and progress. No forms were borrowed from European structures to make the building “Classic,” nor was “Colonial” precedent followed. Its trend was modern. Its dominant note was the vertical motif, a typical American contribution to architectural expression. Thus, being distinctly American, it not only memorialized an event of 150 years ago, but expressed the greatness of the State in resources,



industry, culture, government and art.

The building was built around a court, 120 feet from Broad street through a wide colon-

square, entered

nade of 13 bays typifying the original colonies of which Pennsylvania was the Keystone State. Flanking the court and extending the full depth of the building were two exhibition halls 225 feet long, 93 feet wide and 43 feet high.

The Broad

two exhibi-

from the Report of the Pennsylvania Sesqui-CenCommission 1927.

* Reprinted

tennial

street facade comprised the

26

Pennsylvania German Society

by tall colonnades. In each gable were immense niches sheltering heroic groups of sculpture representing “Industry” and “Agriculture,” Pennsylvania’s two major activities. As one passed through the colonnade with its richly colored ceiling, high overhead were caught glimpses of the central portion of the rotunda, and its gilded clerestory pierced with designs of interlacing Keystone shapes filled with vari-colored glass. The central feature of the court was an immense pool, Keystone shaped, in which were reflected the fourteen wall panels depicting in low tion halls with gabled ends joined

relief the scenes of the State’s notable history

from the

time of Penn to the present age and in the center of all, flanking the entrance to the rotunda, were pylons each containing a colossal sculpture figure in higher relief, one a male, the other a female, suggesting the equality ;

of the sexes.

In the panel above the columns of the porch was the coat-of-arms of Pennsylvania, carved in colorful cement. Above the doorways was a sculptured frieze of figures representing the progress of mankind since Pennsylvania became a State, and this procession was taken up and continued above the numerous groups of doorways in the several parts of the building. Over the front and rear entrances to the rotunda were screens of pierced plaster in delicate interwoven Keystone designs filled with glass. Around the sixteen sided rotunda extended two 9-foot aisles of slender columns, supporting an arched roof beamed and panelled in plaster. At night the rose-tinted building was painted with light from concealed reflectors. The intensity of illumination made the great rotunda tower a glowing torch. Lesser beams directed through the skylights created the same pleasant glow of soft-colored light that played about the walls and columns by day.

The Pennsylvania Building

27

The Outside Murals Each

of the outside murals portrayed a

memorable

event in Pennsylvania's history. The first showed Penn receiving the charter from the King for lands in which his people might dwell in peace. The second portrayed Penn landing at New Castle from the good ship “Welcome" and taking possession in a ceremony according to the custom of the Indians. The third symbolized the various people who settled in Pennsylvania with Johan Printz as the first Governor the fourth depicted the clearing of woods and the building of cabins. Then came a mural suggestive of the march of homeseekers westward in their Conestoga wagons. The next showed the settlement of Western ;

Pennsylvania and particularly Fort

were on the in general

Colonial

left

Pitt.

These murals

hand court wall facing the rotunda and

represented the outstanding events in our

life.

On the court wall facing the rotunda to the left a large mural depicted the Reading of the Declaration of Independence in the State House yard. On the right a mural of similar

size told of the historic Constitutional

Convention held in Philadelphia in 1787. The murals on the right hand court wall represented the following events in the history of Pennsylvania typical of the genius and sentiments of her people: the Abolition of Slavery in Pennsylvania in 1779; the War of 1812 and the help of Pennsylvanians in constructing and manning Perry's fleet on Lake Erie in 1813; the choice of Harrisburg as the capital of the State in 1812 the establishment of the public school system of the State in 1834 with its beginnings in the University of Pennsylvania in 1740; Lincoln's memorable dedication of this nation to a new birth of freedom “that the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not

Pennsylvania German Society

28

perish from the earth,” and a tribute to the Centennial Celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence held in Philadelphia in 1776. The architect designed and the contractor erected the building. But this left only great gray walls enclosing the rotunda and two great exhibition halls. The architect had planned, to be sure, the court with its entrancing pool, the murals on the outside walls symbolic of great events in the history of the Keystone State, and he had created the central dome with its vari-colored lights that gave aspiration to the Building. It remained to turn two great gray halls into attractive homes for

worthwhile exhibits. The Governor named a committee of his cabinet to suggest exposition ideas and plans. On this committee were the Secretaries of Education, Highways, Welfare, Labor and Industry, and Forests and Waters, with the Secretary of the Commonwealth as Chairman. This committee received and made suggestions for exhibition plans. On the recommendation of this committee, the Commission designated Henry N. Woolman as Director of Exhibits, and Captain George Harding as Director of Art.

Special

Mural Paintings by Distinguished Pennsylvania Artists

To give quality and character to the large wall surfaces and symbolize each distinctive section of the exhibits, Messrs. Harold McAllister and Arthur Meltzer painted a forest scene covering the entire end of the North Wing used as a background for the forest exhibit. The canvas was ninety feet in length. It depicted the forests of Pennsylvania in three epochs: The Primeval Forest; the Destruction of those Forests by Cutting and by Fire and the Conservation of our Forests by the ;

The Pennsylvania Building

29

Methods of Today. Nearby on a side wall was a delight“A Wooded Watershed,” by Daniel Garber. Over the Agricultural exhibit and in view across the entire building through the rotunda was a mural by Joseph ful mural,

On the opposite wall through the rotunda was an artistic mural by Captain George Harding symbolizing “Pennsylvania’s Contributions in 1918 when our boys returned to Europe their full sacrifices to the Mother Countries of the AmeriT. Pearson, Jr., depicting “Harvesting.”

can people.” Above the Health exhibit symbolic of the

was an inspiring mural by Alice Kent Stoddard “The State and the Individual.” The Pennsylvania Building was ready for its formal christening on May fourteenth, and for its formal openThe Building was chrising on May 8. thirty-first, 1926. tened with water from the William Penn Grant. The artistic genius of the Director of Art, Captain George Harding, gave tone and character to the Building and its exhibits. services of the State to the child :

The Exhibits It

was 10.

decided to group the exhibits under

1.

The Peoples

2.

Agriculture.

4.

Industry.

5.

Transportation.

of Pennsylvania.

Natural Resources.

6.

Health.

7.

Education.

8.

Welfare.

9.

Art. History.

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The Founder People There can be no great state without ample natural resources. But a plenitude of natural resources will not make a great people. Pennsylvania could not have be-

come the home of ten million prosperous people in so short a time without bountiful gifts of nature. But those gifts were utilized by a hard-working, God-fearing, lawabiding people. Pennsylvania’s greatest heritage is the lofty ethical and religious standards of those people who founded the Commonwealth. To symbolize this heritage a pylon was set up in the center of the North Wing,

Shrine.”

The Shrine was

known

as

“The People’s

colonial in design, but colorful

with the flags of the founder peoples and seals of Penn and the Dutch Indies Co., which were decorative spots on the entablature. The dome, decorated in gold and blue, counted as pattern against the blue canopies of the roof.

The founder peoples whose names appeared thereon were: Indian

Scotch Irish

French

Swede Dutch

Welsh

Hebrew

German

Irish

Negro English Scotch Surrounding this Shrine were exhibits of historic documents and works of art revealing the religious spirit and the craftsmanship of these founder peoples. Such exhibits also characterized the rare historic documents and relics that found their place in the historical exhibit in the South Wing.

The

Special Historical Exhibits

Many objects were exhibited symbolic of outstanding events in the history of Pennsylvania and typical of her achievements in industry and art. Most of these ex-

The Pennsylvania Building hibits

31

were made possible only by the generosity of their

To each who helped in this way grateful acknowledgment is made. The details in collecting these special exhibits were in the hands of Doctor H. H. Shenk, of the State Library, assisted by the Reverend Doctor John Baer Stoudt.

owners.

The Liberty Bells

A

notable exhibit was a collection of several bells that summoned the citizens of the Commonwealth to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776, the same day that the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall called the people of Philadelphia to hear the Declaration read. Other bells summoned the people on that day, but some of them have not been preserved and the whereabouts of others was unknown at the time the

were assembled. This was the first time that these bells were ever brought together. They were, of course, given a conspicuous place in the Pennsylvania Building. They were appropriate symbols of the birth of the American Rebells

public.

After the Exposition was over these bells were taken Independence Hall, where appropriate ceremonies were held as the bells stood grouped around the Mother to

Liberty Bell.

Doctor John Baer Stoudt did the work essential to securing these

bells.