Monthly Archives: January 2015

Graceland Cemetery: George Mortimer Pullman

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago:  George Mortimer Pullman monument

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago: George Mortimer Pullman monument

George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897) was a great man who did great things, but he was not popular.

He first gained wealth as an engineer who specialised in moving and lifting wood-frame buildings. He made his fortune jacking up structures when the street-level was raised 6-8 feet to accommodate a sewage system in the low-lying delta of the Chicago River. His party-piece was the lifting of the six-storey Tremont House hotel while the guests remained inside.

His fame, however, rests on the development of the railroad sleeping car, which first appeared in 1864. Again, he pulled off a publicity coup by offering his “palace car” to convey the coffin of the assassinated President Lincoln to his burial in Springfield, Illinois, in 1865.

Pullman’s “hotels on wheels” gave middle-class riders a taste of high life, and rail passengers the world over benefitted from his invention of vestibules between passenger carriages in 1887.

His practice of hiring black men, emancipated slaves who had trained as housemen, to serve as highly skilled, disciplined and well-presented porters in his Pullman cars, is credited with helping to found the African-American middle-class, but the work was onerous and badly paid. The black historian and journalist Thomas Fleming remarked that being a Pullman porter was, paradoxically, “the best job in his community and the worst on the train”.

Even less visible was the smaller number of black women whom Pullman employed to take care of female passengers and their children.

The eponymous company town, Pullman, Illinois, begun in 1880 and designed by the architect Solon Spencer Beman (1853-1914), was an unashamed attempt to create a community of workers untainted by vice, political agitation or freedom of speech.

Crucially, the housing and the apparently generous civic facilities were intended to make a profit from the wages he paid his workers, and when Pullman felt compelled by a downturn in orders in 1894 to reduce wages and increase working hours, he saw no reason at the same time to reduce rents.

The resulting strike, which practically shut down the nation’s transport system, was quashed violently by federal troops provided by President Grover Cleveland.

When George Pullman died in 1897, he was buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery.  His elegant monument, a single Corinthian column, was designed by Solon Spencer Beman.

His family were so concerned that union members might defile his grave that he was buried in a lead-lined mahogany coffin, encased in a room-sized block of concrete, pinned down by railway rails and covered by another layer of concrete.

The forthright American journalist Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce commented, “It is clear the family in their bereavement was making sure the sonofabitch wasn’t going to get up and come back.”

No-one will ever exhume George Pullman in a hurry.


Graceland Cemetery: Victor Fremont Lawson

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago:  Victor Fremont Lawson monument

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago: Victor Fremont Lawson monument

As well as the ‘Eternal Silence’ figure for Dexter Graves, the Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft supplied the thirteen-foot granite statue of ‘The Crusader’ (1931) for a monument that carries no name, but only the motto “Above all things truth beareth away victory”.

This is the tomb of Victor Fremont Lawson (1850-1925), who ran the Chicago Daily News from 1876 to the year of his death and was a co-founder and first president of Associated Press.

The Chicago Daily News broke new ground by publishing concise stories and popular features, aiming for a wider readership than its rivals. It depended on Lawson’s business acumen and capital – derived from his father’s real-estate fortune – to support its low cover-price.

In journalism he was an innovator, developing the use of foreign correspondents, syndication and classified advertising. He made the Daily News a platform for advocating urban reform and improved civic infrastructure and services, particularly during the period of the World’s Fair of 1893 and the creation of the Chicago Plan of 1909.

Lawson was also a philanthropist, supporting such organisations as the Daily News Fresh Air Fund and the YMCA.

He was a member of the Chicago Commission on Race Relations which reflected on the city’s race riots of 1919. Its influential report, The Negro in Chicago: a study of race relations and a race riot (1922), was compiled by the Commission’s Associate Executive Secretary, Charles S Johnson:

The monument was commissioned by Victor Lawson’s younger brother, Iver N Lawson. The crusader, bearing his sword and shield, was intended to symbolise the campaigning spirit of the great journalist, businessman and philanthropist.

Graceland Cemetery: Dexter Graves

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago:  Dexter Graves monument

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago: Dexter Graves monument

One of three major Victorian cemeteries in Chicago, Graceland Cemetery (1860) is located alongside a railway line that brought mourners and coffins over two miles north from the city-centre, like Brookwood Cemetery in England and Rookwood Cemetery in Australia.

The original eighty-acre site was landscaped as parkland by Horace W S Cleveland (1814-1900), who had also designed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at Concord, Massachusetts in 1855.

It was enlarged to the north-west and the east by the architect Ossian Cole Simonds (1855-1931), who also designed Lincoln Park on the site of the former City Cemetery which closed after the Civil War.

The Graceland Cemetery chapel, recently restored, was designed by the Chicago practice of William Holabird (1854-1923) and Martin Roche (1853-1927) in 1888.

The 119-acre cemetery continues to operate under the control of the not-for-profit Trustees of the Graceland Cemetery Improvement Fund. It is freely open to the public:

The most haunting of all the magnificent monuments in Graceland Cemetery is the tomb of Dexter Graves (1789 – 1844), with its bronze figure of ‘Eternal Silence’, the work of the sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936), cast by Jules Bercham of the American Art Foundry.

Originally the entire figure was painted black, and over the years the metal has oxidised to an eerie green everywhere except the face.

Dexter Graves was a member of an early contingent of Chicago settlers who, according to the inscription at the back of the monument, “brought the first colony to Chicago, consisting of 13 families, arriving here July 15, 1831 from Ashtabula, Ohio, on the schooner Telegraph.” A former tavern-keeper, Graves opened the Mansion House hotel on Lake Street, but died, soon after his daughters Lucy and Emeline, in April 1844.

Father and daughters were interred in the Chicago City Cemetery on North Avenue, and when that cemetery closed they were reinterred at Graceland.

It was Dexter Graves’ last surviving son Henry who, having no immediate heirs, commissioned the monument.

Henry Graves died in 1907, and the monument was in place by 1909.

Little Germany

66 Vicar Lane, Little Germany, Bradford

66 Vicar Lane, Little Germany, Bradford

Bradford’s Victorian prosperity was boosted by the dyeing trade led by the firm of Edward Ripley & Sons, and the invention of mechanical combing by Samuel Lister of Manningham Mills – and from the remarkable influx of German immigrant merchants, such families as Schuster, Behrens, Zessenheim and Moser, whose warehouses clustered on the hill that is now known as Little Germany within the tight network of streets above Leeds Old Road.

Most of these companies were already established in Bradford before they moved into the grand warehouses in the 1860s and early 1870s. They were encouraged to diversify when trade was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, only to suffer a sudden economic downturn from 1875 onwards with the introduction of tariff barriers by France, Germany and Austria.

At the same time unexpected changes in female fashions caught manufacturers unprepared, and though the Bradford wool trade eventually adapted, no further buildings were constructed in Little Germany until 1902.

The impressive architectural display of the Little Germany stuff- (ie, worsted) warehouses masks a tightly-organised functional building-type, comparable with the cotton warehouses of central Manchester.

John S Roberts, in Little Germany (Bradford Art Galleries & Museums 1977), describes in detail how “grey” cloth was brought into the ground-floor receiving bay, promptly sent out for dyeing and, on its return, hoisted by steam-power to the top floor for inspection and sorting, stored and then after sale sent to the ground-floor packing area for dispatch.

Only wholesale customers and senior staff used the front entrance and the show staircase to the upper floors.

Many of the Little Germany buildings were designed by the local architect Eli Milnes (1830-1899), in some cases as speculative developments. Milnes was in partnership with Charles France (1833-1902) from 1863 onwards. The other local architectural practices – Andrews & Delauney, Lockwood & Mawson and Milnes & France, together with the Leeds architect George Corson, participated in the short-lived building boom.

After the decline of the Bradford woollen industry in the 1960s and early 1970s almost all of the Little Germany buildings were redeveloped: many warehouses became offices, and a former temperance hall was converted into a theatre, initially known as The Priestley after the novelist who was its first president, and eventually in 2012 relaunched as Bradford Playhouse:

In 2012 the mail-order clothing company Freeman Grattans Holdings, an amalgamation of the London-based Freeman Company and the Bradford-based Grattan, moved into 1860s offices at 66-70 Vicar Lane within Little Germany.

FGH has a German owner, Otto UK.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

No expense spared 4: Gustav Adolfs Kyrka, Liverpool

Gustav Adolfs Kyrka, Park Lane, Liverpool

Gustav Adolfs Kyrka, Park Lane, Liverpool

One of the most original churches in Liverpool is the Gustav Adolfs Kyrka, the Scandinavian Seamen’s Church, a rendering in brick of the Nordic stave church [].

It was built to minister to the pastoral needs of the transitory population of around fifty thousand Scandinavian seamen and emigrants in Liverpool in the early 1880s. It was completed at a cost of 50,000 Swedish crowns in 1884.

Designed by William Douglas Caröe (1857-1938), who was the son of the Danish Consul in Liverpool and a pupil of the architect John Loughborough Pearson, its octagonal form and pyramidal roof with stepped gables and a spectacular concave lead and timber spire highlight its Scandinavian associations.

The minister’s house adjoins the church.

The original worship space was up a half-flight of stairs and consisted of a galleried octagonal space with an open timber vault.

This was floored at gallery level in 1956-61 to create social and recreational space, and as the numbers of seamen visiting Liverpool declined the congregation adapted to serve the needs and welfare of the Scandinavian community in the city and its surrounding region.

Four plaster reliefs, originally part of the reredos and now relocated to the staircase, are by Robert Anning Bell.

Two sculptures, the Madonna and Christ, are by the Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley.

The bell from the former Norwegian Seamen’s Church at St Michael-in-the-Hamlet hangs beside the altar.

The Gustaf Adolf Nordic Congregation in Liverpool operates as the Nordic Church and Cultural Centre, providing a base for Danes, Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians and Swedes in the district and maintaining their unique building for future generations.

Visitors are made welcome, particularly at events: The buffets are memorable.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

No expense spared 3: Old Hebrew Congregation Synagogue, Liverpool

Old Hebrew Congregation Synagogue, Princes Road, Liverpool

Old Hebrew Congregation Synagogue, Princes Road, Liverpool

Among the many fine Victorian buildings in and around Liverpool 8, the Old Hebrew Congregation Syngogue is a particular jewel.

Built 1871-4 to the designs of the brothers William James and George Ashdown Audsley, it is constructed, like St Margaret’s Church on the same side of Princes Road, of red brick dressed with red sandstone.

Its façade combines elements of Gothic and Moorish styles, the pointed west door and the rose window contrasting with the oriental arches of the doorframes and the minarets that once surmounted the turrets.

The spectacular galleried interior has a tall arcade, supported by cast-iron columns with acanthus capitals. The horseshoe arches of the arcade lead the eye to the much more elaborate arch at the east end, which frames another rose window above the marble Ark with painted domes and gold stars.

The initial total cost was £14,975 8s 11d.

The marble pulpit, given in 1874 by the widow of James Braham, faces the bimah, the platform from which the Torah and haftarah are read. This was the gift of David Lewis, founder of the Liverpool department store, “in gratitude to Almighty God for His great goodness”.

The Ark is a replacement of the original which with its holy scrolls was destroyed by arson in May 1979: it was reconstructed and the synagogue restored and reopened in December 1980.

This spectacular place is open to group tours, which feature an exhibition about the history of the congregation:!tours/cfvg.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.