Re: Re: Reconstructing Lost Buildings

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One of the issues raised in the IAF discussion on the Berlin Palace reconstruction was the time lag between the demolition of the building’s war damaged remains in 1950 and its proposed reconstruction now. I don’t recall anybody specifically saying that they believed the time lag invalidated the exercise, but that notion was definitely there in the background and I’m sure it would have come to the fore had most people not already been inclined to the view that the whole exercise was thoroughly invalid for more than enough reasons already.

The time-lag argument is like the old crime-of-passion defence;

You catch your beloved in an amorous clinch with a sleezeball and you immediately take out your pistol and shoot the cad on the spot . . . who can argue with that!
Whereas, you pause to consider the options, smoke a cigarette, check the sports results on the wireless, then take out your pistol and shoot the cad, in many countries, that’s cold blooded murder.

A counter argument [in terms of architectural reconstruction] to the critical importance of spontaneity would be the likes of the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg.

The Governor’s Palace was constructed between 1706 and 1722 and from then until 1780, at which point the capital of Virginia was moved to Richmond, the building played host to a wealth of significant figures in American history. In 1781, the building was destroyed by fire and over succeeding decades its ruins crumbled until they were eventually cleared completely in the 1860s. It wasn’t until the late 1920s that a local pastor called Rev. Goodwin headed up a heritage committee with the objective of protecting the remains of Colonial Williamsburg and rebuilding the Governor’s Palace as one of the centrepieces of a Colonial heritage project. To carry out the reconstruction, the committee had only the contemporary written accounts of the building to rely on, together with the evidence from a detailed archaeological investigation and one 18th century sketch, known as the Bodleian Plate

the ‘Bodleian Plate’ discovered in the Bodleian Library in 1929

The reconstructed Governor’s Palace was completed in 1934 and has now stood for slightly longer than the seventy five years that the original building stood, which is half the length of time, between destruction and reconstruction, that the building was absent from the site.

the State Dining Room in the 1970s

The interior layout could be deduced from the archaeological evidence and contemporary accounts, but the decorative scheme is largely conjectural, although based on thorough research and comparative analysis. A 1970s photograph of the state dining room shows the interior fitted out with lots of nice 18th century clutter and a lassie in period costume, all under the watchful eye of a slightly sinister James I hanging over the mantelpiece.

Wiki records that:

‘The costumed interpreters have not always worn Colonial dress. As an experiment in anticipation of the Bicentenial, in the summer of 1973 the hostesses were dressed in special red, white, and blue polyester knit pantsuits’.

The mind boggles, as Graham would say. Apparently, visitors were confused and the polyester experiment was dropped in favour of reverting to period costume.

Was the reconstruction of the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg an invalid exercise because of the one hundred and fifty year time lag/ or the paucity of records/ or the reliance on conjecture?

Has Williamsburg ‘no more authenticity than Las Vegas’?

Does the historical value of Williamsburg lie now only in what it tells us about the 1930s rather than the 1730s?

What happened to the star-spangled polyester pantsuits?

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