Happy Friday Readers. Sorry for the extended absence but I’m back now. I was gone for so long because I attended a National Park Service Training event in Baltimore (and then had to catch-up at work). I had a great time and got a lot of valuable information, so I wanted to share some of what I saw and learned in Baltimore with you. So, in honor of my recent trip, today’s Fantasy isn’t a house, but a National Treasure, which, in fact, noted Architectural Historian Vincent Scully is said to have called “the most perfect church in North America.” Today, I give you the Baltimore Basilica, America’s first Cathedral.
Built in 1806-1821, the Basilica was designed by Benjamin Latrobe. Latrobe is often called the Father of American Architecture, or America’s first Architect. (Also known for the Bank of Pennsylvania, and The Latrobe gate at the Navy Yard) In addition to Latrobe’s remarkable design work, the construction project was overseen by Bishop Carroll, head of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who wanted a Neoclassical church (a style he considered to be “American”) to reflect the Neoclassical capitol of this budding nation at Washington, DC. Latrobe was the perfect choice for this project, as he was an admirer of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural views, a fact that is evidenced in his book, Thomas Jefferson: Architect of the Capitol. Jeffersonian Neoclassicism is clearly reflected in the Basilica, specifically the skylights in the dome ( a design element that Jefferson insisted on for the Capitol Building). Carroll’s initial idea and Latrobe’s design eventually went on to become America’s First Cathedral, and later, a National Historic Landmark.
The Basilica underwent restoration in 2004-2006, in anticipation of the church’s bicentennial celebration. The restoration work proposed what was called a “return to Latrobe’s vision,” which is somewhat controversial amongst Preservationists, as the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation state that, “Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or architectural elements from other buildings shall not be undertaken,” and ” Most properties change overtime; those changes that have acquired historic significance in their own right shall be retained and preserved.” However, since Preservation is a pretty fluid discipline and involves a lot of theory, there are also those who believe that the the Restoration was a success… Still, whatever your stance, no one can deny the fact that the Basilica is a beautiful building and an important part of American Architectural History.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
(Photo below from http://www.baltimorebasilica.org)
Image of an historic section drawing of the church from BaltimoreArchitecture.org
Hope you enjoyed the Baltimore Basilica. I will be adding more photos a bit later when I get them off my camera. Check back in for the update soon.