Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stone by Stone

The original carved brownstone entrance of the Conway Public Library is unique among Conway village architecture and is a key to understanding the library's architectural style.

But before we examine the ornate neoclassical carved archway and columns we are going to start with the simply shaped granite base that surrounds the entire original building. These smooth granite blocks are beveled at the top and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The cornerstone at the northwest corner is dated "A.D. 1900."

A program from the cornerstone ceremony in the Henney Room's archival collection documents the celebratory events from the event of June thirteenth, 1900 including songs, prayers, benedictions and a historical address by the buildings architect, Thomas Silloway.

That year is also memorialized in stone in the lintel above the original main entrance of the building...

...and again carved in stone, this time marble, in the original entry foyer along with the names of people involved in designing and constructing the building.

The excavation for the addition a number of years ago exposed the clear difference between the rough split granite foundation of the cellar and that smoothly cut and finely shaped granite belt that surrounds the building.

The original back of the building on the south featured a bay window that jutted out from the wall and added architectural interest from outside and a nice alcove on the inside.

While most of the stone lintels above the windows were simple keystone shaped, one three-part window set was adorned with a carved floral design.

The use of stone was documented in an early Sanborn insurance map which included a key that explained the color code that represented the building material used. It also used symbols and numbers to indicate the type of roof, number of stories, and so on.

In the detail below, you can see the red for brick, the blue for stone and the yellow for the copper covered wooden framed clock tower.

Over the years, the attention to detail seems to have changed on these maps. These maps however, do document the change in the street name on the southern side of the building (with the bay window) from Silloway (the last name of the library's architect) to Greenwood.

Now let's look more closely at the stone portico that juts out from the brick facade. The arrangement of the columns, scrolls and motifs used in the design follow well established rules.

A close look at the stone shows tools marks from the chisels and guages that were used to create the lamb's tongues, floral details, egg and dart, and bead and reel motifs.

To learn more please attend our program on Thomas Silloway: Architecct of the Conway Public Library at 11 am on Saturday, March 24, 2018. 

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