Construction 1871-1888: State, War, and Navy Building

KorbenDallas

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It is somewhat safe to say, that in the 19th century (including early 20th century, and earlier than 19th of course) there was an alternate building technology. May be there was nothing special about it, but then again, what's there so special about our today's construction tech. At the same time, it does appear, that certain parts of the 19th century construction were taken out of the equation. One of those parts, in my opinion, was the artificial nature of the stones used. Today we are being presented with simply marble, granite, limestone, etc. It starts to appear, that none of those stone were natural, but rather had polymeric values. The other part which appears to be omitted is the kit nature of the buildings. In other words, those 19th century construction workers were playing with some sort of an adult legos.

Let 's take a look at some construction photographs of the State, War and Navy building in Washington DC.

State, War and Navy Building
As you can see, this building still exists today. The Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) - formerly known as the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB) and even earlier as the State, War, and Navy Building - is a U.S. government building situated just west of the White House in the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C

Old Executive Office Building 01.jpg

It was built between 1871 and 1888, on the site of the original 1800 War/State/Navy Building and the White House stables, in the French Second Empire style. While the building exterior received substantial criticism at first, it has since been designated as a National Historic Landmark. It was for years the world's largest office building, with 566 rooms and about ten acres of floor space. Many White House employees have their offices in the EEOB.
  • Mullett, the exterior architect, ended his life by suicide, while in litigation.
  • President Harry S. Truman called it "the greatest monstrosity in America."
  • The building was referred to by Mark Twain as "the ugliest building in America."
The building looks alright to me, but what do I know? I know (the narrative says so) that it took 17 years to get it built (1871-1888).
  • The total cost to construct the building came in at $10,038,482.42 when construction ended in 1888, after 17 years.
I know that the government normally goes for the lowest bidder, but common... 17 years? What about some other master builders out there?
The Construction
I think it makes sense to brake the construction portion of this thread's OP into several section. Not all of these sections are directly construction related but they all pertain to the final outcome, the building itself.

Photo Anomalies
I think photographic anomalies matter. They force explanations, with some of those being pretty ugly. Let us take a look at the below 1917 image of the completed building. The image is titled:
Let's ignore the gray sky, and that the population numbers of the Washington DC in 1917 were around 400,000 people. For the sake of the argument this is 6 am on Sunday morning, and a few dudes decided to do some rail maintenance.

State,_War,_&_Navy_Building_-_Washington,_D.C.-1.jpg

What year photographic equipment is being used here? Judging by the available cars we are dealing with 1917 indeed. Judging by the photo camera used, we are somewhere in the late 1840s.
  • The truth is that very early daguerreotypes (those from 1839-1845) did take 60-90 seconds of sitting still to capture an image, but the majority of daguerreotypes we see today are from post-1845, when new technology (the addition of bromine fumes to the process) reduced exposure times to a few seconds.
  • Source
  • Photography was everywhere: 19th century Photo Business Advertisement
There were hundreds of photographs in motion made prior to 1884. Yet, in 1917 we have those blurry walking figures. Is this being done on purpose, or the photographer whooped out some 50 year old photo camera?
Construction: transportation
We can agree to disagree that anything was possible, and they could have employed many men, horses and oxen to deliver a "brick" like the one below. This would, pretty much, be the same technology used in some 5th century BC, but do we really care about that? Who really cares that some 50 years prior to the construction of this building there was a highly unpopular way to transport things?
Things could only move on rails in the early 1870s, right? With half of those being pulled by horses too. Yet, in the 1820s they did just fine with no rails...

brick_1.jpg

Source

Construction: kit structure
This is just my opinion, but the construction technology we scrutinizing was based on a "kit house" principle. In other words, buildings, no matter the complexity, were pre-made somewhere else, and assembled at the construction site.

Nov 25th was written over the box marking
construction_13.jpg

As you can see, the blocks arrived pre-shaped, and numbered.

Construction: limestone cutting
Apparently, there is nothing special in cutting yourself some limestone with a hand saw. Of course, today it is much easier to use a circular saw. As you can see, the dude below wants to show us that he is doing just that. Never mind that he is not really dressed for some hard labor. He has a handsaw in his possession, and there is a cut up block next to him.

construction_13-2.jpg

Source

Construction: Artificial Stone
For a beautiful construction analysis of an old building please feel free to visit the below link (#1). It was apparently put together by one of the Russian bloggers. Apologies for not remembering the nicknames, but both of the below links were mentioned elsewhere by our SH forum members. The contents are kind of an eye opener. There is way more than artificial stone in there, so enjoy.
Dates Everywhere
I'm pretty sure you have seen a few instances, above. There is an additional one below. For whatever reason, we have to be constantly reminded what date we are observing. In other words, there has to be no doubt in the viewers mind, that we are seeing 1885. Never mind that placing painting the date on some construction shack looks looks weird at the very least.

construction_dates.jpg

Source

On the other hand, may be somebody wanted to get creative, and photo-edited the date into the photograph. The same shack below does not have the date on it, but this changes only so much.

construction_dates_2.jpg

Source
Source of the thread images:
kd_separator.jpg

KD: What do you think was so special about these buildings that we "lost this technology?" Could it be that we simply ran out of the pre-made kits?
 

BStankman

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Yet, in 1917 we have those blurry walking figures. Is this being done on purpose, or the photographer whooped out some 50 year old photo camera?
This photo is attributed to a professional photo studio Harris & Ewing.
Not some podunk using a civil war era family heirloom.

Harris & Ewing black-and-white photographs imaged directly from large-format glass negatives. The photographs were made by the prominent Washington, D.C., photo studio founded in 1905 by George Harris and Martha Ewing. Harris & Ewing glass plates currently residing in the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Collection.

Seriously, there were moving pictures in 1917.
 

Timeshifter

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The only reason a photographer with 1917 tech (as we've been told to believe) would create images with motion blur, is if they wanted ;

1. To make the image appear it was shot with older tech
2. To be creative

Or

3. This was shot 1820s-30s
4. It is from a time we don't know about.

As for kit builds, I am working on a post for some Liverpool buildings, and I am considering the kit build idea for these also. Will post soon.

Either we ran out of kit (maybe they were left over from previous civilization) and we never had the ability to make the kits, or we lost the tech (it would no longer work) hence the advent of ugly 19th century onwards builds.

Either way, something changed and is obviously awry.

It also aligns with ship building tech, tunnels, rail etc, everything suddenly became impossible to do as easily and as good as it had been previously.

A side note, what is this dude doing in the middle of the road? Statue?

20190812_195947.jpg
 

MagnusOpus

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I have to address some of the photography conjecture I've seen here.....

Plate cameras have been commonly used for Architectural and Landscape photography up until the present. That technology is why some of the late 19th century pictures look so good, but yes would have several second exposures, not enough to completely lose people in a large scene, but enough to make them look a bit ghostly.

A large format negative, even back in those times would produce a grain free image with greater resolution than all but super expensive niche digital cameras. That great resolution is one reason why they were used in place of medium format and 35mm film long after they were developed, an 8x10inch negative has 15x the "pixels" of 6x6cm medium format assuming the same film being used. Plate cameras would often use low speed plates because they could only really be used on a sturdy tripod, whereas medium format was more handholdable, which meant it would often be used with fast for the time film, and noticeably grainy film.

The other reason apart from image quality these cameras were used for this kind of photography was medium format cameras did not usually have wide angle lenses available, which meant it was hard to get much in a shot....you'd have to tilt it up which would then make the vertical edges of buildings converge....a large format camera could be fitted with wider angle lenses, and also the movements of the camera could be tilted to correct verticals

I guess what I'm saying is some 19th century pictures will have fantastic image quality as far as resolution goes, and even until the start of the 21st century you'd have to use basically the same equipment to get an image that is as good
 

MagnusOpus

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good place for a copper to direct traffic and keep an eye on things....should bring them back
 

MagnusOpus

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Only there is no traffic. This entire thing looks like a movie set.
agreed it's not teeming with people

I have to address some of the photography conjecture I've seen here.....

Plate cameras have been commonly used for Architectural and Landscape photography up until the present. That technology is why some of the late 19th century pictures look so good, but yes would have several second exposures, not enough to completely lose people in a large scene, but enough to make them look a bit ghostly.

A large format negative, even back in those times would produce a grain free image with greater resolution than all but super expensive niche digital cameras. That great resolution is one reason why they were used in place of medium format and 35mm film long after they were developed, an 8x10inch negative has 15x the "pixels" of 6x6cm medium format assuming the same film being used. Plate cameras would often use low speed plates because they could only really be used on a sturdy tripod, whereas medium format was more handholdable, which meant it would often be used with fast for the time film, and noticeably grainy film.

The other reason apart from image quality these cameras were used for this kind of photography was medium format cameras did not usually have wide angle lenses available, which meant it was hard to get much in a shot....you'd have to tilt it up which would then make the vertical edges of buildings converge....a large format camera could be fitted with wider angle lenses, and also the movements of the camera could be tilted to correct verticals

I guess what I'm saying is some 19th century pictures will have fantastic image quality as far as resolution goes, and even until the start of the 21st century you'd have to use basically the same equipment to get an image that is as good
Eadward Muybridge was shooting high speed images (shutter less than 1/2000 sec) 40 years before this suposed image. There is no technical reason for a long exposure in 1915, other than incompetance or creativity.

This is of course if we are to believe the mainsteam photography timeline narrative.

Eadward Muybridge was shooting high speed images (shutter less than 1/2000 sec) 40 years before this suposed image. There is no technical reason for a long exposure in 1915, other than incompetance or creativity.

This is of course if we are to believe the mainsteam photography timeline narrative.
early photography timeline might well be shifty....but in 20th century it's pretty solid....that picture has a few seconds exposure because it's taken on slow film on a large format camera....and because it's large format you'd have to stop the lens down to get depth of field which would make for long exposures
 
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