Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Elwin Robinson on the Kirtland Temple (Part 2)

Interior and Finishing Work (1835-1836)

With the completion of the roof, interior woodworking began in earnest. During the fall and winter of 1834-35, workers had been busy felling timbers for seasoning while craftsmen drew detailed plans for implementing the rough outline of pews and pulpits indicated by Joseph Smith and his associates. Skilled workers in wood relied on previous building experience and carpenter's manuals to work out spatial and ornamental details and create a functional interior of distinctive beauty. (p.59)
Jacob Bump was predominantly responsible for the interior decoration of the lower courtyard (p.59). Bumps primary skills seem to have been joinery and plastering (p.60), but he and Millett became good friends during the Zion Camp's outage and respected each others work (p.61).

Robison then provides a short excursion on carpenter's manuals, which were basically pattern books for builders.
... such manuals gave rules of thumb for structural design, explained principles of geometry, and showed how to build out of simple plank lumber ornate classical elements (columns, capitals, entablatures) originally intended for stone construction. (p.60)
Pattern books followed geographic distributions, an Asher Benjamin was mostly popular in New England, as well as the Connecticut immigrants to the Western Reserve (p.60).
A number of pattern books were available for sale in the Kirtland vicinity, with Benjamin and Englishman Peter Nicholson being popular authors. (p.60)
Robison gives a Painesville Telegraph advertisement from July 5th, 1832, page 3, as an example, where Benjamin and Nicholson's books are reported as for sale at the Painesville Book Store (p.60).

Bump and his colleagues worked with pattern books in giving "three dimensional form" to the "verbal description and plan outline for the interior", combining elements or adjusting the scales to make it fit into a visual whole (p.61).
By the fall of 1834, Bump must have been busily engaged in seasoning timbers and obtaining moulding planes for the woodwork in the temple. The multiple tiers of pulpits allowed for considerable standardization since the basic curved "stand", or pulpit, is replicated eighteen times in the lower floor and thirty-two of the windows share an identical design. (p.61)
This kind of planning could begin before the roof was fully completed.
Bump must have made a number of sketches to work out joinery details and compute quantities of lumber and molding profiles before the roof was completed. (p.61) 
The focal point of the lower-court interior is the great window behind the west pulpit. The upper arch of this window is formed from decoratively carved moldings derived from classical precedents, with ornaments including a running guilloche, plain band, bead and lozenge, and eggs and dart. (p.63)
This plethora is indicative of Bump's expertise.
The deeply carved molding and plastic curves of these ornaments are typical of Bump's style. The wide range of stylistic sources is also typical of Bump, a mature craftsman with years of experience. (p.63)
Robison suggests, the beaded keystone of the west window in the lower court may hail from plate 31 in Asher Benjamin's American Builder's Companion from 1806 (p.63); similarly the "oval medallion with a stylized acanthus leaf divided by a starlike cruciform element on the interior columns in the courts, is also found only in Benjamin's book (p.63). A particular interesting case is the Virtruvian scroll work, which only occurred in the 1806 edition of Benjamin's book and is rare in other pattern books, and appears to have inspired the lower arch framing in the west window (p.63).
The use of this early pattern book in the design of the interior of the lower court is consistent with Bump's age, as the 1806 American Builder's Companion would have been new when he apprenticed, a time he might have been purchasing reference materials for use in his career. (p.63)
Robison then turns to the pulpits.
The pulpits share the same general articulation as the windows and pillars in that they are ornamented with fluted pilasters; a simple, Doric-like capital; a frieze with a running guilloche; and a dentiled cornice. A standard entablature, the horizontal element placed on a column or pilaster, would have looked too heavy on the relatively small-scale pulpits, and so Bump eliminated the architrave, or lowest section, that is normally prescribed by a classical canon. (p.63)
In general, of the five columnar types---Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite---the Doric and the Ionic were the preferred types; the Corinthian and Composite were too complicated, and the Tuscan is an unfluted Doric at heart (p.64).
As used by the Greeks, Doric and Ionic columns consist of a column shaft and a capital (the widened portion on top of the column shaft). On top of the column shaft and capital sits the entablature, a horizontal lintel composed of three parts: the architrave, frieze and cornice. (p.64)
The height of a classical column was proportionate to its base diameter (p.66)

The Greek system was modified by the Romans, who moved the rounded columns into the walls, creating "engaged columns" (p.64). When flattened, these were called pilasters, which were popular with American builders, as they are easy to construct "from sawed planks of lumber" (p.64)

The mixing of Ionic and Doric was popular in American building, and the minimization of architrave and frieze as well, given that the majority of buildings did not have the dimensions of classical Greek temples (p.65).

How skillfully the workers executed some of these wood tasks is illustrated by the way the doors of the pulpits open, which required a tricky elliptical cut to allow the door to swing (p.65).

In August of of 1835, Bump broke out in "open rebellion" against Joseph Smith (p.66) [and joined the group of dissenters in Kirtland, RCK] and was removed from the project. He was replaced by Truman Angell, who would go on to work on the Nauvoo and Salt Lake City temples as well (p.66). Angell used a more abstractive or simplifying style, and put his stamp on the east window, as well as the entire upper courtyard (p.66). Angell had apprenticed with a carpenter and worked as a joiner in Providence, Rhode Island (p.68), used the Practical House Carpenter, whose moldings were by then being offered commercial in Portage County, for example (p.68).

Fall to Winter 1835-36, the Kirtland community rallied to get the temple finished (p.68). New arrivals without financial resources were impressed into the effort (p.68), raising the number of unskilled workers in the teams (p.69). There were several factors contributing to the push, including that some had not brought their families with them or left them behind, and the desire to see the endowments [cf letter of Phelps to his wife, December 18, 1835, RCK], an expectation that was undergirded by D&C 38, [where it was still a verb, RCK] as well as D&C 105 [where it is still a singular, RCK].

The rush [combined with the less-well-trained work force, RCK] caused the cutting of decorative corners as well.
Nailing strips of wood to the planks is far easier than carving the long, deep flutes used on the lower story and resulted in significant savings of time. (p.69)
Likewise, the pulpits on the upper story do not have fluted pilasters but rather have applied reeds. The reeding technique was widely used in New England in the first decade of the nineteenth century and was used in the Western Reserve area as well. (p.69)
Robison briefly speculates whether Bump had used his personal molding planes and taken them with him upon departure (p.69). But this seems an unnecessary assumption, given the general switch of artists and pattern books, and the rush of completion (p.70).
The use of the applied reeding in the upper room also indicates that many workers were not skilled joiners. ... reeding can be done by a worker with little skill. This shift in technique allowed skilled craftsmen like Angell to direct many other workers, accelerating progress on temple construction. (p.70)
Angell simplified the pulpits in the upper courtroom as well (p.70). Angell also reduced the rise, which eliminated joinery work, and eliminated the complicated doors (p.71) But Angell was no hack, as the well-executed running vines on the large east window demonstrates (p.71). The extensive use of Greek frets was another concession to speed and untrained labor (p.71).

The exterior ornamentation shows equally interesting shortcuts (p.75).
In the gable, the mutule beds (the square blocks attached to the underside of the projecting cornice) show a shortcut technique of drilling holes into a block of wood instead of laboriously fitting pegs as was done in Greek architecture. (p.75)
In contrast (p.76), the tower and belfry exhibit properly classical forms---including properly hand-crafted mutule beds---and follows pattern books (p.76).
In addition the entablature below the cornice of the tower has the properly formed classic triglyphs (three slots carved into a wooden block) and metopes (the flat spaces between them) derived from Greek Doric temples as found in the pattern books. (p.76)
But then again
Typical of American practice, the spiral volutes are etched in a flat plan of wood instead of carved from a solid block. (p.76)
One of the more interesting details of the tower is the awkward use of quarter-round egg-and-dart molding just below the spiral volutes. ... The unusual use of quarter-round moldings implies that the builders use leftover pieces of precut || moldings in this lofty location where on one would notice the difference. (pp.76-77)
The reliance of pattern books extending to the outside is most evident with the dormers; here, no adaption was done, but the design of Benjamin's Practical House Carpenter from 1830, Plate 32, was copied wholesale (p.77).

Beginning November 1835, Brigham and Joseph Young began with the installation of the windows (p.78). Brigham Young was a carpenter, painter and glazier before coming to Ohio (p.78).
The two brothers built the frames and installed and glazed the original windows, which are currently stored in the basement of the temple. These windows show typical construction techniques of the 1830s, with the mullions and sashes joined by small mortise and tenon connections. The Young brothers were highly skilled craftsmen: the curved mullions and frames of the Gothic windows and the elliptical shapes in the windows of the facades must have been difficult to produce with simple hand planes. (p.78)
Despite the disaffection between Bump and Smith, Bump was hired on November 9th, 1935, at $1,500 to plaster the interior of the temple---possibly, because no one else possessed the skill (p.78). Bump used fires in the earthen crawl-space of the lower floor to hasten the drying, but that was too dangerous, so the Temple committee hired another man to install stoves in the cellar and place twelve cylinders into the temple, to heat the house until April (p.78).

For the Artemus Millett and Lorenzo Young and their team of men tasked with applying the stucco, such interior heating did little (p.78). But they worked from November 2nd, 1835 to January 8th, 1836, in inclement weather (p.78), and produced a durable finish (p.79). The stucco mixed with glass and earthenware was somehow special in Millett's mind, because he insisted that it had been inspired by revelation, but what exactly was unusual about it is unclear (p.79). The men rounded up the majority of the broken crockery and glassware from the surrounding cities (p.79).
After Millett and his crew finished applying the "hard finish" to the outside of the temple, Joseph Young painted blue shadow lines to imitate cut-stone masonry. (p.79)
The roof was done in orderly shingles, painted red by a "red lead pigment dissolved in linseed oil, as it was readily available in large quantity and was not prone to fading in the sunlight like some pigments" (p.79).

As the parts of the temple reached completion, they were pressed into service. Joseph Smith Jr gave final directions for the attic space on December 31st, 1835 and picked the west office as his private study (p.79). Starting January 4th, 1836, the School of the Prophets began meeting in the attic (p.79), which must have been noisy with the continuing construction.

On February 22nd, 1836, Brigham Young began supervising the painting of the upper and lower courtyards (p.80).

Religious Life and the Kirtland Temple

Robison describes the temple "vails" or curtains, which were called so in allusion to the Solomonic forerunners, and which the Saints could raise or lower through an elaborate roller and pulley system. (p.85) Hooks in the ceiling could shut off rows of pulpits (p.87). Because of the curvature of the ceiling the middle curtain could not be rolled up all the way (p.88), looking somewhat awkward aesthetically. The ropes came to the seats hiding the cranks concealed, and other ropes were hidden in the columns, which were eight-by-eight timbers encased in wooden panels to a size of fifteen by fifteen (p.88). The pulleys were made of cast iron and fixed into the wood with machine-cut nails (p.90). The drums and cranks were mounted on the timbers, behind small doors. In the case of the pulpits, the raised seats were extended to the columns, to allow the ropes to come out of the columns and travel to a pulpit seat, where the crank and the drum were hidden (p.90). From the fact that the workers had to drill their way through the wooden supports at time it is clear that the pulley system was an after-thought solved in an ad-hoc fashion. 

Bibliographic Record

Elwin C. Robison, The First Mormon Temple: Design, Construction and Historic Context of the Kirtland Temple, Provo UT (Brigham Young University Press), 1997.

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