Obligatory throat-clearing stuff at the top of the page that serves to put some distance between the big graphic and the smaller graphic that serves as the introduction to the Wednesday feature!

And it's a new one. The graphic, I mean. Last minute. I might come up with something else, but for now . . .













I got tired of grumpy, depressed Elmer. He's been the face of the Screeds for over a decade.

I mentioned that I’d been doing something a bit different on Wednesdays, where the Screedy things usually go. Something that stands for something more than against something else, although I’ll bet you’ve been able to infer where I stand in general.

This news was a surprise:

RECORD has obtained what appears to be a preliminary draft of the order, under which the White House would require rewriting the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, issued in 1962, to ensure that “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for new and upgraded federal buildings. Entitled “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” the draft order argues that the founding fathers embraced the classical models of “democratic Athens” and “republican Rome” for the capital’s early buildings because the style symbolized the new nation’s “self-governing ideals” (never mind, of course, that it was the prevailing style of the day).

Fantastic! And of course, that’s because I’m a Nazi. But we’ll get to that.

Long-term readers know I am deeply interested in architecture, and am not bound by theory or fashion or the popularity of an idea or style. There’s good in every style, and I can appreciate the buildings I don’t like by attempting to understand them in context. There were buildings that seemed like fun at the time, but have aged poorly - the early overcalled cartoony post-modernist stuff, for example. The International Style produced some beautiful skyscrapers, but soon became a default style for corporate HQs, and ended up simply filling out the zoning envelope. The mirror-glass buildings of the 70s brought a new lightness and beauty to the skyline, but just as the International Style was overused, so did the collection of glass boxes make a skyline lose its character.

And so on. The only style I reject completely is Brutalism, because it deserves to be scorned and mocked. It has many advocates these days, and I don’t know if they’re being contrary to get attention and Strange Respect, or their aesthetic calibrations are so out of whack they find solace in an anti-human assemblage of concrete shapes the color of filthy snow.

What brought this on: the . . . Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, brought to you by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The Moynihan standards advised against a national style: “The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government. and not vice versa. The Government should be willing to pay some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in design of Federal buildings.”

In other words, let’s see what the boys with the drafting tables and T-squares can do! Thousand flowers, and all that. I understand the rationale, and perhaps he was worried that the prevailing government style of 1962 - cautious, rote - would be stamped out all over the country.

Like this:

That's my 1962 local post office, edited over time.

He wanted more diversity, but the era was not about architectural diversity. It was about conforming to a style that stripped everything down to its supposedly pure shape, without historical embellishments.

Conformity in government architecture wasn't new. There had been de facto styles before, and the results were good. The buildings may not always have been great, but the effect they had on towns small and large was significant. The Federal Classical style brought some Roman grandeur to downtowns across the country; in the 30s, WPA Moderne post offices shook up the landscape with futuristic structures that pointed to a new technocratic era of machine-enabled solutions.

In both cases there wasn’t a lot of diversity within the style, because both styles had an accepted set of rules and styles of decoration. For example, this was the Post Office in Fargo when I was growing up.

Standard as it gets, but I remember always being awed by the place: columns! It felt older than it was.

Then, after the standards were relaxed, Fargo got a new Federal building.

It was, and is, a bad building.

That’s what you build when your main contact with the public consists of firing arrows down at them.

Later, another Federal building. This one’s next to the first one.

It’s not spectacular, or innovative - but it's a good neighbor, and was a surprise at the time because it wanted to be a good neighbor. It’s the exact same height; it has columns to reference the adjacent building, and the design is informed by the classical vocabulary.

So the new guidelines promise more of #3 and less of #2, in other words. No buildings designed to chase whatever mutated butterfly of style is flitting around at the moment, and will look tired and silly in a decade.

As you might imagine, this is a problem.

Why? Because white nationalists have decided to champion traditional architecture, for obvious reasons, and this miiiiight be what the administration was thinking: here, fellow Nazis! We’re on your side. We want pediments, too!

You have to be particularly paranoid to believe that a return to some traditional architecture motifs means you are an ethnic purist, or, as one Redditor implied on a thread about the matter, that your interest in preserving and defending Western Civilization could be a troubling code word for WHITEY WHITE WHITE FOLK.

I’ve no idea why they want to hand the idea of defending Western Civ to those idiots - unless of course they don’t wish to defend it themselves.

Hey, it's possible. Weve long had the standard intellectual cringe about being proud of the West - such provincialism was assumed to be the default mode of the rubes and boobs who knew little of its actual history, and knew even less of other cultures. It was a sign of a wise mind to hold your culture in amused contempt while enjoying absolutely every attribute it provided.

What the alternative was, they never could say, but it always bore a remarkable resemblance to Western Civ, except . . . better!

But no one will say “your preference for International Style suggests you secretly yearn for the collectivist social orders promulgated by the Fascists and Socialists of Mies’s ilk,” any more than expressing an affection for Federal Classicism means you want a Caesar or love of WPA Moderne means you cosplay as Buck Rogers at architectural forums. Traditional, however, will be viewed with suspicion, because of All The Politics Going On.

Here’s how it goes, it seems:

Phase one: dethrone the traditional urban modes of human organization, and replace them with soulless spaces devoid of historical references,

Phase two: when the people reject these spaces, plant some trees

Phase three: when the people show a preference for the DNA that made the old modes appealing, denounce them as revanchists who seek to turn their backs on progress

Phase four: act surprised when people are intrigued by horrible people who are saying the things you ought to be saying.

Note: it is important to completely reject the horrible people who are defending Western Civ for their own reasons. Admirers of Western historical aesthetic traditions and the Modernists ought to have common cause here. We all agree it was a sin to demolish Penn Station right? Just because the Adminstration's point man on the new architectural guidelines is in the forefront of the effort to rebuild Penn Station doesn't mean we shouldnt want the revival of that lamented loss, right?


Really? Penn Station is cancelled? Again?

Update: The comments are as expected.

"Is the Federal government really about to follow the path trod by the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and even Castro? It seems we may be adding architecture to the list of outrages, many far more profound, that are being perpetrated by our current administration in Washington."

"One of the common stages in the progress of fascism is, of course, the establishment of an "official" architectural style. Darker days are on the horizon both for our country and for architecture. The only solace is that history is never kind to fascism's collaborators, no matter how peripheral."

I don't know about that. Philip Johnson did quite well.






It’s 1930, and as you might be surprised to learn, the front page of this Florida paper had a story about golf:
“Ft. Lauderdale enjoys tourist boom.” Evergreen headline, that.
As well as “Illinois s in FIN’L trouble.”



Let's go down an old crime rabbit hole.

Third time = charm?


Looks like Hicks went all Rasputin on a dude:

William A. Hicks in July, 1927, at a special term of the Circuit Court for Broward County, was indicted for the murder of Robert R. Barber in August, 1925. The indictment contained four counts. The first charged that he killed Barber by stabbing and cutting him with a knife in the stomach and body; the second by shooting him with a pistol; the third by throwing him into a canal and drowning him, and the fourth by all the means as alleged in the three preceding counts.

As far as I can tell, Hicks met Barber when the latter was detained at the jail, and later employed him to work on his house, or houses. Because that’s oh so u-and-up. One witness said Barber tumbled to a liquor-running op, and that’s why he was dispatched. The new trial hinged on whether or not the body found was actually Barber in the first place; the jury, thus informed by the judge that they must consider Hicks not guilty if they didn’t believe the body had been proved to be Barber, set the lawman free.

“Wreathed in a wide smile.”
Yes, we have a better image. Astonishing what survives, isn't it?
It’s like they wore rubber dresses to the beach:
Don't know anything about her, because we don't know her name. I mean, back then, that was her name, but it wasn't.
The voice of this “authentic” local who is also a pilgrim is interesting; was that the cliche of the native Floridian at the time?
We don't associate today's "Florida Man" with this accent or sort of language.
You have the order of “things that don’t do much in the end” reversed there, friend
There was a cartoon about radio, because of course there would be! It was a national craze.

He is powerless to stop her from caterwauling.

No one would mistake that for the radio.

More “Amusements” of the day; it must have been a slight paper if this was all I clipped when I went through.




More “Amusements” of the day; it must have been a slight paper if this was all I clipped when I went through.

Note the little fact: one of those things newspapers used to fill up white space. I will always remember one in the Fargo Forum: “Ants will go to any lengths to get water.” Seemed rather ominous.

Hey, it’s Sam again! I am presenting these exactly in the order in which they were printed.

Yes, really. The exact order. Oops.

Finally, an ad from an organization I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about:


That'll do; see you hither and yon. Last of the Twenties magazine cover updates today.



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