Our 2014 issue of the FODYLL Bulletin has been mailed to the FODYLL membership. Much of the copy of this issue of the Bulletin is devoted to the renovation of Herring-Cole Hall, and the role Herring-Cole can now play as a contemplative space on the SLU Campus. We also delved into the archives to find material on the history of the building, and one of the documents we found was a “discursive report” written in 1968 by Paul Malo for the New York State Council on the Arts. His descriptions of the interior of Herring-Cole is florid, but in the best possible sense of that word. Here is the portion of Mr. Malo’s text that we included in the Bulletin:
In terms of style, the eclectic quality of the work is characteristic of the turn-of-the-century. It is eclectic in the truest sense: not simply find expression in the language of a particular historic style, rather it combines stylistic elements from various periods freely. A generation ago academic architects regarded such a want of consistency as evidencing a lack of knowledge or of taste. To-day, we are more inclined to recognize the inventiveness of such architecture, and to find visual delight in the juxtaposition of forms. The Cole Reading Room is a creative work. Its architect is unknown, but a dynamic quality characterizes the vigorous design.
This large wing, a single room inside, was related outside to the Herring Library in material and alignment of elevations, and it is harmonious in general effect. The character provides an interesting contrast, however. Where the earlier work is modest in scale and restrained in execution, the new twentieth century statement expresses affluence and self-confidence. The bold assurance of this design suggests the bravura of Teddy Roosevelt’s muscle-flexing nation.
Perhaps the first impression of the building from this aspect is of its sumptuous richness: the vivid color of the sandstone, so unusual for a building is heightened by stained glass and slate roof with a rich metal cresting. The principal entrance elevation counterplays a great wheel window above a magnificent classical portico, framing a pair of massive wood doors of Second Empire Renaissance design. The stylistic unrelatedness of the elements seems to set them off in a new context, and it was probably the intent of the architect so to combine elements in surprising combination, as a poet casts words.
The fenestration and cornice of the side elevations are somewhat neo-classical in design, but are again more inventive that derivative, combining small casement sash at the lower level with larger groups of double-hung ash above. The change of scale is effective in enhancing the monumental appearance of the structure.
The interior of the new wing, as its name, the Cole Reading Room, implies, is a single high space, but in reality, the actual size is not so great as the impressiveness of the design suggests. The scale of the interior elements is quite small, so that the whole appears quite grand. Again, the first impression is of richness. There is lavish use of golden oak woodwork, with wainscoting, fluted Corinthian columns supporting an oak railed mezzanine and bookcases at the upper level. But the principal features are the elaborate hammerbeam trusses of the roof with decorative metal tie rods. The ceiling, following the slope of the roof is sheathed in wood. Some original lighting fixtures remain, of brass with glass shades.
The room is well lighted by windows on each side, at floor and mezzanine levels, and by the great stained glass wheel window above the entrance. At the lower level, under the mezzanine, small alcoves are defined by the gallery columns, and small casement windows are appropriately placed here. These intimate spaces contrast effectively with the lofty central space.
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