Spreading Seeds of Beauvoir Everywhere

I spent more than I normally do to buy this postcard outright off of eBay recently–it’s the Mississippi Building at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, and as you can see, at least from this vantage point, it’s a pretty good imitation of Beauvoir. The card itself is also interesting, as it’s written in French and mailed to the Seine in France. I know I just went to France, but that doesn’t mean I understand the note–who can translate for us?

According to Terry’s 1904 World’s Fair Page, where you can find pictures and information about all the buildings at the Fair:

The structure faced Commonwealth Boulevard and had for neighbors the Iowa, New Jersey and Indian Territory buildings. Sentiment having guided the commissioners in designing the State building, the people of Mississippi foresaw an opportunity to bring before the World’s Fair visitors their store of historic treasures. The interior had been converted into a veritable museum of the Southland. Household articles loaned by the widow of the President of the Confederacy, heirlooms which had been in the Davis family for a hundred years prior to the Civil War, and rare bits of furniture, important because of their connection with the “lost cause,” furnished the building. Visitors found each room furnished just as the original was before the death of Mr. Davis, and most of the furniture was that used for years by the family. The library, bedroom and dining hall were almost intact, every article of silverware and crockery having been brought from “Beauvoir.”

I can’t find this verified online, but I remember reading, I think in the recent Theodore Link exhibit brochure, that Link was the architect of this reconstructed Beauvoir. This makes sense, if true, because as you recall, Link was the architect of the recently completed Mississippi State Capitol and he lived in St. Louis. “Beauvoir II” wasn’t the only building Link worked on at the Fair–a much grander display of his talents was the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy, whose style was not named in the Fair booklet but was described as being “a distinct departure from that of the other buildings.”

You never know where you’ll find interesting pieces of Mississippi architecture and strange-but-true stories that lead you places you never expected!

05-07-2013 the Biloxi Daily Herald listed J. F. Barnes as the Contractor for the Mississippi Building at the fair.  Barnes might have come into this gig due to his connections with the structures architect, Theo. Link.  Barnes time spent working on the New Capitol would have brought him into contact with Link.

Biloxi Daily Herald Sept. 2 1903 Vol 6 Issue 15 PG 2

Biloxi Daily Herald Sept. 2 1903 Vol 6 Issue 15 PG 2

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Categories: Architectural Research

8 replies

  1. Great article! Is it known if any of these buildings still exist or even a set of plans? I know fair buildings were often built of temporary materials, but I’ve heard stories of the smaller buildings being sold and moved off after an exhibition.


  2. I don’t know anything about whether this or any other building is still around. I know the main buildings at these exhibitions were barely more solid than paper mache, so they would all have been torn down pretty quickly, but you’re right, these smaller buildings might have been candidates for moving off. That site Terry’s 1904 Worlds Fair Page doesn’t indicate one way or the other.


  3. “The Fair is wonderful . . . wish you were here”?

    I can tell that I’m out of practice reading handwritten notes on archived documents – which combined with my now rusty French reading & translating skills means I’d have to devote some extra time in working out the actual message. From a cursory look, however, nothing stands out in the message that indicates that the sender is commenting on the building itself – which would have been nice to see. My historian side (the one that admits to “stalking dead people”) also really kicks in wondering what drew a Frenchman to the MS building anyway – at least, enough to purchase and send a postcard of it to someone back home.


  4. I asked my tri-lingual professor friend to give it a try. Here’s his answer:

    “As best I can tell (the handwriting is hard to read and some of it faded) it’s a postcard mailed in April, 1904, from the World’s Fair in St. Louis. It’s a conventional tourist card, addressed to someone named Bernard and inquires if the recipient is in good health and hopes he or she will remain that way.”

    He was interested in how a picture of a Mississippi building ended up on a World’s Fair postcard.


  5. Well figures it was a prosaic message–I was hoping for some drama! Thanks for getting the translation though–that’s helpful.

    You and J.R. both ask the question that didn’t even occur to me–why would some guy from France have this particular postcard when surely the big spectacular buildings would have been more photogenic and awe-inspiring? Well, I have two theories: either he recognized the innate value in Beauvoir’s classic simplicity, over against the more gaudy displays on the fairway; or, less complimentary, Mississippi was giving away its postcards. I have to admit, the second one sounds more like the Mississippi I know and mostly love.


  6. I had not thought about it until just now, but maybe because of the name Beauvoir–which I just looked up and found out is French for “beautiful view.” Perhaps a Frenchman was inspired by Mississippi naming something in his language?


  7. Except that there’s no mention of Beauvoir on the postcard.


  8. Theo. Link’s entry in the “Brief Biographies of American Architects Who Died Between 1897 and 1947” on the SAH website gives credit of this Beauvoir copy to him. :-)



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