As you may recall, I’ve been spending my rare and valuable-only-to-me spare time in the microfilm version of the Vicksburg Evening Post at MDAH, so I might be bugging y’all with quotes from one-hundred-year old articles from time to time. I couldn’t pass up this one, evidence not only of reporters’ usual vague understanding of architectural terminology but also of the snarkiness that was very common in newspapers of the day, before they took themselves so seriously. It’s not often though that the snark ventures into architectural criticism, so this is a rare gem of the genre.
To set the stage, the Vicksburg American (1901-1910) was the Post‘s chief competitor, and at least on the Post’s side, they made no bones about their disdain. (At some point, I need to find the American article the Post took such exception to and also see if the American made a riposte.) I found a postcard image of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in the MDAH Cooper Postcard Collection for you to form your own opinions about the American‘s architectural analysis and of the Post‘s critical response. As is often the case in writing of this time period, offensive racial stereotypes make their way into the article right at the beginning, so be warned.
Vicksburg Evening Post, Nov. 15, 1905. p.6
Now that the yellow fever epidemic is almost a thing of the past, the “American” can spare the space it formerly devoted to arguments that there was no yellow fever in the city (and if there was any it was of a very harmless variety) to other subjects that it knows little about. It will be remembered that the American endeavored to fortify its policy as to the fever with the opinions of ignorant colored persons, and so now when the American discusses architecture we are compelled to believe that it gets some of its information from a similar ignorant source.
In its issue of last Saturday, in referring to prospective improvements for St. Paul’s Catholic Church in this city, the American had the following wonderful sentence:
The exterior of this edifice (St. Paul’s) is churchly. Its style is a mixture in architectural design, combining the Ionic, German doric with English buttress, and withal the most churchly building in the city.
This specimen of “monumental” ignorance in regard to the various forms of architecture will appall Messrs. Stanton and Donovan of this city, and is sufficient to cause some of the great deceased architects to turn in their graves. St. Paul’s Church is not a combination of “Ionic, German doric with English buttress.”
From the days of the cave-dwellers to the present time, there never has been such a thing in architecture as “German doric,” neither has there been such a thing as “English buttress.” The “Ionic” style of architecture was developed in ancient Greece, as was also the “Doric.” But St. Paul’s Church in this city has no “Ionic,” “German doric,” nor “English buttress” in its composition. The Church is about as handsome and as consistent a specimen of the “Gothic” style as can be found in the South.