At the turn of the 20th century, West Virginia was in the throes of its formative years as a state. After more than two decades of alternating its government seat between Wheeling and Charleston and the destruction of the Gothic Revival Capitol in Charleston by fire in 1921, a building commission was formed to create a permanent Capitol that would display the young state’s pride, wealth, and sophistication to the entire nation. To achieve these goals, the legislature approved a budget of more than $6.5 million for the design and construction of this statehouse, and the commission appointed by the governor hired internationally renowned Cass Gilbert as its architect.
Cass Gilbert’s West Virginia State Capitol narrates the intricate story behind this architectural feat. Its close examination of the design, construction, and execution of this commission not only reveals the social, political, and financial climate of West Virginia during this period but also provides insight into the cultural importance of this public building. As Gilbert’s design process is traced through unpublished documentation, drawings, and letters from several archives, the more than 100 accompanying photographs—many historical and others newly commissioned for this book—divulge the subtle beauty of the Capitol complex. At the same time, an extensive analysis of historical and contemporary illustrations and primary sources further elucidates the architectural value of this structure.
With welcoming remarks by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and State Senator Brooks F. McCabe Jr., a prologue by art historians Bernard Schultz and Mary L. Soldo Schultz, and an epilogue by Chad Proudfoot, this revealing and comprehensive study examines the importance of this often overlooked architectural accomplishment, solidifying its significance as a socio-political symbol as well as its place within the history of American public architecture.
Ann Thomas Wilkins retired as associate professor of Classics at Duquesne University. She is author of Villain or Hero: Sallust’s Portrayal of Catiline. David G. Wilkins is professor emeritus of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He served as both director of the University’s Art Gallery and as chair of the department. In 2005 he was honored by the College Art Association with its national Award for the Distinguished Teaching of Art History.
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Cass Gilbert’s West Virginia State Capitol
March 2014 / 368pp / 114 photographs / HCJ 978-1-938228-46-9 / $44.99
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