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Source: Arthur Vinal / Edmund Wheelwright

Full titleArthur H. Vinal / Edmund March Wheelwright and the Chestnut Hill Pumping Station
DescriptionThis book arose from a need to understand one of late nineteenth century Boston’s most prominent buildings, the Chestnut Hill High Service Pumping Station, now the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum. It considers how such a municipally designed, high-style, Richardsonian Romanesque, yet also industrial, building came into existence. Arthur H. Vinal and Edmund March Wheelwright, its two architects working a decade apart, in 1884-88 and 1898-99 respectively, left a seamlessly unified building. They were never partners nor colleagues. But almost sequentially, in 1884-88 and 1891-95 respectively, each was given charge of the same large municipal architectural office. Each also began his professional career, again almost in sequence, with same important firm, Peabody & Sterns, after which each left Boston for a few years before returning. Wheelwright and Vinal came from different backgrounds and arguably had differing sensibilities. Vinal’s generally preferred style as City Architect was Richardsonian Romanesque — a mode Wheelwright never employed, except when extending Vinal’s Chestnut Hill Pumping Station. Remarkably, the written record suggests these two architects had no other connections, despite having both practiced, throughout their careers, in the guild-like world of Boston’s late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century architectural profession. They only had in common the Chestnut Hill High Service Pumping Station and the distinction of having been, for approximately four highly productive years each, Boston’s City Architect. There has been no previous study of either architect’s work. In Vinal’s case, except for his time as City Architect, his career and life left a scant written record. Almost none of his work was published. It is primarily known to us through municipal records, advertisements for constructor bids, and occasional references in newspaper articles. Other than his term as City Architect, which produced the major portion of the Chestnut Hill Pumping Station and a remarkable number of municipal buildings in a short time, his career was little different from those of many other successful, now largely forgotten, architects who contributed to the fabric of an expanding metropolitan Boston during its so called Golden Age from the Civil War through the First World War. Most of what he produced was conservative, well constructed row housing plus some multi-story buildings containing the then still novel “French flats.” In contrast, Wheelwright’s work was published. He was active and well respected at the highest levels of the profession, locally and nationally. Far more is known of his life and practice. Even in the relatively conservative milieu of metropolitan Boston, his work could not generally be called dramatic, although there were exceptions. Rather than simply representing an aesthetic exercise, his architecture was also informed by his predisposition to political and social reform. Perhaps as a result, while not unknown, he has not received the attention he deserves. The present study for the most part tells its stories visually. It is heavily illustrated. In addition to Vinal and Wheelwright, a third actor is touched upon, that is the City Architect’s Office, with its patronage and professional practice, and its evolution over the two decades — having been initially created as a good government reform in 1874 and finally abolished with, Wheelwright's support, for similar reasons in 1895. Without it, neither architect could have designed and built the prodigious number of buildings credited to them during their tenures. Lastly, this volume includes an attempt to produce catalogs raisonné of Vinal’s and Wheelwright’s known bodies of work — which, in each case, research for this study has significantly expanded.
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