Friday, August 17

A tower goes here

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The Hamilton Club is private in the center of Lancaster, a place where decisions get made over lunch. Understated authority... that's the way I see its design. Can you sense the impregnability that its builders were after? It's aged well, like Sean Connery - eh? Nothing girlish about it... Nor ugly. Someone said it looks smug. No... as Babe Ruth insisted, "If you can do it, it ain't boasting."

Apparently the club was built at the same time as my home. As you enter each, you're struck by a tile floor which is overall a deep garnet - the tiles are about an inch square. But there is an inner stroking of a darker color, and within that stroke there are a number of tiles which contain embedded designs. Now remember, the artists who created the tiles and laid down the flooring lived in the 1860s or thereabouts.... So the designs, I'm told, are taken from American Indian imagery. And one of the avatars is a reversed swastika! Apparently it was magical to the Conestoga Tribe who lived hereabouts for centuries before Columbus.

At any rate, people notice those tiles particularly, and frequently comment upon them in our foyer. They embarrass me, yet the flooring is historically accurate, the image is reversed, the workmanship is exquisite, and defacing it to remove those six or seven, inch-square tiles seems unthinkable. I'm particularly sensitive to them as I enter the Hamilton Club. Am I, and are they, insensitive to history by leaving them in place? Or are we sensitive to a greater regional history by not tearing them away?

At the moment we cover them with a throw rug in the entryway - which is no solution at all and hides the artistry of our 19th century floor. It is a puzzlement.

3 comments:

Chad Oneil said...

Very cool structure indeed.

Trub said...

Obviously, the symbolism was there before it was stolen. The userptation (?) of sacred or meaningful symbols for other uses does not negate their power. It is sad that the larger society does not understand this. Even language is diverted to suit tactical purposes. A common meaning for happy is now used with trepidation. I think you are true to a longer history by not allowing the force of PC to run itself through your life. If people can not accept that …well then….ya know. Are you using these symbols to preserve and perpetuate the darker side of mankind or are you proud of the Conestoga Tribe , the art work and the usefulness of the floor? I think I know the answer. Maybe you have a subject for some macro work. Just my thoughts…

Your choice of perspective for the tower is appropriate. An ominous sky with the sunlit ornamental façade bestows the power of the place. Authority is not conveyed quite that way today. Again it is symbolism of an era. Hmmmmmm……..

Ted Byrne said...

(Chad): While not particulary large, its scale is impressive in Lancaster where tall buidlings have been effectively banned by the inflexibility of a vocal minority with respect to anything which might add to the skyline.

(Trub): Thoughtful points Trub. About twenty years ago I commented that the restaurant in which we were sitting was nigardly in their butter service. Whoa! My associates, all my employees in Public Television wen't ballistic. I had a word specialist at Mriam Webster research the word and he told me it had Gaelic roots and no association in any way to the pjorative racial comment.

Regardless, it is a word which has been banned without discussion. BTW, all of the people at that table were graduates of Ivy League colleges. None of them had a clue re. the derivation of the word. Nor a care for its meaning or historical use.

And you were sharp to note the bridge between the assertiveness of the building and its derivation in another age.