Hidden in Plain Sight, II:

Artists, Artisans, and Craftsmen of Norfolk’s Golden Age of Architecture

January 8th – 26th, 2017

Forty years ago, architectural critic and Norfolk summer resident Brendan Gill offered a significant reassessment of the town’s architectural heritage in a chapter of the Waldecker History of Norfolk 1900-1975. Fresh from his successful fight to save New York’s Grand Central Terminal (designed by Warren & Wetmore, 1903-1913), Gill drew attention to the architectural importance of the town’s late 19th and early 20th century buildings. He concluded his chapter with a list of “indispensable” 20th century landmarks of Norfolk’s “Golden Age of Architecture,” many of which were at that time in a state of neglect. On view at the Norfolk Historical Museum during the summer of 2016, this exhibition features some of the remarkable public buildings commissioned by Norfolk’s civic-minded patrons in the period 1880 to 1930, especially the details of their stunning artistry and craftsmanship.

While the elegant new buildings are well known today, not everyone is aware of their high-quality embellishments. These are right there in plain sight, if one knows where to look. Artists and artisans of the highest caliber such as Maitland Armstrong, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens were commissioned to work here in stained glass and bronze. Craftsmen skilled in stone, wood, and terra cotta contributed important details.

Brendan Gill concluded his chapter with this plea: Learn what is precious, and fight to preserve it! Forty years later, we are aware of the importance of historic preservation. Although some of the buildings of Norfolk’s Golden Age of Architecture are lost to us, others have been or are being lovingly restored to protect and preserve this extraordinary legacy.