tv American Artifacts CSPAN December 27, 2014 10:00am-10:31am EST
to join us in the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. >> 200 years ago on december 24th, 1814, the treaty of ghent was signed by negotiators from great britain and the united states, eventually bringing the war of 1812 to an end. next on american artifacts, we visit the octagon museum and the treaty room where president madison signed the agreement two months later on this table in 1815. we joined a tour of the museum with a group of belgians who travel to the octagon to mark the anniversary with a gift of several hybridized treaty of ghent rose plants. >> hi, i'm helene and i have the honor of being the president of
the american institute of architects for 2014, which is now the steward of this historic pretty at the corner of 18th street and e street. it is the location of the signing of the treaty of ghent, and we are celebrating the 200th anniversary here today with our friends from belgium who have come to honor us with their presence. [applause] >> of course, this is a privilege to be here and offer this special rose, that normally blooms from october to november. it has been cultivated here in america. it's from chicago. we hope it will have a long time for many generations to come. the culture of roses was not very well known in europe before. yes, roses were always special. can even find them back in egypt, back alone 5,000 years ago. but it's only with josephine the culture of the roses start.
she had a lovely house. maybe not as lovely as this one but she wanted it surrounded by roses. it's this way the roses became popular. >> yellow rose is actually rosa treaty of ghent was a gift that had been developed by the belgians to commemorate the signing of the treaty because of the fact roses symbolize peace. marley the yellow rise. at the time they offered this gift to us in the united states but in 1814 roses had not been hybridized so it didn't live another year. it was only one year's worth of a rose and beautiful and it was gone. in this year the 200th anniversary of the original signing, their horticulture and botanical society decided to provide another hybridized version which they could plant here in our garden.
>> we gathered with them to discuss a little about the history of the signing about the organization, the american institute of architects and also to hear from them about their visit and the importance of their role in the signing of the treaty 200 years ago. all of the belgians for the most part had not seen it before so they were interested in viewing the home. the tour guide for this event was ray reinhart. he is the director of special projects for the american institute of architects and is himself a learned historian and wonderful expert on the octagon and in fact everything related to the a.i.a.
he started by sharing some of what the family would have used the house or how it was used particularly by the madisons in addition to taylor family, of course, the original owners. >> let's go down and meet in the entryway. i want to talk about this incredible man, mr. thornton in the building of this house. the taylors think it will be in philadelphia so they buy a big piece of land in philadelphia. big mistake. the capital will be washington, d.c., straggling north and south, bringing the two of them together. and they hire -- actually washington hires lawfont to do a design for a new democratic city. as i told some of you a few weeks ago i was in brugia,
wonderful place, gorgeous place. it was not designed rationally. it was designed as it grew as commerce moved around, as canals were built. this city was meant to be an expression of the age of enlightenment. this would be democratic republic where people were no longer subject but citizens. as citizens they would use their heads and how do you make that point? you design your city with straight lines, with circles, with diagonals. what is the big science -- this is my quiz to you. what is the big science in the 18th century? >> math. >> mathematics and geometry. newton, think of that. so this is the highest peak of human endeavor. you're going to create a capital for a democratic society that reflects that. i often say to people when i take them on tours, you can make
an argument, i don't, helene -- you can make an argument that there are great buildings in washington, d.c. but here's a great plan and it's under your feet and it dictates how everything works in this new york avenue, diagonal that comes in here and roman grid that goes in this particular direction. what does this have to do with thornton? if i took an x-ray of this house, what you see is a procession of diagonals, of rectangles, all geometrical shapes. this house, architect at the time, person who designed this city, were all influenced by the ideas of the age of enlightenment. this is not your typical farmhouse with little additions coming on to it. this is a ration construction. you come into what?
a perfect shape, the circle. and then off into these rectangles. your closets are the triangles. we met in the parlor. and if you're coming into this house, i should say something about mr. thornton, yes. architects were not educated as architects but anybody intelligent and bright in the 18th century studied music, studied archeology, studied architecture. thornton, who had quaker parents, who said, dab ling in the arts is not a very practical thing for a quaker. go into medicine. that's why he's called dr. thornton. but he was fascinated with architecture. he comes to the country when doing competitions. so he puts in the competition for u.s. capital and wins. first architect of the u.s. capital. when they hire the architects, they were basically hiring the
frank aaron of the day. imagine this, chief architect in belgium who designed the palace is now designing your house. that gives you a little sense of that. they looked at the pattern books. it was not educated as architect but neither was jefferson. jefferson was very interested in architect as was washington. jefferson and washington would have these conversations about what washington should look like. should it be made out of brick? that's jefferson, much more humble republican. should it be marvel and granite? that was george washington because it's going to last the ages. washington points out to jefferson, i am president. and therefore we have a city of marble and granite, et cetera. this house designed thornton. juan little anecdote about
thornton. he becomes an american citizen. 1812. citizens are building the public building, not the private building and they're going to burn the patent office. the first director of the patent office is dr. thornton. as british are coming up with their torches and ready to burn this, he had gotten the papers out but couldn't get the models back. thornton comes out of the shadows and says take me to your commanding office. they take him to his commanding officer. he says to the commanding officer, and you will be that at this point, if the british burn this down, you will have the same reputation of the turks that burned down the library of alexandra. it would not work today in afghanistan or ukraine but it did work in washington, d.c. and british pulled back and first patent office was not burned, thanks to mr. thornton. he keeps coming up. let's go upstairs, when we get
upstairs, when we get in the treaty room, i will tell you a few thing about what happens on the third floor. any questions you might have, ask. mind your step going up and particularly when we're coming down. this was mrs. taylor's dressing room. all of her clothes were in here. triangle-shaped room. this was the master bedroom. and what they would do, which all of you know was common in the 18th century, special guests when they came in the early morning could upstairs and sit with her in bed and have some tea and chat about whatever was happening. the nursery was located between the office and this room. mrs. taylor had not one, not five, not ten, 15 children.
15. 15. good home. she did not keep all of them in here at one time because it would have been like the old lady living in the shoe. the youngest ones were upstairs. they had a tutor and their classes upstairs. mrs. taylor's mother would come and stay in one of the rooms whenever her daughter was lying in, which she was very frequently. what did they do with the other kids? they in a sense figuratively farmed them out. taylors had this wonderful plantation mount air yi, also designed by thornton in virginia. you take older ones who could learn about farming, et cetera, out there and you could also introduce them to the young swains and young dam sells and hope they would intermarry into other very important family.
this all sounds very familiar, doesn't it? that increases your revenue and whatever. the nursery was there. and on the other side of that would be his wardrobe. he would be in his office, where we will go shortly, where president madison did his work so he's working in his short sleeves or his underwear, whatever and the butler said somebody important from belgium is here. give him too to go to the door and put on his clothes. by him upstairs and upstairs comes and they have the meeting. let's go to the office, treaty room, which is in many ways the focus of what you're all here about.
he could go in there to get his clothes and go in there to get his sherry so when he had a guest, he couldn't lubricate the business conversation that was going on. this was the table upon which the treaty of ghent was signed. not having an ipad in his days, it would be alphabetical in whatever you needed and affairs of state were a little less complicated so you could pretty much figure it out in a round table. the box in which the treaty came is behind you. so the americans come with this and knock on the door and war, by the way, not going well for americans. new england was not happy about the war. they saw it as the southern. the south was interested in
florida which was also under british-spanish protection, they were interested in everything west and also for some crazy reason interested in canada. the reason i say crazy is canada was filled with people chased out of the new united states, loyalists. why anybody in washington would have thought when the american troops went over the border and said here we are to liberate you, anybody would have been happy. actually we have four combatants in the war of 1812. we have indians allied with the british because the british promised them the buffer state that would have been ohio, michigan, indiana. there were the canadians being invaded. there were the british who had bigger things to deal with. napoleon and not this. and the americans. indigents were the big losers. canadians were the big winners.
that's the beginning of the nation's state. they're getting a he sense of their own separate identity. americans needed the war to end because once napoleon was out of the way, the full force of the british could come in and they did. washington was burned. baltimore was under attack. the name was occupied by the british. and the new englanders were so upset with the closed ports that they actual will you contacted, governor of massachusetts contacts the english commander and said listen, we will do a special truce with you, special peace! and a group of new englanders that in hartford, connecticut, with the idea of suck suggestion. that's why the book president drysdale gave today was called the first civil war.
you see the big fracture between north and south at that point. the treaty ended with major american victory on lake champlain and andrew jackson in new orleans. in fact the treaty simply brought back everything the way it existed in 1812. so here is madison. here comes the horsemen with that. servants and everybody begin to yell peace, peace and place goes ballistic. there are parties, all of the liquor is brought out. it's a huge celebrate. a house filled with light because there was darkness all over the place. smoldering ruins of the white house, capital, et cetera. one thing to understand about the importance of this house, and it took me a while to understand it, the legislative
and judicial branches were destroyed. the supreme court was in the capital building at that time. that's gone. executive office was destroyed. that's gone. who's going to be ambassador? who's going to sign treaties? who's going to do day-to-day work of keeping the country going? by moving into this house, washington and the united states continued. another little footnote, up until that point they began to be a movement to relocate the nation's capital farther west because the united states when it was founded basically north-south country but it began to move out west. we should have a more central location. think of new york state in albany. that's why albany is there rather than manhattan being the state capital. the burning of washington was, i would argue, 19th century equivalent of 9/11 for this country. when that happened, people here
said we're not going to move west, we're going to rebuild, we're going to stay here. nobody's going to chase us out. same thing about the country. this was hung by a spider web. that was here with mr. madison doing his thing, and dolly, extraordinary woman, dolly madison, bringing people from all different parties and all different countries together in these incredible things and didn't you used to phrase dolly's -- i bet you didn't. commentators called these parties and you think you are a lot of people here, three times as many in this house with the liquor flowing freely, they called them dolly's squeezes. there was dolly with her turban and pet parrot. because when dolly was escaping from the white house, she had her tail out waiting for the americans to win, dinner was being prepared.
get out, get out now. advancing on the white house. she has gilbert portrait ripped out of the frame, rolled up, given to slave boy to hide in a farm in maryland. she brings her parrot, some say macaw, over to this house where the french ambassador was tell tore rarely located with the french flag flying outside, so the british would not mess around with that or for that matter the parrot. everybody comes together, parties, life, light and an absolutely dark city. incredible story and why this building is so unbelievably significant. you look at it from an hour glass of that revolution. a tiny thin point was 1814.
another point, of course, was the civil war. just as lincoln insisted that was the capital and the iron not be used for cannons but united states was last, madison in a similar way said we would rebuild. that was an extraordinary story and we are so grateful that you understand it and appreciate it, celebrate it and treasure it along with us. we're going to go downstairs. i said that dr. thornton was a quaker. quakers were opposed to slavery.
this is the area in which the slaves and servants worked. he made sure that there were high ceilings. he made sure that the walls were whitewashed. he made sure that there were windows in there. he made sure that they didn't have to go outside to get water because what you see here was there was a well. housekeeper would live in there, if you watched out in europe, downstairs servants would get together and talk about the people upstairs and problems they were having with the baker and all of this. this was the nerve center really. i mean, the nerve center for the government was the treaty room. nerve center for this house was in this room with where the housekeeper was. you see what i'm saying about the cool air being down here. normally they didn't occupy these houses in the summertime. they would go out to plantation the way people go out hampton or god knows where to get out of the hot city.
but in the winter time they came here and this was the only here, here. no other houses. social life of washington, d.c., right up to about 1810 or so, this was the only -- yes, there was a white house but that was burned so everybody was entertained here. what an extraordinary number of people to have come in here. again, i understand that image of the smaller children upstairs of the top leaning over the banister to see who was coming into the house that particular evening. i would take you in this room but i'm not because it's too small but i will tell you something about the room. if you looked at the brick of the room, you would see that it is very, very deteriorated. why? because that's where the liquor was kept. so there was a lot of traffic. back and forth bringing cider and wine and the beer because, trust me, the country was not founded by methodists.
everybody drank liberally. think about it, it was safer possibly to have a glass of cider to have a glass of water. one message that comes through about architecture is that what it says about what we value, thornton as anti-slavery creates a space like this for slaves. thornton has -- as an age of enlightenment person creates a house with all of these geometric shapes because this is how the citizens of a new republican are going to work. shake peers has a wonderful line about sermons and stones. you tack a little time to sit down and listen to what buildings have to say to you, they have wonderful stories to say. and it's been a real privilege for all of us to have this opportunity to share some of the stories. this place has more stories than
it has sides. and i never introduced myself, ray reinhart, by the way, senior director, special projects. [applause] >> ray talked in his tour so much about the nature of this home as a bright and shining beacon of -- of freedom and patriotism and the country and continuation of the government with everything else literally dark. because it had been burned down and, knack, at night it would have been absolutely aglow because of all of the windows, windows are very large and panes are individually very sizable for the period in america. at that time most people could not afford large window panes. so windows were very small and they would never have likewise been able to afford the number
of windows and size of the windows in total. so the taylors were a wealthy family. had sizable plantation on the northern neck in virginia. so they were enough well to do to be able to afford such an unusual feature. so that, along with the plan, along with the use of other really fine materials in and usual shapes because of the curves. a lot of the brick word is curved. even pieces of glass are curved. there are doors that are curved, which were done through the use of team. all of these things were really innovative and very unusual at the time and make this house
very, very special. this house was built at the same time as the u.s. capital and the white house. so because of the limited number of laborers, workers in plaster and masonry and other crafts people, the same individuals would have worked on all three locations. they would have just moved from one to the other as their work progressed. well, those other two, as you recall, were burned. which means that the octagon is the only enduring physical structure that, in fact, has retained those original building materials. the way they were installed when the home was first built. those amazing craftspeople's work is still in place just as it was when it was built around 1800. we're just a block and a half from the white house so it's a very important part of washington, d.c. and it's a
wonderful tribute to this occasion and will be a lasting memory for us to have the roses here as a reminder of our special friendship [applause] >> i thought that the remarks of the governor when he was speaking were so poignant because in fact it's such a symbol now to us and our country that he felt maybe others around the world would benefit from the gift of such rise of peace. >> americans and canadians, together with the british, all over the world alike, 200 years of peace. when we visit tomorrow, we will not see a president because we're again at war. next to the wars all over the world, israel and ukraine give
us new concerns. let us send them the treaty. it took more than eight months to sign it on christmas eve 1814. but it was worth it. it was worth it so we came here to confirm this with a peace flower, a rose. maybe we should send this rose to all of the world seats in the world. >> it was an honor from the have them with us and to receive this gift from them that is so symbolic. goodwill, gesture of we gave each individual a long stemmed yellow rose. this will remind them throughout the day of the shared respect
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