Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

block, which at most was the third or half of a capital, is $500 more than the market value of an entire capital, stock, labor profit, and transportation.

The late day in the session in which this report is written precludes its being much more than an index to the testimony. But under this head of extravagant expenditures the committee call attention to the evidence relating to the prices paid for granite and work on the Treasury extension. Thus the contract was varied so as to have the antae constructed of one piece instead of three, with mouldings at top and bottom, which carry cost to the whole, and make them cost the government, per superficial foot, $12 40, or many times the cost in three pieces or in ashler work, while a frail, insecure structure is the consequence. By the terms of the contract it is the interest of the contractors to have the stones enlarged, while it is the interest of the government to have them small, both as a matter of cost and strength. The antae in three pieces would have cost $16,610, whilst they have cost $71,933 in one. The law of Congress required that the style of the old front of the Treasury on Fifteenth street should be followed in ornamentation and otherwise; yet the whole of the west wing is a mass of expensive ornamentation, finding its parallel, probably, in no granite building in the world, but all adding to the profit of the contractors and the expense of the government. Attention is called to the extravagant price paid to the contractors for the buttress caps of the south portico. There were four in the original design, but two are dispensed with. For these caps Mr. Clark recommended to the Secretary, as shown by his testimony, the payment of $5,500 each, upon the ground that the government was liable for $34, 104 51 each, and he further represented that $5,500 was the lowest price bid for those caps by any bidder. Mr. Oertley, the government computer admits that the rule whereby said stones could be made to cost, under the contract, $34,104 51, is a monstrosity, and Mr. Claskey calls it an absurdity on its face. Yet Mr. Clark gravely used it as an argument for the allowance of $5,500, and also declares that that is the lowest bid by any person for them. Yet it appears from the schedule in Doc. No. 96, page 10, and Doc. No. 41, page 6, that Edward Fawkes bid for the four buttress stones, $1,875, or $468 75 for one; so that the statement that $5,500 was the lowest bid was most remarkably incorrect. But by the same authority it will be seen that Beals & Dixon, the contractors, bid less than that amount, as did several other bidders. As shown very clearly by Mr. Claskey, the true valuation of the buttress caps under Beals & Dis: on's bid was $1,958 68, and that was a fair and liberal price.

The committee hesitate to characterize this transaction. Perhaps a partial explanation may be found by reference to the pages of his own testimony, which relate the preparatory training he had for the business of engineering all the public works of the United States. We are fain to be charitable enough to believe that the explanation is to be there found for his action in both this matter and that at Hastings.

A great wrong is done to the governmen and to bidders by the loseness in which proposals for government work are advertised for. Thus, in the work for the Treasury extension, which will cost the government as now prosecuted at least $4,000,000, if it does not reach $6,000,000, no schedule of quantities was given to accompany the proposale, and bidders were thus kept in the dark, while the opportunity was given to award the contract by any rule of construction the Bureau of Construction might give to it. That such a system tends to frauds no one can deny. We do not charge fraud in this instance, for we have not the evidence of it aside from the fact that we believe that Beals & Dixon were not the lowest bidders by any fair construction of the bids. As to the manner of advertising for bids, we call attention to the following, from the testimony of Mr. Oertley, the government computor:

“Question. Were you one of the computors who determined the quantities and values of the several bids in 1855 ?

“Answer. I prepared estimates which, I think, were used in making out the award.

“Question. Did you pass upon, and find Beals & Dixon's the lowest ? 6 Answer. Yes.

"Question. By your interpretation of the proposals and bids, did you find Beals and Dixon's the lowest?

** Answer. The superintendent decided the meaning of the propo. sals, and I had to follow his interpretation.

"Question. Was there a schedule of quantities given to accompany the proposals ?

" Answer. There was not.

"Question. Was it not necessary that there should be a schedule of quantities in order that bidders might bid understandingly ?

"Answer. In my opinion it was.

“Question. Did not the publication of proposals without a schedule of quantities, give an opportunity to those who interpreted the proposals and bids, to vary the quantities so as to give the contract to any bidder they saw fit, by requiring larger or smaller stock?

** Answer. Undoubtedly it did.

“Question. Was it not the duty of the architect to publish such a schedule in order to prevent such favoritism ?

• Answer. I think it was.
“Question. Who was the architect?

Answer. Mr. Young.” A system of building and contracting thus carried on does not need that the agents be dishonest to be ruinous to the principal. We can conceive of no excuse for the supervising architect for such neglect of obvious duty to his employer—the government. By varying the sizes of stock after the bids were received, and by construing the terms of the bids, Beals & Dixon were declared the lowest bidders, against Emery and others, who were really lower bidders. If there is any doubt upon this point, we refer to the careful analysis by Mr. Claskey, and the public documents referred to.

Under the head of extravagance, if it did not more properly come under the head of incompetency, we might refer to the slate roof shown in the testimony to have been put on the Treasury extension, which proved an utter failure, and had to be taken off again. In justice to Mr. Clark, we will state that he was a mere clerk at the time, and not engineer in charge; but it seems hard to understand how the supervising architect could allow the government to be put to thousands of dollars expense in so simple a matter as the slating of a roof, in the damage by the injured interior of the building, as well as the cost of another roof. Mr. Curtis explains that the slate was laid without breaking the joints, and, of course, it leaked as soon as rain fell.

In the same category would come the expensive heating apparatus of the Treasury extension, which proved an entire failure, and has been abandoned, though the iron perforated wash-board laid down for a mile or so through the rooms and passages still bears witness to the vagaries of the architect.

Perhaps a reference to the huge, unsightly gate-posts that obscure the view of the south front, and the swelled columns on the extension, when those of the original building are straight, might be mere criticism. The government might excuse a want of taste, provided it got a strong, durable building—a fit depository of its archives for the centuries. Upon this point your committee are compelled reluctantly to report that, in their opinion, the vast sums which have been and are being invested in the Treasury extension are nearly thrown away; that a structure is being erected superficial in all its pretensions to durability, and in violation of all safe or received rules of architecture. We are aware that the tall antaes or pilasters which stud the building; the slabs of granite between the antaes, set endwise, extending from the sill-course to the caps; and the wall face between the antaes or pilasters at the angles of the building-with two exceptions, made by setting a slab of granite endwise of the same length as the antae, (36 feet 6 inches)—have an imposing effect, and it may be difficult to make a superficial observer understand how such vast masses of granite can make the building insecure; but the system of putting in these large stones for the benefit of a contractor, or for any other motive, is a fatal mistake. The finish at the sides, over, under, and between the windows, simply butts against the antaes, making a continuous vertical joint from the base course to the facia of the architrave of the cornice, a height of full thirty-three feet. By this character of work all headers and binders are excluded from the walls, which prevents any bonding with the brick backing and the cross walls, and makes the whole unsubstantiai. To illustrate bra simple figure: Had the work been done in ashlar, as it is in all the other public buildings, in the Merchants’ Exchange, in New York, &c., it would resemble the brick work in a wall where each brick laps on to and is held by its neigbbor. As it is, each brick would exactly fit upon the one below and above it, with a vertical joint from bottom to top, and evidently insecure. The longer the antaes the more insecure the structure. The brick work behind is merely butted up to the granite; the granite cannot be bonded into the brick work,

for its back is smooth, instead of projecting, as it should, at frequent points into the brick work. The antae in the old front on Fifteenth street were in a number of pieces, and could thus be bonded into the wall, but they were not laid in asblar work, as they should have been, and as is done in all structures designed for ponderousness and durability. The matter was at the time made the subject of congressional inquiry, and an able report upon the subject was made by a select committee to the 25th Congress. That report embraces the opinion of Thomas U. Walter, Esq., of Philadelphia, an architect of great distinction, and superintendent of the construction of the Girard College in that city. Referring to this matter, Mr. Walter says:

“The second objection advanced is the weakness of the structure. My decided opinion in reference to this subject is that all the outside walls are entirely too thin and too weak for so large a vaulted building as the one in question. These walls should have been at least three and a half feet thick, exclusively of the projection of the antae, (or pilasters, as they are commonly called,) instead of which they are only two feet three inches. And here permit me to remark that the strength which would have been derived from these antaes, had they been constructed according to the principles of stereotomy, is not only lost by the manner in which they have been built, but the walls, which would have been too weak without them, are actually rendered weaker by their introduction. These antae, one of which occurs in every eleven feet around the building, should have been constructed in courses corresponding with those of the ashlar, so as to have formed a bond with it. But under existing circumstances, the whole bond of ashlar is cut off, from the bottom to the top of the building, on each side of every one of the antae, while the antae themselves afford little or no resistance to lateral pressure, being composed of large stones set on the end of each other, without a single cramp or tie to hold them to the ashlar, or a dowel to keep them in their places. We have therefore a straight joint on each side of every antae, extending its whole height, by which all the horizontal bond of the wall is de. stroyed, except that which is obtained from the filling in of the brick work, which is so reduced by the thickness of the ashlar as to afford but little strength.”

If any member of this House has any doubts after the testimony produced by the committee, and the authority cited, reference might be made to standard works of architecture; or he might be referred to the Patent Office or the Post Office extension, the Girard College, or the Merchants' Exchange, of New York, where the antas are in ashlar. By studying either of those buildings the observer can plainly discern why books of masonry require that such work shall be bonded with headers, binders, and stretchers, and how insecurity arises from a neglect of these rules.

The question arises, why the government maintains a supervising architect to waste its treasure in the construction of expensive, insecure buildings—a person who never raises a voice of warning when a costly structure is erected upon architectural principles condemned

by every canon of his craft? In matters of taste he might be excused for heresy; but where questions of solidity and safety are involved, and the most obvious duties of his station are neglected, what censure is too severe? When he advises or tolerates such mischief, ought he to be tolerated ? Such a building, constructed upon proper principles, would survive a considerable shock of an earthquake; as it is constructed, the slightest settling would precipitate its granite mask to the ground.

The House will have no difficulty in arriving at a decision upon the question submitted to us as to the competency of Mr. Young, the supervising architect, in the light of the facts we have exhibited. If any doubt is left as to the competency or professional skill of Mr. Clark, the engineer in charge, to have the engineering control of all the public works of the United States, a brief chapter from his history, as detailed by himself, will solve it. That history is found in the opening of his testimony. It thereby appears that he is neither an architect nor an engineer. That he once built a mill at Hartford, Con. necticut, 120 by 60 feet, of one story, the foundation of stone and the rest of wood, costing from $12,000 to $15,000. He also built a mill at Brattleborough, Vermont, of what dimensions does not appear, and has been consulted about dwellings. But he states he never had any connexion with any public work until Mr. Bowman made him his chief clerk, from which position he has been advanced to that of engineer in charge of all public buildings. Can it be a matter of wonder that when the country is full of competent engineers ho desire employ. ment, that the government is ill-served, when they are rejected and a man, by his own confession, of no experience or capacity is employed ? Such a man cannot be blamed for not knowing that marble capitals in five pieces, like those he accepted at Hastings, are unfit for use. Mr. Young concurs in the statement of other witnesses that Clark is not an engineer.

Your committee, for specific answers to the resolution, state that, in their opinion, the cost of the Treasury extension, at the present rate of expense, will reach $5,000,000. They have not had time to inquire into the cost of the Capitol extension. The work on the Treasury extension is illy done, insecure, and unsubstantial. The original designs are not being carried out, but are varied from in many particulars, which largely increase the cost to the government and lessen the value of the building. They believe that the same objects," that is, the construction of a durable, handsome building, can be attained with far less expense to the government. The officers of the Bureau of Construction referred to, A. B. Young and S. M. Clark, in the judgment of the committee, are not qualified for their positions, or abuse them, and should be removed. They are further of the opinion that it is for the interest of the government that the Bureau of Construction be placed in the Interior Department, which, from the general nature of its duties, is best calculated to supervise the public works.

« AnteriorContinua »