Most Beautiful Room

A site dedicated to the visual analysis of lost architecture and art

 
 
Slide to left reveals Capitol about 1900 - slide to right reveals Capitol in 1814
Overview

Richard Chenoweth Principal Investigator

This site is dedicated to my investigations and reconstructions of lost architecture and art. By remaking my subject buildings, landscapes, and artwork as computer models, I can study their design as conceptual, spatial, and tectonic, and historical phenomena. The reconstruction of lost architecture is based on deciphering and analyzing notes, letters, maps, drawings, photographs, and other materials. Sometimes I may get clues directly from drawings. Often I have to piece together lots of disparate facts from multiple sources. I can synthesize the built form through a variety of methods, mostly digital and some tactile. Results of the work are images and animations, javascript virtual reality, and video. It provides a new window into history as complex historical narratives become fully understood using new visual and spatial evidence.

Please feel free to contact me for design, architectural analysis, consultation, or fine art visualization. The forensic means and methods I've developed are applicable to many disciplines such as academics, engineering, archaeology, and law.

Graphic and digital dimensions of architectural history are now essential to our stories - written descriptions alone are inadequate. B. Henry Latrobe, America's first professional architect, knowing this, wrote in 1807: "To give an adequate description of a building unaccompanied by drawings, is always a vain attempt...". The re-making of architecture and art by digital means completes the understanding and analysis of our subjects.

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Projects
Proceedings and Articles
 
Notes and Chronology
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9-30-2021, Paper on the Egyptian Library of Congress - SESAH 2021.

I presented my paper on the Egyptian Library of Congress at the SESAH Conference in beautiful Natchez MS. Many thanks to all the officers of SESAH who put in so much work to make this conference possible.

10-2-2020, Paper on the first Statue of Liberty - SESAH 2020.

Unfortunately, SESAH 2020 was a virtual conference, but I presented my paper and digital investigation of the nation's first Statue of Liberty. It was designed by B. Henry Latrobe and carved (simultaneously) by Italian immigrant Giuseppe Franzoni. Who knew there was a Statue of Liberty inside the Capitol when the building burned in 1814?

6-18-2020, Paper delivered at ACSA-ARCH 108th Meeting.

The 108th Meeting was a virtual conference. I was honored to present my paper in this double-blind peer-reviewed conference although we missed the trip to San Diego.

11-16-2019, Paper presented a the Richard Guy Wilson Symposium.

It was great to return to UVa for a peer-reviewed conference in honor of my former professor of architectural history, RGW. They even put his smiling face on a coffee cup! This wonderful conference was sponsored by the TJSAH and we had a fantastic reception in the dome room of the Rotunda.

10-10-2019, Paper presented in Greenville - SESAH 2019.

Greenville SC - what a great place! Many thanks to Clemson for hosting the conference there. My peer-reviewed paper was on my digital investigation on the struggle between Thomas Jefferson and his architect B. Henry Latrobe to build the South Wing of the U.S. Capitol.

6-28-2019, Invited Speaker - Alabama AIA Conference in Gulf Shores.

It was an honor to speak to the Alabama AIA at their annual conference. We met a lot of wonderful friends and I would like visit with them again. They asked me to speak about how I use digital methods for visualizing historic architecture or visionary archiecture. Then got to visit Florabama.

5-23-2017, A third fellowship from the AOC and the USCHS.

I am honored to have received a third research fellowship from the Architect of the Capitol and the USCHS. The fellowship supported two months of research of B. Henry Latrobe's design for an Egyptian Revival Library of Congress. The Library was planned for the the North Wing of the Capitol.

4-28-2017, Atlanta Preservation Center's architectural visit to Tennessee

Clopper Almon and I were guest hosts for the APC's party of preservationists on a guided architectural tour of the southeastern Cumberland Plateau. We visited Sewanee, Monteagle, and Beersheba Springs. Clopper and I did a walking tour of Beersheba Springs, telling the story of this mid-19th century resort development that seems to be frozen in amber. Its architecture is fascinating. Find out more.

1-26-2017, Atlanta Preservation Center Talk

I gave a talk on my reconstructions of the small resort community Beersheba Springs TN. The community includes a grand hotel, twenty original cottages, and other structures such as a spring house, all dating to 1855-1860. The cottages and other structures are unique hybrids of log pen construction, dogtrot, and creole house types, detailed as carpenter-classical gothic Victorian.

9-20-2016, Article for The Capitol Dome

My second article published in The Capitol Dome. This is a detailed discussion about the struggle to create a monumental Statue of Liberty. It was unveiled in 1807.

7-9-2016, Beersheba Springs Historical Society

Another progress talk to the Beersheba Springs (TN) Historical Society on the design of the classical log cottages and the site plan of the original 1855 community. I've finished a giant 30 inch x 60 inch gang sheet of architectural elevations of the grand hotel, springhouse, and the twenty original cottages, many of which I reconstructed based on physical and photographic evidence.

7-11-2015, Beersheba Springs Historical Society

Another talk to the Beersheba Springs (TN) Historical Society on the design of the classical log cottages and the site plan of the original 1855 community.

12-26-2014, Article for The Capitol Dome

The magazine of the USCHS, The Capitol Dome, published my long article on the lost 1814 Capitol created by Latrobe and Jefferson.

8-31-2014, CBS Sunday Morning with Mo Rocca

Six of my digital recreation images were used in this CBS Sunday Morning segment on the burning of Washington, which happened 200 years ago on 24 August 1814. I was honored to be a part of this first-class production which includes Architectural Historian Emeritus William C. Allen.

7-19-2014, Beersheba Springs Historical Society

I gave a talk to the Beersheba Springs (TN) Historical Society on the design of the classical log cottages and the site plan of the original 1855 community.

3-26-2014, Evergreen Museum & Library, Johns Hopkins University

I gave a lecture on the lost architecture of the Jefferson-era Capitol, as designed by B. Henry Latrobe. Most of the building's interiors were gutted by fire in 1814. My recreations and lighting studies bring the chambers back to life. Many thanks to the Evergreen House and Curator James Abbott for inviting me to speak. By the way, go visit this fabulous house museum in Baltimore.

2-19-2014, U.S. Capitol Historical Society, Washington DC

I lectured on the lost architecture of the Jefferson-era Capitol, as designed by B. Henry Latrobe. Most of the building's interiors were gutted by fire in 1814. My recreations and lighting studies bring the chambers back to life.

2-23-2013

I wrote a Guest Blog about depiction of the Capitol in Spielberg's movie "Lincoln" for castingarchitecture.com. It was disappointing that Spielberg was so diligent in getting certain details perfect, like the ticking of Lincoln's watch, but made the Capitol so terribly wrong.

6-1-2012, Article for Le Libellio d'Aegis

My article about America's first Statue of Liberty (1807-1814) inLe Libellio d'Aegis, published at the Ecole Polytechnique.

4-5-2012, Award of Excellence

My reconstruction drawing of the Capitol under construction won an Award of Excellence from ASAI.

4-22-2011, Vanderbilt Magazine

The magazine published a nice piece on my project.

4-1-2011, Award of Excellence

My reconstruction drawing of the Paris grain market from 1786 won an Award of Excellence from ASAI.

11-16-2011, Jewish Center of Princeton

Lecture at the Jewish Center of Princeton.

5-13-2010, A fellowship from the USCHS

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society awarded me another fellowship for my research on the Capitol.

 
 
Video

CBS Sunday Morning, 8-31-2014


We made it on TV! MostBeautifulRoom was featured on CBS's premier news magazine show. The producer of Sunday Morning used six of my recreation images and animations in this piece on the burning of Washington. Correspondent Mo Rocca interviews Architectural Historian of the Capitol (Emeritus) William C. Allen as well as White House Curator, William Allman.

 

CBS 60 Minutes, 12-1-2013


A segment on the history and the preservation of the Capitol dome. Television program 60 Minutes interviews Architectural Historian of the Capitol (Emeritus) William C. Allen, Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, and Historian Lonnie Bunch on the history of the Capitol's dome.

 

Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 2009


A documentary film on America's first architect by Kunhardt Productions. The film was written by Sabin Streeter and funded by the NEH and features Architectural Historian Michael Fazio and Architecture Critic Paul Goldberger, among others. Click here for larger

 

Your place in the space-time continuum

In 1905, a funeral parade was held in New York City for the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, Hiram Cronk (1800-1905).

If you're about my age, your grandfather or grandmother could have witnessed Cronk's procession. That potentially links you - through a grandparent and through Cronk - with the lives and times of Latrobe, Jefferson, Dolley Madison and others. It's amazing how close historical events really are in the space-time continuum.

Fascinating to think Cronk may have climbed to the roof of the Capitol for a better view of the city, as many visitors did, and may have seen the Sitting Liberty.

 

AI-restored film from 1920 - Palm Beach FL

This segment of old film is courtesy of the MIRC (Moving Image Research Collection) at the University of South Carolina. Film restored by Glamourdaze.com. Glamourdaze upscaled resolution to 4K and 60fps and colorized with Deoldify.

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Related Articles
 
Jefferson's Architectural Drawings
Michaelangelo's Lost Model
Ephemera
 
Washington postcards 1915
Washington souvenir book 1927
Washington postcards 1936
 
All content © 2021 Richard Chenoweth except as noted