This is one time of year that we take that old adage to heart – to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Homes everywhere this time of year are ablaze with them. Candlelight shimmers from every window – small paned and large – homes are aglow. It’s a beautiful sight. One that not only evokes memories of a special season and holiday, but one that celebrates hope. Hope, a light that is never quenched. A light that, no matter how weak the embers, someone will always come along to stoke it back to life. That is the message of the season, whether you are religious or not. Christmas was not celebrated in colonial times, but their homes were brightly lit with candles, at all times. What was once a necessity is now a charm, and a reminder from the struggles of their past that with perseverance, kindness and compassion, good will prevail.
During the recession of the 1930’s FDR provided hope for the unemployed with his New Deal. Through the Works Progress Administration, millions were put to work. Artists painted murals, engineers built bridges and roadways, architects and draftsmen documented American architecture.
I was looking for a book recently on Georgian architecture and pulled one off my shelf called Great Georgian Houses of America. Usually I just flip through the pages looking for specific design elements and details, but this day I happened to notice the cover text above the title which read – “Architects’ Emergency Committee.” What on earth was that? The Preface explained all, and it was inspiring. Thank goodness that these men were given this task, to give them a sense of dignity and hope during difficult times, and in return, they rekindled the hope that our most important American architecture would be preserved for the future.
I want to share with you the words that Mr. William Lawrence Bottomley, Editorial Committee Chairman, wrote in his Preface to Volume II of this Dover Publication.
“….The object in publishing these volumes was to give work to draughtsmen thrown out of employment in the recent difficult years and in so doing improving their morale, giving them training in an exact and serious technique and rendering financial aid. It has been a great pleasure to this committee to see that many of these men joining in this work did so with great enthusiasm and to find that from being in a state of discouragement, with all its attendant ills, new courage, energy and happiness were the result.
This committee has made it a policy to give employment to all men making application irrespective of their experience in this type of drawing. Many were well qualified and experienced while others needed much coaching. While this training was valuable to all from the educational and technical points of view it was particularly useful to those whose training had been more on commercial and less on artistic lines.
In brief we wish to report that one hundred and ten different men have been given employment in the period from 1932 to 1937 and that this represents nineteen thousand, two hundred and one work hours during this time. The first edition of two thousand volumes is almost exhausted and all the funds from these two volumes have been expended on this object without paying any profit or overhead outside of the actual costs of publishing and mailing….”
May we remember these old fashioned values during our own difficult times, and find ways to light candles, instill hope, and help others during this season, and beyond. May hope, health and good will be with you over the Christmas holiday and throughout the new year.