Did a Retired Railway Worker Restore a Famous Destroyed Train Station Clock in His Barn?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: After being destroyed, a local retired railway worker restored the famous platform clock at St Pancras Station as a piece of his barn.

St. Pancras Station was a railway station built in London in 1868 as the southern terminus of the Midland Railway’s Midland Main Line.

The years were not kind to the station, though, and it had to fight off calls for demolishing the station entirely throughout the 1960s.

By the time the 1970s came along, the station was “safe,” but was still in a state of disrepair. To make some money, British Rail decided to sell the platform clock in the station to a collector from the United States for 250,000 pounds. Sadly, while dismantling it, the clock accidentally fell to the ground and was smashed into many pieces.

This is where the story gets really weird.
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What Unusual Feature Does Ohio State’s Orton Hall Have In Honor of Their First President, Dr. Edward J. Orton?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: Ohio State University’s Orton Hall was designed in a peculiar fashion to honor the school’s first president, Dr. Edward J. Orton, Sr.

Dr. Edward J. Orton, Sr. (1829-1899) was a geologist who was also the first President of Ohio State University. He served in that capacity from September 17, 1873 – June 21, 1881. He taught geology at Ohio State from 1873 until his death in 1899. Similarly, he was the school’s official geologist from 1882-1899. He did this despite suffering a semi-paralytic stroke in 1891.

In any event, in 1892 the school unveiled Orton Hall to honor their first president. Here is a modern day picture of the hall, which includes the Department of Geology and Mineralogy’s offices and laboratories of Paleontology, Historical Geology and Sedimentology, the Orton Geological Museum, and the Orton Geological Library (the Library was dedicated by Orton’s son, Robert Orton, Jr., the first Chairman of Ceramic Engineering at Ohio State, in 1920)….

But here’s the interesting thing about Orton Hall, and the reason that the Hall has been entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
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Did Frank Lloyd Wright’s Design for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo Keep it From Being Destroyed in an Earthquake?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for Imperial Hotel in Tokyo led to the Hotel being unaffected by the 1923 Great Tokyo Earthquake.

The second Imperial Hotel (the first one was destroyed by fire in 1919) was designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright had long been fascinated by Japanese culture and he envisioned (and designed) the hotel as a hybrid of Japanese and Western architecture.

Earthquakes have long been a danger in Japan, and Wright decided to design the hotel to protect the building from being damaged in an earthquake.

This has led to a legend that has been passed around a number of websites under the heading of CONFIDENCE (where stories about famous people being confident are shared). The citation is to a January 1993 issue of Bits and Pieces magazine (the magazine that motivates people!).

Frank Lloyd Wright is among the most innovative architects this county ever produced. But his fame wasn’t limited to the United States. About 70 years ago, Japan asked Wright to design a hotel for Tokyo that would be capable of surviving an earthquake. When the architect visited Japan to see where the Imperial Hotel was to be built, he was appalled to find only about eight feet of earth on the site. Beneath that was 60 feet of soft mud that slipped and shook like jelly. Every test hole he dug filled up immediately with water. A lesser man probably would have given up right there. But not Frank Lloyd Wright. Since the hotel was going to rest on fluid ground, Wright decided to build it like a ship. Instead of trying to keep the structure from moving during a quake, he incorporated features that would allow the hotel to ride out the shock without damage. Supports were sunk into the soft mud, and sections of the foundation were cantilevered from the supports. The rooms were built in sections like a train and hinged together. Water pipes and electric lines, usually the first to shear off in an earthquake, were hung in vertical shafts where they could sway freely if necessary. Wright knew that the major cause of destruction after an earthquake was fire, because water lines are apt to be broken in the ground and there is no way to put the fire out. So he insisted on a large outdoor pool in the courtyard of his hotel, “just in case.”

On September 1, 1923, Tokyo had the greatest earthquake in its history. There were fires all over the city, and 140,000 people died. Back in the U.S., news reports were slow coming in. One newspaper wanted to print the story that the Imperial Hotel had been destroyed, as rumor had it. But when a reporter called Frank Lloyd Wright, he said that they could print the story if they wished, but they would only have to retract it later. He knew the hotel would not collapse.

Shortly afterward, Wright got a telegram from Japan. The Imperial Hotel was completely undamaged. Not only that — it had provided a home for hundreds of people. And when fires that raged all around the hotel threatened to spread, bucket brigades kept the structure wetted down with water from the hotel’s pool. The Imperial Hotel isn’t there anymore. It was finally torn down in the 1960s to be replaced by a more modern structure.

Baron Kihachiro Okura did, indeed, sent Wright a telegram stating:

Hotel stands undamaged as monument to your genius Congratulations

And it was this that Wright, naturally enough, shared with reporters (it was not like lots of other people had any direct information to contradict him). And it was this telegram that spread the “the hotel was unaffected by the earthquake” legend.

Is it true?
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How Did Massive Amounts of Student Urine Play a Role in the Design of Florida Southern College?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: Frank Lloyd Wright used massive amount of college student urine to treat the copper in his buildings at Florida Southern College.

It seems positively strange, but the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in one place is on the campus of the small private Methodist college, Florida Southern College, in Lakeland, Florida (Oak Hill Park in Illinois still has the largest collection of houses designed by Wright, but as you might imagine, a college campus has all of the buildings together, something that would not really be possible anywhere else).

The collection of buildings is called “The Child of the Sun” and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here are a few of the pieces…

The story of HOW the buildings were built is pretty remarkable.
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Did a Woman Have a Home Built Entirely Out of a Boeing Jet?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: A California woman had a house constructed entirely out of a recycled Boeing 747 airplane!

Francine Rehwald was a 65-year-old retiree who was living in Malibu Hills, California when she came to David Hertz for ideas for her retirement house in 2005. She wanted something that was “environmentally friendly” while also having a real feminine design. Something with “curves,” as Rehwald described it.

Hertz came up with a brilliant idea – build the house out of a recycled Boeing 747 airplane!!
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Is There Really a Law in Washington D.C. That No Building Can Be As Tall As the Washington Monument?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: There is a law in Washington D.C. that states that no building be as tall as the Washington Monument.

A common “fact” that gets bandied about often when visiting the District of Columbia is that there is a law that states that no building in Washington D.C. be as tall as the Washington Monument.

Is that true?
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Was the Campus of the University of Albany Originally Designed to be Used in Arizona?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: The campus at the University at Albany in New York was originally designed to be used in Arizona.

The campus at the University at Albany in Albany, New York (one of the four major state universities in New York State) is a striking looking design during the summer months, particularly the foliage and the beautiful fountain and water pool.

However, during the WINTER months, it can be practically torturous, as the enclosed design of the campus almost aids an already blustery climate by turning the campus into a bit of a wind tunnel.

It is so noticeable of a defect that it has become a university legend that the campus was originally designed for Arizona (or another warmer climate), where it would serve to amplify the meager winds there.

True?
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Discover the Bizarre Race to See Who Would Have the Tallest Skyscraper in the World!

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: Architects William Van Alen and H. Craig Severance engaged in a cloak and dagger race to see whose skyscraper would be the tallest in the world.

H. Craig Severance and William Van Alen were partners in an architecture firm for almost two decades, but by the late 1920s, the pair’s relationship had become strained, and they ended their professional relationship at the end of the decade.

The former friends then became bitter rivals, especially as they each began a competition to design the tallest building in the world.
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Was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Originally Designed as a School Project?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was originally designed as a school project at Yale!

In 1980, Maya Ying Lin was a senior at Yale University studying to be an architect when she, and seven other students, embarked on a senior seminar about funerary architecture (architecture about stuff like gravestones, tombs, etc.) Yale gave students the option of either doing a senior thesis or have a senior seminar, if they could persuade a faculty member to teach it. The students convinced Professor Andrus Burr to teach the class.

Towards the end of the year, there was an announcement made about the creation of a memorial for veterans of the Vietnam War. The architect for the memorial would be decided by a contest. The students felt that it would make for a great assignment to have each student design a memorial – that certainly would fit in with funerary architecture, after all! So the students traveled to Washington D.C. to look at the space where the memorial would be, and Lin came up with the idea of what would essentially be a rather large tombstone, that would dig into the earth almost like a black scar.

She sketched out her design and attached her description of what the memorial was meant to evoke in visitors to it (basically, a sense of sadness) and she handed it in for her class grade AND she, like most of her classmates, entered her design into the competition for the design of the memorial.

A very interesting aspect of the contest was that it was a blind competition – there were no names attached, each entry was simply numbered. Really, that was the only way a college senior could possibly have a chance at winning such a contest.

How did she do?
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