George Cleveland, who didn't like Harvard's architecture, also turned his eye to Boston in his 1836 essay "American Architecture": "But let us proceed to Boston, 'the Athens of America.' Athens it may be, but the days of Pericles have not yet come, if we may judge from the architecture of the city, which is singularly bad. The first and most important edifice which is seen upon approaching Boston, is the State-House. The situation is truly noble, being the most elevated in the city, and rendering the dome a conspicuous object for many miles both by land and sea. The architect of the State-House [Charles Bulfinch, ed. note] deserves great praise for his general plan. The idea was extremely good, to place on a high elevation a building of such a description, that its proportions might be at the same time lofty and grand, and which was to be surmounted by a dome. The effect of this is very striking. The dome rises above every other object, crowning the city, and seeming to give a unity and decided character to the whole. We doubt whether any other plan could have produced so good an effect at a distance, as the dome depends less, for the impression it makes, upon the detail of ornament, than any other form of building. The general idea of the architect was excellent; but the execution, though not a failure, is on many accounts very bad. The wings of the building are so short as to appear mean, and render the whole too small for the dome which surmounts it. This fault, however, we believe is not to be attributed to the architect. The original plan made the wings more extensive; but they were clipped by our legislature, who could not afford to buy so much architecture."
Well, I like the Statehouse.
How about Massachusetts General Hospital?
"Some parts...are fine....as a whole however, we consider it a failure."
"An edifice, which, in consequence of its pointed windows and the small spires which stick up like asses' ears at the front corners, claims to be Gothic.....But criticism is wasted on such a building; the whole is bad."
Does Cleveland like anything?
"The most perfect piece of architecture in Boston, is the facade of the Tremont Theatre."
Something in Boston is perfect? What a relief. Oh, wait, there's the knife:
"The only fault we find in it is the steepness of the roof, which is too great for classical elegance."
Of course it is.
Be sure to read the rest of the essay--many of the buildings we love today or regret having lost are absolutely savaged by Cleveland. Now who wants to tear down City Hall?