McKim, Mead, and White Bollards

7/21/2009 Uncategorized

While visiting the Rhode Island Capital (designed by McKim, Mead, and White and constructed: 1895-1903) with my family recently, I noticed that the giant granite bollards that define the boundary of the Smith Street entrance plaza bear a strong resemblance to the bollards in front of the Boston Public Library (1887-1895) on Dartmouth Street.  Had I discovered a very early version of a one solution/scattered sites project delivery strategy?  Did McKim, Mead, and White tell their two clients that they were using the same bollard for both high profile projects?  Did they order the Bollards from a catalogue supplied by a granite fabricator (Splayed Imperial Eagle No. 13)? 

When I looked at the BPL bollards again, I was disappointed to discover that they were slightly different than the later versions in Providence.  Rather than a relatively au naturale eagle like the Rhode Island Capitol, the Boston eagles had been subjected to some artful checkerboard patterning and the eagles’ “knees” were up like they were sitting on stools (if I remember correctly, eagles perch and don’t sit).  Since the Boston Library came first, we can only assume that Charles McKim wasn’t happy with his eagles and told William Mead (partner-in-charge of the Capitol) to request improvements to the sculptural depiction of the birds. Any verification of my theory would be greatly appreciated. 


Boston Public Library eagle bollard with exposed “knees” and overlaid checkerboard pattern



Au naturale eagles at the Rhode Island Capitol