Samuel Newsom's Horticultural and Agricultural Building at the California Midwinter International Exposition

San Francisco, 1894

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"THE HORTICULTURAL AND AGRICULTURAL BUILDING which stood on the northwestern side of the Grand Court of Honor between the Japanese Tea Garden and the Fine Arts Building housed the thousands of floral, farming and aquatic exhibits present at the fair. Its architect was Samuel Newsom, one of California's leading builders of Victorian houses since the 1870's. He designed an exhibition hall 400 feet long and 200 feet wide for an economical $58,000. Since most of the exhibits in his building were living things needing sunlight, Newsom placed a gigantic glass dome measuring 99 feet high and 100 feet wide over the center of the structure. Like the other major buildings at the fair, this one too was eclectic in its visual character. The triple arched entrance, the round window above, and the massive walls suggested a heavy reliance on Romanesque cathedrals. The long, low roofs covered with red clay tile were reminiscent of California Mission style. The open arcade surrounding the building where constantly changing floral, plant and aquatic exhibits were shown harkened back to the traditional monastic architecture of Spain. Only the two blue-tinted glass domes flanking the main entrance and the great ferro-vitreous dome in the center broke the southern European mood of the Horticultural and Agricultural Building. The central portion of the structure's interior lay under this massive dome with the remainder of the interior taken up by a spacious, encircling gallery. At the rear of the building was a large hall used for special county and district exhibits and for meeting rooms of the various awards committees. Despite local pretensions to national leadership in industry and the arts, agriculture was still California's most important business and export in 1894. And so, it is accurate to say that the Horticultural and Agricultural Building housed the most significant commodities the Golden State exhibited at the Midwinter Fair. Most of the site where this impressive edifice once stood is today occupied by the new de Young Museum."