Monday, June 27, 2005

Stanford White, twice

The name White -- Stanford White -- came up twice for me Saturday.

The first time was on Governors Island. His famous architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White, which is known for many top buildings in the city, designed the massive barracks there known as Liggett Hall. Also dubbed Building 400, the 1930 structure -- which feels very collegiate -- was built to house an entire regiment. It stretches across a tree-lined walk, measures some 400,000 square feet in size, and was supposedly one of the -- if not the -- largest military building in the U.S. prior to the construction of the Pentagon.

Then I heard White's name again in Ragtime. He wasn't actually around when the big barracks was built, since he died in 1906. He was shot and killed in the second Madison Square Garden (a building his firm designed) at the hands of a millionaire who was married to one of White's former lovers, one Evelyn Nesbit -- a vaudeville actress and ripped-from-the-headlines character in the musical.

The murder was dubbed the "Crime of the Century," a name skewered by some lyrics in the show: "And although the newspapers called the shooting the Crime of the Century, [Emma] Goldman knew it was only 1906 ... / And there were ninety-four years to go!" Other subsequent crimes, such as the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, would receive that dubious title as well.

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