Monday, October 17, 2011

Caboose and Russian Church

Caboose and Russian Church (1912)
Courtesy of Rachel Davis Fine Arts.

I came across Caboose and Russian Church, in Rachel Davis Fine Arts' current auction.

The painting, a watercolor, was made in 1912 by Frank Nelson Wilcox, a well-known Cleveland artist. The subject is the Cleveland rail yards and a building that will be familar to many - St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Church. The familar onion domes of the church have towered over Tremont for one hundred years. The church had just been built at the time Wilcox painted it.

I looked at a current map of the address of this historic church - 733 Starkweather Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio - with the hope of placing the artist's view on the map.

I couldn't determine the location. The construction of Interstate 490 changed the landscape enough that many of the houses shown in front of the church are now gone. With that in mind, I looked at an earlier map - the 1912 Plat-book of the City of Cleveland, Ohio.

Plat-book of the City of Cleveland, Ohio, Volume 2: northwest and southwest Hopkins, 1912, plate 16
Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

A detail of the map, shown here, helps illuminate the artist's perspective. The red lines show the approximate area covered in his perspective. The church is the structure in red near the top of the image, just to the left of center. We can see several streets that are now gone: Clyde; Severn; Lynn; Cathedral; and Clarence, as well as two that are almost completely gone: St. Tichon and St. Olga.

Wilcox's painting illustrates a time in Cleveland that is now gone. Residential areas were closer to industry than they are now, and there appears to have been more pollution in the skies.

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