The Great Exhibition—The Crystal Palace
Over the next several months, I’m going to take some time to share details and tidbits I’ve learned while researching the era and events of 1851 for the Great Exhibition series. Mostly, it’s a chance to share all the wonderful pictures I’ve been collecting over the past couple of years.
So, let’s start with the Crystal Palace.
As we learned in the scavenger hunt over the weekend . . .
After reviewing and rejecting dozens of potential designs for the building to house his exhibition, Prince Albert had all but given up. But then he received a rough sketch on a scrap of paper from Joseph Paxton, the man who had designed the state-of-the-art greenhouses at Chatsworth. Prince Albert not only liked the innovative design, but appreciated the fact that the greenhouse design would allow them to build around the existing ancient elms and oaks in Hyde Park instead of cutting them down. Because of its glass-and-iron construction the building came to be known as the Crystal Palace.
Construction on the Crystal Palace began in August 1850 and was predominantly finished in January 1851. “All these Commissioners and the Executive Committee etc. who had worked so hard and to whom such immense praise is due, seemed truly happy, and no one more so than Paxton, who may feel justly proud. He rose from an ordinary gardener’s boy! Everyone was astounded and delighted” (Queen Victoria).
The Crystal Palace was enormous, covering over 830,000 square feet—about 1,850 feet long and 450 feet wide, with the majestic glass transept in the center soaring about 100 feet (about ten stories) into the sky. “The impression when you get inside is of bewilderment. It looks like a sort of fairyland. Far as you can look in any direction, you see nothing but pillars hung about with shawls, carpets, canopies…” (Lewis Carroll).