During the April 2012 Castle Green tour, a bit was said about the flagpoles atop the building. But what do we know about these?
As it turns out, my research so far has only shown photographs, but those photographs have been reasonably useful.
We can start with the drawing that was on the poster:
However, the drawing is obviously unrealistic. To start, of course, it displays a whole building that doesn’t exist: the additional annex that was proposed but never started. And the flagpoles are immense: comparing the flagpoles on the South towers to the windows beneath them, for example, suggest that they’re almost three stories tall.
So where can we go instead? Fortunately, the Detroit Publishing Company, some time between 1900 and 1920, took a number of photographs of the Hotel Green. Many of these were turned into the postcards that are so commonly seen from around that era. The photographs themselves, however, are in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room. And the Library of Congress, being an early pioneer of digitization and still a proponent, has most of those photographs online—something that works out wonderfully for us.
The most useful of these for seeing the flags is LC-D4-73288, a photograph taken from quite some distance away, but by an 8×10 large format camera. While the South tower on the front of the building is unfortunately hidden behind some trees, the rest of the flagpoles, at least on Castle Green, are rather visible:
There are also a few other photographs I’ve found so far:
- LC-USZ62-132010, from Central Park, actually shows a few triangular flags, if from very far away. The contrast is very poor though, and being black and white, it doesn’t give us any information about the color of the flags beyond that they appear to have been bitonal.
- LC-D4-30056, from just south of the original building, shows the poles, but poorly.
- LC-D4-42199 clearly shows that there was no flagpole on the the bridge, something that is easily corroborated with other sources.
Several magazines from the era, which the Friends of Castle Green have graciously pointed out, also have very good prints showing the flags—in two cases actually from photographs taken from the roof.
From all of these images, I’ve made the following conclusions so far:
- In total, on both the West Annex (now Castle Green) and the North Annex, there were 9 flagpoles. Of these, 5 were on what is now Castle Green: one on each South tower, one on each tower in the front of the building, and one oddly located on the corner of the North roof of the building.
- The flagpoles appear to all be of similar designs, and while I haven’t done a thorough measurement of their height, they appear to be around 8 to 12 feet high, not including their bases. Fortunately, too, with the possible exception of the odd corner pole, which had no decorative base, all the bases appear to be intact when viewed from aerial imagery. Those images aren’t very clear, however, so I’m considering attaching a video camera to a long pole…
- Sadly, even if we could add flagpoles to the North Annex, only one of the four original domes on the building still exist. The rest appear to have been chopped off at some point.