by Maureen Meister. University Press of New England, November 2014. 304 p. ill. ISBN 9781611686623 (cl.), $45.00; ISBN 9781611686647 (e-book), $39.99.
Reviewed March 2015
D. Courtenay McLeland, Head of Digital Projects and Preservation, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida, email@example.com
In her latest book, Maureen Meister discusses the origins and ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement in New England and the architects who helped to shape its ideals and architectural manifestation. A number of architects had a commitment to and leadership roles within the influential Society of Arts and Crafts, founded in Boston in 1897. Meister explains that "from the beginning, the Arts and Crafts movement that germinated in Boston was associated with architects," an important distinction from other Arts and Crafts societies in the United States at the time.
After an introduction in which Meister describes some of the important events surrounding the rise of the movement in New England, the book begins with a chapter devoted to biographies of twelve "architect-leaders" who were deeply committed to the Arts and Crafts movement. This list of eleven men and one woman represents much of the civic and architectural leadership in Boston at the turn of the twentieth century. Though the architects certainly drew inspiration from well-known leaders of the English movement, Ruskin and Morris, the unique American sensibility was influenced by the aftermath of the Civil War, Emersonian ideals, Louis Dembitz Brandeis, and Charles Eliot Norton. While these architects rejected the Socialism of the English movement, they maintained a commitment to actively supporting local craftspeople and to furthering social causes through architecture.
In the following chapters, Meister covers the English Arts and Crafts movement and the emergence of the American movement in New England. Several significant developments such as the birth of Architectural Review and the establishment of the architecture program at Harvard are described. Subsequent chapters contain a level of detail about particular structures and building materials that historians and historic preservationists will appreciate. In chapter five, "Looking Backward: Colonial Revival as Arts and Crafts," Meister speaks to the architects' interest in colonial designs and in the preservation and reuse of historic buildings. In chapter seven, Meister discusses the enthusiastic embrace of newer fire-resistant construction materials such as steel, concrete, stucco, and artificial stone. Meister concludes the book with an epilogue on Modernism.
The book has fine quality paper a sewn binding. There are 120 black-and-white images throughout the text and a glossy sixteen-page section of color plates. Researchers will benefit from a list of illustrations, forty-seven pages of thorough notes, illustration credits, and an index. This readable book makes a significant contribution to the existing literature and is highly recommended for academic libraries.