A Bonestell Thanksgiving
by Ron Miller
Credit: Wikipedia
The Landing of the Pilgrims by Henry A. Bacon (1877)
Tradition tells us that in December 1620, a collection of pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in England disembarked from their ship, the “Mayflower,” by stepping onto an enormous stone jutting from the Massachusetts seashore. I say “tradition” since there is no mention of a rock being the Pilgrims' landing place until 121 years later.
Credit: Wikipedia
Plymouth Rock
Whether or not this was the first landfall of the Pilgrims, the rock has become a fixed image in American history and folklore. In 1867, an ornate granite canopy was erected over the stone, which had until that time had been badly damaged during different attempts to move it (to say nothing of bits and pieces being chipped off by souvenir hunters and museums).
Credit: Wikipedia                                 
The first Plymouth Rock Canopy, built in 1867
This monument stood until 1920, when on the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrims' landing, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America made a gift of a new canopy or peristyle. The rock was relocated to a new park on the Plymouth waterfront, designed by landscape architect, Arthur Shurcliff.
Credit: Wikipedia               
Architects William Mead, Charles McKim and Stanford White
The commission for the design of the canopy was given to then-renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, already famed for their designs for Pennsylvania Station, Madison Square Garden, the Morgan Library and the iconic arch in Washington Square. In turn, McKim, Mead & White turned the project over to a 32-year-old designer named Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986).
Credit: UC Berkeley Library                
Chesley Bonestell circa 1915
Bonestell replaced the old, ornate, Victorian monument with a dignified portico in the classic Roman Doric style.
Credit: National Archives                             
Chesley Bonestell’s 1920 redesign of the Plymouth Rock peristyle

The new canopy—which stands to this day—is located on Harbor View Drive in Plymouth. The rock itself sits below the level of the spectator and is protected by iron gratings. The monument encloses the rock on three sides and since the rock was now at water level, the fourth wall is open to the sea, allowing the rock to be flooded during high tide.

Credit: Upstateherd/Wikimedia Commons
Plymouth Rock was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and is visited most years by over one million people.
This was a busy time for Chesley, as demonstrated in the award-winning documentary, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future. When he was assigned the job of designing the Plymouth Rock peristyle, he had only just recently completed work with architect Willis Polk in the rebuilding of San Francisco following the devastating earthquake of 1906. Between 1920 and 1921 he worked for a number of architectural firms in New York. Shortly after his aforementioned work for McKim, Mead & White, he moved to England where he spent several years contributing architectural illustrations to the prestigious Illustrated London News.
The Illustrated London News
Chesley Bonestell’s rendering of “The World’s Tallest Building” to be built in Rome, next to the Vatican. From the January 23, 1925 issue of The Illustrated London News.

Over the next decade, Bonestell worked on some of the most iconic structures in the United States. These include:

Architectural Forum                                                        
The Chrysler Building by Chesley Bonestell,
from Architectural Forum magazine, October 1930

 
Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District                                
The Golden Gate Bridge by Chesley Bonestell (c.1933)
 
Credit: Wikipedia
The Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., completed in 1935
Bonestell’s background as an architect and, especially, as an architectural renderer (an artist who creates a drawing or painting of what a finished building will look like) was one of the most important foundations for his later career as a space artist in that it gave him a commanding mastery of perspective, light and shadow that you can easily see not only in his spacescapes but especially in his depiction of spacecraft.
 
Perhaps this Thanksgiving, when we think about such cultural milestones of the twentieth century as the Golden Gate Bridge, “Citizen Kane” or the American space program, we might send a silent “thank you” Chesley Bonestell’s way.
Credit: Wikipedia
Pilgrim Memorial State Park in Plymouth, MA
You can enjoy a brief excerpt from Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future that highlights some of Chesley's architectural contributions to the skyline of New York by clicking here.
You can enjoy a brief excerpt from Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future that highlights some of Chesley's architectural contributions to the skyline of New York by clicking here.
Gobble-gobble!
The Chesley Bonestell Film Team wishes you
and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving!
 
-Doug Stewart, Ron Miller, Melvin Schuetz, Christopher Darryn,
 Kristina Hays and Jim Castle
 

Please visit our website at www.chesleybonestell.com
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