Marble Architecture

Image: Painting of a marble quarry by James Hope, 1851. Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

On June 17, 1872, the delegation boarded a train in Saratoga, New York headed towards Boston, Massachusetts. As the landscape passed through the train windows, the delegation could see marble and stone quarries in the near distance. At the time, hydraulic powered mining was a booming industry in Massachusetts, and marble and slate were popular building materials for structures across the country. The delegation was impressed by the look and utility of slate stone, a structural material that was both decorative and protective from wind and water.

Image: Boston–Franklin street, 1860. Source: Library of Congress.  

The Meiji Restoration (1868) marked a turning point in building style in Japan, with many new structures of the 1870’s mimicking Western ideals. The Osaka Mint was one of the first constructions in brick and stone, setting a tone for further experimentation with building techniques. In 1872, a fire burned down a portion of the Ginza district in Tokyo. The government used the moment to rebuild following Western models. The new district, nicknamed “Bricktown” for its many brick and stone buildings, served as an example of “modernization” for the rest of the country.


Grunow, Tristan. “Ginza Bricktown and the Myth of Meiji Modernization.” The University of British Columbia.

Kume, Kunitake. “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” In Japan Rising: The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe, edited by Chushichi Tsuzuki and R. Jules Young, 84. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.