National Building Museum Frieze
German Roots in Washington

  • National Building Museum (Pension Building), 2015. Photo Credit: Bruce Guthrie
    National Building Museum (Pension Building), 2015.
  • A 1200-foot-long and 3-foot high frieze by New York-based artist Caspar Buberl, 2015. Photo Credit: Bruce Guthrie
    A 1200-foot-long and 3-foot high frieze by New York-based artist Caspar Buberl, 2015.
  • Soldiers in Buberl's frieze for the Pension Building, 2015. Photo Credit: Bruce Guthrie
    Soldiers in Buberl's frieze for the Pension Building, 2015.
  • Sailors on Buberl's frieze, 2015. Photo Credit: Bruce Guthrie
    Sailors on Buberl's frieze, 2015.
  • Soldiers in Buberl's frieze for the Pension Building, 2015. Photo credit: Bruce Guthrie
    Soldiers in Buberl's frieze for the Pension Building, 2015.
  • Soldiers in Buberl's frieze for the Pension Building, 2015. Photo Credit: Bruce Guthrie
    Soldiers in Buberl's frieze for the Pension Building, 2015.
"United States Soldiers and Sailors of the Civil War" (1882. Cast 1883) This 1200-foot-long and 3-foot high frieze was made for the Pension Building, built to house the offices administering pensions for Union veterans of the Civil War. The frieze was created by New York-based artist Caspar Buberl, who was a German-speaking immigrant born in Bohemia. The building now houses the National Building Museum. According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's "Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture":

"The buff-colored relief frieze which circles the building just above the first floor windows is composed of two to four feet long terra cotta panels. The running frieze depicts Civil War soldiers and sailors marching, riding horses, driving wagons, rowing boats, and pulling artillery. The portions of the frieze over the entrance arches on each side of the building reflect the themes of each entrance arch—the Gate of Invalids on the north, the Gate of the Quartermaster on the west, the Gate of the Infantry on the south, and the gate of the Navy on the east. Allegorical figures in the spandrels of the entrance arches symbolize Peace through figures of Justice on the north, Truth on the south and War through figures of Mars on the east and Minerva on the west. There are two smaller friezes ringing the building, one depicting alternating upright cannons and exploding cannon balls appears above the third floor windows and one depicting crossed swords, stars, and cannon balls runs around the building above the second floor windows."

 

Caspar Buberl, Sculptor

Caspar Buberl was born in 1834 in Königsberg a. d. Eger, Bohemia (now Kynšperk nad Ohří, Czech Republic). His most celebrated work in Washington is the magnificent terra cotta frieze of soldiers and sailors on the exterior walls of the Pension Building, now the National Building Museum.Buberl was also responsible for other sculpture in Washington: "Columbia Protecting Science and Industry" (1881) above the Mall entrance to the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building (built as the United States National Museum), and for the relief panels and roundel portraits in the Patent Building's model hall (now home to the Smithsonian American Art and the National Portrait Gallery).

Buberl was also responsible for many Civil War memorials, both Union and Confederate, located in places as far afield as Hartford, Connecticut, Buffalo, New York, Richmond, Virginia and Mobile, Alabama. A number of his monuments (to New York battallions) can be found in the Gettysburg National Military Park.

National Building Museum Frieze
Old Patent Office Building / Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture