Image of Despradelle's <i>Beacon of Progress</i> Despradelle's Beacon of Progress
Beacon of Progress, C. Désiré Despradelle, 1899-1900

“All the forces which have shaped the American nation marshaled themselves in the form of a glorious monument, the symbol of progress and grandeur.” – Désiré Despradelle

Towering 1500 feet, far higher than any other structure of its time, and unsurpassed in its conception of architectural grandeur, Professor C. Désiré Despradelle’s “glorious monument” was his Beacon of Progress, inspired by the splendor of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Despradelle visited the exposition just after arriving at MIT from Paris, where he had distinguished himself as a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Recruited to head the Department of Design, he taught at MIT for 19 years until his death in 1912. During this time, he had a profound impact on architectural education in America, particularly as he was a direct link between the venerable Ecole curriculum and MIT, the oldest academic program in architecture in the country.

The Beacon of Progress was executed in a large series of studies over six years’ time and was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1900, where it received a gold medal. MIT President F. W. Chandler praised Despradelle’s design for expressing “a quality of noble poetry.”

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