From the Observer archive: this week in 1936

By Guardian Staff

The destruction of the Crystal Palace by fire

History and geography have both sustained a blow in the destruction of the Crystal Palace. It stood for the ideals of an epoch when the perfectionist faith had reached its highest peak, and it stood upon a site that made it the cynosure of far-flung spaces. Through good and ill fortune it remained a memorial of that Albertan Age from whose high seriousness we are not without need to borrow. As a Romanesque survival in an ultra-Gothic world, its serenity did not suffer from being outmoded. The fierce sublimity of its end has quickened imagination and reflection in quarters where those faculties might have been thought torpid.

Our thoughts are turned back to a great generation by the destruction of what was its last outstanding symbol. The buoyant and purposeful Early Victorians were blind to things that press but too heavily upon our later consciousness. They were as sure of humanity being saved by science as we are fearful of it being destroyed by the same agency.

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Source: From the Observer archive: this week in 1936