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Believers in the “Tartaria” conspiracy theory are convinced that the elaborate temporary fairgrounds built for events like the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 were really the ancient capital cities of a fictional empire.

 

Believers in the “Tartaria” conspiracy theory are convinced that the elaborate temporary fairgrounds built for events like the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 were really the ancient capital cities of a fictional empire.

 

Photographer: Schenectady Museum Association/Corbis Historical via Getty Images

CityLab
Design

Inside the ‘Tartarian Empire,’ the QAnon of Architecture

On YouTube videos and Reddit boards, adherents of a bizarre conspiracy theory argue that everything you know about the history of architecture is wrong. 

In 1908, architect Ernest Flagg completed the Singer Building in Lower Manhattan, a Beaux-Arts showstopper made for the Singer sewing machine company. From a wide base, a slender 27-story tower rose, topped by a mansard roof and a delicate lantern spire.

Every inch dripped with sumptuous detail inside and out; vaulted roofs, marble columns with bronze trim, window mullions with spiral fluting. The lobby was said to have a “celestial radiance.” A book was written just about its construction. For a year, it was the tallest building in the world at 612 feet, and a celebrated landmark for decades after that.