What’s in the Name “El Moore”?

Let’s for a moment dive into the naming of the El Moore. As Keith Owens pointed out in an earlier post, the Spanish word “el” in El Moore is apparently referring to the building’s Spanish Architecture. By the way,  I am entering a delicate area of naming the El Moore’s architectural style. Some would call it Romanesque, others would say Spanish Medieval or Late Gothic Revival. This could be a debate for a later post. So for the sake of argument, I will just stick with the City of Detroit’s classification, Spanish Medieval.

But we can  make any other possible connections with the word “Moore” to the architecture. First of all, “Moore” is the builder’s last name. You think it would end there, as in the Rockefellers who built Rockefeller Center in New York City. Ok, yeah, Charles Moore named the building after himself. But I think in the El Moore situation, there may be more of a puzzle. As Keith pointed out, Charles Moore had an extraordinary  resume, highlighted by his rich enthusiasm for history and architecture.

A person of that stature would most likely be aware of the historical architectural style of his building. Spain was conquered in the 8th century by a culture from the south. They were Arabic-speaking and Muslim in faith. They were called the Moors. And the Moors ruled Spain for centuries. The Moors along with Jews collaborated to build a very successful economy. The Jews were merchants and financiers. And Moors were craftsman and the architects. And because the Moors were the architects, you will find significant Moorish (Islamic) influence in Spanish Medieval period buildings.

 El Moore FacadeDetroit’s Survey Form describes the El Moore as, “Spanish Medieval, combining Islamic motifs, such as the recessed horseshoe arch and archivolts as seen within entrance…….”  Again C. Moore was an enthusiast of history and architecture. It would be difficult to imagine he was unaware of the connection of this style of architecture to his surname, Moore (Moor). I would suspect that connection even helped him choose the style.

Now for the “el” in El Moore. As stated earlier, Keith pointed out the Spanish connection to the building. Did C. Moore find an additional deeper connection with word “el”? I’m going to go off on a tangent here. You might think that I went too far off. Judging by his resume, I am envisioning a man like Moore as a deep thinker. As I stated before, there were two minorities in Spain that influenced the culture for centuries (about 700 years), the Arabic speaking Muslims (the Moors) and the Hebrew speaking Jews. And of course, there were the Spanish-speaking Catholics that formed the majority.

Interestingly, the word “el” exists in all three languages, Arabic, Hebrew, and Spanish. All three languages were spoken within Spain during this period, and Arabic became the official language to conduct government affairs. Of course, “el” in Spanish means “the”. Now, in both Arabic and Hebrew, “el” translates into “deity” and/or “god.”  Now, that’s a powerful translation. To help put it in perspective, these languages have vocabularies of millions of words. It could have easily translated into something with less emotion and impact.

My name, Douglas, is Gaelic for the color “dark gray”. “Dark Gray” certainly doesn’t have the same spiritual repercussions as “GOD”. Currently, we live in a relatively secular society. We individually may or may not claim a religious affiliation, and many Americans do not participate in the day-to-day ritualistic practices of a religious life. That wasn’t the case 150 years ago in the era when C. Moore was born. I could not tell you if Moore was a devoted religious man or a secularist. But people, in general, were much more connected with their religious identity. And even if he wasn’t tied to a particular religion, he still could have been a spiritual person of faith.

That being said, the “el” being translated to “god, deity” would resonate with a profoundly motivating force. And if he made the connection with “el” to “god and deity’, does this propose that El Moore was perceived and conceived to have a spirit?  Crazy question, maybe? But Keith had an eloquent post , “The El Moore Speaks,” as if El Moore was speaking in “the first person”.

I easily fell into that narrative, imaging that the El Moore has been observing all that has been going on around her through the decades. Seemingly personifying the building with a perspective and maybe, just maybe, a soul. Does the El Moore have a spirit and feelings? Or is just brick and mortar? Did its craftsman feel that brick and mortar with the same love and compassion they have for their jobs? Is this distinctive grand old dame being restored? Or rescued?  Or is her strong spirit just dramatically prevailing over all the other buildings that did not survive?

Is the El Moore looking at us with a smile because she is being brought back to life? Once again life will function within her interior walls and ultimately her soul. And finally, is the “el” in “El Moore” more than just a Spanish word meaning “the?”