Olympia Federal Savings & Loan, Olympia, WA

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Back to the West Coast to continue our look at downtown Olympia architecture. According to the Olympia walking tour guide, this bank branch was designed by the architectural firm of Bennett & Johnson, who also designed another bank, a credit union and a car dealership in the area.

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The original 1967 portion of the building is the two-story glass pavilion on the corner topped by a flat metal roof with a deep overhang. Other elements are faced in white brick, including the planters lining the sidewalk.

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The three-story wings on either side are a late 70s addition and a few of the details such as the sloped glass skylight look clumsy. Still, the building is basically intact and foretells the corporate direction of commercial architecture in the 70s and 80s.

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Queen Anne Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

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This week, we will look at two well-preserved church complexes, one Lutheran and one Catholic, in Seattle. Both were done by locally prominent architects. The first is the Queen Anne Lutheran Church from 1959. It was designed by Robert Durham of the firm Durham Anderson Freed, which designed more than 200 churches in the region.

IMG_1800 This church complex includes a 1964 addition but all buildings are done in the same pale, variegated brick so there is a strong harmony throughout. There are plenty of other nice mid-century details such as the clerestory windows on the entrance pavilion, narrow strips of vertical stained glass to the right of the entrance, a wooden tower with framing that matches the large stained glass design of the sanctuary, and a large window with enamel paneling on the W. McGraw Street facade. The interior was recently updated by Broderick Architects.

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Whig Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

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Today we visit Princeton and look at an unusual 1970s intervention that is really not at all mundane. From the front both Clio and Whig Halls are classical Greek temples. Built in 1893 by architect A. Page Brown, they replaced earlier structures on the site.

In 1969 a fire destroyed the interior of Whig Hall and destabilizing the building’s east wall. Gwathmey Siegel, a young firm founded in 1967, restored the building, replacing the side wall and a portion of the rear with a very modern intervention.

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Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, 14th Street, NYC

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There isn’t a lot of information available about this intriguing little building on 14th Street in Manhattan. The two-story commercial structure houses, or housed at one time, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Local 169 as well as Gallery 169, which was responsible for the mural on the front. It was built in 1947 and exhibits some early modern elements includes the curved awning detail on the second floor, the flagpole and the entrance surround. With continued development on 14th Street, I’m not sure how much longer it will be around.

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Capital Savings & Loan, Olympia, WA

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The former Capital Savings & Loan Building at 222 5th Ave E is the pinnacle of mid-century Olympia. Unfortunately, while the building has been repurposed, its current iteration slightly obscures the uniqueness and daring of the original design.

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The building’s parabolic roof makes a prominent statement at this intersection. In addition to the poured concrete shell, exterior details also include an arched, glass entrance, metal screens on the rear “wings” and stone cladding on the secondary walls. Sources say there was even a bridge over pools of water at the entrance originally.

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It was built in 1963 to designs by the short-lived partnership of Sibold & Nesland.  It is unclear how long it remained a bank branch, but today it is the Big Whiskey Saloon. The current tenants have blocked the front entrance with a wooden screen and the building is now painted a drab grey color.

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But overall the building remains in good shape. The premises even include what seem to be the original entrance lamps. Maybe someone will restore it someday as a real showpiece.

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Sears Department Store, Olympia, WA

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Continuing our look at the mid-century buildings of Olympia. According to the Olympia walking tour guide, this Sears branch was designed by George Ekvall, who was a former employee of the firm who designed the department store in our last entry.  Built in 1952, two years after Goldberg’s, the minimalist aesthetic of both stores are similar: sited on corner lots, using a simple decorative pattern on the facade and using show windows on ground level with none at the upper stories. Today the former Sears building is for rent but the colorful tiles and prominent entrance overhang remain in place and hopefully will when the next tenant arrives.

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Goldberg’s Furniture Store, Olympia, WA

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Continuing our look at the Mid-Century Mundane of the Pacific Northwest and specifically the buildings featured in the Olympia Modernism self-guided walking tour brochure. While we don’t have much to add beyond what the guide says, the buildings featured are a wonderful array of small town modernism and hopefully more research will be done on buildings of this scale.

The Goldberg’s Furniture Store building is a great example, incorporating a strong minimalist design and acting as a community anchor, but probably not known beyond the region or even neighborhood. It was built in 1950 and designed by Wohleb & Wohleb, a prominent local firm. The streamlined design and lack of windows on the upper floors are currently not obscured by signage, although signage was originally visible above the first floor flat metal awning. Like many of Olympia’s mid-century examples, this one remains quite intact.

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