Many of the streets around the New York State Capitol complex in Albany are lined with mid-century buildings interspersed with older Victorian row houses and institutions. Most of these buildings are now home to associations and trade groups that have dealings with the state government. However, besides construction date, not a lot of other information is available so I’m featuring a selection of other buildings here as a wrap-up.
162 Washington Avenue-1950
155 Washington Avenue-1940
90 S. Swan Street-date unknown, c. 1950
100 S. Swan Street-date unknown, c. 1945.
33 Elk Street-1967
The Albany Public Library at 161 Washington Avenue, dates from between 1965-1970. However the concrete facade was given a new look with a stencil pattern of gothic architectural details applied within the past decade or so. The company that did the work can be found here, although it is unclear exactly when the project happened. It is an unusual look for what must originally have been a fairly plain Brutalist concrete structure.
This small commercial building is just steps from Empire State Plaza. Built in 1965, with an addition in 1970, it is roughly contemporaneous with the Plaza but uses a completely different architectural vocabulary.
Primarily brick with metal and some concrete detailing, the building blends in with the residential streetscape and defers to the brick church next door. However the corner section with metal windows and enamel panels calls out its purpose as commercial rather than residential. The unique, small, square, single-pane windows on both sides enliven the facade and provide light to what are most likely hallways and stairwells.
Today the building houses the Retail Council of New York State.
The Dutchess County Office Building is a mid-century corporate-style block on Market Street in downtown Poughkeepsie. Built in 1965-67 and opened by HUD secretary Robert C. Weaver, it came at a time when urban renewal was rapidly changing the face of Poughkeepsie. This building was seen as a way to keep people in declining downtown but as evidenced, did not work as expected. Today, the city center is still struggling and in 2012 the city demolished the historic Nelson House Hotel, located to the immediate left of the office building due to deteriorated conditions.
I was not able to determine the architect of this building and there is little to discuss about the structure that is not immediate apparent, except perhaps the war memorial to the left of the front entrance. The Dutchess County building does bear a passing resemblance to the nearby Ulster County Office Building across the river and the dates are similar, so perhaps this could be the work of the regional Schrowang family firm?
Baldwin House was opened in May 1940 as the school’s infirmary and still remains a health center. From a distance the building belies its age and only upon closer inspection does one see the glass block inserts, casement windows and flat metal roof overhang that identifies its early modernist roots. The building uses a Y-shaped floorplan which may be to provide maximum light and air to the infirm. There is also a projecting window bay at the center of both of the front and rear of the building, featuring a simple brick pattern.
The architects were Faulkner and Kingsbury. In 1938 they also designed the east wing of Palmer House, a cooperative off-campus dormitory, but this building closed in 1947. Various members of the firm also did numerous structures at George Washington University and American University in Washington, D.C. and they were really known as a DC-based firm. However the firm grew partially out of York and Sawyer, noted bank architects who did numerous Victorian-era buildings at Vassar which may be how they got the commission for Baldwin.
Chicago Hall is definitely not mundane, but probably less well-known than Vassar College’s Saarinen-designed Noyes House or Breuer’s Ferry Cooperative House. Chicago Hall was built in 1959 as the last of the big three mid-century structures after Ferry and Noyes. It was built to house the school’s foreign language departments.
The building is tucked away behind trees and the bulk of the library as well as several brick Victorian buildings, although originally it had more open space around it. It is only one-story but features an eye-catching barrel vaulted roofline and an energetic concrete screen. There is ample light for all rooms through the floor to ceiling windows and courtyard space. The screen was designed by Erwin Hauer and some striking vintage images of the screen and its construction can be found here.
The architects were Schweikher and Elting, names not as prominent today as they would have been at the time. Their partnership came about when Schweikher joined the existing Chicago firm of Lamb and Elting. The location of the firm’s office clarifies why they were chosen for a building paid for with funds from Chicago alumni.
Several sources say Paul Schweikher left the partnership by 1953 but Chicago Hall is still generally listed under the firm’s name. Schweikher is the more well-known of the two, having served as chair of Yale’s School of Architecture in the 1950s and then the Carnegie School of Architecture shortly after that. He has a wide-range of work still extant in the Chicago area as well as the Pittsburgh area (we previously featured one of those works here).
Mid-Century Mundane is pleased to have co-authored an article on the Docomomo US website focusing on mid-century bus terminals. Take a look and please let us know what you think!
We are hoping to do more articles like this in the future, examining typologies and themes within mid-century architecture that are unexplored and under appreciated.
Image of Adirondack Trailways station by Liz Waytkus.