Newman Catholic Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA


On the edge of campus at N. Pleasant Street and Massachusetts Avenue is UMass’s Newman Catholic Center. It opened in April 1963. The Newman Center is one of hundreds across the country, existing as spiritual centers for Catholic students attending a secular college or university.

Although I have not been able to discover who the architect is, the building has a standard mid-century design and could pass for a residence hall, classroom building or even hotel except for minimal detailing like the metal crosses and the statue of Cardinal Newman above the door.

IMG_7455The lower level at the rear includes a cafe.


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First Baptist Church of Amherst, Amherst, MA


Adjacent to UMass Amherst is the First Baptist Church. Like a majority of buildings on the nearby campus, the church dates to the mid-century, specifically 1962. The design is typical for many suburban style protestant churches of the era, entered from the parking area. It also features a blind brick wall facing the street with decoration in a center column of concrete (here in the form of cross shapes). The sides of the sanctuary are lined with windows, although not stained glass.

IMG_7347The entrance has a large flat overhang and connects both the church in the front as well as educational and other buildings behind. The rear is built on a slope and leads down to a large parking area.


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Music Building, Amherst College, Amherst, MA


According to the Amherst Archives and Special Collections, the building was designed by the architect Benjamin Thompson in 1967-68. Thompson was a founding member of the influential The Architects Collaborative, along with its most famous member, Walter Gropius.

IMG_7295The design is stripped down and utilitarian while using materials on the exterior that harmonize with the rest of the Amherst campus. All in all, it’s a relatively staid addition to the campus, probably exactly what Amherst had requested.

IMG_7291The inside of the Music Building has concrete coffered ceilings similar to this other Thompson design we have featured.


At the entrance located under an overhang, the brick pavers along the ground continue into the lobby space.


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Merrill Science Center, Amherst College, Amherst, MA


The Merrill Science Center of 1966-68 is sits on a sloping hillside near the main quadrangle of the Amherst College campus. It was designed by Campbell, Aldrich and Nulty, the prolific firm out of Boston. Many readers will remember them best as co-architects of the still controversial Boston City Hall. Like that building, Merrill is seen by many as being severe with a front of angled edges and few windows. There is a large sunken brick courtyard in front of the entrance.

IMG_7315Walking into the main entrance, one can immediately exit the building down a short hallway and end up on Merrill Beach, a large outdoor area that incorporates the roof of the lower levels of the building built into the hillside. The view of this side shows more visible windows as well as two light wells with seating areas and landscaping that exist by the bridge connecting the main entrance area to the beach.

IMG_7314What might be the best feature of Merrill is the panoramic views from the rear of the building and the beach out to the nearby mountains and closer on, the Amherst athletic fields. The science department is leaving Merrill soon and the building is being considered for other uses.


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Robert Frost Library, Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Robert Frost Library on Amherst College’s campus is one of the few modernist structures among a largely more staid collection. It encloses one end of the West, or First Year, Quad.


The architects were O’Connor and Kilham of New York, a firm well-known for their mid-century collegiate libraries and one of which we’ve covered before. Although modern, the design of the library still uses brick and stone as its primary facade materials in an effort to harmonize, something that this firm’s buildings don’t always do.

IMG_7253Dating from 1963-65, one of the building’s most notable facts is that President John F. Kennedy spoke at the groundbreaking in October 1963, one of his last public appearances. Two anonymous donors gave the money in 1962 for it to be built and requested that it to be named after Frost, who had taught at Amherst.

IMG_7256Although interesting as a mid-century building, the library sits on the site of a much more grand and storied Victorian structure, Walker Hall. The previous building is even referenced both by name and construction date in the cornerstone of Robert Frost Library, tying together the old to the new.


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Pepsi-Cola Building, Portland, Oregon


For such an unusual building, there is not a lot of information out there about this building in Portland. Located at 2627 NE Sandy Boulevard, it still remains a Pepsi-Cola plant and office. A survey of masonry structures in Portland listed this structure as having been constructed circa 1950. Congratulations to Pepsi-Cola for maintaining the building in such great shape all these years!






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St. Anne Church, Seattle, WA


St. Anne Church in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood is an intact mid-century complex, of which we’ve covered several others previously. It replaced an older, Victorian-era church that the congregation had outgrown.

IMG_1813It was built in 1962 to the designs of John W. Maloney, whose firm was responsible for many churches throughout Seattle as well as numerous other structures. We’ve covered what is most likely one of his bank branches here.

IMG_1821Some of the unique features of the complex include the dominating belltower and the engaging curves of the roofline. Stained glass and some interior painting decoration was done by the studios of Harold Rambusch.


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