Mundane Mondays: St. Charles R. C. Church, Staten Island, NYC


Another Mundane Monday entry from Gabriella A. This is St. Charles Church on Staten Island. The parish was founded in 1960 and this church in 1973. There is also a school and convent from the mid 60s on site. The main structure is of brown brick with little exterior detailing, a thin row of clerestory windows, and topped by a steep mansard roof of slate. The windows and the main entrance surround are colorful modern stained glass. The church’s website shows some interior shots as well as historic images.





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First Unitarian Society, Minneapolis, MN


The First Unitarian Society sits on a curving hillside street overlooking the Walker Art Center. The complex is built into the hillside itself so that is possible to enter the church at street level on Mount Curve Avenue and descend several stories through the attached school to exist at street level on Groveland Terrace below. The buildings were designed by prolific local architect Roy Thorshov.


The complex dates from 1951 and is restrained in style with simple lines and mellow brickface as the dominant material. A flat metal canopy runs across the front of the church to a small garden space  surrounded by windows. A concrete screen wall extends from one side of the entrance toward the street.



The interior has a warm sanctuary with linoleum floors, yellow wood walls and pews, and an enormous wall of clear windows looking out across Minneapolis. The interior is incredibly intact with original metal hardware, artwork, and signage. IMG_1153


IMG_1167The school is more utilitarian with walls of cinder block and acoustical tile ceilings. Nothing much as has changed here either. At the entrance to the school is a sign with concrete block that references the entrance wall on the church side.


Special thanks to First Unitarian Society for letting us visit inside!

Source: Larry Millett, AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007.


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FDNY Engine 209, Brooklyn, NY

IMG_1957 This former fire house (now owned by a private company) was built in 1965 and designed by Pedersen & Tilney. The firm was active from 1952-64 and based in New Haven, CT. They have a substantial body of work there including housing, institutional buildings, and restoration projects, many done by Petersen once the firm dissolved. Elsewhere in Brooklyn, they did one rather severe middle school and most likely other buildings in the city. Most of this information came from the wonderful resource of Brownstoner’s Building of the Day column.

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B’nai Israel Jewish Center, Brooklyn, NYC

Quite a find in the neighborhood of East Flatbush is the former B’nai Israel Jewish Center from 1955. The building is now East Brooklyn Community High School. Although the use has changed, the original purpose is still clear especially from the entrance portico in the shape of the ten commandment tablets. There are also other striking details such as the breezeblock at ground level, the front wall of windows, interior terrazzo and metal features, as well as brightly colored enamel exterior panels (visible in the full image here.)

IMG_1741IMG_1743IMG_1749 (1)

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The Emanuel Synagogue, West Hartford, CT


The Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford dates from 1970. The design of this building is restrained and shows the turning point from 1960s detailing to a sometimes more severe and utilitarian focus on use and materials, here in dull brown metal and stone and rich orange brick. There is seating for 600.







The building was designed by NYC architect Bertram Bassuk.  He attended NYU and Brooklyn College and opened his own firm in 1952. Although based in New York, his work seems to have been almost exclusively outside the city in places like Connecticut and Long Island. He is largely known for his synagogues, which exist as far away as Minnesota.

IMG_1934Source: Lathrop, Alan K. “Churches of Minnesota: An Illustrated Guide. University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

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Firefighter Dan DeFranco Building, Murray Hill, NYC













This five story building sits close to the intersection of East 23rd Street and Third Avenue. It’s a rather small project by Kahn and Jacobs, a firm headed Ely Jacques Kahn and responsible for hundreds of buildings across the city. Although perhaps best known for early corporate skyscrapers, they did all types of buildings. Structures like this more modest example were probably fairly lucrative for the firm. The building is occupied by the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the International Association of Firefighters and was renamed for an advocate for firefighter health and safety in 1999. The design is slightly unusual in that instead of a plain glass curtain fall facade, vertical bands of concrete frame windows across the front.

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Mundane Mondays: Riverdale Branch Library, Bronx, NYC


Today’s submission comes from longtime reader David Lurie, who has submitted some great examples of Mid-Century Mundanity.

This one was completely unknown to me and is a wonderful glass and brick structure with a prominent A-frame facade. Robert L. Bien was the architect here. Bien did design a number of buildings across the city, some with his father Sylvan. A great interview with Robert, which we’ve linked to before, is here.

According to this article, Bien went to work for Eggers & Higgins in 1967, so this was one of his last buildings on his own. Eggers & Higgins was a major player in mid-century architecture, growing out of John Russell Pope’s office, and we’ve covered them numerous times.


The interior of the library is even better with an open vaulted ceiling and what look to be original hanging light fixtures. According to the NY Public Library website, the library was constructed at the request of the community to replace a smaller, existing library.


The Architectural and Historical Resources of Riverdale, The Bronx, New York: A Preliminary Survey. (Riverdale Nature Preservancy, 1998), 65.


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