This church was built by local Hudson Valley architect William van Benschoten. According to The New York Times, van Benschoten died on April 1, 1968 so this church precedes that date, although it is unclear by how long. The architect consulted for the New York Episcopal Diocese and has at least one other extant church to his credit, as well as several modern houses in the region. Christ the King is one of his most contemporary and spartan designs, with no exterior decoration of note.
I was saddened to hear that New York-based architect Jordan Gruzen died in January 2015. Gruzen’s work as part of the partnership of Kelly & Gruzen informed much of my interest in mid-century and modern architecture in the New York region. Their work is the epitome of what I was looking at when starting Mid-Century Mundane, the interesting and engaging modern architecture that contributes to our streetscapes and cities but is generally less well-known.
This site featured just a few of Kelly & Gruzen’s designs and the Queens Modern website will feature at least one award-winning synagogue in the Rockaways. I’ve noted that several of their designs are credited to George Shimamoto of both Kelly & Gruzen and the later Gruzen Partnership. I hope someone does a feature on him. There is quite a bit more of their work out there and I hope to bring it to you soon! Until then, check out some of our past features on Kelly & Gruzen:
High School of Graphic Communication Arts
The Japan Society (as the Gruzen Partnership)
Junior High School 22
The New York Buddhist Church
The history of this building is definitely more interesting than the exterior design. This was built in the late 1960s (cornerstone 1966) for Congregation Mt. Sinai. They had purchased the former Odd Fellows Hall next door at 301-309 Schermerhorn Street and added this annex. They stayed until the 1980s and the Odd Fellows Hall is now a Hare Krishna Temple, while the annex seems largely abandoned. The Brownstoner blog has a good history on the larger building in its Building of the Day column.
The annex is the simplest of buildings with brick face interspersed with what look to be flat columns of concrete or perhaps badly weathered limestone. The front steps are faced in slate. Peering through the front doors, the entry foyer has a window or door on the other side that looks out into a small courtyard space. According to a listing in The New York Times (13 Oct. 1956) the architect may have been Samuel Juster, a minor regional architect with his own Wikipedia page. This seems likely as among his other building are community buildings for Shaare Torah in Brooklyn, at least one of which shares the same restrained design of brick with concrete details. Since both buildings on Schermerhorn are being marketed as a development site and given the changes happening on all sides along this stretch in downtown Brooklyn, these buildings will be gone soon.
Image of stained glass at ground level on the Off Fellows Building, most likely added around the same time as the annex was built.
Hello Mid-Century Mundane fans,
I’m pleased to announce that Queens Modern is here! This new project is a natural progression of my interest in “everyday” mid-century architecture and focuses on a specific group of buildings for a more in-depth examination of the genre.
In 2014, I started the Queens Modern project to explore modern and mid-century architecture in Queens, NY. The subject is viewed through the lens of the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Building Awards program. From 1948-1970, the Chamber honored nearly 400 buildings of all types across the borough. The Queens Modern website features 150 of these award-winning projects, and will eventually include all award-winners from this time period as well as dozens of other Queens buildings of the era.
Visit the Queens Modern website (queensmodern.com) now to learn more!
I will still be posting regularly on Mid-Century Mundane including some cross-posts with Queens Modern, so stayed tuned for more.
Queens Modern is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Special thanks to the Queens Chamber of Commerce for their support of Queens Modern.
We are back for 2015 and kicking off with some new initiatives and new discoveries! First off we have this intriguing, but down-on-its-luck building at the corner of Livingston and Smith Streets in downtown Brooklyn.
This was originally the American Fore Building, named for an insurance company that was located here, although they were not the owner or developer. It was built around 1959 and designed by Morris Lapidus’s firm. Lapidus, of course is known more for his exuberant Miami hotels, but he also designed office buildings, retail spaces, and residences. In various places this building is listed as designed by Morris Lapidus alone or by another iteration of his firm. The exterior originally was clad in anodized aluminum in blue-grey and bronze, as well as Italian mosaic tiles on the Smith Street facade. Some of these materials have been removed over time or remain in a decayed state. The Library of Congress has some images that show the original building as constructed or proposed.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection LC-G613-74598
The building housed various insurance companies for several decades but at some point became the Kings County Housing Court, which it remains today. This is not an ideal use for a former office building and according to a December 2014 article in The New York Times, the court plan to vacate the building in the next several years. This somewhat explains the rundown look, as Brooklyn is not interested in investing in the building longterm.
At some point the structure lost its original recessed entrance, which removed some of the elegance at ground level as seen in the second, original photo. Hopefully once the court moves out someone buys this building and rehabilitates it for office space again.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. LC-G613-74600
Thanks for reading Mid-Century Mundane in 2014! This will be the last post for the year. There will be much more mid-century architecture to feature in 2015 including the launch of a new project, Queens Modern! So stay tuned for more exciting news and in the meantime happy holidays to all!
For this last post of 2014, we are featuring a historicist Roman Catholic church on lower Park Avenue. The Church of Our Saviour exemplifies the continued interest and use of historical design styles even during the mid-century. The building was built in 1955-57 and is designed in the French Romanesque style, using traditional materials and a wealth of traditional style carvings throughout the design. The facade is most likely limestone and the roof is red tile with a copper steeple. Unlike many churches of the era, there seems to be no attempt at modernizing of detailing or use of modern materials. The bell tower does hold air conditioning equipment, a nod to the era this was built. Even then air conditioning was not typical in all new churches.
Just a block away is the Community Church of New York, built almost ten years early but in a much more modern and simplified style. The comparison between the two is striking and only further highlights the traditional look of Our Saviour.
This church was designed by Paul C. Reilly, an architect perhaps known more for his theater design, having worked for the prolific designer Thomas Lamb. But Reilly did do several buildings for the New York Catholic Diocese, including the Church of the Good Shepherd in Inwood. The interior here is surprisingly ornate with a lovely coffered ceiling and richly colored artwork behind the altar.
Just a block and a half away from our previously-featured synagogue is Cornerstone Baptist Church. The church’s actual cornerstone is engraved with the date 1966. According to the church website, this building replaced a Victorian Gothic/Queen Anne structure although it doesn’t clarify why the older structure was demolished. The A-frame design of this building is typical of suburban style churches of the era. The front window is broken up into multiple panes in a reference to stained glass although here the class is clear. Unusually, a tall brick chimney runs up the front of the building, possibly a later addition.