Saint Athanasius School, Bronx, NYC

One of many mid-century Catholic schools in the Bronx, St. Anthansius stands out due to its connection with a former mayor of New York City. Mayor Robert Wagner laid the cornerstone of the school himself on September 26, 1965. Wagner had grown up with the priest overseeing the new building, a Monsignor O’Brien. Wagner’s wife, Susan, had died the previous year and he also dedicated a chapel in her name inside the school.


The school was built to hold 675 students and is fairly standard for a mid-60’s Catholic school. I’m not sure of the architect; it could have been one the Diocese favorites like George Sole or William Boegel, but there were also many smaller firms doing similar work at this time.

IMG_3246Today’s entry is provided by Mid-Century Mundane correspondent Gabriella A.

Source: Robert F. Wagner Document Collection, City University of New York. 

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St. Olaf Catholic Church, Minneapolis, MN

This church in downtown Minneapolis is by local firm Thorshov and Cerny, who did numerous buildings throughout the Twin Cities and nurtured a generation of architects. The building dates from 1955, replacing the previous church which burned down in 1953.  The facade is clad in a local stone, Mankato-Kasota. The dark interior is decorated with stunning colored glass.
IMG_1197 IMG_1194 IMG_1190 IMG_1189Source: AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, Larry Millett, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007

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Mid-Century Mundane Takes a Road Trip!

IMG_1738Recently I was asked to co-author a short piece about roadside architecture. The basis for the subject was Richard Longstreth’s newly published Road Tripa book that features 1970s historical photographs of road side architecture including gas stations, motels, drive-ins, and shopping centers. Pictured above is a Phillips 66 station outside Fredericksburg, VA, the canopy of which is just visible in one of Richard’s photographs.

Since some of these typologies are not often featured on Mid-Century Mundane, I gladly agreed to participate. Read the travelogue here!

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Winchester Towers, Winchester, VA


Sitting just outside the historic downtown core, this 1962 hotel is currently being redeveloped and it is unclear if the current structure will remain. The hotel incorporates traditional materials like brick that blend in downtown as well as mid-century elements like the concrete block screen. The vertical sign is also intact and serves as a visual beacon for drivers. The building was recently included in an expansion of the National Register of Historic Places district in order to be eligible for tax credits. It will be interesting to see if anyone takes advantage of those to restore this building.



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Berkshire Bank, Chatham, NY


Along the main street in Chatham is this bank. The rest of the town is intact Victorian or earlier, but this 1956 bank fits in quite nicely. Today it’s Berkshire Bank but it has gone through numerous incarnations. By 1967 it was State Bank of Albany and most recently Bank of America. The structure has a nice stone veneer base with metal panelling and windows above and a drive through overhang. The sides and rear of the building are covered in white vinyl siding.


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John F. Kennedy Elementary School, Kingston, NY


Tucked away in a quiet part of Kingston, this elementary school is a snapshot of the era with its bright enamel panels, original aluminum bands at the cornice line, aluminum framed windows, and lighting fixtures. It was built in 1954-65 by Harry Halverson & Associates, a firm that did numerous buildings in the area, including banks, homes, and schools.  

IMG_1617Kennedy Elementary is similar to numerous schools in the area by the same firm. According to “Kingston: The IBM Years,” by Friends of Historic Kingston, Halverson claimed that the school and others were based on stock plans from an approved New York State architect and so this is why they all seem similar. However neither school has the bright blue and yellow enamel panelling that makes Kennedy Elementary so engaging and of its era.IMG_1623




We’ll bring you more schools in this series soon!

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St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church, Washington, DC


St. Benedict is a historically black congregation and one of the first Catholic churches in DC with a black pastor. It’s located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood facing a park that runs along the banks of the Anacostia River. The parish was created in 1946, the church’s cornerstone dates from 1950, and the complex was opened in 1952. The materials of the church are typical of the 1950s with red brick accented by limestone details. The engaging entrance includes a grid of windows and a statue of St. Benedict in the center. This initial building also includes the rectory behind it.


Next door is the school and convent from 1962. The two story building is long and shallow, sited across the primary elevation and set back a ways from the street. The materials here are lighter with more limestone trim around the windows and a lighter brick. The most striking feature is the school entrance. It consists of a one story connector between school wings. A strange abbreviated tower rises up from the center of the connector and pierces the roofline which is a square void open to the sky. It is unclear why this entrance is so highly designed in comparison to the rest of the complex.


The school is bookended at the other end by a community center of 1978. Besides a flat red canopy projecting from the entrance there is minimal detailing on this end of the complex.

IMG_2549Sources: Patsy M. Fletcher, Ward 7 Heritage Guide, DC Historic Preservation Office, 2013.

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