Cathedral Church of St. Paul Parish House, Detroit, MI


Detroit has a good number of turn of the century, high-style churches, close to a dozen lining Woodward Avenue at intervals leading out of downtown. St. Paul’s is one of several done in the Gothic Revival style, this one by prolific architect Ralph Adams Cram, a proponent of the Gothic Revival interpreted in a modern way. The church itself dates to 1907 and is associated with several famous Detroiters, including serving as the location of Henry Ford’s funeral.


The parish house next door dates from 1959 and is a surprisingly straightforward interpretation of Gothic Revival. Cram had been dead since 1942 so it was not designed by him although it could have been his successor firm, which still exists today. The quality materials including a granite base and limestone facade, keep the building firmly tied to its high-style neighbor, although here the Gothic details feel like more of an applique. Today the statue above the entrance is missing and it’s possible that the parish house is empty.


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7650 Second Avenue, Detroit, MI


In a city filled with Minoru Yamasaki designs, here is a building that might have taken a few cues from him. The structure is elevated above street level and seems to float above a recessed first floor, both characteristics seen on other Yamasaki buildings. The white concrete creates thin, even divisions between the windows creating a formalist design. Simply viewing a site like the McGregor Center, one can see immediate similarities.

The building, constructed in 1968, was possibly built as a school. When Barsamian Preparatory Center closed on the site in 2012, the building was renovated into flexible office space. The complex, now called the MID, is still available although it’s unclear if any of the spaces have been taken.

This view is actually a side of the building and the main entrance is off a parking lot on Second Avenue, which can be seen in this image from Curbed.


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Arts League Building, Detroit, MI


Located on Woodward Avenue, one of Detroit’s main thoroughfares, the Arts League Building is a mid-rise mid-century corporate office tower. Originally constructed in 1915, the building had a mid-century facade added in 1960. The front facade includes blue tiles and a steel framed grid of windows. Much more to come from Detroit!




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Mary Mother of Priests, Jemez Springs, NM


Our posts continue from New Mexico, courtesy of reader Brigid H. This church, Mary Mother of Priests, looks like a beacon in the landscape, complete with lantern crowning the tower in front. The materials are stark and simple including large stone embedded in concrete at the tower base and on the facade. However, the real story is the campus that the church is part of, which has a very unusual and somewhat dark back story.


Built in 1962, the church is part of a larger complex for the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, founded by Father Gerald Fitzgerald in 1947 to help troubled clergy. Originally starting off helping more priests with substance abuse problems, it also served a number of sexually abusive priests. Fitzgerald was conflicted in serving this segment of the clergy. Google is full of articles and other writings about the center’s background.



New Mexico’s Sanctuaries, Retreats, and Sacred Places; Nealson, Christina;  Westcliffe Publishers; 2003.


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William James Hall, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NYC


Pictured is William James Hall, a major building at Brooklyn College. Opened in the early 1973 as part of the College’s West Quad renovations the building’s formalist style is recently more visible alongside the adjoining structures. In 2009, Rafael Vinoly’s West Quad building replaced the Plaza Building, a concurrent structure to James Hall. The Plaza Building had blocked off the West Quad from the East Quad with a large overpass and now the space is connected across Bedford Avenue.


James Hall is notable for its completely symmetrical design and the entire structure is topped off by a projecting concrete cornice. When originally completed, it housed Education, Sociology, Psychology, Social Sciences, General Studies, and food services.

Special thanks to reader Tara K. for the images!


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Mundane Mondays: St. Paul Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, NM

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Today’s entry is from a new state for Mid-Century Mundane, New Mexico. Submitted by reader Brigid H. is St. Paul Lutheran Church from 1971.

The structure features swooping brick walls interspersed with narrow windows. It’s a severe yet dynamic facade and the interior evokes a similar feeling as seen in this photo.  The church was designed by Flatow and Moore, prolific local architects. More information on the firm can be found here.

A great inventory of mid-century architecture in the city is Albuquerque Modernism. Definitely worth a visit, as is this government survey of local resources (PDF).

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Clapp Library, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA


Clapp Library is a type of building I feature less often here, an older structure with significant mid-century additions. Here, the additions are substantial enough to change the perception of the building and its relationship to the campus.

The central core is a rather bland formal design, completed in 1910 and added to in 1915, all with money provided by Andrew Carnegie.


In 1956-59, Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott completed a major addition surrounding the library. The addition uses concrete framing with large windows and is significantly more substantial in size than the original structure. By this time the Shepley Bulfinch firm was a behemoth, having far expanded beyond its origins as H.H. Richardson’s successor firm. During the mid-century the firm completed numerous buildings for Harvard, Smith, and Dartmouth, among many other colleges and universities. Several, like the additions at Clapp, lack elegance but continue to serve student needs ably.


At Clapp, another major addition was added in 1973-75 in the same style as the 50s wing. The most prominent feature is a semicircular water feature on the right side of the building which provide a striking view for the large windows on all five floors.


Although I visited in the winter when the water feature was drained, I could still tell that it would be a tranquil spot in the warmer months, as pictured here.


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