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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Mundane Mondays: Immaculate Conception Church, East Weymouth, MA

IMG_5933Today’s striking Mundane Monday entry was shared by Bob Thomas and could be considered anything but mundane. Immaculate Conception Church is located in Weymouth, MA, a city just south of Boston. The firm who designed the building, Holmes & Edwards, is still in business and have a speciality of doing religious properties in the area–with more than 30 ecclesiastical projects on their website, both mid-century but also more recent work.

Nothing else in their archive appears to have the same design heft as Immaculate Conception  with its tent-like roofline and zig zag eaves. The church was completed in 1967. The shot of the interior shows the soaring open space of the sanctuary, glowing under a wooden ceiling and a ring of vintage metal hanging light fixtures. Definitely worth a visit!


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Scaife Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA


The Scaife Hall of Engineering is a mid-century complex including a boxy corporate structure with metal screens and a circular concrete-clad lecture hall. The structure was designed by local architects Altenhof and Bown in 1961-62. Bown attended Carnegie Mellon for architecture and was involved in designing several government buildings in downtown Pittsburgh.


The main building is clad in metal louvers that form a screen to help with shading the largely glass-walled exterior. The overall design is rather formal with a flat roof and prominent cornice overhang. Extending in front of the metal screen are evenly spaced thin white columns that support the roof. The unusually shaped lecture hall lacks much decoration other than its shape. But overall this is an interesting but lesser-known modernist structure on the edge of the Carnegie Mellow campus.


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Putnam Courthouse, Putnam, CT

The Putnam Courthouse, holding various court and law functions, has a classical design of the late 1940s and early 1950s, although it was actually constructed in 1966-67.  In small towns and rural areas such as where Putnam is located, it is not surprising to see earlier styles still employed. The architect was Willard Wilkins, based out of Hartford.


The design focuses on symmetry to give a more imposing quality. The facade is unified by limestone boxes around both the first and second floor windows with a central panel of black granite between them.

IMG_8945The entrance is modest with a small flat metal canopy and subtle grill work above the door. the roof is also flat with no cornice. Two prominent flagpoles extend above the building.

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