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.
This modest synagogue in the small village of Danielson fits well into its natural surroundings with its exterior walls covered in local fieldstone. The synagogue was constructed from 1951-1961 for the small but growing Jewish community of Danielson, many of whom were recent immigrants and Holocaust survivors when the synagogue was planned.
The architect was William Riseman, a prominent Boston-based architect whose parents lived nearby and were members of the congregation. Riseman’s mother donated the fieldstone that covers the concrete walls of the structure. Towards the end of construction the congregation hired Maurice Finegold, who was just graduating from Harvard, to help design the interior spaces including the sanctuary.
Most of this information was taken from the nomination that was written for listing the synagogue on the National Register of Historic Places, which happened in 2013. Much more fascinating history is included in the nomination form.
This Firestone dealer is located on 124 Congress Street in Troy. The exact date of construction is unclear but the first reference to Firestone at this location is 1959. The design is simpler than this extant Firestone in New Haven, CT from 1962. The flat roof is at a slight incline and projects out over the floor to ceiling glass windows of the showroom. The aluminum trim remains intact and there is a nice bit of tile detailing in red and white between the two glass bays.
The garage facility and rear of the showroom is brick.
The town of Troy, NY does not have much mid-century architecture to ponder. The town proper is more well-known for its extremely intact Victorian era downtown and neighboring residential areas, some of which were used in place of Gilded Age New York City for Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of The Age of Innocence. At the corner of State Street and Third Street is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, with its amazing Tiffany interior.
Behind it on State Street is St. Anthony of Padua Shrine Church from 1964. This mid-century church is clad in orange brick with abstract stained or colored glass windows and the image of St. Anthony above the entrance in marble. The interior is relatively restrained. The church also features a few other nice original details like the unusual door handles at the entrance.
Next to the church is the earlier St. Anthony School, dating from 1956 and an auditorium and friary that most likely date to that time. All are clad in similar brick and have aluminum and limestone trim.
In this image of St. Anthony School, St. Paul’s tower can be seen in the background.
The neighboring Rev. Thomas A. Deluca auditorium. Note the original projecting flat entrance roof and the glass corridor connecting it to the school, fronted by a statue of St. Anthony of Padua.
The friary behind the school and next to the church.
This unique Howard Johnson’s Restaurant dates to 1962, and was a more unusual sight compared to HoJo’s typical peaked roof and weathervane design. It is unclear if this was done by go-to architects, Rufus Nims and Karl Koch.
The building’s fortunes followed the general decline of Asbury Park and it was largely abandoned in the early 2000s. It subsequently was stripped on the interior while leaving the exterior intact. Today it is the popular McLoone’s Asbury Grille.