St. Peter St. Paul Catholic Elementary School, Staten Island, NYC

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Not much to say about this mundane school on Staten Island. The details here are very minimal–too simple brick boxes with flat roofs and a flat concrete canopy at the central entrance courtyard. Due to its rather late development, Staten Island does have some striking mid-century religious sites, but this is not one.  The school was constructed in 1954.

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Second District Dental Society, Brooklyn, NYC

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Located on a block of brownstones, the Second District Dental Society is a modest structure that fits in well with its neighbors. The building includes 5,000 square feet of space including an auditorium, dental office, laboratory, and administrative offices.

The Society moved here when faced with a major rent hike at One Hanson Place around the corner, long known as a building of dentist offices. Building this structure meant that the Society was the first dental society in the nation with its own headquarters.

The building was constructed in 1952 by architect J. Bruno Basil, a Brooklyn based architect active from the 1940s until at least the 1960s. By the 1970s he had moved to Florida and practiced there until his retirement. Although it is unclear what his speciality was, his name is attached to designs of a tuberculosis hospital from the 1940s, so medical design was not unknown to him.

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Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle September 27, 1951.

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Firehouse-Engine Company 214

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Firehouse Engine Company 214 is one of the many mid-century fire companies built throughout the city. Here on a residential street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, it most likely replaced an older firehouse or residential property. It was built in 1958 and is affiliated with black architect Clinton S. Harris, who was in charge of design specifications for the city in the 1950s. It is unlikely that he designed the building, but was rather only internal design contact for city, but his name appears associated with numerous firehouses during this time.

Source:

Wilson, Dreck Spurlock, African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945, Routledge, 2004.

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Weyehaeuser Memorial Chapel, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN

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Still getting around to posting all the sites I visited during a June 2015 trip to the Twin Cities with Docomomo US. For this entry we have the nondenominational chapel at Macalester College which is a strange combination of glassy, corporate exterior with modest, contemplative interior.

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The architect was Cerny Associates, a prolific local firm, which completed the building in 1969. The exterior box has six sides and sits on a brick base within a moat-like depression. It would be interesting to know why this location was chosen. It’s placed centrally on campus but the ground is uneven and the building sits in a depression. Therefore the chapel space is entered across a bridge at the second floor level.

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The interior is modest and effective, with natural materials–handmade banners, natural woven fabrics, and an inner chapel space framed by brick screens, simply built. The wood trusses overhead bring drama to the design and the abundance of natural light make it a space that is warm and welcoming.

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St. Luke’s School, Greenwich Village, NYC

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St. Luke’s School is a rather plain complex, circa 1950-53, but is severe enough to look 40s. The two-story brick building runs along Greenwich Street at the back of the St. Luke’s in the Fields property. At the corner of Greenwich and Christopher Streets, there is a rounded corner with a prominent central window and topped by a band of limestone and a cross. Other than that the detailing is minimal.

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The architect was Thomas M. Bell, now not much known, but during his career he designed several church buildings including the St. Thomas Choir School on West 58th Street with architect Percival Goodman, more known for his synagogues than churches. The job here could possibly been his given his link with Trinity Church. Thomas was an associate architect in the office of Hobart Upjohn, the son of noted architect Richard Upjohn Jr. and grandson of famed architect Richard Upjohn. Thomas was affiliated with Trinity Church as consulting architect after Hobart Upjohn’s retirement in the mid-1940s. Given that St. Luke’s in the Fields property was owned by Trinity Church, the architect for the new school would have been decided on by its governing body.

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Today there are big plans for the school site with a massive new building on an empty lot to the south and an addition on top of the school. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the changes as the school and entire church complex are in a historic district, but the school will still be altered.

Sources: https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/about/history/guide-to-archives/finance

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Jehovah Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN

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I was lucky enough to visit this church on a trip the Twin Cities early in 2015 and it was a revelation. Designed in 1963, both the interior and exterior are filled with striking details. Unfortunately the area around the church has changed significantly since construction and the congregation has dwindled to a small fraction of its original size, making the future of the building not reassuring.

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Harold Spitznagel was the architect here. While Spitznagel had a prolific career in South Dakota, spanning more than 50 years, he remains relatively unknown outside that state. The exterior of Jehovah Lutheran is clad in graphic masonry blocks and is otherwise restrained except for the red and white crosses fronting the entrance and the thin stripes of color above the entrance doors.

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The interior has more touches of color throughout including a vivid blue ceiling and blue glass in the sanctuary and colored glass in oranges and browns in the lobby.

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According to Spitnagel’s successor firm’s website, noted liturgical artist Palmer Eide was commissioned for numerous items in Jehovah Lutheran, including a Christ sculpture and baptismal sculpture, as well as elements of the chapel (pictured below).

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Our Lady of Victory Church, Financial District, NYC

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This church among the canyons of Lower Manhattan is a staid affair. The red brick, limestone trim, symmetrical front facade, and classical statuary make the building feel older than its actual construction date of 1944-1947. Only the flatness of some of the architectural details and stylization of the sculptural elements hint at a later era. The history of the building is intriguing; the concept for the parish was initiated during World War II when victory was possible but not assured. It is unclear from initial research on why Lower Manhattan was chosen for the site. This must be a very valued piece of property today.

IMG_3804The architects were Eggers and Higgins, major architects of the era, and covered on this site many times. Their style ran the gamut from classical designs like this to Art Deco, Moderne, Modern, and even Brutalist. Over the firm’s long history they did dozens of structures for the Catholic church. Comparing this design to their later Catholic Center for NYU (now demolished), shows the wide range their output. 

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