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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Southeast Community Library, Minneapolis, MN

Ralph Rapson is renowned in Minneapolis, having a prolific body of work from more than 50 years of an architectural practice in Minnesota alone.  However his buildings have not always fared so well. The Twin Cities lost one of his most famed commissions, the Guthrie Theater, in 2006, as well as at least one church and residence in recent years. The Southeast Community Library is another Rapson building that has been threatened over the past few years and whose future remains unclear.


Originally a credit union designed by Rapson in 1964, the building was remodeled by Rapson and reopened as a library in 1967. But the years have worn on the building and it is slated to close soon. On the table are replacement or rehabilitation. The city has expressed a strong interest at times to saving the building but things are still opaque.



The one story building is raised  and setback from the street. The design is dominated by a protruding, heavy concrete overhang and the materials are muted in browns and grays. The formality of the building is appealing from a modernist standpoint but it is also understandable how this design has not served well as a library. Here is hoping a reuse can be found, whether remaining as a library or as some other community need.

Source: Larry Millett, AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007.


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Mundane Mondays: St. Charles R. C. Church, Staten Island, NYC


Another Mundane Monday entry from Gabriella A. This is St. Charles Church on Staten Island. The parish was founded in 1960 and this church in 1973. There is also a school and convent from the mid 60s on site. The main structure is of brown brick with little exterior detailing, a thin row of clerestory windows, and topped by a steep mansard roof of slate. The windows and the main entrance surround are colorful modern stained glass. The church’s website shows some interior shots as well as historic images.





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First Unitarian Society, Minneapolis, MN


The First Unitarian Society sits on a curving hillside street overlooking the Walker Art Center. The complex is built into the hillside itself so that is possible to enter the church at street level on Mount Curve Avenue and descend several stories through the attached school to exist at street level on Groveland Terrace below. The buildings were designed by prolific local architect Roy Thorshov.


The complex dates from 1951 and is restrained in style with simple lines and mellow brickface as the dominant material. A flat metal canopy runs across the front of the church to a small garden space  surrounded by windows. A concrete screen wall extends from one side of the entrance toward the street.



The interior has a warm sanctuary with linoleum floors, yellow wood walls and pews, and an enormous wall of clear windows looking out across Minneapolis. The interior is incredibly intact with original metal hardware, artwork, and signage. IMG_1153


IMG_1167The school is more utilitarian with walls of cinder block and acoustical tile ceilings. Nothing much as has changed here either. At the entrance to the school is a sign with concrete block that references the entrance wall on the church side.


Special thanks to First Unitarian Society for letting us visit inside!

Source: Larry Millett, AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007.


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FDNY Engine 209, Brooklyn, NY

IMG_1957 This former fire house (now owned by a private company) was built in 1965 and designed by Pedersen & Tilney. The firm was active from 1952-64 and based in New Haven, CT. They have a substantial body of work there including housing, institutional buildings, and restoration projects, many done by Petersen once the firm dissolved. Elsewhere in Brooklyn, they did one rather severe middle school and most likely other buildings in the city. Most of this information came from the wonderful resource of Brownstoner’s Building of the Day column.

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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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