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.

Posted in Brooklyn, New York City, New York State | Leave a comment

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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Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Chinatown, NYC

Another one from the exhibition, Chinese Style: Rediscovering the Architecture of Poy Gum Lee, 1923-1968, at the Museum of Chinese in America. Definitely worth seeing  and it’s just been extended through March 2016. In the show, Curator Kerri Culhane examines the career of Poy Gum Lee, an architect with a rich body of work in both China and the United States.

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Pictured here is the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in Chinatown, which is actually not a design of Lee’s. While inspired by Poy Gum Lee and Wei Foo Chun, it was designed by Andrew S. Yuen & Associates and constructed in 1959. In the exhibition brochure (PDF), Culhane notes that Lee was definitely responsible for the initial design direction of the Association and it’s unclear why it is attributed to Yuen. The design is undeniably modern with a flat facade of brick columns interspersed with window bays covered in decorative metal screens. There is also a prominent metal railing at the roofline and flags displayed throughout. The base has been modernized over time.

Not a lot is readily available about Yuen’s career and other work. The AIA directory from 1970 lists his office in New Rochelle but no other significant works. Perhaps an exhibition on his work will be forthcoming, but in the meantime we look forward to learning more!

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St. Thomas More Church, Morristown, NJ

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This relatively simple church on the outskirts of Morristown, New Jersey was designed by New Jersey-based firm Genovese and Maddelene in 1967. The land came from the Sisters of Charity, based nearby at the sprawling Academy of St. Elizabeth’s.

According to the church’s website, some of the design was influenced by Vatican II, the reforms presented as part of the Second Vatican Council. One that figures closely in this church is the circular space which allows the congregation to surround the Lord’s table instead of the traditional layout with the clergy at the front of the church.

While relatively unknown, we have featured several buildings by Genovese and Maddelene before. They were known almost exclusively for Catholic churches. Two of the three buildings by the firm that we’ve featured are currently threatened with demolition. You can read more about them here and here.

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