The Central Fire Station in Portland, Maine was built in 1924 and designed by William R. Miller & Raymond J. Mayo, architects located at 465 Congress. Lester I. Beal, a draftsman employed by Miller & Mayo, participated in the design. It was erected to contain the administrative offices of the Portland Fire Department, as well as to house fire engines and other apparatus of the inner city district. Portland has one of the oldest fire departments in the nation, 1768, when Falmouth appointed fire wardens to look for fires at night and alert the residents. In 1786, the citizens of Falmouth formed a separate town in Falmouth Neck and named it Portland, after the isle off the coast of Dorset, England. After the Great Fire of 1866 destroyed much of Downtown Portland, a new central station was built in 1867. The structure was deemed obsolete with new, large ladder trucks replacing smaller engines. The entire downtown block was demolished for the current Central Fire Station for the present building. The small building is at the center of a large lot, which is likely a candidate for redevelopment in the future (after some adjacent surface parking lots are developed).
Everett Savings Bank // 1930
Located next door to the First Congregational Church of Everett, you can find one of the finest eclectic commercial buildings in the region, and it is one that is often overlooked. The Everett Savings Bank was built in 1930 from plans by architect Thomas Marriott James for the Everett Savings Bank, which was established in 1889. This building was constructed just at the beginning of the Great Depression, at a time when banks and American citizens were penny pinching. The budget was likely set before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 as the relatively high-style bank building would have been a big expense at the time. The bank blends Art Deco and Spanish Renaissance Revival styles elegantly. The structure is constructed with sandstone walls that are decorated with figured panels and semi-circular multi-pane windows are outlined by rope molding. Crowning the building is a bold arcaded frieze with Moorish inspired cornice. Swoon!
Albert Parlin School // 1931
Albert Norton Parlin (1848-1927) was born in Everett, Massachusetts to Ezra Parlin and Nancy Pickering-Parlin. At a young age, Albert lost both his parents – his mother passed in 1853 at the age of 26 and his father passed in 1858 at the age of 37, both succumbing to “consumption” (tuberculosis). At the age of nine, young Albert had become an orphan, and was raised by his grandmother at the Pickering Estate. He found his first job as a floor-sweep and errand boy in a retail cloak store. At seventeen, Albert Parlin began working with Magee Furnace Company, a Boston-based company where Mr. Parlin spent twenty-eight years of his professional career, moving up the ranks to become treasurer of the company. After he became successful, he gave back to his hometown, when in 1892, he donated his familial home and money to the City of Everett for the erection of the Parlin Memorial Library, to honor his late son. Parlin was not done giving to his hometown. He also left funds and a large piece of land to the City of Everett for a new Junior High School in 1915. The architectural firm of Desmond & Lord was commissioned to design the school which is set deep on the lot to give the building a beautiful front lawn. The 1931 building blends Art Deco and Tudor Revival styles with a large central panel.
Millbury Post Office // 1940
Located in downtown Millbury, MA, the town’s local post office stands as a great example of Art Deco and Colonial Revival architecture styles, showing how well different styles can be incorporated into a single, complimentary design. The Millbury Post Office building was constructed in 1940 from plans by Louis Adolph Simon, who served as Supervising Architect in the Office of the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury from 1933 until 1939, when the office was moved to the Public Works Administration / Works Progress Administration. The post office was designed at the tail end of the New Deal programs to help stimulate local economies by building infrastructure and providing jobs to locals. Inside, a mural “An Incident in the King Philip’s War, 1670” was painted by Joe Lasker and installed in 1941 and was “revivified” in 1991.
A1 Diner // 1946
Arriving by truck in 1946 from the Worcester Lunch Car Company factory in Worcester, Massachusetts, this piece of Americana has served dishes to Gardiner, Maine workers, families, and tourists for nearly a century. The diner opened as Heald’s Diner under the ownership of Elmer “Eddie” Heald. The Worcester Lunch Car Company began in 1906 and which shipped ‘diners’ all over the Eastern Seaboard. The first manufactured lunch wagons with seating served busy downtown locations, and due to their compact size, and ability to be easily moved, were great options for young businessmen and immigrants looking to start in the food industry, think Triple-deckers for restaurants. The Gardiner, Maine location is special as the diner itself is situated about 20 feet in the air on stilts, due to the location near the Kennebec River, which often flooded downtown. Heald sold his diner in the early 1950s, and it was sold again to Al “Gibey” Gibberson who named the diner after himself, Al’s Diner and ran it until he sold it in 1988, to owners who didn’t name it after themselves but called it the A1 Diner instead, likely as the “l” in Al looked like a 1. The diner is quintessential roadside American history inside and out, and the food is even more impressive. Do you have an old diner near you?
Hatch Memorial Shell // 1940
Located at the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, the Hatch Memorial Shell has long been an iconic landmark and meeting place for Bostonians and tourists alike. Built in 1940, this outdoor amphitheater structure replaced an earlier 1920s shell, envisioned by Arthur Fiedler, the first permanent conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Construction began on the first shell in 1928 and Arthur Fiedler conducted the first Boston Pops concert there on July 4, 1929, followed by a month of concerts during that first summer, a tradition that has continued to this day. A second temporary shell was constructed of metal in 1934, which was unsatisfactory for the famous orchestra. In 1940, the construction of the new music shell took place, donated by benefactor Maria Hatch, to build a memorial for her late brother, Edward, who it is named after to this day. The permanent shell was designed by Richard J. Shaw, a Boston architect known for designing churches. The Art Deco design, with intricate woodwork adorning the interior and a terrazzo tile roof, was dedicated on July 2, 1940, just in time for Independence Day celebrations.
New England Telephone Building // 1947
The New England Telegraph and Telephone Company Building was erected in 1947, just north of the Western Union Art Deco building (last post) to serve as the company’s headquarters. The steel-frame, polished granite and limestone-sheathed Art Deco skyscraper was designed by Alexander Hoyle, a partner in the firm of Cram & Ferguson. The stunning building takes the form of a stepped pyramid, or ziggurat, with successive receding stories rising from a four-story base, which diminishes its massing from the street. At the interior, a lobby mural on paper by artist Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), depicting “Telephone Men and Women at Work,” commissioned in 1947 and installed in 1951. The 190-foot mural told the story of the history of the telephone and was an artistic masterpiece, but was removed from the lobby during a recent renovation and subsequently sold.
Western Union Building // 1930
While Boston doesn’t have as many iconic Art Deco buildings as New York or Chicago, we do have some that pack a punch! Located at the southern end of Downtown Boston, the Western Union building at the corner of Congress and High streets served as a headquarters for the third district in Western Union’s eastern division. Western Union was founded in 1851, and ten years later, built the first transcontinental telegraph line. The company made a brief foray into the telephone field but lost a legal battle with Bell Telephone in 1879 and thereafter concentrated solely on telegraphy. In the 20th century, Western Union diversified its operations to include: leased private-line circuitry, a money order service, as well as telegrams and mailgrams. The company’s Boston building was designed at the same time as their New York City headquarters, designed by Ralph Thomas Walker, and the buildings are strikingly similar, just with the Boston building on a smaller scale. The building in New York is among my favorite Art Deco buildings ever, as the use of red brick in varied patterns creates such a stunning composition. Amazingly, in 2004, water infiltration behind the original brick façade of the Boston building necessitated the removal and replacement in-kind of the entire brick façade. The existing signage and light fixtures, designed in the Art Deco style were added at that time.
Nantasket Beach Bath House // 1935
A part of any large public beach in Massachusetts is the public bathhouse, where visitors can go to the bathroom, change, and store belongings in lockers. Ever since the Massachusetts Parks System of Boston acquired land at Nantasket Beach, a bathhouse was here for visitors. The earlier building by Stickney & Austin burned down and was soon replaced. This amazing Art Moderne bathhouse features a central mass with wings adorned by glass block. The architects Putnam & Cox created a whimsical 1935 Moderne design that blends into the sandy beach. The building suffered from the salt air and cold winters and went through a massive restoration in the late 1990s, it was then re-opened and re-named after Mary Jeanette Murray, a state representative.
Burlington Montgomery Ward // 1929
Montgomery Ward was founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872. Ward had conceived of the idea of a dry goods mail-order business in Chicago. The fledgling company often created catalogs of their items for sale, distributing the booklets in the streets of the city. In 1883, the company’s catalog, which became popularly known as the “Wish Book”, had grown to 240 pages and 10,000 items. In 1896, Wards encountered its first serious competition in the mail order business, when Richard Warren Sears introduced his first general catalog. In 1900, Wards had total sales of $8.7 million, compared to $10 million for Sears, beginning a rivalry that lasted decades. In 1926, the company broke with its mail-order-only tradition when it opened its first retail outlet store in Indiana. It continued to operate its catalog business while pursuing an aggressive campaign to build retail outlets in the late 1920s. In 1928, two years after opening its first outlet, it had opened 244 stores. By 1929, it had more than doubled its number of outlets to 531. This smaller retail expansion was in contrast to rival, Sears Roebuck Company, which was opening a chain of large retail stores on the outskirts of larger cities. The 515th Montgomery Ward store was this one in Burlington. The building is constructed of brick and faced with concrete with “Chicago-style” three-part windows with the three bays capped by concrete pilasters topped by urns. The Burlington Montgomery Ward store closed in 1961, and the building is now home to Homeport, a home goods store.