In November of 1927, a disastrous storm hit the State of Vermont. Severe flooding in the Winooski River Basin area resulted in the loss 55 lives and damages totaling over $22 Million. A Corps of Engineers study was initiated soon thereafter to investigate “the improvement of the Winooski River for the purposes of navigation in combination with the development of waterpower… and the control of floods.” The report presented a comprehensive plan for flood control and power development, consisting of: the construction of seven reservoirs; the installation of seven new hydropower plants, and the enlargement or improvement of 12 existing plants. Construction of the Waterbury Dam and Reservoir began in 1935 and was completed in 1938. The dam and reservoir were designed and built by the Corps of Engineers using contract services and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labor, all thanks to the New Deal legislation enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The gatehouse at the top of the dam’s embankment is a rare example of Art Deco architecture in the state of Vermont and was completed in 1938 as the last piece of the project. The building and dam remain today as part of the Little River State Park and are a great example of Engineering History and a look into human intervention in the natural landscape.
Art Deco Architecture
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!
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.
Eliot School // 1931
The Eliot School is a descendant of the first Eliot School in the North End, which opened in 1713 on the present North Bennet Street. Aside from Boston Latin, Eliot School is the oldest public school in Boston. Originally known as the North Latin School, it was renamed in 1821 likely after the former pastor of New North Congregational Church, Rev. Andrew Eliot. Constructed as an elementary school in 1931, this building occupies the site of the former Freeman School, one of the smaller 19th-century school buildings in the North End. This school building was designed in the Art Deco style by Cambridge-based architect Charles Greco. The building features decorative use of brick with stone incised pilasters and highly ornamental lintels over each entry, incorporating the name of the school,
carved foliate designs and shields, and the 1931 construction date.
Sewall Avenue Apartments // 1938
These apartments in Brookline were built in 1938 and designed by Saul Moffie. The Art Deco design is refined yet elegant with just the use of brick coursing. The amazing brickwork includes header courses, soldier courses and chevrons. This example shows that good design does not require the most expensive or foreign materials to stand out! Oh and there are steel casement windows!