In the second half of the 20th century, parts of Boston saw disinvestment by private property owners as well as local and state government. With people leaving Boston for the suburbs, the hemorrhaging of tax revenue led urban planners to go big and institute ‘Urban Renewal‘ policies and planning to demolish what they believed to be substandard housing and invest in Modern apartments and car-oriented developments. The triangular shaped new community was as comprehensive as any urban renewal district in the region; indeed of the ten General Neighborhood Renewal Plans created by the BRA in 1961, Washington Park was the most self contained Urban Renewal District in the city. It included new police and fire stations, a courthouse, two public libraries, a shopping mall, a health center, elementary school and five garden style housing developments totaling almost 2000 apartments or townhouses. At its completion in 1975, $70.4 million had been invested to build the new community of which $31. 3 million came from the federal government. Part of this massive undertaking was the construction of elderly housing, which resulted in this 20-story cylindrical tower at the southernmost edge of the Urban Renewal area. The tower was constructed between 1967 and 1970 and was designed by Boston-based architectural firm Richmond & Goldberg, led by Isidor Richmond and Carney Goldberg. Apartments were “integrated” with with 70% Black and 30% White residents, all with private balconies and an emergency pull-chain system in kitchens and bedrooms for the elderly residents. As far as mid-century apartment towers go, this one is pretty interesting and unique. The building was renovated a few years ago and renamed the Doris Bunte Apartments. In 1969, Buntè was nominated to the Boston Housing Authority board, making her the first female public housing tenant to serve. In 1972, she was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, becoming the first woman of color to serve in the Massachusetts legislature, and the first female to serve in the House leadership in 68 years. While there, Buntè helped found the Black Legislative Caucus and the Caucus of Women Legislators.
Old Stone Bank Tower // 1969
As technology and engineering advanced, buildings could go taller and taller, something banks loved in the Post-WWII era to showcase their wealth and stature in cities. The Old Stone Bank was a popular banking institution in Rhode Island that was founded in Providence in 1819. In 1969, the bank decided to build a new tower in Downtown Providence, hiring the New York firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon (the firm who designed the Empire State Building forty years prior) to design the skyscraper. The 23-story structure is set back from the street and is raised on a podium. The first story is marbled sheathed and serves as a base for the concrete-grid curtain wall, which blends International and Brutalist styles well. The building opened in 1972 and is today known as the Textron Tower. I think it is interesting to read architectural historian views of Modern buildings, as many despise 99% of Post-WWII buildings, but I kind of like this one.
Christensen Hall – University of New Hampshire // 1970
Christensen Hall at the University of New Hampshire in Durham is a rare example of the much-maligned Brutalist style of architecture in the state. In the late 1960s, the university needed more housing and a dining hall for new students of the growing campus, but a very low budget to accomplish this. They hired Ulrich Franzen, a German-born architect (featured on here previously) who attended school at Harvard, learning Modernist principles there that would shape his career. The boxy buildings feature deep recessions to provide each student an identifiable corner and windows. The concrete frame building and engineering provide breezeways and forms that conventional buildings would not be able to accomplish. The building was completed in 1970 and was immediately applauded by architects and was featured numerous architectural publications.
Harvard Medical School – Countway Library // 1965
I know some of you hate Brutalist architecture, but give this one a chance, its one of my favorites! In the 1960s, the Harvard Medical School’s cramped research library on the second floor of the Administration Building (1905) was not suitable for the esteemed doctors behind those doors, and a larger, modern library was required. There was one issue… They did not have any room to build a suitable library! Architect Hugh Stubbins, who always thought outside of the box, decided the best option was to close a street and build up. Reportedly the largest university medical library in the country at the time of its completion, the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is named after Francis Countway, the bookkeeper for Lever Brothers, a local soap company, who later became president in 1913. He supported his sister, Gussanda “Sanda” Countway, throughout her school years. When Francis died, Sanda Countway created the Countway Charitable Foundation in his memory. The funds collected by this foundation, including Sanda’s own donation, allowed Harvard University to build the Countway Library in his name. The concrete building features a massive atrium inside with a curvilinear staircase which contrasts the bold proportions with a sleek design feature. The library is home to the Warren Anatomical Museum, one of the few surviving anatomy and pathology museum collections in the United States, which includes some medical and anatomical marvels!
Massachusetts General Life Building // 1965
One of the lesser-known and written about examples of Brutalism in Boston is this refined, elegant take on the style, found in Downtown Boston. While many of you may dislike or even despise Brutalism, this building is a lighter version of the strong mass that we all know. The Massachusetts General Life Building was designed by Boston architect Frederick A. Stahl, who was trained in architecture locally at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and MIT. Frederick Stahl was a perfect architect for Boston, he often worked on preservation projects including the rehabilitation of the Old South Meeting House, but showcased how 1960s architecture could compliment historic forms in a big way. For this building, he re-envisioned the historic granite commercial blocks found scattered around Boston, but showcased the ability of concrete to do more for much less massing. One of the key features of the design is that the two entrances are somewhat hidden, and are recessed in 14′ wide slots where the building is connected to the adjacent historic building. This was the aim to make this structure recess and not try and command the prominent corner. In the Mass. General Life Building, tenants also included the Loeb, Rhoades & Company, a brokerage firm based out of New York, that had offices in buildings in major financial centers all over the country. They later merged with Hornblower & Weeks, a Boston based firm, who had their own building in Boston.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, Burlington // 1973
St. Paul’s Church in Burlington, Vermont, was organized in 1830, when Burlington’s population was about 3,500. About 55 Episcopalians met at a local hotel and laid the groundwork for the parish. In 1832, the fledgling parish dedicated its new building, a neo-Gothic limestone structure, which was enlarged multiple times as the congregation grew as the city did. In 1965, the Diocesan Convention voted that St. Paul’s Church be designated a Cathedral Church of the Diocese (one of two in the state). Just six years later, it was destroyed by fire, sparked by an electrical malfunction in the basement, leading to a new evolution of the church. At the time of the fire, the City of Burlington was engaged in massive urban renewal projects. As a part of this program, the City offered to swap the land on which Old St. Paul’s had stood for a spacious new tract overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Although the decision to change locations was a contentious one, the parish did accept the offer. When discussing designs for a new cathedral, there was a strong desire to make a new statement in architecture, diverging from the traditional Gothic or Colonial designs seen all over the country. An international competition was held to determine the architect of the new Cathedral. The winner was the local firm Burlington Associates, now Truex, Cullins & Partners. Completed in 1973, the Cathedral is made of stressed concrete. The structure stands strong and firm, yet is welcoming. Windows provide sweeping views of Lake Champlain and the distant Adirondacks.
The Park School – Main Building // 1971
Founded in 1888, The Park School, one of the premier private schools in the Boston area began off Walnut Street in Brookline in half of a house. Founded by Miss Caroline Pierce, the school was officially incorporated in 1923 and named to commemorate Julia Park, principal from 1910-1922. The school occupied the former Hill Estate before the school board voted in 1967 to look for a new campus, with space to grow. James and Mary Faulkner donated 14-acres of rolling fields and woods to the school for their new campus. The Park School hired architect Earl Flansburgh of Cambridge to design the new, Modern school building. The Brutalist building allowed for large, open classrooms with the flexibility for the school to adapt as its needs changed. The school is built of reinforced precast concrete as a stack of modular classroom and office spaces with wall-length windows for more natural illumination of rooms. Since the 1970s, the school has expanded a couple more times, notably with a 1990s addition by Graham Gund. The school remains one of the most desired in the region and fits well within its landscape.