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.
Mid-Century Modern Architecture
Leavitt Peanut Butter Company Factory // 1958
One of the most iconic buildings in Everett, Massachusetts is the “Teddie Peanut Butter” building, in the brewery/distillery district of the city (home to Night Shift Brewery, Bone Up Brewing Company, and Short Path Distillery). The building is best-defined for its massive Mid-Century rooftop sign with the cute teddy bear. The building was constructed by the Leavitt Peanut Butter Company in 1958, but the company had its beginnings nearly a half-century earlier. The Leavitt Corporation had its beginnings in 1897 when Sarkis Shaghalian, a European immigrant, started manufacturing candy and roasted nuts in Boston. In 1916, Michael Hintlian took over the company and in 1925, established a separate corporate entity specializing in peanut and nut products, the John W. Leavitt Company. The company did extremely well in its Boston location, eventually outgrowing their State Street buildings. In 1959, the company hired an industrial realtor, who found the Everett facility – a recently constructed building with Modern finishes and design. In 1959, Leavitt Corp. signed a lease and moved in by 1960, adding the rooftop sign at that time. The sign used to have neon strips, but was eventually removed.
Everett City Hall // 1960
Welcome to Everett, Massachusetts, a diverse, vibrant community of roughly 50,000 residents just north of Boston. Present-day Everett was originally part of Charlestown, which separated and became Malden. In 1870, the Town of Everett separated from Malden and was so-named after former Charlestown resident Edward Everett (1794-1865) who served as U.S. Representative, Senator, the 15th Governor of Massachusetts, U.S. Secretary of State and as President of Harvard University. From 1894, the Town (later City) Hall was located in the Hapgood Building, but was outgrown after WWII. In 1960, ground was broken for a new, Modern City Hall for Everett, with Harold Michael Turiello (1910-2001) of Revere, as architect. Everett City Hall (love it or hate it) is a testament to Mid-Century Modern/International style design with curtain wall construction originally included bright blue panels which were recently replaced with a bland white panel color.
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.
Stoke Hall – University of New Hampshire // 1965
One of the most recognizable buildings (largely due to height) on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham is Stoke Hall, a large dormitory on the outskirts of campus. The building was designed by Leo Provost, a New Hampshire-based architect, who actually graduated from UNH in 1936. Stoke Hall is named for Dr. Harold Walter Stoke, President of the University of New Hampshire from 1944-1947 during an enrollment surge that more than tripled enrollment and the beginning of a massive building program that continued for decades. The surge began with the conclusion of WWII, and the increase in young men going to college thanks to the GI Bill. Mr. Stoke got around as a President, as after three years at New Hampshire, he became President of Louisiana State University (LSU) until 1951. He later served as President at Queens College, New York, for six years. The Y-shaped building was constructed in two phases, the two wings facing the street were built in 1965, with the rear wing added the summer later. The design blends mid-20th century styles from New Formalism to Mid-Century Modern in a graceful way, especially for a college dormitory, though, I cannot speak for the interiors.
George Kaplan House // 1946
The George Kaplan House, erected in 1946, is an excellent and exceptionally well preserved example of the International Style in the Boston area. The home is located on a suburban road in Oak Hill, Newton, and displays characteristics such as strong geometric forms, a flat roof, banded windows interspersed with expanses of blank walls and absence of ornament. The Kaplan House was designed by Walter Gropius‘ firm ‘The Architect’s Collaborative’ (TAC) of Cambridge, which was founded just one year prior, and this home was their first completed project. The home was built for George and Ethel Kaplan, a young couple who moved here from Brookline. Kaplan worked in design himself and manufactured shoe fabrics.
Baldpate Road House // 1959
Occupying the highest elevation (315 feet) in Newton, Massachusetts Baldpate Hill and its residential development encompasses perhaps the largest concentration of architect-designed custom homes from the 1940-1960 period
in the city. Newton realtor Arnold Hartmann purchased large land holdings in the minimally developed Oak Hill village, developed some land into the Newton Country Club and other areas for suburban neighborhoods. He laid out building lots on Baldpate Hill from 1926 to the late 1950s, and many of the homes were built after WWII. One of the later homes built is this house, built in 1959 from plans by the architectural firm of Hoover & Hill of Cambridge. The home features a low-slung roof with the home in a Ranch form, yet extends to two stories as the hill drops off at the rear of the home. A small garden is located in the front yard, and terraced yard is located at the rear.
Potter House // 1949
Cape Elizabeth is full of amazing late-19th and early-20th century summer cottages, but one of the best examples of early International-style architecture can also be found here! This house was designed by Marcel Breuer, one of the most famous architects working in the International Style in the mid- 20th century. The house plays on the traditionally New England vocabulary, but Breuer, a proponent of the Bauhaus Movement, turned it on its head. The house appears to emerge from its ‘ancient’ fieldstone foundation towards the street and levitates over the hilly landscape, supported by light columns. The house originally was painted a shade of white, common in the International style, but a later owner preferred the natural wood finish. The home is one of the most significant examples of the style in New England, and an uncommon example in Maine.
First Baptist Church, Beverly // 1976
Walking down the main street in Beverly, I was stopped in my tracks to see what appeared to be a 19th century steeple attached to a Modern church. I snapped a photo hoping I could find information on the architectural oddity I saw. The church is the First Baptist Church of Beverly, which was founded in 1800. The congregation’s first place of worship was constructed a year later for the town’s small Baptist population. The building was eventually outgrown and a large church was constructed in 1866 on Cabot Street, the main commercial street in town. The massive wooden church was an architectural landmark and its steeple has served as a lighthouse since the 1920s! The Coast Guard installed a range light in the steeple in 1921 as ships began using the harbor to get to the Salem power plant. It shines every night, even now, and can be seen 13 miles out to sea. Sadly, in 1975, a blaze ripped through the 880-seat sanctuary and chapel, destroying almost all of the church, but the steeple was saved thanks to firefighters from over 15 nearby towns who came to the aid of Beverly. The congregation noted that as the steeple persevered, so would they. A new, Modern church was designed, and incorporated the corner steeple into the new sanctuary, creating the interesting blending of mid-19th and -20th century styles.
Melnick House // 1935
Built in 1935 (the same year as the Webber House in the last post), the Melnick House in South Brookline shows how the historically oriented designs of colonial New England converged with the Modern principles brought over from the Bauhaus movement from Germany. The 1930s were an interesting time for residential design around Boston as the two diverging styles were often located in the same neighborhoods. The Melnick House was designed by architect Samuel Glaser for Edward S. T. Melnick and his wife, Ethyle Melnick. Edward worked in Downtown Boston as the assistant division manager at Filene’s department store. Architect Samuel Glaser (1902-1983) was born in Riga, Latvia and at the age of four came to the United States with his family, settling in Brookline. He studied architecture at MIT and started his own practice in Boston a niche as a designer of moderately priced homes, particularly in the expanding suburbs where young Jewish families had begun living. The Melnick home combines the austere stucco walls and lack of applied ornament typical of late 1930s Modern architecture in the Boston area with a hipped-roof main block and flanking wings more commonly associated with traditional style houses of the same period. The home features a vertical glass block window which illuminates the interior stair hall.