Modern Roof Forms

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Exuberant roof forms are a hallmark of mid-century modern architecture. In contrast to the simple gable roofs of traditional design, modernist architects employed a wide variety of inventive forms. The zig-zag roof of Sligo Elementary School was featured in a previous Montgomery Modern posting.   The soaring rooftop of the National Library of Medicine is a hyperbolic paraboloid concrete shell, designed by O’Connor & Kilham of New York. This distinctive feature represents concerns of the Atomic Age—in the event of a nuclear bomb blast, the centralized opening was intended to provide for pressure release.     The folded roof feature at Green Acres School provides visual interest and brings light into the central multi-purpose room.   In the hands of… Read more »

The Legacy of Eason Cross FAIA (1925-2016)

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Accomplished modernist architect Eason Cross died on January 28, 2016. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Cross was a principal of Cross & Adreon, a firm known for modernist residential developments designed to harmonize with nature. Their projects received prestigious design awards when they were first built 50 years ago, and these communities have continued to receive recognition for being outstanding places in which to live. The work of Cross & Adreon was recently featured in David Frey’s “30 Great Neighborhoods” in the current issue of Bethesda Magazine (Mar/Apr 2016) (pdf). Cross worked seven years in the offices of prominent local architect Charles Goodman, first as draftsman and later as associate architect. In this capacity, he designed houses in… Read more »

Roadside Montgomery

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The exuberant mid-century modern design of commercial signs captures the entrepreneurial spirit of mom and pop shops that thrived during the post-World War II population boom of Montgomery County. With loud colors and catchy shapes, the quirky signs howled for the attention of passing motorists. In recent years, the style has been dubbed Googie, after colorful California coffee shops of the day. These roadside signs are a record of the past, modern design, and the independent businesses that were staples to county residents.     Sporting a tall cold beverage, the sign for Talbert’s Ice and Beverage Service advertises cold beer, dry ice, and regular ice.  The store building, at 5234 River Road in Bethesda, was built in 1946, according… Read more »

Putting a value on historic preservation, revisited

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I like to revisit posts I have done. Not long ago I wrote about putting a value on historic preservation. Three recent developments bring me back to the subject. First, the Historic Preservation Commission recently approved 39 applications for the county’s historic preservation tax credits. The 39 projects represent nearly $1.5 million in private investment in historic properties in communities across the county. This is a good thing. As discussed in the previous post, money spent on historic preservation projects demonstrates a strong multiplier effect, making investments in historic rehabilitation particularly beneficial for local economics, jobs and businesses. The number of tax credit projects also bears note. The 39 projects represent perhaps a quarter, or less, of the projects that… Read more »

Putting a value on historic preservation

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The value of historic preservation is often expressed in terms that are difficult to quantify. We are preserving cultural patrimony, maintaining a sense of place, safeguarding our architectural heritage. But what if we could hang a number on the value of historic preservation?  Actually, we can. Look at tax credits issued for rehabbing historic properties. Montgomery County provides a 10-percent tax credit for qualified work on properties listed in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation or located in County-designated historic districts. The State of Maryland and federal government also offer rehabilitation tax credits that some property owners may be able to receive on top of the county’s program. In 2012, the historic preservation commission reviewed applications for the county’s… Read more »

Operations Research Institute (1963), 1400 Spring Street

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This sleek blue building, constructed in 1963, is another mid-century modern gem in downtown Silver Spring. Built three years after the American National Bank Building, the Operations Research Institute building was designed by prolific local architect Ted Englehardt. Previously we blogged about Englehardt’s Weller’s Dry Cleaning. For the Operations Research Institute, Englehardt designed an International Style office building with beautiful turquoise spandrel panels made of porcelain enamel. Developer Carl M. Freeman moved his offices here in 1964. The firm occupied the first and part of the second floors. Freeman, who pioneered the modernist garden apartment in the DC area, was at this time one of the top 12 builders in the country. Some part of the ground floor was originally… Read more »

MontgomeryModern: discover Mid-Century Modern buildings during Preservation Month

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MontgomeryModern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, MontgomeryModern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.   If you read my previous post for Historic Preservation Month, you know that in picking a theme for this year’s Preservation Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a challenge to people in communities across the country to discover hidden gems and celebrate local historic resources.  Montgomery County historic… Read more »

American National Bank Building (1963), 8701 Georgia Avenue

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This article has been corrected with two facts: the exterior panels are glass, not porcelain, and in the summer of 2012, the horizontal band over the parking lot entrance was taken down for construction of 8711 Georgia Avenue. Thanks to readers for your comments. Clare Lise Kelly 9-12-12 Designed by architect Edwin Weihe in 1960, the American National Bank Building, at 8701 Georgia Avenue, is a fine example of an International style office building. When it opened in 1961, it was the tallest building in Silver Spring and featured several design innovations.   Architect Edwin Weihe placed the building’s heating, cooling, and elevator equipment in a low roof penthouse, designed so that it is not immediately apparent from the streetview. Real… Read more »

Round School

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The Bushey Drive Elementary School, in Wheaton, is a three-story, round school designed by Deigert and Yerkes in 1961.     As noted in my colleague’s recent post on round houses, round schools were also promoted for lower operating costs, greater efficiency, and lower building costs.  In this era, round and hexagonal schools were built across the country.  In plan, the school had a middle story with common rooms (kitchen, library, general purpose room) and offices, sandwiched between top and bottom floors of classrooms. David Norton Yerkes and Robert C. Deigert were partners in a Washington DC firm from about 1946 to 1966.   In Montgomery County, projects designed by the firm include numerous custom houses and the Primary Day School in… Read more »

Preservation and Change

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Washingtonian magazine recently ran a long article about preservation in the Washington, D.C. region, including early efforts at Mount Vernon after the Civil War to more recent efforts recognizing Modern architecture. You can read about the local battles and inspirations here, but to me, the most interesting paragraph in the article was this one: “Sometimes historic buildings are sacrificed for what is considered the greater good. The Federal Triangle was Washington’s first great example in the 1930s, when several square blocks were torn down to make way for a federal office complex. Construction of the National Archives meant demolition of the city’s central food market. The Kennedy Center replaced the city’s largest brewery. And the Army Medical Museum, a handsome… Read more »