A Pictorial Blog of Things I Make,
Items I Collect, Architecture I Love,
and Other Stuff

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Curiosities in the Carolinas

Eight clamshell-shaped Shell gas stations were constructed in the 1930s of concrete stucco over bent wood and wire. This is the sole survivor of the species and it is at Sprague and Peachtree Streets in Winston-Salem, N.C. 

Earth's largest Duncan Phyfe-style armchair takes its seat on a granite pedestal in the middle of Thomasville, N.C., known because of its furniture industry as Chair City. This whopper is not of wood but concrete and steel, and was constructed in 1948.

Lumberman E. W. Worrell decorated the exterior of his 1877 home in Murfreesboro, N.C., with lively sawnwork, including highly unusual standing-figure cut-outs.

 A highborn Mrs. Butterworth, her consort Frangelico and their heir (who takes entirely after his padre) are a feature of the Bottle House at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, N.C. Artist Virginia Wright Frierson created the work.

Durham, N.C.: I didn't figure it out at first but J.C. stands for the Savior. Who knew He liked to cook? The banana pudding was tip-top.

A hulking roadside chicken along Highway 29 near Lexington, N.C.

 Early grave markers in this country were often wood and here in Charleston, S.C., is one of the very few surviving examples--in St. Michael's Churchyward, denoting the grave of Mary Ann Luyten, who died on September 9, 1770, age 27. Many romantically like to believe that this was the headboard to her and her husband William's bed but, truth is, 'tis not. 
 Salisbury, N.C.: I had never heard of a watermelon milkshake but it is one of 52 flavors--including banana pudding and cherry cobbler--that seasonally come and go at Cook Out, a regional chain with 75 outlets.

 In Raleigh, N.C., (byname: The City of Oaks) is this giant copper acorn in Moore Square. 

 Bottle trees are sometimes called "poor man's stained glass" or "garden earrings," and those that sprout all blue bottles are said to ward off bad spirits. This version is in Bishopville, S.C., has green and clear bottles.

    Spencer, N.C.: This 1905 structure was once used to overhaul steam locomotives.

 A devastating terracotta bowl of fruit adorns this Douglas Ellington-designed 1929 building in downtown Asheville, N.C. The cafeteria closed in 1974 and is now the S&W Steak and Wine Restaurant.

 Wilmington, N.C.

Even though Mater now resides in Paris, she's really just a downhome Southern dame.
To see another Carolina curiosity, visit: The Chimerical Cultivations of Mr. Pearl Fryar
To see more architecture of the area, visit: Modernism in the Carolinas

Monday, January 24, 2011

Alluring Architectural Appliqués in the Bronx

Parkchester is a huge middle-class housing complex in the Bronx similar to Manhattan's Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. All three developments sport the same blah architecture but Parkchester's is offset by a rich program of terracotta sculptures, exemplified by this leaping stag. 

The Federal Seaboard Terra Cotta Corporation manufactured more than 500 embellishments for Parkchester, among them this trio of ballerinas. 

The Works Progress Administration theme and look of the sculptures--like these laborers--reflect the time construction of Parkchester commenced, in 1938.

    Sculptor Joseph Kiselewski (1901-1986) depicted a family around this door. 

 Family is an obvious motif in many of the sculptures.

Especially motherhood.

 But sometimes fatherhood, too. 

 The 2008 movie Doubt had a pivotal scene set in Parkchester between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. Both got Oscar nominations.

You can see other stars in Parkchester any old day--like this hula dancer and matador, both of whom adorn its movie theater.

  As do this señorita and Indian chief.

  So does this soldier.  

There are quite a lot of animals as well.

 Like these deer over a doorway.

 And this rooster to remind residents, ugh, it's time to get up and go to work.

 These seals wrap around a corner. . .

. . . as does this resident who has been caught in the rain while shopping.

 The 171 buildings of Parkchester range from seven to twelve stories, and some of the sculptures, like this fireman, are high up. There are 66,000 windows in Parkchester. 

 On this medallion note the yapping pooch and the knitting that occupy laps. 

 Parkchester takes up 129 acres, 22 more acres than the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando. 

 The windmill on the right of this girl and her dolly seems to reference New York City's origin as Nieuw Amsterdam.

 Here is a lady feeding pigeons. But does it have other meaning? Writer Jonathan B. Hall notes that the pattern of bread crumbs on the left is similar to the image in art of Mary extending rays of light from her fingertips to Earth below, and that her hand is raised in a classic gesture of blessing. The white pigeons might, to some, evoke the image of the Holy Ghost.

Elsewhere are some blue pigeons.
To look at more architecture in this borough, visit: Modernism in the Bronx
To look at more decorative arts in the Bronx, visit: Nifty Outdoor Mosaics in N.Y.C.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Salute to the Holiday Inn Sign

 The Holiday Inn sign is one of those things that was once everywhere and then all of a sudden nowhere.

 But unlike the telephone booth or the Fotomat kiosk, the signs exited the roadscape not because they were obsolete. 

Instead, they checked out because corporate killjoys came to consider them too costly. 

The Great Sign, as it is known to commercial archaeologists, had 1,500 feet of neon tubing and more than 500 incandescent light bulbs. This Holiday Inn was in Monroe, La., near my hometown.
The sign was designed by sketch artists Gene Barber and Rowland Alexander of Memphis's Bolton & Sons Sign Company in 1952.

 That was the year the first Holiday Inn opened in Memphis on Summer Avenue. This Great Sign was in Memphis on Poplar Avenue.

 Eddie Bluestein, architect of the first Memphis motel, dubbed it Holiday Inn as a meant-to-be-jokey quotation of the 1942 Bing Crosby film. When I was growing up I had no idea the name had anything to do with a movie any more than I knew that Duncan Hines was a pioneer in restaurant ratings for travelers. I thought it was just a name for cake mixes. This Holiday Inn was in Birmingham, Ala.

 I have accumulated quite a number of post cards from Holiday Inns. This one was in Shreveport, La.

 Here's another postcard from Memphis, from the 1970s, when Holiday Inn was at its peak with 1,400 locations and the chain's Memphian founder, Kemmons Wilson, was on the cover of Time magazine.  

Starting in 1982 the Great Signs were pulled down and cut into pieces for scrap, around the time Holiday Inn surrendered its supremacy as The Nation's Innkeeper to an ever-crowded field of upstart inns named Red Roof, Days and Comfort. This Great Sign was in Texarkana, Ark.

From one of my scrapbooks of Americana is this photograph I took in Dearborn, Mich., where at Greenfield Village, the nation's largest indoor-outdoor history complex, this Holiday Inn sign will blaze, it is hoped, for a neon eon.
To look at a related post, visit: Motel Mementos
And for another post about roadside icons, visit: Selections From My Collection of Stuckey's Post Cards