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

Friday, May 27, 2011

N.Y.C. Business Cards in Red, White and Blue

Here at the start of the hot season, cards in red, white, and blue, a very traditional summery color-combo. The card above is a nod to Andy Warhol's wooden Brillo box sculpture.  

 In the days before synthetic colorants, red from madder and blue from indigo were affordable natural dyes that the common folk could afford. 

Those early red and blue dyes were also durable--and the reason so many flags feature them. Armies didn't want a flag that faded too quickly in the sun or had colors that ran in the rain. 

 Blue is a highly popular color and red a strong and noticeable one. Countries want their brands to be forceful and at the same time likeable, and the red and blue of Old Glory check those boxes. This Brooklyn pizzeria, by the way, is well worth a trip.

Many New York City barber shop business cards show off the tri-colors of the barber's pole. Time was, a barber also filled the role of make-do surgeon, and the red supposedly represents arterial blood (ew), the blue, venous blood (double-ew), and the white, a bandage (whew).

 201 Mulberry Street, now closed.

 42 Wooster Street.

I love the spelling of "Nuark," New Jersey.

634 Hudson Street.

One version of the Mobil Car Service card . . .

. . . and another version.

The arresting reverse of the All Star card.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Mall Post Cards: Stairs and Balconies

Beckoning to mind the nutty interiors Piranesi etched in the 18th century, this view of Woodfield Mall's Grand Court dates from around 1971, when this suburban mega-souk opened. Located in Schaumburg, Ill., Woodfield is the largest mall in the Chicago area and the fifth largest in the nation.

A 1967 view of the Garden Court at Southdale Center, Minneapolis. Opened in 1956, Southdale was the first fully-enclosed, climate-controlled mall in the nation.

Another 1970s view of the Garden Court at Southdale, Minneapolis. Though he despised the mushrooming suburban lifestyle embraced by middle-class Americans in the 1950s, Victor Gruen, Austiran-born architect of Southdale, strove to give evacuees from the big, bad city a sense of community through the enclosed mall, and modeled Southdale on European pedestrian arcades like Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II in Milan. Because Southdale itself was emulated--and ardently so--Gruen has been called the most influential architect in America during the 20th century.

This is a view of Southdale nowadays. Gone are most of Gruen's details: mid-cen art, wood trim, inventive lighting and plantings, and pacifying fountains--and, I might add, any sense of warmth.

Built in 1890 and designed by Stephen V. Harkness, the Arcade in Cleveland was one of the country's first enclosed malls--and like Southdale, modeled on the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This image dates from the 1960s.

This is the Cleveland Arcade today. In 2001 Hyatt appropriated the top three floors for hotel rooms. The two lower floors still feature retail outfits as well as a food court.

The Lloyd Center in Portland, Ore., opened August 1, 1960, with a 100-store, open-air configuration. This view dates from around 1963.

This postcard shows original interior details of Crossroads, which opened in 1970.

Another view of Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill. Singer Carol Lawrence and Vincent Price cut the ribbon when it opened in 1970.

When it opened in 1967, the Gazebo Court at Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Mass., featured subtropical plantings and waterfalls. In 2004, the mall implemented a teen escort policy, requiring that anyone under the age of 15 be accompanied by a guardian after 5 p.m. Bummer!

 Another view of Southdale in Minneapolis. The description on the back of this 1960s post card reads: "A touch of the Old Word amidst modern architecture"--just what Victor Gruen intended.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Unconventional U.S. Stamps

Very, very rarely in its 164 years of issuing stamps has the U.S. post office strayed from the traditional square or rectangular formats―and it has done so only in the last few years. In 2000 came the first (and so far only) round U.S. stamp, with planet Earth rendered as a hologram (also a unique occurrence). Tilting the stamp allows the viewer to observe the planet rotate 25 degrees east and west.

In 1997 the post office put out the first―and again, only―triangular U.S. stamps, showing a clipper ship and a mail stagecoach.

The first (and only) pentagonal stamps, from 2000, showed five images of the Sun.

In 1978, in resolution to cut down on paper waste (yep, there was a phase of that in the '70s as well), the post office tried printing a pane containing 150 stamps rather than 100, the norm. The stamps―featuring an Indian head penny―measured about three-quarters of an inch on each side.

Because the ever-resistant public considered the Indian head stamp too small to handle and too easy to lose, the post office didn't devoutly persevere with its paper-saving campaign, implementing it only one more time
―in 1980, with this chicly petite Dolley Madison stamp.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Famous Manhattan Addresses

 Liberally sprinkled all over London are commemorative Wedgwood seals, placed by English Heritage, that adorn homes where luminaries once lived. New York City has some seals of its own--like this one affixed to Andy Warhol's townhouse at 57 East 66th Street.

Here Andy lived from 1974 until his death in 1987 following routine gallbaldder surgery, age 58. He would have turned 83 this August 6. To look at another post about Andy, visit: M'm, M'm Good

The not-for-profit Historic Landmarks Preservation Center has placed dozens of oval terra-cotta Cultural Medallions around the boroughs, including this one at  622 West 114th Street.

 Near the threshold of the Chelsea Hotel at 222 West 23rd Street is this bronze plaque that not only commemorates Arthur Clarke's residence there but also features a bas-relief of HAL 9000, the headstrong computer of 2001: A Space Odyssey, written at the Chelsea. Other plaques near the entrance to the storied hotel honor Dylan Thomas, Thomas Wolfe, Virgil Thomson and Arthur Miller. Where are the women?

 170 East 2nd Street. I wonder if James Franco came here to research his role in Howl. I suspect so.

 Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington lived in Apartment 4A at 935 Saint Nicholas Avenue from 1939 to 1961.

40 East 9th Street.

278 West 113th Street.

This plaque is at 505 West End Avenue, where Rachmaninoff lived for the last 17 years of his life. Here he composed his Fourth Piano Concerto, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, his Third Symphony and the Symphonic Dances, his last work.

90 University Place (near the Cedar Tavern, legendary hangout of the beats, abstract expressionists and New York School poets, O'Hara at their center).

 1200 Fifth Avenue.

146 East 19th Street.

122 West 95th Street.

Sprung from this roseate residence over the course of decades were thousands and thousands of encrypted Ninas (a tribute to Hirschfeld's daughter) that the artist implanted in his masterpieces--and that provided me so many gladsome moments in resolution to spot them all.

316 West 103rd Street, on an apartment building now known as Gershwin House.

 9 East 10th Street. At the time of her death, virtually all of Powell's novels were out of print, but now, thank goodness, they are justly acknowledged as some of the greatest American literature ever produced--and in my opinion, the wittiest.

 345 West 88th Street.

34 Gramercy Park East. As the plaque notes, the Wicked Witch of the West also lived here.

 On 75½ Bedford Street--at 9½ feet wide, New York City's skinniest dwelling--is. . . 

 . . . this medallion.

 Here's another Edna, this one at 50 Central Park West.

163 West 131st Street.

At No. 4 Patchin Place are two plaques on the residence of e.e. cummings.