Archive for the ‘newark’ Tag

Louis Sullivan’s Home Building Association, Newark, Ohio

The so-called Jewel Boxes are all late works of Louis Sullivan, who struggled to get commissions after the end of his partnership with Dankmar Adler in 1895. Between 1908 and 1919, he received eight commissions for small bank buildings, scattered over five states in the Midwest. All of them remain today, in varying states of repair. I had the chance to tour all of them recently, and will try to put together a few blog posts on the buildings.

His Home Association Building in Newark, Ohio, known as ” The Old Home”, was built between 1914-1915, and occupies a narrow, though prominent corner site opposite the town square and county courthouse. The building stands out as being quite unlike the other seven Jewel Box bank structures. Sullivan’s choice of materials was unusual, clad in gray terra-cotta, with liberal use of mosaic, in contrast to the red brick of his other designs. The pattern of decoration, however, is signature Sullivan, with his characteristic plant forms and blooming ornament, and the presence of the gryphon creatures that look over some of his other Jewel Boxes. The structure has been significantly modified over the years, with signs covering the two mosaics on the long south facade and on the smaller east facade, and a great deal of damage was done in the 1940s when a corner entrance was carved out of the south facade, destroying the symmetry of the south facade.

South facade, note the corner entrance.

East facade

The building has gone through its life as a bank, butcher shop, jewelry shop, ice cream parlor, and now is apparently a residence on the top floor and vacant at ground level. I went by it in July 2012 and noticed that the lights were on upstairs, though the ground floor windows were covered up. The mosaics are again visible, but there is noticeable damage to certain areas where signs had been once mounted. The mosaics have a color scheme that is almost psychedelic, integrated with Sullivan’s acanthus leaf motifs. The terra cotta panels are falling apart in places, and some of the steel is exposed and rusting. The stained glass windows on the second floor appear to be in good condition. I was not able to tour the interior, but old photographs show that it was a marble-clad banking hall with intricate stenciling and rich decoration.

East facade mosaic

Mosaic detail, note Sullivan’s name in there.

It’s a jewel in the rough; let’s hope the current owner is able to bring back some of its former glory before the building deteriorates further.

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A little love for Newark, New Jersey

Much-maligned Newark, New Jersey, generally gets a bad rap as a high crime, ugly city in the shadow of New York City. Yes, a lot of that is true, but it’s also a diverse city with many well-kept neighborhoods, a downtown that is full of grand historic structures and spacious squares, and an excellent city park. So here’s a quick tour of some of Newark’s highlights, from a couple visits over the past few weeks.

Forest Hill, Newark

Forest Hill, the most prestigious neighborhood in the city, straddles a ridge just east of Branch Brook Park. Heading downtown, and then crossing under Penn Station, one reaches the Ironbound District, with America’s largest Portuguese-speaking population, and a large Spanish-speaking community as well. It’s thriving, clean, relatively safe, and delicious. The western half of Ferry Street is dense with restaurants, and plenty of cafe / pastry shops.

Ferry Street, Ironbound District

Memorial for Whitney Houston, New Hope Baptist Church

Whitney Houston’s church is located on Sussex Avenue just south of the 280, uphill and west of downtown. The neighborhood is in transition, with the ongoing demolition of the historic, but notorious Baxter Terrace projects.

Cherry blossoms and the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

More cherry blossoms, Branch Brook Park

And finally, across the 280 is Branch Book Park, a real urban treasure. It has a larger display of cherry blossoms than DC, with fewer people. They are already quite colorful (as of 18 March), the pink ones are in bloom, and the white ones are just starting to flower.