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Architecture

A Field Guide to Concrete Screen Blocks

Identify the different styles of breeze block in those mid-century houses in Vegas, Palm Springs, and elsewhere with this Field Guide produced by the Nevada Preservation Foundation and based on the book by Ron and Barbara Marshall.

Excerpt from the Screen Block Field Activity Guide. Source: Nevada Preservation Foundation
Source: Curbed/John Lewis Marshall

Categories
Architecture History

The Hog Island Gantry Cranes

Gantry crane
Source: TCM

The first thing to realize is that the Hog Island cranes are no longer on Hog Island. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, a massive shipyard was set up alongside the Delaware River on Hog Island in Philadelphia to build transport and cargo ships, although none of the ships were completed before the war ended in 1918.

Gantry crane detail
Source: TCM

In 1930, Philadelphia bought Hog Island and transformed it into what is now the Philadelphia International Airport. Two of the cranes were sold and moved upriver to Trenton. At the Trenton Marine Terminal, they were used to load and unload ships for several decades before being taken out of service. Only the two gantries remain; the cranes that sat on top of them are gone. The Hog Island cranes were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

For more on Hog Island, see The Necessity for Ruins.

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Architecture

Glencairn’s Cozy Living Room

The living room at Glencairn. The stained glass includes an 800 year old panel from Europe and twentieth-century panels built on site using the same techniques. Source: TCM

Glencairn was built by Raymond Pitcairn, “self-taught cathedral architect” (as his New York Times obituary described him) and heir to the massive empire created by his father, John, the founder of PPG industries.

After completing construction of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral of the The New Church, Pitcairn turned to building himself a new house. Located north of Philadelphia (the Philly skyline can be seen from the top of the mansion’s seven-story tower), it was designed by Pitcairn and constructed between 1928 and 1939, while Pitcairn was simultaneously fighting against Roosevelt’s New Deal. Glencairn is built in the Romanesque style out of hand-cut stone and concrete. It contains 90 rooms, including 17 bedrooms, a chapel, and the expansive living room, decorated with both actual Medieval-era items and modern recreations built by artisans in the same style.

Source: TCM
The inglenook. Source: TCM
Ceiling inspired by the Irish Book of Kells. Source: TCM
Categories
Architecture

Roebling’s Shaky Bridge

View of the Shaky Bridge from the Delaware River. Undated. Source: Photograph, collection of David Denenberg. bridgemaster.com
Shaky Bridge in 2019, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM
Source: TCM

This little suspension bridge, which spans the attractively named Waste Weir, was built by the Roebling Company. While some internet sources say it is a miniature replica of one of Roebling’s more famous projects, either the Brooklyn Bridge or the Niagara Bridge. Although it uses the same suspension technology, the design is not identical. Other sources say it was built to demonstrate suspension technology, and then given to the city of Trenton. I haven’t seen a firm date for when it was built.

The Shaky Bridge sits between the Delaware River and Route 29 in Stacy Park. Route 29 runs over the alignment of the Trenton Water Power, a seven mile long canal completed in 1834  – the same year as the 65 mile long D&R Canal.

Categories
Architecture books

The Story Behind the Field Guide to American Houses

See the Curbed article on Virginia Savage McAlester, the author of A Field Guide to American Houses. A revised version of the encyclopedic classic came out a few years ago, and McAlester is now planning a field guide to commercial buildings.

Categories
Architecture History

Louis Sullivan’s Jewel Box in Grinnell

The Jewel Box, Grinnell, Iowa. Source: TCM

The Merchants National Bank building in Grinnell, Iowa, also known as the Jewel Box, was designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan late in his career and built in 1914. Used as a bank for over 80 years, it now serves as the visitors’ center for the town. The building is a National Historic Landmark and part of the Grinnell Historic Commercial District.

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Archaeology Architecture History

Early Images of the Classical World: Daguerreotypes of the Monumental Journey


Olympieion, Athens, Viewed from the East, 1842. Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Qatar Museum Collections (IM.314)

In the 1840s, Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, a French photographer and architectural historian, took thousands of photographic images of monuments of Greece, Italy, Egypt, and other countries during a three-year long trip around the Mediterranean. The daguerrotypes he produced are the oldest known surviving photos of these locations.

Categories
Architecture History

“The Wife of my Youth”

This 19th century graveyard monument in Mercer Cemetery engraved to “The Wife of My Youth” first makes you wonder what kind of monument the wife of his dotage got. But the phrase is from the Old Testament of the Bible:

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.

Proverbs 5:18
Source: TCM
Mercer Cemetery. Source: TCM
Categories
Architecture History

Mercer Cemetery

The Mercer Cemetery in Trenton, NJ, was created in the 1840s. There were few new internments after the 1930s. Unlike the Riverview Cemetery, which is still active, no one has been buried in Mercer since 1973. In the 1990s, the city spruced up the cemetery, but it became neglected, landscaping and maintenance was deferred, and conditions within the cemetery deteriorated. Fortunately, Trenton is now looking to rehabilitate the Mercer cemetery, beginning with a recent volunteer cleanup effort.

Source: TCM
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Categories
Architecture

The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, Plainfield, New Jersey

Craig Marsh Mansion
Craig Marsh Mansion, Plainfield, NJ. Source: TCM

There are over 150 houses within the Van Wyck Brooks historic district, ranging in age from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. Here are just a few of them.

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