Thursday, August 3, 2017

Broadway and E. 20th Street, Lorain, OH

This strip of buildings is on Broadway in my hometown, Lorain, Ohio. These were constructed in the 1880s and 1890s, and although they've been altered they still retain distinctive features.   The  parapets of the red brick buidings are ornamented with elaborate corbelled brick, and the sills and lintels are a golden sandstone quarried from nearby Amherst, OH.

What especially caught my eye is the great mid-century slip-cover applied to a portion of the corner building.  These façade treatments were meant to update and revive old commercial buildings but they've become historic artifacts in their own right.

The design of these slipcovers had more in common with the graphic design popular in the 1950s and 60s, often with a nod to the high-style modernist towers going up. And because they weren't doing much structural work they could look like anything. A covered building could instantly transform from a pedestrian scale to an auto-oriented scale, and this was one way historic downtowns competed with the postwar suburban expansion.  It didn't really work, so now these architectural treatments are often reversed to reveal the original character of a building.

Clear aluminum mullions and turquoise spandrels were applied to the façade, along with new windows and storefronts. There was enough flexibility in the system to adapt it to the size and configuration of the original facade, although it wasn't unusual to have to chip off projecting masonry that interfered with the new system.   Finally, a wide band of stainless steel framed the entire composition.  I believe those three stubs above the storefront supported a large vertical sign which has since been removed.

This is a great example for its pure geometric design, but also because it serves as a clear visual lesson in how buildings change over time.
A few blocks north at Broadway and 16th Street.
Bars along 28th Street in South Lorain

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