Art Deco Architecture

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9 notes &

Penobscot Building, Detroit, MichiganPhoto from HistoricDetroit.org
The “nob” on the Penobscot Building.
From Wikipedia:

On holidays, both the Penobscot Building and the nearby One Woodward Avenue light up for the night, with red, white and blue for Independence Day and Canada Day; and red, white and green for the Christmas season. In addition, during the Christmas season, the Penobscot Building’s radio broadcast tower is illuminated bright gold, to resemble a giant glowing Christmas tree topped with a flashing red beacon. The Penobscot Building has become a souvenir item along with other Detroit skyscrapers.

Penobscot Building, Detroit, Michigan
Photo from HistoricDetroit.org

The “nob” on the Penobscot Building.

From Wikipedia:

On holidays, both the Penobscot Building and the nearby One Woodward Avenue light up for the night, with red, white and blue for Independence Day and Canada Day; and red, white and green for the Christmas season. In addition, during the Christmas season, the Penobscot Building’s radio broadcast tower is illuminated bright gold, to resemble a giant glowing Christmas tree topped with a flashing red beacon. The Penobscot Building has become a souvenir item along with other Detroit skyscrapers.

Filed under penobscot building detroit michigan antenna radio tower architecture history one woodward avenue

22 notes &

From a write-up of the Penobscot Building in the blog "Drawing on Indians," which focuses on depictions of Native Americans over the past 500 years. Why is it written up? Because it’s covered with Native American references! Check it out!
In particular worth noting this analysis on how this is a typical example of white designers grabbing onto generic Indian designs for their own purposes:

Once again, we have a prominent example of non-Native individuals appropriating an Indian style or motif to express their nostalgia for a long ago time (in this case, for the logging camps of northern Maine).  Why  couldn’t they have used a Northwoods or lumberjack theme?  Wouldn’t that have been more appropriate considering their history?
It’s unique that they specifically decided to go with the Penobscot name (based on the river, named after the tribe).  But once again, the Indian designs come out as a complete grab bag of styles, designs, and symbolism very little of which has to do with the actual Penobscot people of northern Maine (who were certainly around in the 1920s to serve as design consultants!)
Why would the “Penobscot Building” include sculptures of Plains Indian style headdresses, southwest Indian geometric patterns, and animals ranging from foxes to turtles to eagles?
The answer is simple.  The designers weren’t actually going for a Penobscot theme but rather a generic “Indian” theme in which the most visually striking but culturally divergent elements are pulled together to fulfill the designers’ notions of Indianness.
In so many ways, the Indian figures throughout the Penobscot Building represent America’s thoughts and feelings about Native people in the early 20th century.  The cold stone bodies represent a people immobile, stuck in place and unable to change.  The stoic expressions represent a people devoid of emotion and sentiment, yet somehow appear both proud and sad.  They are forever linked to both Nature and the primitive ways of the past.  Like classical Greek columns or Gothic spires, they are rich with meaning and symbolism, put on display for all the world to see.
The Penobscot Building is above all an artifact.  It is an item from the past whose elements can reveal the secrets of a time long ago.
It is a truly remarkable building and worth the visit if you ever come to Detroit.

BTW, about the writer behind Drawing on Indians:
Stephen Bridenstine: I am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia where I study modern U.S. and Canadian social and cultural history. I specialize in issues of myth, memory, and representation concerning indigenous peoples and the North American fur trade. In an effort to bring attention to these topics and put my thoughts into writing, I have started blogging. I hope you appreciate the results.

From a write-up of the Penobscot Building in the blog "Drawing on Indians," which focuses on depictions of Native Americans over the past 500 years. Why is it written up? Because it’s covered with Native American references! Check it out!

In particular worth noting this analysis on how this is a typical example of white designers grabbing onto generic Indian designs for their own purposes:

Once again, we have a prominent example of non-Native individuals appropriating an Indian style or motif to express their nostalgia for a long ago time (in this case, for the logging camps of northern Maine).  Why  couldn’t they have used a Northwoods or lumberjack theme?  Wouldn’t that have been more appropriate considering their history?

It’s unique that they specifically decided to go with the Penobscot name (based on the river, named after the tribe).  But once again, the Indian designs come out as a complete grab bag of styles, designs, and symbolism very little of which has to do with the actual Penobscot people of northern Maine (who were certainly around in the 1920s to serve as design consultants!)

Why would the “Penobscot Building” include sculptures of Plains Indian style headdresses, southwest Indian geometric patterns, and animals ranging from foxes to turtles to eagles?

The answer is simple.  The designers weren’t actually going for a Penobscot theme but rather a generic “Indian” theme in which the most visually striking but culturally divergent elements are pulled together to fulfill the designers’ notions of Indianness.

In so many ways, the Indian figures throughout the Penobscot Building represent America’s thoughts and feelings about Native people in the early 20th century.  The cold stone bodies represent a people immobile, stuck in place and unable to change.  The stoic expressions represent a people devoid of emotion and sentiment, yet somehow appear both proud and sad.  They are forever linked to both Nature and the primitive ways of the past.  Like classical Greek columns or Gothic spires, they are rich with meaning and symbolism, put on display for all the world to see.

The Penobscot Building is above all an artifact.  It is an item from the past whose elements can reveal the secrets of a time long ago.

It is a truly remarkable building and worth the visit if you ever come to Detroit.

BTW, about the writer behind Drawing on Indians:

Stephen BridenstineI am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia where I study modern U.S. and Canadian social and cultural history. I specialize in issues of myth, memory, and representation concerning indigenous peoples and the North American fur trade. In an effort to bring attention to these topics and put my thoughts into writing, I have started blogging. I hope you appreciate the results.

Filed under penobscot penobscot building detroit michigan art deco architecture skyscraper 1920s native american american indian cultural appropriation indigenous peoples ethnocentrism racism history art history corrado parducci

8 notes &

Vulcanite Super Cement Ad Featuring the Penobscot BuildingVintage via eBay
The Penobscot Building used Super Cement. Shouldn’t your building?
From eBay:

Ad Caption: “The Engineer Welcomes the advent of Super Cement waterproof and oilproof”.
Source: Engineering News-Record Magazine (October 13, 1927) (Inv#-magads4139)
Condition: Ad is in very good condition. Any yellow tint is a result of our scanning process and not with the ad. Some ads are larger then our scanner, and may appear cropped down. Scan may show wrinkles or crookedness that is not in the ad.
Dimensions: A full-page black and white ad - measuring approximately 8.75” wide by 11.75” tall. 
Notes: All ads are original ads removed from vintage magazines. These tear sheets are never a reprint or reproduction. These original magazine pages look fabulous when framed. Decorate your home or office or purchase as a gift for family and friends. Ads are also great resources of historical documentation for collectors.

Vulcanite Super Cement Ad Featuring the Penobscot Building
Vintage via eBay

The Penobscot Building used Super Cement. Shouldn’t your building?

From eBay:

Ad Caption: “The Engineer Welcomes the advent of Super Cement waterproof and oilproof”.

Source: Engineering News-Record Magazine (October 13, 1927) (Inv#-magads4139)

Condition: Ad is in very good condition. Any yellow tint is a result of our scanning process and not with the ad. Some ads are larger then our scanner, and may appear cropped down. Scan may show wrinkles or crookedness that is not in the ad.

Dimensions: A full-page black and white ad - measuring approximately 8.75” wide by 11.75” tall. 

Notes: All ads are original ads removed from vintage magazines. These tear sheets are never a reprint or reproduction. These original magazine pages look fabulous when framed. Decorate your home or office or purchase as a gift for family and friends. Ads are also great resources of historical documentation for collectors.

Filed under penobscot building art deco architecture detroit michigan advertising vintage advertising vintage ad construction history

7 notes &

From an noteworthy article in today’s New York Times, "Post Office Buildings With Character, and Maybe a Sale Price," this is the U.S. Post Office at 1248 Fifth Street in Santa Monica, California — and it’s being considered for sale. This 1938 Art Deco building features classically inspired pilasters capped with stylized Corinthian capitals. Preservationists seek to ensure that the wood-paneled lobby is protected. See the article’s accompanying gallery to see other potentially threatened historic post offices — Deco and non-Deco.
Is there a post office near you that the struggling USPS is looking to close? It’s also probably looking to sell, and potentially sell cheaply. Think your historic post office is protected? Often “protections” are less than you think; for example the outside might be protected from change by a local preservation statute, but the brilliant 1930s WPA murals inside could very well not be. Or even if the interior is preserved, what if the post office becomes a high end luxury store or a bank? The public loses public art. Now, of course, there are many potential uses for post offices, including event spaces, galleries, coffee shops, museums, so I’m not saying don’t reuse (please do!), but not all reuses are equal — some preserve, some strip away too much history or make history inaccessible.
In any case, please read and share the article and this post. And if you have a property you are worried about, look in to it. Contact your local preservation group, whether it’s for your city, county, or state. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is also a resource.
Wendy

From an noteworthy article in today’s New York Times, "Post Office Buildings With Character, and Maybe a Sale Price," this is the U.S. Post Office at 1248 Fifth Street in Santa Monica, California — and it’s being considered for sale. This 1938 Art Deco building features classically inspired pilasters capped with stylized Corinthian capitals. Preservationists seek to ensure that the wood-paneled lobby is protected. See the article’s accompanying gallery to see other potentially threatened historic post offices — Deco and non-Deco.

Is there a post office near you that the struggling USPS is looking to close? It’s also probably looking to sell, and potentially sell cheaply. Think your historic post office is protected? Often “protections” are less than you think; for example the outside might be protected from change by a local preservation statute, but the brilliant 1930s WPA murals inside could very well not be. Or even if the interior is preserved, what if the post office becomes a high end luxury store or a bank? The public loses public art. Now, of course, there are many potential uses for post offices, including event spaces, galleries, coffee shops, museums, so I’m not saying don’t reuse (please do!), but not all reuses are equal — some preserve, some strip away too much history or make history inaccessible.

In any case, please read and share the article and this post. And if you have a property you are worried about, look in to it. Contact your local preservation group, whether it’s for your city, county, or state. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is also a resource.

Wendy

Filed under post office historic preservation history united states post office u.s. post office usps santa monica art deco architecture building 1938 1930s national trust for historic preservation national register of historic places activism preservation