Thursday, October 2, 2008
[Downtown] I've been watching with interest the restoration of a beautiful old façade just on the other side of Sam Weller's Books from the City Weekly offices. I don't know a lot about architecture, but I believe the style is neoclassical. (I was calling it "Egyptian revival," which is a term I may have simply made up, but for some reason that's how it strikes me. You know, it's all kind of mystical and Rosicrucian and fraught with symbolism, the way all things were back at the turn of the 20th century. Perhaps the style is more accurately termed Greek revival.)
In the mid-20th century, people wanted buildings to look sleek and, well, as bland as possible so as not to detract from those big, swashy, modern brush-script signs and logos they liked in those days. So they covered up the old building façades with flat panels. Even after big, swashy logos fell out of fashion, however, the boring, flat-panel façades remained--for decades contributing an opaque joylessness to downtown's general air of desolation.
It's exciting that property owners such as this one care enough to restore the original integrity of their buildings. It gives me a strange feeling--one that I haven't had for a long time. I'm having a hard time identifying it ... what is that feeling? You know, the opposite of dread and despair? The emotion you feel when you think that things might, one day, stop getting worse, or even improve?
Oh, yeah! That feeling is hope. Hope that, in 10 years, downtown is going to be an amazing and beautiful place to work and play.
I wasn't able to determine the architectural term for this interesting panel on the front of the building. (I almost called it a "medallion," but I think that applies to ceilings not walls. I'm curious, though, so if any architecture geeks know the term, let me know.) It once gave the building's construction date and, I think, the name of the architect--or maybe the original owner:
It, along with other details, was damaged during installation of the steel beams used to support the secondary flat façade. That is, it's not the fault of the people who are restoring the building. A group of us were chatting recently about what the original lettering might have been. My wild guess is "B.G.R. Gould, 1918."