Following the 1947 Better Philadelphia Exhibition, the city embarked on an ambitious campaign to construct new neighborhood municipal buildings for a city whose population was expected to surpass two million. One of the earliest was the Moderne-inspired Roxborough Police and Fire Station (c.1950) at Ridge Avenue and Cinnaminson Street.
District Health Center #9 at 131 E. Chelten Avenue was one of ten neighborhood medical buildings designed by some of the city’s leading architects. This one, built in 1956, was the work of Bellante & Clauss. Two of that firm’s designers, Ehrman Mitchell and Romaldo Giurgola, would go on to form the internationally recognized Mitchell/Giurgola Associates.
The vibrant and graceful District Health Center #1 at the corner of Broad and Lombard Streets was designed by Montgomery & Bishop and built in 1959. The firm, which also designed Mt. Airy’s Lovett Free Library this same year, was especially active in affordable housing and other socially progressive developments.
The Lawncrest Free Library by Hatfield, Martin & White (1960, 6098 Rising Sun Avenue) shows the influence Mies van der Rowe wielded over a generation of mid-twentieth-century architects. This low-slung, flat-roofed box celebrates its steel frame and taught brick and glass skin.
The Charles Santore (Southwark) Free Library at 932 S. 7th Street is a reminder that not all mid-century modern architecture was Meisian. Eshbach, Pullinger, Stevens & Bruder designed this sculptural, saw-tooth roofline in 1963.
Even more sculptural is the Austin Meehan Middle School at 3001 Ryan Avenue. Designed by the Shaver Partnership, these cantilevered cog-like pods opened to Northeast Philadelphia students in 1973, directly behind the now-demolished Lincoln High School.
Old Pine Community Center at 401 Lombard Street is mash-up of colonial, art deco, and modern details designed by the local firm Friday Architects/Planners. Completed in 1977, the building grew from an inclusive community planning process that became Friday’s hallmark design approach. The firm celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year (2010).
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