Mid-Century Modern Preservation in Grand Center

by Michael R. Allen

Grand Center, Inc., deserves recognition for a small but important step toward preservation of our mid-century modern architecture. Earlier this year, Grand Center completed renovation of the Loyola Building at 3840 Washington Boulevard just west of Vandeventer. This playfully articulated two-story building and a one-story wing to the west were designed by architect Isadore Shank and completed in 1958. Built as offices, Loyola Academy across the street once used the two-story section for classrooms. The one-story section was owned by a church group. The building is part of a row of modern buildings all enjoying the same setback; see Toby Weiss’ post “Mid-Town Washington Boulevard” on B.E.L.T for more information.

The crisp modern lines are drawn here through smooth limestone. However, there is textural depth added through the patterned brick spandrels and what seems to be a painted wooden spandrel at the main entrance (at left) that reminds me of a patterned fir applique on Shank’s Miller House (1963).

The detailing here is not as extensive as on Shank’s elaborate DeBalieviere Building (1927) at Delmar and DeBaliviere, but it has similarities. The introduction of wall texture through patterns is similar, as is the breakdown of the potential monotony of repeated patterns through the articulation of the fenestration. This is a cool little building, and not well known among Shank’s work.

Grand Center has recycled this office building as artists’ studios and the home of the Pace framing company. The redevelopment organization could have done no better — the Loyola Building did not need a lavish rehab. A little repair and painting renewed the mid-century strut, and all is well in the world.

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