by Michael R. Allen
Across the street from each other on Main Street in Collinsville, Illinois are two delightful one-story mid-century modern office buildings dating to the 1950s. These buildings aren’t exceptional modern masterpieces, but simply nice examples of vernacular modernism: derived from the International Style and other sources by local architects or builders, highly functional and strongly stylized. These buildings are the modern equivalents of the nineteenth and early twentieth century vernacular storefronts lining other blocks on Main Street.
To the east is a later modernist pharmacy and medical office building — there was a clear and exciting architectural conflation between the clean lines of modernism and the promise of postwar medicine. However, the modern purity erodes here through stylized cursive lettering that softens the severity of the purpose houses inside.
In Collinsville as elsewhere, attemprts to make downtown more modern weren’t satisfactory enough for some businesses. One of those was the Collinsville Building and Loan Association, which in 1969 moved from Main Street to the sprawl of Belt Line Road. The Association still occupies that building, and its New Brutalist body hasn’t changed much.