Architecture Field Trip

On Sunday, June 25, my husband and I visited Allentown, PA, for a house tour sponsored by the West Park Civic Association. If you follow my art blog, you will know that I participate in an art show in the park each June. We were there last weekend (though it was held in the Masonic Temple, next door to the park, because of the weather; look here if you want to see more). Usually the house tour is set for the following day, and I never have had the energy to go back to try it out (we live about an hour away).

This year, though, the tour was held the following weekend. We decided to make a day of it.

We got to Allentown about 10 AM so that we could have something to eat before we walked around. We chose a restaurant recommended by a friend a short distance from the park (thank you, Adrian!) called Union and Finch. I can recommend it now myself, too – our meals were delicious, and everyone there very friendly.

Here is the apartment building across the street that you saw reflected in the window of the restaurant. I love the name of it, Julian Court. Very elegant sounding. The building is also beautiful – look at the brickwork and other details.

I’m warming you up for the tour by showing you this building. This section of the city dates from around 1900-1920. It’s densely settled, with apartment buildings, businesses, and rowhomes or twins lining the streets. Space is at a premium, so West Park itself makes an oasis of green and openness in the city layout.

After lunch we parked at the Masonic Temple and walked through the park to the ticket location outside the Church of the Mediator, located on the edge of the park.

Lots of people there. (You can see my husband in the chili-orange shirt.) Once we paid, we got a booklet with a map and some info on each house, and we set off.

I won’t go into much detail about the houses we visited, as photos were not allowed. Generally, the houses were tall and narrow and featured layouts with lots of bedrooms and less living space than you might find in today’s homes. Previous ages needed this layout because of larger families and yet fewer possessions. Kitchens in particular are small in this age of house, although we saw some innovative ways they had been enlarged or adjusted.

We also saw a lot of beautiful woodwork and flooring. We went in one house, now the headquarters of a local business, with the softest glowing wood on the stairs – I read later that it was Brazilian mahogany. Think about that!

So, I’ll give you a view of the outsides of the kinds of houses we saw.

Besides the street access, many houses had alleys running behind them. I’ve walked along these alleys in the past and I think it is more interesting what you can find in these spaces than along the front, many times.

One building really stood out to me – a church located at 15th and Turner, right off the park. I’ve noticed this building for years but never been inside – it has been closed for as long as I can remember except for a short period a couple of years ago.

A former Episcopal church, built in two parts – 1907, I think, and 1930. It is not enormous, but it takes up the entire lot, coming right on to the sidewalk. An individual now owns it and hopes to develop it in some way. We took a look inside – here is the 1930 section (pews removed some time ago) and a nice window – there were quite a few throughout the building.

It’s difficult to say what will happen to this building – for one thing, it has no parking. The neighborhood presses right up against it on all sides. And for another, it is very expensive to maintain, I am sure. Still, I hope a use can be found for it.

After that, we retrieved our car and went home – to our 1950’s split-level. And though I enjoyed visiting these older homes – they reminded me of our previous house, a Victorian from about 1890 – once again I reflected on the good fortune that brought us to our current home, airy and spacious-feeling as it is.

There is no place like home, that was the theme for this day.

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About Claudia McGill

A person who does art and writes poetry. That's me!

2 responses to “Architecture Field Trip

  1. I think your tours sound really interesting and I love that they gave you another opportunity to appreciate what your own house offers as a home.

    • It didn’t turn out as I had thought. Instead of house envy I came home to my true love! The church was curiosity satisfied , though, and what a beautiful day. Plus a very tasty lunch.

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