On Instagram: Touring Saint Ronan Modern in New Haven Plus Other Buildings Not on The Tour

This past weekend I hopped on a train to New Haven, Connecticut to join the New Haven Preservation Trust, New Haven Modern (which is an initiative of the NHPT) and DoCoMoMo-US on a tour of the modern architecture of the Prospect Hill Historic District in New Haven. Largely characterized for its outstanding examples of Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, French Renaissance Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style houses, the Saint Ronan/Edgehill Neighborhood is also home to a handful of mid-century modern infill houses.

Led by architectural historians Chris Wrigen and Charlotte Hitchcock, the tour was loosely based around the theme of fitting modernism into an existing neighborhood like Saint Ronan/Edgehill.

Organized as part of DoCoMoMo’s Tour Day—the annual initiative designed to raise public awareness for mid-century modern buildings and landscapes in the United States—the Saint Ronan Modern tour attracted more than 50 people and included more than 30 buildings, the bulk of which were buildings of the modern movement.

The tour started at the Bethesda Lutheran Church on Saint Ronan Street and concluded on Canner Street with the 1950s Yale Divinity School apartments and a Post-Modern house  designed in 1986 by Peter Tagiuri.

The Bethesda Lutheran Church was designed by the Office of Douglas Orr in 1955-1958. The architect was H. Dillingham Palmer and the church is designed in a “Scandinavian Modern” style with red bricks, light-colored wood and an A-shape roof that suggests Gothic architecture. According to the tour guides, Orr was not a fan of the modern architecture of the time, so he relegated certain commissions to other designers in the firm. The Bethesda Lutheran Church was one of those commissions.



For some context to the modern houses we were about to see, the tour guides stopped at several houses on Saint Ronan Street, including the Adolph Mendel House designed in 1913 by R. W. Foote (illustrated below) and the J. Edward Heaton House designed in 1903 by Leoni W. Robinson.


After this brief stop, we walked over to Autumn Street to look at four houses designed between 1905 and 1967. Parallel to Saint Ronan Street, Autumn Street is home to several mid-century modern homes built as infill on subdivided parcels.

The first stop on Autumn Street was the J. Edward Heaton Carriage House built around 1905 and renovated and expanded in the 1960s by the office of E. Carleton Granbery. A former barn converted to a residence, the house features a lush courtyard connecting the interior with the exterior, epitomizing what the tour guides referred to as “California-living” style.


The Mrs. E.H. Tuttle House designed in 1956 by E. Carleton Granbery also in the “Californian living” style.


50 Autumn Street is home to the Dr. Jose Delgado House designed in 1959 by Gualtier & Johnson and expanded in 1988 by Edward Kubler.


One of my favorite buildings on the tour was the Stanley and Margaret Leavy House at 70 Autumn Street. Designed in 1967 by Granbery, Cash & Associates, the house has become the poster child for Saint Ronan Modern. While setback from the street, it is impossible to miss this bold, stunning house in an otherwise architecturally quiet street.


On Edgehill Road is the Robert and Judith Evenson House designed in 1979 by Peter Kosinski/Kosinski Architecture. The house is built on the site of the former St. Francis Orphan Asylum, demolished in 1963.

After the Evenson House, we headed to Loomis Place to look at several buildings that form part of the Foote School. Among the architects whose buildings form part of the Foote School include Perkins & Will (with E. Carleton Granbery), David Cochran & Miller, Roth & More as well as Maryann Thompson Architects.


One of the more striking houses on the tour was the John and Ruth Martin House at 55 Loomis Place. Designed in 1967 by Sidney T. Miller, the house is a two-story frame house with features that recall Prairie Style houses of Frank Lloyd Wright. Unfortunately, there’s is very little out there on the architecture of Sidney T. Miller, but from what I have been able to see, his work deserves a second look.


Finally, the tour concluded on Canner Street with the 1950s Yale Divinity School apartments designed by the office of Douglas Orr. In contrast to the Divinity School apartments which stands out from its neighbors, the Post-modern house on the next block over on Canner Street was designed in 1986 by Peter Tagiuri and fits in perfectly with its surroundings.



After the tour, I decided to explore two more buildings on my own: The First Presbyterian Church designed in 1966 by John Dinkeloo and expanded in 2005 by Christiaan Dinkeloo (son of John Dinkeloo) and finally, the Whitney Avenue Fire Station designed in 1962 by the firm of Carlin, Pozzi & Millard.



New Haven was a hotbed for modernism and within Yale University you’ll find many buildings designed by some of the leading architects of the time. I took some time to revisit some old friends I hadn’t seen in a few years.

Phillip Johnson and Associates’ Kline Biology Tower, 1964.


Ingalls Hockey Rink, 1957, Eero Saarinen



Marcel Breuer’s Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center (now known as the Becton Center for Engineering Innovation & Design), 1968.


Interior of the Yale University Art Gallery, 1953, Louis I. Kahn.


Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building (Yale School of Architecture), 1961.


Gordon Bunshaft’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 1961.



The Community Services Building (now known as the Knights of Columbus Museum), Douglas Orr, deCossy, Winder and Associates, 1965.


For more of the architecture seen on the Saint Ronan Modern tour, head over to my Instagram where you’ll find photos of the entire itinerary (some included here).

After a Much Awaited Relocation and Expansion, The McMullen Museum of Art Is Set to Reopen This Fall

McMullen Museum, atrium and entrance

McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Brighton Campus. 2101 Commonwealth Avenue. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

This September, after roughly two years of renovation and construction, Boston gears up to celebrate the grand reopening of the McMullen Museum of Art on the Boston College campus in Brighton.

Now housed in a newly renovated and expanded Renaissance Revival style building designed in 1927 by Maginnis and Walsh, the new McMullen Museum of Art will include 30,000 gross-square feet of exhibition space—that’s three times more the space it used to have in its former location also on campus.

Formerly located in a congested corner of Devlin Hall—one of the four original Gothic Revival buildings designed by Maginnis and Walsh on the college’s campus—the McMullen will feature two main galleries on the second floor, a sculpture gallery as well as a smaller gallery on the third. The renovations also include a large rooftop terrace.

LaFarge Windows, McMullen Museum of Art, Brighton Campus, Boston College.

LaFarge Windows, McMullen Museum of Art, Brighton Campus, Boston College. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

Opened in 1995 as a teaching museum, the McMullen Museum has organized many critically acclaimed exhibits, including an excellent retrospective on Wilfredo Lam as well as exhibits on Paul Klee, Roberto Matta, Edvard Munch, Sarah Westlake and Jackson Pollock among others. Its most recent tour de force, John La Farge and the Recovery of the Sacred, brought together more than 85 works consisting of paintings, stained glass windows, and works on paper that shed new light one of the most innovative American artists of the 19th century.

La Farge’s astonishing stained glass tryptic of Christ preaching, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Paul, a recent gift to the University from the Vareika Family, will be one of the crowning jewels on view in this newly renovated and expanded building by DiMella Shaffer.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

And as if a “new” museum in a new location wasn’t exciting enough, the McMullen Museum of Art has partnered with Harvard University’s Houghton Library and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for its inaugural exhibit, Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. The exhibit, which is being billed as “one of the most important ensembles of illuminated manuscripts anywhere in North America,” will feature different explorations surrounding the creation and study of illuminated manuscripts. It will be on view concurrently at these indtitutions beginning on September 12 until December 11, 2016.

The museum, which has always been free to the public, will also expand its opening hours and relaunch a newly revamped docent program.

So much to look forward to this Fall at Boston College.

Instagram Tour: Final Phase of the Boston Public Library’s Johnson Building Renovation

The Boston Public Library has completed the second and final phase of renovations to the 1972 Philip Johnson building. The second phase renovations, which was completed by the Cambridge firm of William Rawn and Associates, includes updates to the interior design and exterior landscaping, new and very cool digital elements, stunning and invigorating new spaces for studying and reading, updated collections, and an enormous Tech Central with many new public computers.

In typical William Rawn fashion, the Johnson Building is colorful, brighter and welcoming in contrast to the dark and overwhelmingly depressing (but functional for its time), granite building completed in 1972. Rawn, who has designed several libraries in the Boston area—including the East Boston and Mattapan branches of the Boston Public Library—has also visually opened the Johnson building to the street, inviting the people of Boston into their library.

I’ve been a user of the Central Library since I was eight years old and Philip Johnson has never looked and felt this good. While this addition to the McKim, Mead & White Beaux Arts building isn’t one of Philip Jonhson’s best works, it’s an important building in Boston nonetheless.

What follows in this post is an Instagram tour of the final phase renovations (I Instagrammed the first phase of the building back in March 2015).



The Welcome Center features new books, plenty of seating and digital screens listing information about programs and events at the library. The screens also serve as an opportunity for people to browse the Boston Public Library’s digital collections.





The Boston Public Library has stepped into the 21st century with this renovation. A new 6,000 square feet Digital Services department and digital imaging studio has been created in the lower level of the building, directly across the Kirstein Business Library and Innovation Center. This new space will also be used by the BPL’s digital partners, Digital Public Library of America and Internet Archive. Welcome to the Boston Public Library, the library of the future.



The Kirstein Business Library and Innovation Center will offer many courses including video editing, production and audio.





An updated theater, new classroom and community gathering spaces are also found in the lower level.

Check out the very cool balloons that serve as collection markers.



Many objects from the BPL’s extensive art collection are currently on display throughout the renovated building (and many more will be on view in the Fall in the new, museum-quality exhibition space).



And colors to complement every single one of my many sneakers.




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What do you think of the newly renovated Johnson Building?

Facing an Uncertain Future, A Petition is Launched to Save Boston’s Iconic Citgo Sign

Workmen Repair CITGO Sign in Kenmore Square Boston

Spencer Grant, “Workmen repair Citgo Sign in Kenmore Square, Boston,” 1974. Boston Public Library, Spencer Grant Collection. © Spencer Grant.

Lauded by architecture critic Robert Campbell as a “masterpiece of urban commercial art[1]” and as “one of the great works of public art in the city,[2]” the Citgo sign is without a doubt one of the most recognizable landmarks in Boston. Located in Kenmore Square—roughly three blocks away from historic Fenway Park—the Citgo sign has been part of Boston’s skyline since the mid-sixties. The bold red, white and blue 60’ by 60’ sign was designed in 1965.

And here’s a shocker: as with anything that is of great and bold design in Boston (cue Boston City Hall), the Citgo sign wasn’t always loved by the people. I hope this isn’t the case now, but I may be wrong.

During the energy crisis of the 1970s, the sign was shut off, which prompted many letters to the editor of the Boston Globe, both praising and condemning the action. If that wasn’t enough, in 1982 the sign faced demolition’s wrecking ball until Bostonians—including Robert Campbell—urged the City to take a closer look at the sign. After much uproar, the Boston Landmarks Commission halted the demolition order and held a public hearing, but it decided in January of 1983 not to designate the Citgo sign as a city landmark, stating “that it didn’t want to subject the sign owners to cost of keeping it functioning.[3]” The already iconic sign remained on top of 660 Beacon Street, but not without being the target of insults (Hugo Chavez in 2006) or catching on fire in 2008. The sign was restored in 2010 and its lights were replaced with more technologically advanced and environmentally friendly ones.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

Not so fast.

The sign is back in the preservation spotlight.

Its current owner, Boston University, announced in January that it intended to sell the building on which the sign sits on “with no stipulations that the sign remain,” according to the Boston Preservation Alliance. The organization has launched a petition asking the City of Boston to grant landmark status to the Citgo sign, so that it will be permanently protected.

In 1982, the sign was considered one of the “Magnificent Seven” landmarks in the City of Boston by Robert Campbell, who called it a “magnificent illuminated sign.”[4] Campbell went on to say that the Citgo sign “pulsed like an electric heart in the night sky over Kenmore Square, its blue and red reflected in the Charles River basin. But it was turned off—in 1979—a purely symbolic response to the energy crisis. Now the sign is deteriorating.”

“Many people feel snobbish about the great signs, but surely the monuments of our automobile era are as legitimate as those of any other time. And the Citgo sign in the best symbol,[5]” Campbell continued.

“The Citgo sign is good design. It may be a symbol of a bygone era in its association with energy and affluence, but it’s a symbol of a new era in design, one which promises to enhance our cities instead of disfiguring them,”[6] wrote Joe Selame in a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe published on June 15, 1980.

I could go on and on quoting all the letters published in support of a landmark designation for the Citgo sign, but I think you get the point: good design is easily recognizable and the Citgo sign, is good design.

It’s hard to imagine Boston without the Citgo sign. Like the 1954 Prudential Building by Charles Luckman Associates and the 1976 John Hancock Building designed by Henry N. Cobb of I. M. Pei & Partners, the Citgo sign has served as another landmark by which many of us Bostonians orient ourselves on a daily basis. In a city as architecturally conservative as Boston, the Citgo sign represents a departure from the banal and we’ll be better off  by saving it for future generations of Bostonians to enjoy. I love the sign and I know many of those who love Fenway Park, do too. It’s hard not to associate the Citgo sign with baseball in Boston—they seem to go hand in hand.

Cover Image Courtesy of Jesse Haley of South End Textiles


[1] Campbell, Robert. “Architecture.” The Boston Globe 26 December 1982: A35. Print.
[2]  Campbell, Robert. “IN THIS CORNER: A Fossil, It Sits There, A Sign of Its Time, And, Sadly Ours.” The Boston Globe 21 June 1982: 1. Print.
[3] Ball, Joanne. “It’s No Go for Citgo ‘Landmark.” The Boston Globe 26 January 1983: 17. Print
[4] Campbell, Robert.  “A Magnificent Seven.” The Boston Globe 22 August 1982: SM13. Print.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Selame, Joe. “Letters: The Citgo Symbol.” The Boston Globe 15 June 1980: G4. Print