The Architect of Journal Square: A Walking Tour of Legends and Landmarks

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Editor’s Note: Look for an exclusive map of the “Architect of Journal Square” walking tour in the Jersey Journal today, Monday, July 5, 2021.

Journal Square – a downtown and crossroads occupied by schools, terminals, factories, banks, churches, and architecturally significant commercial buildings – wouldn’t be without John T. Rowland Jr., architect of Pathside when it was, over a century ago, the seat of the civil service in Jersey City. Virtually her single hand has shaped the Square since its inception in 1911, when the Jersey Journal moved its offices and printing house from Montgomery Street to Sip Avenue, and until the time of the Great Depression, just as urban architecture changed its classical vocabulary into a modernist style. vernacular defined by sublime simplicity and sophistication in lines, shapes, materials and construction.

Well connected, strong with his political affiliations in many administrations, including Frank Hague’s machine, Rowland was unencumbered in his job and demonstrated an astonishing aptitude for designing whatever was required of his office. Its buildings ranged from small (St. Aedan Parish School) to huge (Lorillard Tobacco Co.); from the technologically advanced (two Jersey Journal buildings) to the breathtaking (the tower of the St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church).

Rowland, an architect whose name is largely unspoken, should be immediately known for his designs for William Dickinson, Lincoln and Snyder High Schools, as well as his reigning monument, Jersey City Medical Center (now The Beacon).

The Journal Square area was Rowland’s architectural proving ground, and although many of his buildings have been lost, a host of them remain and deserve to be part of his measure now.

  • Building along the road, 84, avenue Sip (1909-1912). Founded in 1903, Public Service was made up of subsidiaries specializing in providing gas, electricity, and transportation services to residents of northern New Jersey. In 1912, the company unveiled its newly constructed offices and terminal in Jersey City, designed by local star architect John T. Rowland Jr. It was a state-of-the-art facility, with floors of reinforced concrete offices flooded with natural light and offering an unobstructed view. views of Manhattan from the elevated basalt precipice on which Journal Square was built. A covered arcade (still intact) running the length and depth of the building provided shelter for trolley drivers.
  • The Jersey Journal, 30 Place du Journal (1922-1925). The 1925 Jersey Journal building on the south side of Sip Avenue capped a long and successful collaboration with Rowland, who also designed the 1912 newspaper building on the north side of Sip Avenue at the northeast corner of Sip Avenues. and Bergen. The 1925 structure – which extended, via folding, stacked and tiered sections, to a narrow Newkirk Street – reflected the latest design program and the latest technological advancements for the all-in-one newspaper factory . Rowland’s 1925 version was particularly recognized for its stealthy incorporation of interior parking floors, delivery platforms, and upper-level access ramps for the motorized truck fleets and massive delivery sedans of the newspaper.
  • The Labor Bank, 26 Place du Journal (1922-1928). Rowland’s impressive masonry bank tower for local unions is vital for its singular architectural canon. It was his first high-rise building – he moved closer to the Duncan, an ambitiously designed apartment building at 2600 Hudson Blvd. (now Kennedy Boulevard) a few blocks south of the plaza – and is an indisputable precursor to his masterpiece of cluster towers for the Jersey City Medical Center (now The Beacon) off Baldwin Avenue and from Montgomery Street. Rowland had previously designed smaller banking centers in Jersey City, but the Bank of Labor was for him a final exercise in classicism – with roof-level urns and a barrel-vaulted side bank room with stained glass – like the dramatic Modern Art The design mode had just entered the minds and offices of American companies already delighted with the construction of skyscrapers. In 1928, with the opening to the public of the rise of the Labor Bank, the architectural heritage of Rowland Journal Square was once again assured.
  • Hurwitz building, 920, avenue Bergen (1929-1930). Rowland’s storefront and restaurant for Max Hurwitz’s latest real estate venture in Journal Square was such a radical design for him that architectural historians still wonder aloud how the hardcore traditionalist – as most were. of American architects during this period of approaching Modernism beautifully. And, of course, he did, with much praise in the press and in local real estate circles. Small and visually reduced compared to his previous bulky, large-scale buildings and the footprints on the square, the Hurwitz building is for him a kind of architectural study, a small but powerful tour de force for the eye and, again, once, an original model of what was to happen in the neighborhood. Rowland’s excitement – and liberation – is felt in the building’s electric color scheme and in the continuous lines, dots and daggers, all seamlessly woven together into a tight wrap of glazed terracotta. On closer inspection, the Hurwitz Building can be seen as an architectural accompaniment – perhaps an outline – of Rowland’s soaring Art Deco-infused monolithic towers at his Jersey City Medical Center complex on Baldwin Avenue. Each work, although of radically different scale, is an unmistakable mirror of the other
  • Public school n ° 11 (Now the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School), 886 Bergen Ave. (1901-1903). Although no longer standing (it burned down in a fire in the late 1960s) and replaced with a Modernist edifice, the original 1901-1903 building was Rowland’s first link to the Journal Square neighborhood. . The town’s newly appointed school architect Rowland set out to design a school structure valued for its light and air circulation and large classroom spaces.
  • Saint-Aedan parish school (now Primary Prep Elementary and Middle School), 41 Tuers Ave. (1913-1914). The Old St. Aedan Parish School is a rather unknown and isolated Rowland work in the vicinity of Journal Square. The facade of the building is modestly articulated, its architectural expression mainly in its abundant use of terracotta masonry.
  • Public school 23 (Mahatma K. Gandhi School), 143, avenue Romaine (1917-1920). School 23 is one of Rowland’s most daringly designed and articulated school buildings and features its first use of copper-clad corner domes and education-themed terracotta carvings on the portals of the main facade.
  • Lorillard tobacco company, Senate Square and Newark Avenue (1907-1911). With its dark brick veneer and deep, thick concrete foundation, the Lorillard Factory is Rowland’s most immense (and untouched) factory commission. Located at the west end of Newark Avenue, in the Journal Square and Marion sections due to its proximity to railway branch lines and the nearby Hackensack River, the Lorillard Factory is Rowland’s finest achievement of industrial architecture and is at the center of a thriving art gallery community.
  • Saint-Jean-Baptiste parish school (now Golden Door Charter School), 3040 Kennedy Blvd. (1913-1914). Rowland’s affiliation with St. John the Baptist Parish began with its largest parish school to date. Taking advantage of the rocky topography of the surrounding palisades of the plaza, Rowland placed the school building on top of a hill and, like his Dickinson High School on Palisade Avenue, landscaped and terraced the land, enclosing it in a large perimeter of iron fence.
  • Saint-Jean-Baptiste Tower, 3040, boulevard Kennedy (1923-25). When the Roman Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist was completed with fanfare in 1897, its rustic chime tower was left unfinished and truncated, with the full intention of architect George Palliser to complete it. In 1925, Rowland finished at a staggering height of 150 feet, respectfully following Palliser’s Richardsonian Romanesque Revival fashion and vision. It turned out to be a special commission for Rowland, because when he finished the difficult engineering job, he was standing in front of a tower that looked remarkably like the McGraw Tower on the campus of the ‘Cornell University, an institution he had attended.

John Gomez is the founder of the non-profit Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy and holds a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University. He can be contacted at [email protected].


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