Sometimes building campaigns fall short or parish needs change. St. Mel’s Auditorium was built for the neighboring St. Mel’s School as a 900-seat gathering space over a 400-seat basement cafeteria. Today St. Mel’s Auditorium is St. Mel’s Church and the auditorium serves as the main sanctuary, complete with contemporary stained glass. A metallic steeple has been added on top of the flat roof of the auditorium.
This bank building was created through the rehabilitation of a three story commercial building with the existing two story bank next door all running along Jamaica Avenue under the elevated train line. Next to this along Woodhaven Boulevard was added a one-story annex. All the building were reclad in a combination of limestone and granite with marble accents. The window lines are recessed, giving this structure a classical slant. A small clock is placed above the recessed corner entrance.
The building is one in a series of apartment houses by Birnbaum named for past presidents. Here the white painted ironwork gives this nine-story building a graceful, patrician air. Similar to many other buildings in this part of Forest Hills, the Woodrow Wilson is clad in red Colonial brick and many apartments have large cantilevered balconies. There is also a large two-story parking garage, an amenity that became de rigueur in 1950s apartment living.
A true standout among the award winners, this design is as striking as when it was originally unveiled. The corner bank gleams with an exterior of stainless steel and granite. Floor to ceiling windows illuminate the three-story height space. Patrons enter through a curved corner entrance up a short flight of stairs. The interior the original mosaic floors and teakwood walls although the mural featuring Forest Hills has been lost. The bank is surprisingly unlike most of architect Philip Birnbaum’s other designs; he was primarily known for his large apartment building towers in brick.
Today this shopping center looks quaint and a little ragged, but when it opened, shopping strips like this were considered novel by orienting the entire site toward parking. The building is L-shaped with the anchor supermarket in the central corner. Portions of the flat canopy over the pedestrian sidewalk still remain and the painted brick facade is still visible. Originally a wooden post and rail fence surrounded the parking lot.