The Kew Gardens Hills branch of the Queens County Savings Bank is a high-style interpretation of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Like that building, this one is a two-story brick structure with a central six-segment central tower. The details are also similar to Independence Hall, with the tower incorporating four clock faces, a cupola, spire, and weathervane. The main building has wings of two bays wide instead of three like Independence Hall. the interior is decorated with several significant illustrations of American history, most notably a replica of the Liberty Bell inside the lobby. The double-height banking hall has decorative wood paneling, moldings, a decorative cornice, and large reproductions of paintings including Washington Crossing the Delaware and the Signers of the Declaration of Independence behind the teller counter.
St. John’s Chapel at St. John’s Cemetery is a modern take on a gothic structure. The small, 160-seat chapel is immediately adjacent to the cemetery’s administration building inside the main Victorian-era entrance gates at 80th Street and Metropolitan Avenue. The building is clad in granite and limestone and features several limestone carvings above the front entrance as well as on a tower at the rear of the building. The interior includes modern figurative stained glass and wood interior detailing including decorative painted details on the ceiling trusses. The metal steeple on the small tower adjacent to the main structure is of a more modern design seen on buildings of this era.
The description of this building in the awards program make it clear that this was constructed as more of a social services venue than a professional gathering place. The buildings purpose is described as “…provides a long-standing need for a center which not only reflects the high standing of the legal profession in Queens, but which also serves as a haven for the lay public of unfortunate means burdened with legal difficulties.” Interior spaces highlight are set aside for meeting areas, an assembly hall, a social hall, a library, conference rooms and originally a caretaker’s apartment. The front is plain but with a prominent corner entrance featuring a metal sculpture of justice mounted on a black granite panel.
Barkin, Levin & Co. Is a tour-de-force of mid-century design hiding in plain sight. The building is off the beaten track in a rather quiet corner of Long Island City, befitting its original role as a factory and offices for a coat manufacturer. The factory is a fairly standard steel frame with brick facade, but the administrative wing with its umbrella support system sheltering a glass box is very striking even with some minor modern alterations, like a low masonry wall breaking the openness of the glass pavilion. Unusually, the Queens Awards write-up states that the spaces of the building and equipment were jointly designed by the architect and the owner of Barkin, Levin. Franzen went on to design other significant modern structures but this “collaboration” is a definite highlight.
While the main architects of The Highlander were the Kesslers, the lobby was designed by none other than architect Morris Lapidus, most well known for his exuberant Miami modern hotels. Lapidus was a prolific interior designer as well, creating high-style lobbies and lounges for his hotels as well as commercial establishments in New York City. Not much is known about what the lobby originally looked like here. The Highlander’s entrance is down a set of rambling stairs and originally had meandering paths and rock gardens flanking it. The apartments themselves were open plan to accommodate modern living. Fred Trump was the developer of the property.