Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959

Lecture by Jane King Jession
January 27

Jane King Hession, author of Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959, discussed Wright’s redesign of his suite in the historic Plaza hotel and chronicled some of his interactions with the city’s architects, journalists, publishers, celebrities and powerbrokers during the momentous five-year period when one of the world’s greatest architects and one of the world’s greatest cities dynamically co-existed.

Members-only study Tour of the U.S. Department of the Interior Building

February 21

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes had envisioned the design and construction of a headquarters for the U.S. Department of the Interior as a symbol of their plans for the Nation.  At the Dedication ceremony held on April 16, 1936, President Roosevelt referred to the building as “symbolical of the Nation’s vast resources” and the “cornerstone of a conservation policy that will guarantee the richness of their heritage.”  This building was the first government building to be designed and constructed as part of the New Deal.  Our tour will focus on the art in the building which was considered integral to its design.  Fabulous floor to ceiling murals were commissioned for each floor of the building and main gathering areas to give the employees a sense of the value of their work and to exhibit the activities of each bureau for all to see.  This tour of the building will give Latrobe Chapter members access to these American treasures and insight into the workings of the federal government of the 1930s.

Members-only study tour led by Hunter Hollins, Coordinator of Museum Services.

Washington on the Move

March 7-8

8th Biennial Symposium on the Historic Development of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.
Presentations at the University of Maryland School of Architecture
Tour of Union Station, Metro, former Greyhound Terminal, and National Airport

Led by Susan Lemke of the National Defense University

A Members-only Study Tour of Fort Lesley J. McNair

April 3

In 1954, Philip Johnson resigned as the director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Architecture and Design Department to devote himself exclusively to his architectural practice. Projects from this period of his career reveal an inventive, if restless mind. While his early work had taken the architecture of Mies van der Rohe as its model, Johnson was increasingly distancing himself formally from his mentor even as they collaborated on the Seagram Building (1954-58). A series of independent projects in the mid 1950s enabled Johnson to explore new forms and featured a renewed assault on functionalism, a doctrine of modernism he had consistently opposed. In 1957 an unusual commission came to Johnson, one which would give him the opportunity to express his belief that “form follows form.” Johnson was commissioned by Jane Blaffer Owen to design a non-denominational religious space for New Harmony, Indiana. The town had been the site of not one but two utopian projects in the nineteenth century – the first a religious community established by German Separatists known as the Rappites or Harmonists, the second a social and intellectual experiment led by the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen – and Jane Owen’s ultimate goal was to foster a third project that would see the town’s renaissance as a cultural and religious center. In many ways, the commission was ideal for Johnson. In the absence of a detailed program, the only specific requirement being a “shrine” for a sculpture by Jacques Lipchitz, Johnson was able to freely compose the design for the church.

This talk by Cammie McAtee, Wyeth Fellow at CASVA, National Galley of Art, considered how the Roofless Church (1957-60) expressed Johnson’s belief that architecture was primarily about the creation of form. With very few functional demands placed upon it, the project gave Johnson a unique opportunity to fully explore the expressive possibilities of “pure form.” Viewed in this light, the Roofless Church is a pivotal project in Johnson’s career and a fascinating example of the “search for form” in American postwar architecture.

Form Follows Form: Philip Johnson and the Roofless Church

Lecture by Cammie McAtee
April 22

In 1903, Hazel Wood Waterman’s husband, Waldo, a San Diego engineer, died suddenly after contracting pneumonia, leaving her with a small income, a modest insurance policy, and three young children. Then 38-years old, Waterman had only her training as a college art major to rely on for an income.  In desperation, she turned to three friends for help, Alice Lee, Katherine Teats, and Arts and Crafts architect Irving Gill.  Gill helped Waterman enroll in correspondence school and taught her drafting in his office after hours.  Lee and Teats encouraged Waterman to learn more about Arts and Crafts philosophy and commissioned three houses from her while she was still a trainee.  Two years later, Waterman emerged as one of San Diego’s most prominent Arts and Crafts architects. Waterman succeeded as an architect because she embraced Arts and Crafts ideology.  Although a progressive movement in many ways, the Arts and Crafts movement covered its liberal social ideals with conservative clothing, allowing many women to slide past social barriers surreptitiously and without question.  Waterman’s career exemplifies this trend, showing how this early generation of woman architects succeeded despite discriminatory practices in the male-dominated field of architecture.

Catherine W. Zipf, architectural historian and author of Professional Pursuits: Women and the American Arts and Crafts Movement, discussed the career of San Diego architect Hazel Wood Waterman, the challenges faced by pioneering woman architects, the importance of patronage for these women, and the advantages of working within the Arts and Crafts movement during this important period in American architecture. Dr. Zipf, who received her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, is Assistant Professor in Cultural and Historic Preservation, Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island.

Hazel Wood Waterman, Arts & Crafts Architect

Lecture by Catherine Zipf
June 2

When architect Albert Kelsey sought Pre-Columbian designs for the 1910 Pan-American Union Building (designed with Paul P. Crét and now called the Organization of American States) in Washington, D.C., he turned to the library of the Pan-American Union, the collections and exhibits of the nearby National Museum (now the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History) as well as New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The works he saw firsthand greatly affected his choices. In one instance, for example, he secured permission to borrow a small Aztec Xochipilli (“god of flowers”) statue in the National Museum, a work he knew as the “Sad Indian,” in order to have a cast made. Once this was done, he had the statue enlarged four times its actual size and painted before placing it at the head of the pool of the “Aztec Garden,” located between the Main Building and the Annex of the Pan-American Union Building. Ultimately part of a larger “Pre-Columbian Revival” style of architecture, the Pan-American Union Building represents one of the earliest uses of Pre-Columbian aesthetics in a U.S. building. With a handful of examples in the 1910s, the style reached its peak in the 1920s and ‘30s and can be seen in all building types throughout most of the continental United States until about 1940. This period coincides with the introduction of Pre-Columbian peoples and their art forms through travel accounts and archaeological discoveries to the average person of the United States, who before had only a vague idea of such peoples as the Aztecs and Maya of Mexico and Central America and the Tiwanaku and Inka of South America. One of the main vehicles by which this material was presented to the public was in the exhibits of world’s fairs and expositions as well as museums.

This lecture explored the Pre-Columbian exhibits at some of the largest and most influential venues of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, National Museum, and American Museum of Natural History and demonstrates corollaries in U.S. architecture that resulted.

Ruth Anne Phillips recently earned her Ph.D. in Pre-Columbian Art History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is currently conducting survey work and visual analysis of the architecture at an Inka archaeological site near Machu Picchu in Peru. 

Hall of Exoticism:  Museum, World's Fairs and Exposition Sources for Pre-Columbian Appropriation in U.S. Architecture, 1910-1940

Lecture by Ruth Anne Phillips, PhD
September 16

The National Park Seminary site has had many lives.  Originally an inn on the B&O Metropolitan Branch line, in 1894 it became a women's school, National Park Seminary, that flourished until the Great Depression.  The school held on, and was even recovering, when the U.S. Army acquired the site at the outbreak of World War II.  The Army used the site for rehabilitation through the 1970s but eventually began to abandon the historic buildings and initiated plans to replace them with new housing.  Community activists and Save Our Seminary advocated for historic preservation and prevented demolition.  The historic buildings finally transferred to private ownership in 2004, and the site is now being redeveloped as a residential community.

The tour will explore the site and its incredible array of picturesque school buildings which are being renovated to contain condominiums, apartments, and single family homes.  The site has sometimes been called a folly, and the sorority houses, each in a different national style, are particularly memorable.  Interior stops will include the original dining room (now a community room for the residents), and new restored ballroom, and SOS's office in a charming parlor just off the main lobby. 

Save Our Seminary at Forest Glen, founded in 1988, is dedicated to the preservation, history, and future of the National Park Seminary Historic District in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Linda Lyons, a long-time member and officer of the Latrobe Chapter, currently serves as president of SOS.

A Members-Only Study Tour, National Park Seminary at Forest Glen  

Led by Linda Lyons
October 17

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presided over the opening ceremonies for Washington National Airport on June 16, 1941, it was considered the state of the art in airport design.  Visitors flocked to the observation terrace to see the activity on the airfield.  The terminal was a unique blend of Modern design and planning paired with Colonial and Neoclassical references.  In the following decades, National has been expanded several times, but its historic core, now known as Terminal A, remained largely intact.  Now many of Terminal A’s original spaces have been carefully restored. The tour included a presentation on the architectural history of the airport and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority historic preservation program, as well as first hand exploration of many of the 1941 Main Terminal's restored historic spaces.  The tour included FDR's private lounge, the reconstructed Post Office, and an airside inspection of the recently restored exterior facade.  In addition, participants saw the rehabilitated Dining Room, which includes the airport's Exhibit Hall (containing historical and archaeology exhibits) and the Continental Airline's VIP lounge (usually not accessible to the public). 

Led by Henry Ward, Historic Preservation and Archaeology Coordinator for Parsons Management Consultants.  PMC is the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority (WMAA) program management team. 

Members-Only Study Tour of Terminal A - Washington National Airport Tour

October 25