Monday, October 13, 2014

A Forgotten Master of Brick? Lyle Bartholomew's Buildings Stand Up

While it has not been difficult to find out a little about the planning and design of Parrish Middle and North Salem High Schools, the planning and design of the old Leslie Junior High has been a minor mystery.

But it turns out that its designer has a meaningful body of work in town.

Salvation Army, circa 1930 (or 1938?)
via City of Salem Walking Tour
(attribution tentative)

Old West Salem City Hall, 1936
via Waymarking

Leslie Junior High School, 1937


Yaquina Hall, 1946

former Temple Beth Sholom, 1948
via Discover Neighborhood History
Perhaps by coincidence only, the old downtown Salvation Army, the old Leslie Junior High School, the old West Salem City Hall, and the former Temple Beth Sholom are all no longer used for their original purposes. The buildings have become obsolete in one way, but in the most important way they remain relevant and useful: All have been repurposed for other uses and seem safe from the wrecking ball.

Obviously, too, they're all in brick.

So maybe it's not so surprising to find out they were designed by the same person, Lyle Bartholomew.

Bartholomew doesn't get much love for his buildings in town, it seems, and maybe this is because they aren't high-style exemplars. They are more utilitarian, practical, and lack the ornamental or stylistic excesses we sometime overprize.

Still, he was notable enough in town that when a Public Works Administration commission for a new city hall in West Salem came through, he secured it. The building's brick contrasts, of course, with the marble of the Capitol and State Library buildings, but there are lots of other nice details on the building.

Easy biographical detail on Bartholomew is scant, but here's his brief listing in the American Institute of Architects 1956 American Architects Directory:

American Architects Directory, 1956
The one building listed in this post that is not attested here in 1956 is the Salvation Army building. The downtown historic district materials is silent on the building's designer, and other glancing mentions of Bartholomew in historical assessments of Fairview and the State Hospital, where he designed insitutional buildings like Yaquina Hall, are also silent on this. But one City of Salem source attributes the Salvation Army building to him with a later date of 1938. The ornament on the top of the building resembles the way ornament is handled on the West Salem City Hall, so this is plausible in that superficial way. (More research is in order!)

Probably the most significant building of Bartholomew's that is lost is the old Capital Journal building.

The old Capital Journal Building and Belluschi Bank lot, 1946
Old City Hall in background
Salem Library Historic Photos
It stood where the drive-thru is currently behind the Belluschi bank building at the corner of Chemeketa and Liberty. Here you can see excavation in 1946 for Belluschi's First National Bank.

The paper lasted only 20 years there, and in 1954 they moved to share building space with the Statesman. (And of course this led to the 1980 merge that resulted in the Statesman-Journal. Newspapering has always been unstable and chaotic, as each generation requires new configurations and new business models - the very picture of Schumpeterian "creative destruction.")

Unlike the parallel blocks of Court or State streets, which have kept intact much of the older building fabric, this stretch of Chemeketa Street has seen repeated cycles of demolition and rebuilding along its whole length, and perhaps there will be more to say in a future note about why this might be the case.

As a footnote, it is also interesting to learn that Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a building for the Journal in 1932, but the paper's publisher didn't like the design, the project fell through, and the commission instead went to the local architect.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the dance studio that now operates in the former temple building moved from their previous home in the salvation army building. That's a funny coincidence!

Jim Scheppke said...

Thanks for reminding us about Mr. Bartholomew. Sad that when the Cascadia megaquake hits, none of these nice buildings may "stand up" any longer. There is a fairly new book about it called Full Rip 9.0 that our library has that everyone should read, IMHO. Sobering.

Anonymous said...

Jim is right! Our brick buildings are at risk.

Restoreoregon (formerly Historic Preservation League of Oregon) has a report on our vulnerable masonry structures:

http://restoreoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/HPLOSpecialReport-MasonryBldgs-e.pdf

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Interesting from Salem Weekly - Bartholomew's Yaquina Hall and not Belluschi's Breitenbush is #2 on the list:

"[P]reservationists, [Hazel] Patton says, must assess which buildings are most important, which most reusable and which have the most integrity and historical value. “In a perfect world we would save all the buildings. But it’s not that kind of world, so you have to focus on those buildings that fit that criteria – and on the North Campus they are the Dome building and Yaquina Hall building… these two have been occupied continuously.”

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Edit: Fixed broken link to Salvation Army image, also removed the link in the caption since it went to the old City website and an abandoned set of pages not carried forward to the new site.)