Blue on Blonde, Part 2: Stuck Inside Chicago with the Glazed Brick Blues Again

Devon Avenue

A blue-brick accent at the Devon Avenue storefront of Rosen’s Morseview Drugs. Note the vertical stacking pattern of the bricks, as well as the deeply troweled, straight-edged mortar line between them, both of which emphasize the geometric quality of the pier.

The blue-on-blonde brick combo, so common on multi-family residential buildings, can also be found on a few commercial and mixed-use buildings here and there. Three of them are on Devon Avenue:

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6404 N. Richmond Avenue / 2936-2938-2942 W. Devon Avenue – largely a plain box, this mixed-use building has two levels of apartments over retail at the ground floor. The brick shows up in a few framed panels on the side street, and, more interestingly, in the side walls of the shallow balconies. 

Devon Avenue

2955 / 2957 / 2959 W. Devon Avenue / 6347/6357 N. Sacramento Avenue – opened in 1962. Four stores with one level of apartments above. 

The colored brick pops up a lot more on this one, showing up in a window band, turning a corner, and covering all the building’s retail-level columns, piers and storefront bases.  Limestone trim frames the upper level.

This building has been home to Rosen’s Pharmacy (and its successor, Rosen-Morseview Pharmacy) since the building’s opening. It moved in from across the street, where it had operated since at least 1949.  As a bonus, here’s a shot of the fantastic Rosen Morseview Drugs neon sign shining bright, as it still does to this day; it is the last surviving vintage neon on Devon Avenue.

Devon Avenue

Devon Avenue
3120/3122/3124 W. Devon Avenue / 6401/6411 N. Troy Street – opened by 1960, when the real estate dealer for the building – Bernard Katz & Co. – moved in to have larger quarters. They had previously been located about 9 blocks east; they remained here until moving to Skokie in 1978.

The building is a close sibling of the previous one, with one level of apartments over four retail outlets, one on the side street and three on the main avenue. Also repeating are the blue brick piers and storefront bases at street level, the banded windows, and the limestone framing; this time, however, there’s a far more harmonious composition of windows, infilled not with the usual blue brick but with matching blue pattern blocks.

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These two buildings have a pair of close cousins out on Bryn Mawr, in the commercial district that’s sandwiched between the North Branch on one side and the old TB sanitarium on the other.

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3412-3420 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue – appears in one of People’s Gas ads, nailing its date down to 1963. Architect Irwin A. Sugarman, an Armour Institute graduate in practice since the 1930s; builder Broadway Construction Co.

The building form is the same – 12 solid-walled apartments over 5 glass-walled storefronts – but the color scheme is inverted. Glazed white bricks form the piers, the infill panels, and the base of the storefronts, while a dull blue brick is the primary wall material. The doorway to the apartments upstairs is dressed up with 1×1 mosaic tile and a snazzy mid-century door.

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3401-05 W. Bryn Mawr / 5552 N. Kimball Avenue – open by 1963.  The address made headlines in 1982 when a resident claiming to be a sea captain, and to own a vessel in Florida, offered to transport local residents’ relatives from Poland. The cops arrested him in a full captain’s outfit.

The color scheme here becomes cream-on-blonde, but the form is the same. This building has lost the piers, and the windows are inexplicably smaller than their decorative brick surrounds, leaving L-shaped patches of cream brick.

 

California, south of Devon
6329-6331 N. California, south of Devon – opened 1965?

A sad and tattered little specimen. Three piers of blue brick demarcate two bays, with angled storefronts between; the building is utterly bereft of ornament or interest otherwise. Those actually are a couple of apartments over the stores, accessed through a little door in the right-hand storefront bay.

 

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6259 W. Touhy Avenue, Chicago –  1966.

Taking a big leap west, we come across this lovely specimen on the northwest city limits. The blue brick accents the building multiple times: at a single window band on the second floor, on a couple of outlined rectangles on the side, on a pier at the entrance, and in a delightful little geometric design over the door that combines brick elements and geometric glass block with limestone frames. The primary brick is a much dirtier blonde than on previous examples.
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Howard Street
4348-4356 W. Howard at Kostner – open by 1965

An unusual mixed-use building. At ground level, the building is currently home to four storefronts including the Kostner Korner convenience store, a dry cleaners, a barber shop, and a daycare center. Above, it houses four breezeway apartments with front and back access, reached by a single-run stairway projecting out from the building; thanks to that stair, it has a most curious relationship with the storefront building next door (4346 W. Howard), as they share a wall and are both part of the same daycare business. Somehow I missed their symbiotic relationship when I was standing in front of them and hence never got a shot showing them both, but from the Google Streetview it’s obvious, and makes it seem likely they went up together.

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The railings, and the screen separating the apartment balcony from the roof of the one-story building, are particularly lovely.

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Reflecting the walk-up vocabulary of the Rogers Park buildings, blue brick is used in a corner pier, accent stripes, window bands, and ornamental rectangles, all in stacked bond. The awning overhang has been painted to match, approximately.

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And that’s not all. Tune in next week for Blue on Blonde part 3, when we’ll be bringing it all back home!

Mid-Century Office Space on Lincoln

Lincoln Avenue’s western reaches benefited from the same office construction boom in the early 1960s that blessed Peterson Avenue with so much great Mid-Century design. Between Western Avenue, and its intersection with Peterson, Lincoln holds quite a few fine examples of 1960s office design (in addition to its famed skeezy motels):

5700 Lincoln Avenue
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Opened in 1962 as the headquarters of Liberty Federal Savings (then celebrating 75 years in business), this bank building is today home to a Charter One branch. It follows a common basic scheme for 1960s banks – a big wall of glass, with a double-height atrium behind it, and a mezzanine balcony above. A surprising amount of the original fixtures are still in place, including railings and check-writing stands.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

5940 Lincoln Avenue
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This angular little building first appears in the Tribune classifieds in 1953. Today it houses a Christian Science Reading Room, and still has its original ceiling vents inside.

EDITED TO ADD: This was originally the Slick Chick Drive-In restaurant, open for about 10 years (it drops off the classifieds after 1962.) It was robbed in its first year by three teenagers. In 1965, it was converted to the CS Reading Room – so the interior likely dates to that year. Thanks to reader Brian W. for identifying the original occupant and their matchbook ad campaign (see here) which they shared with the motel next door.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

5875 Lincoln Avenue – Lincoln Office Building
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Comprising several sections, the Lincoln Office Building is dominated by a long International Style facade. This main portion went up in two parts, the second built in 1957 to the designs of architects Eugene A. Meyers & Associates. At the corner of Richmond and Lincoln, two other sections at 5865 Lincoln continue the building’s materials and style, in a different design.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

5850 Lincoln Avenue – Simgreen Building
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Following the same pattern as the bank building, this little office building includes a delightful tile mosaic in its lobby – as covered here.

5757 / 5765 Lincoln Avenue – The Executive North Building
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

A stylish International Style building in blue-black paneling, this building opened in 1961 and retains much of its original decor in the lobbies – stainless steel railings, geometric railing screens, and wood paneling.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

The nearby Stephen Tyng Mather High School is yet another Mid-Century complex, done entirely in white brick. Designed in 1957 by Loebl Schlossmann and Bennett, it appears to have had a small addition or two, but mostly remains as originally built.

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Peterson Ave MidCentury Architecture, Part 2

If you are a fan of 1950s and 1960s design, it is well worth your time to park your car on Peterson, just west of Western Avenue, and take a long walk west. You’ll find a variety of architectural gems, both quiet and prominent. Here are some of my favorites:

2440 W. Peterson Avenue

Currently, 2440 Peterson is home to Oral Surgery Associates. Like many buildings along this stretch of road, it has been home to dental practices since it  opened  in 1964.
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2440 is a plain brown brick  building with a wide open east-facing glass facade. Its primary point of interest is the startburst-shaped entry canopy which shelters much of the courtyard and intersects the front facade. The result is a cozy and intimate space – an  ideal setting for the rock garden that currently inhabits it.

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2518 W. Peterson Ave

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Previously Dental Touch.

The winning component on this tiny office building is the concrete screen that shields most of the front windows. This lacy double layer of thin blocks filters light and views, allowing privacy while maintaining connection to the outdoors.

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Best guess for date of construction is 1965, the only time it pops up in the <i>Tribune</i> archives.

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2600 W. Peterson / 2606 Peterson – The Cardamil Building

At first glance, it’s a fairly stock scheme, a 1961 building with blue and cream bricks accented by a random cobblestone wall section at the lobby. Can lights in the overhang illuminate the walls at night.

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Then you move down the street and realize that this extra bonus building is attached to it.

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2606 W. Peterson is (or was) home to the architecture firm of Simon & Co. Generous windows are screened by heavy curtains, and the upper walls are given interest and volume by the addition of a screen of metal hoops.

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Early tenants in the main building at 2600 Peterson included F.C. Power, an appliance distributor, in 1961; Wilbur-Ellis Co, beverage distributors, in 1962; by 1965 it was home to Engler, Schwechter & Associates, a legal or accounting firm.

2722-26 W. Peterson – Fairfield-Peterson Cosmetic Dental Center

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Opened circa 1961, this building shares a similar scheme to 2440 Peterson – a rather plain brick box, open on one side, facing a courtyard sheltered by an elaborate canopy. In this case, rectangular steel tubes old up a thin covering. The fence seems like a later addition, as the gate forces one to enter from the Fairfield side rather than the more logical axial approach from Peterson. This building was home to a variety of offices, but over time – like many others nearby – it has settled into a suite of dental practicesIMG_1898a

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The dark bricks are a thin facade – on the west face, a few of them are peeling away, showing that they are less than an inch thick.

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3414 W. Peterson Avenue – 3414 Professional Building

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3414 Peterson is another suite of dental offices. Past inhabitants have included medical practices. The building is a mini-grab bag of stock 1960s design elements – the folded plate roof that shelters both the exterior porch and part of the interior lobby; hanging globe lamps;  brown brick arranged in a dimensional pattern; and a wall of rough stone.

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There is precious little information available about any of these buildings – the names of their architects have not found their way online – but together they exemplify the commercial exuberance of the Mad Men era.

Peterson Avenue Mid-Century Modernism, Part 1

My attention span is like the beam of a lighthouse – narrowly focused, always roving. I write about a topic; it’s out of my head and I’m on to the next thing, and the old topic is over and finished, left behind in the dark. But sometimes, like the lighthouse, it comes back around for another look. Case in point: I was surprised to look back on one of my earliest posts and discover just how little I’d written about Peterson Avenue and its amazing post-war architecture.

St. Louis has its Hampton Avenue – a major commercial artery that seemingly sprung into existence all at once in the decades after World War II. And Chicago has Peterson Avenue – essentially the exact same thing, in northwest Chicago instead of southwest St. Louis.  Both are at the start of early suburbia (or last-gasp urbanism); both are lined by a collection of one- and two-story buildings that individually range from forgettable to remarkable, and  together form an astonishing collection of late Modernist architecture.

The architectural integrity of the buildings on Peterson have been slipping in recent years, as original businesses close up and move out, or new owners decide to “freshen up” their aging buildings. A prime example is the Executive Building, 3530 W. Peterson, built circa 1962 with 17 office suites inside.
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It contained one of the most wonderful hanging light fixtures to be found anywhere, a multi-colored confection. Now, it’s been replaced by something bland and gaudy.

A recent realtor’s ad for the building claims it was “designed by [a] famous architect” but doesn’t specify who. The building is currently “bank owned” and will be auctioned off 3 days after this writing, on August 9th.
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Further east, Shaw Electric Co. has recently departed the premises of their long-time home at 2539 W. Peterson Avenue. The building’s facade features a lower portion in rough-cut lava rock, with glossy black brick above; the company’s name and services offered a counterpoint in precisely spaced lettering. Shaw Electric was not the first business at this address; MinitMart grocery store ran ads in 1950, and the furniture and appliance dealer Gerry Moberg & Co. was here from 1952 until 1964.  At that point they vanish from the listings; my guess is that the Shaw company bought the lot and built their building at that point. The building has two parts. On the right, 2541 W. Peterson is a separate storefront that was home to Arlene’s Interiors, opened in 1972 and in business until the owners retired in 2002. The larger portion used by Shaw Electric Company contains a garage and workshop in back.

Shaw Electric moved or closed up around 2010; the building was sold in 2011. Since then the lettering, and even the attached globe lamps, have vanished.
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Hopefully, the new owner will retain the primary elements of the building’s astonishing lobby, with its time-period clock, chairs, globe lamps and reflective wall:
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The wonderful 1958 building at 2617 W. Peterson  was also remuddled within the last few years, with the glass block panels replaced by open glass.
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The former main hallway has been chopped off and turned into a tiny waiting room:
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Above, 2009; below, 2011.

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Worst of all, however, is the loss of the original doors; they were removed and replaced with a glass wall, while the entrance was moved to the side:
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The insertion of the large vertical beam indicates some kind of roof failure was underway.

Opened in 1958 as “The Office Promenade”, 2617 Peterson was touted by its marketers as “excitingly different”. Special features included natural light from the skylights and individual Hi Fi systems and air conditioning in each office suite. More recently it was home to Appell Dental Group, PC; they left around 2010. The post-remuddle occupants are Windy City Orthopedics and Sport Medicine.

Fabulous entrance

Despite these and various other afflictions, Peterson Avenue still retains a great deal of Mid-Century architecture worth celebrating. We’ll look at some of the stand-outs next week.

And the kitchen sink

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The year is 1964. After his latest round of projects, a contractor finds he still has a lot of little architectural decorative bits left in his supply yard, none of them enough to work on any one building by itself. What to do, what to do? Find the next client that walks in the door and just throw everything at their project!

At least, that’s the story I picture behind the building of North American Heating and Air Conditioning, 5915 Lincoln Avenue in Morton Grove.

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The tiny office portion of this building packs a grab bag of architectural materials, including a brown brick, black lava rock, and metal spandrel panels. Adorning it are a bronzed window screen, funky Mid-Century address numbers, and three columns of randomly spaced colored glass block dripping down the side. If that ain’t enough, a brick and pattern block fence once lined the parking lot, too, with brick posts topped by lamps. IMG_9475a IMG_9469a

The end result is just way too much stuff packed into one tiny facade, but I love it.

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It seems that North American Heating & AC eventually moved further west; the building has looked empty and for sale since at least 2010, though the name “Service Packaging Inc.” remains on the door and on that company’s enigmatic website. (Curiously, all the real estate ads peg the construction date as circa 1970, a good five or more years later than the actual date.)

The Round Bank on Ogden Avenue

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Brookfield Federal Savings and Loan
Pavlecic and Kovacevic, 1960

Brookfield Federal Savings & Loan dates back to 1925, and opened its Ogden Avenue headquarters in June 1961 with a opening day celebration that included free gifts and “free orchids for the ladies”. Architects for the new bank building were Pavlecic and Kovacevic (previously Pavlecic and Kovacevic & Ota; later Pavlecic, Kovacevic & Markovich) a Serbian firm who also designed St. Gall Catholic Church at 55th and Kedzie.

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Architects William Pavlecic and Rodoslav Kovacevic brought a beautiful modern design to the site. A full circle, the bank is lined by stainless steel-clad columns around its perimeter. Inside, period elements include a wonderous suspended stairway to the mezzanine level and a constellations of hanging globe lamps. A two-story wall of glass in front gives generous natural light to the interior (a 1963 ad by glassmaker Libbey Owens Ford touts the bank as an “Open World design” for a modern-day “money store”, enhanced by their Thermopane insulating glass.) Blue glossy glazed brick fills in the back exterior walls, while red and maroon brick forms points of contrasting color at the rear smokestack and in an interior wall.

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Ogden Ave. Citibank

In 1985, Brookfield Federal Savings changed its operating status and became Brookfield Federal Bank for Savings. Six years later, in 1991, it was bought out by CitiBank, who continues to operate the property today – and have been remarkably good caretakers.

Ogden Ave. Citibank

Ogden Ave. Citibank

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If all that isn’t enough, there is a micro-sized version of the bank across the street, operating as a remote drive-through:

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In addition to St. Gall, Pavlecic and Kovacevic also did the modernist design of St. Jane de Chantal at 53rd and Austin in 1964, Christ the Mediator Lutheran Church at 31st and Calumet, and St. Simeon Serbian Orthodox Church, a more historically based building at 3737 E. 114th Street.

Ogden Ave. Citibank

Searching for Architecture in Northbrook

As a preface to this post, I had written out a fairly long rant about how much I hate suburbs in general, and Northbrook in particular. But my M.O. on this blog is to celebrate, not denigrate, so we’ll skip all that and get straight to the point: even a far-flung exurb like Northbrook has its moments.

Part 1: 20th Century Northbrook

Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism – Lake-Cook Road
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Fitch, Larocca & Carrington Inc., finished 1973 for a congregation dating back to 1954.

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses – Pfingston and Maria Avenue
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A tiny confection rendered in Brutalist language. The building was designed in 1967 by architect Salvatore Balsamo, and built by members of the congregation over the next two years. It’s still in use by them today. Having designed it to be built primarily by unskilled labor, Balsamo commented in the 1970 Tribune that “the unions and building department did not bother the workers because the project was a house of worship.”

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CitiBank – Lake-Cook Road
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A giant square roof hovering over a transparent body below. The roof extends to shelter the drive-through ATMs in one unified swoop. The bank building went up in the mid-1970s as home to First Federal of Chicago.

The bank is an outparcel of the adjacent Northbrook Court, a development fought tooth and nail by neighboring Deerfield, but opened nevertheless in 1976. The mall was designed by Architectonics, Inc., who also worked with developer Sears on another mall in Joliet.

Great Lakes Structural Steel
237 Melvin Drive
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A plain warehouse with a bold International Style office building up front, built for a company relocating from Skokie. The style has been tweaked a bit, making it a bit more flamboyant than orthodoxy might have allowed – and allowing the original tenant to show off the effectiveness of their signature product. 1969, by the local firm of Alper & Alper.

Ironically, it’s now home to HDO Productions – a company that provides large event tents.

AA Service Co. Heating and Cooling – Anthony Trail
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This shockingly dramatic arch was once an airport hangar for Sky Harbor Airport. Dating from 1929, it was opened to great aplomb in the days when the Northbrook area was far more sparsely settled. An incredibly stylized club house and control center stood to the south on Dundee Road, but did not survive the Great Depression which closed the airport. Abandoned and vandalized, the clubhouse was torn down in 1939 and the field re-opened as a training center, largely for military pilots. After three decades of use as a popular private airport, Sky Harbor closed in 1973 in the face of rising land values, to be replaced by light industrial development.

The original hangar building was abandoned for a few years but survives to this day, now housing a heating contractor. In an utterly bizarre arrangement, it now has a narrow two-story seafood restaurant tacked on to its side.

The Courts of Northbrook
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Opened in 1988, the Courts stand directly west of the shopping mall of nearly the same name. What I like about this place is that it’s such a great model for a suburb. It’s nothing particularly special or overwrought; and yet, it shows how pleasant a neighborhood can be when the right architectural tools are used to control space. This is not some high-falutin’ architect’s theoretical experiment – any developer could come up with this place if they put their head to it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for such an enlightened development, this is the work of the Optima Inc. company architect David Hovey.

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The enclosed porch is an especially nice touch. What a pleasant place to sit and read on a sunny day!

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360-370 Lake Cook Road

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Lacking any name, this low, long building hunkers down under its wonderful green metal roof and behind its low brick walls, scowling out at the rushing traffic on Lake-Cook Road. Inside, a pleasant courtyard greets visitors.

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And wander around a bit, and you’ll find the requisite 1950s ranch houses, still looking fantastic 50 years after they were built.

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Following on 1950s houses came 1960s churches.

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And the story doesn’t stop here… next time we’ll look at some more recent additions to the landscape.