For Art Deco — The Gold Goes to The Bronx

This post is the first part of a short series covering similarities between Vancouver, British Columbia and the Bronx — noted while I was vacationing there last summer. I introduced the series, through the remaining days of the 2010 Olympic Games only — here.

This is a tough category for Vancouver to beat out the Bronx.
And it did not.
The Bronx has more examples of Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture than most cities on the planet. This has been chronicled a lot recently, here and here— as 2009 marked the 100th year of the Grand Concourse. In fact, the NYC Landmarks and Preservation Commission has turned its attention to designating a historic section of the Grand Concourse between 153rd and 167th streets.

So what does Vancouver have. Vancouver has the Marine Building which is the only remaining Art Deco skyscraper in the city. At one time, it was the tallest building in the entire British Empire and once owned by the Irish brewer Guinness. The Marine Building is easily noticed — it is red brick while the surrounding downtown buildings are glass. And the front entrance is completely adorned with seashells, ships, waves, various sea urchins — all aspects of a bustling port town such as Vancouver.  Regrettably, I did not go into the lobby, which is apparently decked out.  The “Vancouver” Rough Guide notes that builder J.W. Hobbs envisioned the lobby as a “27m-long ‘Grand Concourse’ adorned in the manner of a Mayan temple laden with treasure”. Grand Concourse?!! I am taking that comparison literally here!

Almost any building along the entire stretch of the Grand Concourse is a profound Art Deco specimen though I’ll toss in a couple of Off-Concourse examples. One is the building housing Burger King on 161st opposite the Bronx Courthouse. I noticed it by accident — among the waving BK banners are lovely images of horse heads along the top edge.

Another is the irresistible and spooky old Westchester Station on Westchester Avenue at the Bronx River — best seen from above on the 6-Train as it makes the turn near the Whitlock Avenue station. I don’t know if this crumbling station qualifies as Art Deco. Its facade is still gilded and I love the slices of citrus(?) motifs. The station was closed to passengers in 1931, but the entrance resembles the front of the Marine Building which was completed in 1930.

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