Presenting Monochromes, a new Friday mini-series wherein Curbed delves deep into the Library of Congress's photographic annals, resurfacing with an armful of old black-and-white photos of architecture and interior design of yesteryear. Have a find you want to share? Hit up the tipline; we'd love to hear from you.
In an effort to rally Depression-trodden spirits of the American northeast, a handful of retired NYC policeman decided to craft what would be the world's largest festival since the turn of the century. The New York World's Fair took five years to plan, but when it opened in August 1939 (exactly 150 years after George Washington's inauguration), more than 44 million people filtered through its expositions, getting a peek into a "the world of tomorrow." One such exhibit was the 'Town of Tomorrow,' a block of faux suburb showing off the latest in home design and construction, with model homes ranging in costs from $3,000 to—whoa there—$35,000. The Town of Tomorrow gave materials companies the chance to show off their insulation and roofing innovations, with plenty of room for corporate sponsorships. Now, looking at the photos taken in 1939 and '40, these homes' value lies in the glimpse they give into the idealized domestic world of pre-war America—and the design tropes at the spawn of midcentury modern. One of the sleekest on the lot? No. 4, the Pittsburgh House of Glass.
Designed to exemplify the use of glass in construction—a riff on the Town of Tomorrow's theme of finding innovative ways to use a basic building materials—the residence was crafted in cahoots with the Pittsburgh Plate Glass company. The architects at Landefeld & Hatchl strived for modern modularity, hoping to create a space for which families could "suggest possible additions to the comfort of modern living, particularly those features made available through the use of glass products." The interiors were furnished by NYC's Modernage Furniture Company—from whence came every shag carpet, lucite bench, and peg-legged credenza. Have a look, below:
· World's Fair House in the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection [Library of Congress]
· All Monochromes posts [Curbed National]
· All Dwelling posts [Curbed National]