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Exploring Modern Architecture in New Jersey: A Student’s Perspective UPDATE

April 20, 2011

a guest post written by Alyson Goldman
Alyson is a junior majoring in Art History at Rutgers University. She is researching Modern architecture in NJ. She can be reached at alysongo@eden.rutgers.edu

After the success of the previous NJ Modern blog post, it’s time for an update. Everyone who has emailed has been so helpful and kind- I greatly appreciate it.

After some organizing, updating and reassessing, this is where I’m at:

The end goal of my phase of this project is to create a Bergen County binder of all of the research I’ve compiled and information on the sites I am writing about, including one large bibliography. I am planning to write a summary of each site explaining its significance and relationship to Modern architecture.  Each summary will have a few pictures to accompany it.

The Cliffside Park Municipal Building, designed by Romeo Aybar, 1979

With the help of a friend who works at the State Historic Preservation Office in Trenton, I was able to photocopy previous historic sites surveys that mention the sites I am focusing on. Many thanks to the HPO! These previous surveys allowed me to find addresses of buildings, detailed descriptions, and dates erected, along with more buildings to include. This information is going to be extremely helpful when I sit down to write and organize information about each site. The last bit of research I am planning to conduct will continue at Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers. They sent me a list of architectural resources that they have which will be extremely helpful.

Picture taking has been my favorite part of this project so far. One week in March, I went on another photographing adventure, taking a friend along for the ride. I’ve found it’s really helpful to have a navigator/friend to help find buildings- and certainly more fun! We set out very ambitiously, planning to photograph six sites: the Bergen Community College Central Building (Paramus), White Manna (Hackensack), the Cliffside Park Municipal Building, the Fort Lee Memorial Municipal Building, the Crystal Diner (Dumont), and the Rosengren House (Woodcliff Lake). I was the most excited to see the Rosengren House, as I have found that in surveying, houses are often the most interesting- both to find and photograph!

We started at Bergen Community College, after finding a parking space and consulting a map of the school that I had printed out beforehand, we located what we believed was the Central Building, only to find out it was under construction!

The Fort Lee Memorial Municipal Building: functional elegance

The next stop was the Cliffside Municipal Building which was not too hard to find. It was built in 1979 by the celebrated New Jersey architect Romeo Aybar, who won awards from the community for this building. It is said to represent a fortress. It certainly looks sturdy- made of brick and stone with very narrow vertical string windows on the primary façade. These unique windows are simple, and act as decorative elements on the otherwise stripped-down brick.

About ten minutes away is the Fort Lee Memorial Municipal Building. This building emphasizes simple modern materials, but also includes many small decorative details. The window surrounds include a beautiful rope pattern that, coupled with gilding on the doors and recessed column references, shows unexpected glamour and elegance in a functional building.

The next stop was White Manna in Hackensack. The restaurant is shockingly small. Although we didn’t eat there that day, I know firsthand that the place serves a really good burger. It was built in

White Manna: a classic New Jersey diner

1937 and is considered one of the country’s classic diners. This restaurant exemplifies the diner culture that is an important, and endangered, aspect of American and New Jersey history. (Check out PNJ’s 2010 list of the “10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey,” which includes a listing for “Historic Diners of New Jersey.”)

Next up: another famous diner, the Crystal Diner in Dumont. This diner is a little less flashy than White Manna; it was built earlier, exemplifying the railroad car style.

Lastly, we tried to find the Rosengren House. “Just one more!” I told my friend, and I would let him go home. But when we arrived at the address in Woodcliff Lake, we found the well-obscured site under construction. Does the Rosengren House still exist? Is it being added on to, or has it been demolished? This is going to require more research, and I could use help: if you have any information about this house, please contact me at the email above.

All in all, I’m calling it a successful trip: I got four out of six sites surveyed. This leaves about five sites on my list unphotographed. Join me for my next photographing adventure, which will include some buildings at Ramapo College, some at Felician College and the Mahwah Police Station.  Stay tuned for more Modern New Jersey!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin Tremble permalink
    July 14, 2011 9:52 am

    Alyson,
    You ought look at the Leonia Library on Fort Lee Road. I believe it was one of Romeo Aybars finer works. Also the work of A. Spencer Neuman has a ver few survivors,as they are being knocked down on a regular basis.
    Regards,
    Kevin Tremble

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