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Lost Detail

That’s an ex-laundromat in the Bronx, probably a victim of the Covid recession, although who knows. The storefront manages to be aggressively plain and modern at the same time; the metal framework at the top used to have a cloth or vinyl sign that served as a very shallow canopy. The brick above the storefront, which was probably not visible until the sign was removed, shows that this is not a new building, but rather an old one altered. Given that it’s a one-story commercial building, it has probably been altered several times. The reason I was interested in the building is only barely visible in the picture above, so I took the picture below which makes it more clear:

The open squares just below the top blue band are the interior cells of terra cotta blocks. In other words this building (a) is old enough that people were still using terra cotta, so probably from the 1910s or 20s, and (b) used to have a cornice, which is a very different aesthetic. Looking closer, the blue band itself is terra cotta that’s been badly painted. The marble tile (or maybe faux-marble tile) along the left edge is modern, as is the storefront glass and mullion system, but the size of the glass area (counting the blue corrugated panels directly over the glass as part of the glass area) is probably original. This was, for its time, a modern and very open storefront, but one with masonry piers on the sides and a masonry cornice and parapet above the glass.

The cornice may have been demolished simply because of changing taste. Given that this is not a wealthy neighborhood, my guess is that it was demolished because it was damaged somehow or maybe simply falling apart from a lack of maintenance, and it was simpler to remove it than to fix it. You often see facades like this with a band of stucco at the top, where the raw face of demolished masonry has been covered. In this case, even less was done: the raw masonry was covered with the sign.

Eventually, water getting into the brick and broken terra cotta will damage the steel spandrel beam supporting the brick. Hopefully, this situation will be addressed before that goes too far, even if addressing it simply means putting a new vinyl sign in place.