Main Street changed dramatically in the mid-twentieth century as new buildings were constructed and older storefronts were remodeled to make them modern looking. In small towns and mid-sized cities across America, the first architectural expression of Modernism was often the bank, specialty shop, store, cinema, or pharmacy. Unfortunately, many of these “recent-past” resources are swiftly disappearing from our built environment, often before their importance is recognized. The preservation of smaller-scale, post-World-War II commercial downtown buildings is complicated by their both their familiarity and their incongruity. These historic resources from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s often go unrecognized by preservation efforts because they are just too “new” for many to recognize their cultural and historic significance. Furthermore, the sleek lines and smooth facades of post-war construction often contrasts sharply with the more traditional downtown buildings that preservationists warmly embrace. To further complicate the issue, new materials, technologies, and design assemblies of the mid-century often require new approaches to building repair and conservation. Yet these buildings reflect important developments in style, design, economics, and technology that resonated across a newly consumer-oriented America.
Overview of the design and application of mid century storefront systems, presented by Michael Houser at the Revitalize WA Conference in Vancouver, WA - May 2013.