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Open House: 1941

Open House: 1941

December 1941. "New York, New York. Demolition for slum clearance. Whole blocks of a slum area are torn down to make room for a housing project." Photo by Edwin Rosskam for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Cleaning bricks

The single most miserable job I ever had was due to one of my dad's money-saving schemes. They demolished an old house with the same kind of bricks on ours, so that was my dad's opportunity to expand the house into the carport. So we got a few pallets of these bricks, complete with mortar still on them. Our job (11-year-old me and my 10 year-old brother) to go through with a coal cold chisel and hammer, and clean the bricks. No eye protection, no gloves, no nothing. I think there are still a few pieces of old mortar floating around in my eyes 50 years later.

I always wince

When I hear the term "housing project", thinking of the hideous Cabrini-Green and Pruitt-Igoe constructions of the early ’40s and mid-’50s, which resembled Soviet Bloc housing in their ugliness and sterility. By the 1960s they had become the slums they'd replaced, filled with crime and despair and were ultimately demolished. I wonder if this soon to be built facility will experience the same fate?

Shack money

Those front doors are of quarter-sawn oak. Very heavy by themselves and with the missing glass even more so. These doors are so appreciated by the restoration crowd today that their retail prices can command hundreds of dollars. A door with its original glass intact can go for even more. No doubt, even in 1941, these doors meant extra money for the demo crew.

Open Doors

I can't help but imagine the type of glass that would have been part of the doors. Maybe plain, but I'm guessing either etched or leaded. Beautiful either way.

Used Bricks

The doors are beautiful works of craftsmanship no doubt. But look at that wallpaper amidst the rebar and wire mesh. And what about the men salvaging the bricks? Back-breaking work to bust up all those walls!

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