By Cory R. Kegerise
This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine
Volume XXXIX, Number 1 - Winter 2013
Photo by Phil Pendleton
For some it can be difficult to look at a building constructed in the 1950s or 1960s and see it as an important piece of architecture, much less use the word "historic" when describing it. While these places may have been built during our lifetimes, they can tell an incredibly important story about how life in America changed during the age of the automobile after World War II. It is important to identify and understand these distinctly American resources before they disappear, simply because they don't fit traditional definitions of historic buildings. Such is the case with the National Register-eligible Sun Oil Company Gymnasium in Chester Township, Delaware County. Built circa 1955 as a recreation facility for the workers at Sun Oil's Marcus Hook refinery, the building had sleek, simple lines and minimal ornamentation that bridged the transition between art deco and International style architecture. The building was demolished in 2010 as part of the construction of a new film and television studio.
Courtesy Betsy Manning
In response to the demolition of the Sun Center, PHMC began a partnership with the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania to identify and highlight southeastern Pennsylvania's unique mid-century vernacular architecture. The archives curated an exhibit of photographs by Philadelphia-based photographer Betsy Manning highlighting the region's significant, but underappreciated modern gems. Included in the exhibit is this photograph of the former Container Corporation of America's (CCA) Valley Forge Marketing and Research Center. Located in Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County, the CCA building was designed by Austrian-born architect Herbert Bayer in 1959. Bayer was among the foremost graphic designers of the twentieth century and taught at the renowned Bauhaus before fleeing Nazi Germany for New York in 1938. The CCA is regarded as one of Bayer's most significant architectural designs and was commissioned by CCA president Walter Paepcke. Paepcke was one of those rare businessmen who believed that all aspects of his company should reflect a unique identity that embraced art, good design, and innovation. Paepcke was Bayer's principal American sponsor and benefactor.
Cory R. Kegerise is the community preservation coordinator for Eastern Pennsylvania in PHMC's Bureau for Historic Preservation. The author would like to thank Amy Krieg for providing research assistance.