10.14.2011

ice cream and architectural loss

image from Plan 59
images from Host of the Highways; more HoJos here
Note the Trylon and Perisphere of the 1939-40 World's Fair in the background
Photographs of demolition, March, 1974 by Jeffrey Morris
At the Museum of the City of New York there is an exhibit on the Colonial Revival style in architecture and decor. I only recently paid any attention to Colonial Revival. It's rather ubiquitous in architecture of a certain era, and showed up on a lot of banks and public building. Also, there are many perfunctory examples around so its a style that's easy to be blind to. While I havent gone to the museum, I happened to discover that one of the buildings discussed in the show was the Howard Johnson's on Queens Boulevard I used to go to as a child. Wow. I hadn't realized it was a flagship restaurant. Built in 1940 in an inflated Federal style, it cost a reputed $600,000, a tremendously high figure for that time. As you can see from the images above there was a grand staircase, murals, porticoes, chandeliers, broken pediments and dormers. Graceful, lovely, and with unbelievable (and rather patrician) style in which to serve fried clams and ice cream sundaes to the masses, it could supposedly accommodate 1000 patrons. A contemporary description was rapturous:
The three dining rooms are so restfull (sic) and so attractive that at first we miss some of the details which go to make their perfection ... the thick soft carpets ... the glittering chandeliers ... the blue green Venetian blinds, the maroon leather upholstery ... the restrained use of color in walls and draperies ... the charm of a light-fountain playing in the Empire Room.
I'm sure it must have lost some of its luster by the time I went. Sadly, I dont have much of a memory of the building beyond the vague notion that it was big and nice and I liked it. I do remember the peppermint stick ice cream pretty well, though: gooey bits of candy cane leaving red spots as they "melted" in a pale pink ice cream suspension.

In another incidence of aesthetic tragedy so common in the borough of Queens, this is what replaced the Howard Johnsons.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Only 3 left.

http://www.highwayhost.org/Orangeroof/index.htm

I never was much of a fan, but I watched Pepin on PBS last year and he kept going off on how his lobster roll was the best HOJO recipe he had, so I did some cursory research....god, that orange....

Victor

angela said...

I have to say I did have a soft spot in general for Howard Johnsons. It seemed great to find one to stay at on a road trip when I was little. I had drinks a couple times in the Times Square HJ before it closed...

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