Friday, October 19, 2012

The New Times Building, Formerly Giminski's Furniture Store: A Fine Example of Syracuse's Post (World War II) Modernism

The New Times Building, Formerly Giminski's Furniture: A Fine Example of Syracuse Post (World War II) Modernism by Architect Howard T. Yates
by Samuel D. Gruber (all photos: Samuel D. Gruber)

(n.b this is an edited and expanded version of a blogpost first uploaded Oct. 7, 2012).

In my previous post I wrote about the now-forgotten Syracuse architect Howard T. Yates. As far as I can tell at this point, Yates reinvented himself after the Depression and world War II as a designer of sleek, jazzy geometric commercial spaces.  One surviving example of this work is the simple but still-striking former Giminski's furniture store, now The New Times newspaper building, situated at 1411-15 East Genesee Street.  Since I've written a bit about modernism on the East Side of town, here is an introduction to the a fine modern building on the West Side. 

According to U.S. census data, Giminski born in Poland ca. 1889, and was living in Onondaga County by 1920. Michael Davis, a staff photographer at the New Times, informed me that Yates' jazzy facade is actually a remodeling on a previous building from which John Giminski ran his funeral home and a Polish dance banquet hall on the second floor.   Michael says that parts of the original facade can still be seen from the newspaper's editor's office.

When Giminski and Yates built the store it must have been striking - as it still is in some ways - with its flat geometric facade made of brick and glass bock, set slightly off balance with a vestigial tower on the west end, that serves as the support for a vertical sign.  The glass block was illuminated by neon tube lighting which would have added drama and pizazz to the building at night (some of the original electrical work is also still in place, though inoperable).  The economy of the design may have been imperative for a cost-conscious owner, but it may also have emphasized what was probably the modern style furniture offered within.  The building raises expectations of the sleek and new.

Advertisement from the Syracuse Post-Standard (Jan. 18, 1946)

 Full page advertisement celebrating opening of Giminski's Store from the Syracuse Post-Standard (Jan. 18, 1946)

Yates was pioneering the large open street front windows which both helped light the store interior, but also allowed visual entry into the depths the store from passing automobiles, and from the moment of approach. This is entirely the opposite of many pre-war establishments, where store windows were set in heavy wood or metal frames, and were often encrusted with decoration.  In this case, retail function, building economy and new popular taste were all in sync.

The facade of the building remains in good condition, and if the wide horizontal band above the store windows were restored the building would a fine addition to Syracuse's (small) family of Deco,  Art Moderne, and early Modern -style buildings.  The ground floor retail spaces are still generous and could be attractive - for retail, and art gallery or a cafe. 

The building was later a  Raymour Furniture store and then housed  as M & R Carpets.

If anyone has memories of the furniture store, or information about John Giminski, or further information about Howard Yates, please let me know. 


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  6. While this structure was constructed later, an early business partner of John Giminski's was Walter J. Bruzdzinski, also known by the last name of Brisk. Bruzdinski was a World War I U.S. Navy veteran who died in an accident in 1933. He is buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Geddes.
    From a newspaper clipping, likely dated Aug. 7, 1933, the day after his death (there is no citation) : "He was the president and secretary of the Giminski Furniture Company, Inc., 1411 West Genesee Street. Mr. Bruzdzinski was killed instantly at Peterboro Street and Seneca Turnpike, Canastota, when he was struck by an automobile while riding on the running board of another car. The accident occurred at 12 o'clock in the morning, about an hour after Mr. Bruzdzinski, his wife, their two children, and Mrs. Andrew [?, cannot make out last name] left Syracuse to visit Utica. The car broke down a mile east of Canastota and Mr. Bruzdzinski hailed a west-bound car to go into Canastota for assistance.
    He stepped on the left running board of an automobile driven by Gordon H. Kenyon of Boonville. A car driven by Alexander T...[?]... of 584 Conklin Avenue, Syracuse sideswiped the Kenyon car at the street intersection in Canastota."
    Since the building that you write about was opened by Giminski as a "new" store on January 18, 1946, and the address is the same as the one in Bruzdzinski's 1933 obituary, I assume that a previous structure was torn down to make room for this building.

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