Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Asbury Park: Casino & Carousel

If you liked Asbury Park's Convention Center, then this will blow your socks off.Anchoring the main boardwalk on the other end from the Convention Center is a complex which includes the 'Casino', the Carousel, and the Old Heating Plant.Also designed by New York Beaux-Arts architects Whitney Warren & Charles Wetmore at the same time period, the complex is currently in flux between restoration efforts.The carousel itself was sadly sold in 1990 but the space would be a great concert venue or outdoor cafe.The details are just amazing. Part of the building on the beach side of the boardwalk has been torn down but plans are in place to possibly rebuild it to hold an indoor food market.This space is similar to the arcade at the Convention Center but obviously needs a bit more work to become fully occupiable.Again, the details all reference the beach location.The interior retains the original polished terrazzo and a lot of really great plasterwork.Hiding renovation of the former ice skating rink is this interesting painted billboard. Graffiti art like this exists all throughout the city and lends a fun bohemian vibe. I wonder what sign was originally housed so ornately?On the backside of the complex was my favorite building, the Old Heating Plant. Built by Warren & Wetmore, the utiliarian building was given the appearance of either a strange temple or swank beach bar. The purpose however was to cover access and machinery for the steam tunnels which fueled the complex of buildings along the boardwalk.The bronze urns are where excess steam was released from the machinery.Imagine the 2nd floor as a restaurant overlooking the ocean (or better yet my personal beachhouse!).The back has a loggia facing the canal. I imagine back in the day it was quite lovely but now is a bit forlorn.Reminders of Asbury Park's heyday are all around, as in this graffiti art mentioning a Cole Porter tribute: "Is it Granada I see or Asbury Park?".

Monday, August 20, 2012

Asbury Park: Convention Center

A few weekends ago I visited Asbury Park, NJ with some friends who have a house there. I had always heard of the city from its days as a resort town but wasn't prepared for what I found.

While founded in 1871, the beach town had its heyday in the 1920s when many of the most beautiful buildings in the city were constructed.One of these was the Convention center/ Paramount theater complex which has been the keystone of the rehabilitation in the city.The complex, designed by Warren & Wetmore in a nautically inspired Beaux-arts style, officially opened in 1930 and contained a performance venue, a section of enclosed boardwalk, and large convention center facing the ocean.After having been abandoned for years after riots in 1970 caused the town to decline, the complex was restored and reopened in 2007.The brick building has beautiful glazed terra cotta ornamentation that is as stunning today as in 1930. The themes are suitably nautical and musical.How many colors can you count here?! The copper lanterns, windows and elements have all been preserved and restored.I just can't get enough of this stuff.Below you can see the theater to the left (facing the town square), the enclosed arcade at the boardwalk and the convention center flanked by outdoor terrace restaurants over the beach to the right.This is no small project.I love the large metal ship over the sign.The arcade inside is full of shops and restaurants and was busy with a tatoo convention the day I visited (I did not exactly fit in with this crowd as you can imagine........)Many of the interior details have been preserved although there is still a ways to go.In the following days I'll be bringing you some photos and history of some other fascinating buildings from Asbury Park. Stay tuned!