Connected to the old Post Office is the Pawtucket Public Library (now they’re both part of the library), also known as the Sayles Building. The Greek Revival structure was built in 1899 (a few years after the post office) and is made of white granite from Maine. Four large Ionic columns (the ones with the scroll-type tops) support the portico that frames the entrance. For a building of this style it’s a very clean design with well-placed ornamentation such as the frieze over each window not immediately apparent at first glance. The building was named after Deborah Cook Sayles, the late wife of Frederic Clark Sayles, the mayor of Pawtucket who donated the land for the library.

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A couple hundred feet northwest of City Hall sits the Gerald S. Burns Building. Designed by William Martin Arkin and completed in 1896,  this building is built on an odd shaped plot in the Beaux Arts style. This neoclassical style taught in France during this period heavily influenced American architects, especially after “white city” of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It’s made of a mix of granite, brick, slate and concrete and features a copper dome. The building has housed three different municipal functions in its 116 (and counting) years; it served as the post office from its construction until the 1940s and then as the welfare office until 1976 when it was renovated and connected with the neighboring Public Library, which I’ll feature in the next installment.

 

This week I did some exploring in the city in which I work, and the result will be a series of architecture posts focusing on historic downtown Pawtucket. First up is City Hall.

Pawtucket City Hall was designed by John O’Malley and was built in 1933 in the art deco style with money from FDR’s works program. The central tower stands 140 feet tall but is lamely not functional – it is just a hollow shell. Even worse, it’s still deteriorating despite extensive structural and cosmetic repairs in 2004. Apparently it’s absorbing water much faster than expected and will endanger the rest of the building. Repairs will cost over $1 million, so the city is actually considering demolishing the tower (no way will that actually happen though).

The building reminds me a bit of the Los Angles City Hall in that it is symmetrical about a central tower. The tower in LA is less ornate but is much taller at 450 feet.

The latest issue of Mental Floss had plenty of interesting little factoids. The two topics I found most interesting were bears (a long-time favorite) and flight attendants. Here goes…

• Bears don’t really crave honey – they’re really after the protein rich developing eggs and bees in the hive. The honey is a bonus.

• In the 1960s, Pan Am’s stewardesses had to be at least 5’2″, weigh less than 130 pounds, couldn’t be married or have children, and were forced to retire at 32!

• Polar bears are invisible to infrared cameras. The military was interesting in using bear coats as Harry Potter invisibility cloaks, but fortunately for the bears ultraviolet cameras see them easily.

• A lot of people want to be flight attendants. When Delta announced 1,000 opening in 2010 they received over 100,000 applicants, despite a starting salary of only $18,000 a year.

• The most amazing thing about black bear hibernation is that upon emerging the bear experiences no cramping or jelly legs, and can even run straight away. A human that spent months in such a state would wake up with useless limbs. And we don’t know how they do it.

• Flight attendants don’t like serving Diet Coke, because its persistent fizziness results in pour times three times longer than other beverages.

• Smokey the bear was created during World War 2 because forest fires were consuming valuable manpower and resources. A few years later forestry workers rescued a cub and he became the live mascot. He became so popular that he got his own zip code in 1964 to handle all the fan mail!

• Newbie female flight attendants must wear longer skirts until their probationary period (6 months) ends. Some pilots have been said to seek out the longer skirts.