WE GOT ONE!

By Jerome L Eben, FAIA

 

The line “we got one” comes from the 1984 film Ghostbusters.  I chose this as the title of this article after reading another article about the world’s first film studio, hence a connection to film.  The article appeared in my home town weekly, the West Orange Chronicle.  I look forward to reading this paper every week and normally turn first to an always interesting article about the township’s history.  Joseph Fagan is the author and serves as the official historian of West Orange.  West Orange like the AIA is nearly 160 years old. While on the National Board (2011-1013) I often spoke, and was extremely proud of the township’s architectural history.  Three of our founders were very much involved in designing and supervising some of the early architecture, that was built .  Richard Upjohn, FAIA designed two churches and Calvert Vaux, AIA and A.J. Davis, AIA were helped Fredrick Law Olmstead with the design of the first planned community in the nation call Llewelyn Park.

We all read stories in our local weeklies that will from time to time speak about architecture and planning.  I have found that most always the architect that is responsible for created these buildings is not mentioned.   Joe Fagan is a friend of mine and I sent him an E-mail after he wrote a beautiful story about two old school buildings in town and did not mention who the architects were.  Joe wrote back to me that he “is not qualified or well versed in architectural nomenclature to know the unique differences, so he keeps it simple.”  I told him where to find the architect’s name in the future and if he still has a hard time, to contact the West Orange Historic Commission. Marty Feitlowitz, AIA, is Vice Chairman and I am sure that he would be helpful in securing for him any information he requires about the architect of a specific building in town.

Joe’s article was entitled World’s first film studio in WO spawned global industry.  He described an oddly shaped small black building that sits behind a fence near the entrance of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.  Joe went on to explain that the original building was built in 1893 and served as the first motion picture studio.  Called the “Black Maria,” because working inside it was like being in a police van, also referred to as black Marias.  The building was mounted on a circular track so that it could move with the sun, because the film speed was so slow that only natural sunlight would work in the production of these early films.

In this article, Joe gave credit to Bernard Grad, AIA a Newark Architect, who designed a replacement black Maria, in 1954, for the National Park Service.  This Black Maria still stands there today.  Maybe you and your children or grandchildren have visited it?

I immediately sent Joe an E-mail thanking him for providing the architectural credit, and so proclaiming in the spirit of when the Annie Potts announces to the Ghostbusters, “WE GOT ONE,” when a fancy Manhattan hotel calls asking for the ghost exterminating specialists.

Joe Fagan, is ONE journalist who now knows that when he writes about history and it includes the mentioning of a building, we can be sure that the proper credit of the architect’s name will appear in the article.

You can get involved in this educational process, by pointing out to your local journalists who might write about a building…………any building, that the proper credit should be given to the architect who designed it.  Should the architect not be mentioned, take five minutes and write an E-mail to that journalist and remind him/her that “every building has an architect, or should have one!”   If each of the nearly 2,000 of you takes on this charge, we will begin to have more of them and state that we have TWO, THREE, or MORE journalists providing the public with the pertinent information that the building they are writing about was designed by and architect.

Thank you!

Jerry

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