A Very American Style

Posted on April 25th, 2009, by Petra

Out of Art Deco, enthusiastically adopted in the US, grew a style unique to the United States – Streamline Moderne. It evolved in the ’30s and was both a modern continuation and a reaction to Art Deco, which surprisingly enough is not a contradiction, although at first it seems to be one.

Streamline Moderne reflected the more austere economic times of the ’30s. Some Art Deco elements were kept, but generally sharp angles and lines became more aerodynamically rounded, excessive ornaments gave way to clean surfaces and – very important – modern materials like cement and glass were used to replace exotic woods and stone.

In Los Angeles the Lydecker House is usually quoted as a prime example of a residential building in the Streamline Moderne style. But there are many, many private houses around showing the rounded lines, the curved windows, the portholes so typical of that style.


Even more houses show only some of the elements – just some curved lines, one or two porthole windows; that was enough at that time to deem the house “modern” and satisfy the buyer that he or she was totally “with it.”

And then one can find something like this:


Here the theme of the rounded lines and the portholes has been taken to a certain extreme, in keeping with the name “The Good Ship Grace.” This building was originally a radio station for Christian broadcasting. Then the radio station moved out to Riverside and the structure just sits there – empty and as an example of a very unique American style.

Please leave a comment

  1. Karen Says:

    I love art deco. There’s not that much left in the US.

  2. Petra Says:

    Interestingly enough we have quite a lot of Art Deco buildings left in Los Angeles. A lot has disappeared, but the local Art Deco Society, founded in 1983, has helped not only to save what is left, but to bring back to their old glory many, many buildings already slated for the wrecking ball.

    So we seem to be lucky in this city.

  3. Karen Says:

    This is pretty much our only claim to art deco fame. http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/4lXBbW7mURrJ0Jaa9dxiag?select=w_y1eV06fxFJpk5TFtfoxg However, it wasn’t built till the 90s, I think. They’ve just built a new one in a different location. It’s exactly the same, but larger. The food is excellent.

  4. Petra Says:

    Interesting, very interesting, because this is a modern take on Streamline Moderne emerging out of Art Deco. The curved window in the front is one clue, as are all the rounded contours and the absence of any busy decorative elements.

    Quite well done, by the way.

  5. Karen Says:

    It is. The owners went for the old-time diner look, and achieved it. The new location is just a block off our Courthouse Square, which is the center of the town. It’s a perfect addition. We did have a prime example of the 50s minmalist look, but it got redone. I was odd looking, since the rest of the square was Victorian to early 20th Century. P. 31 – 34 of the PDF show before & after, although the before actually looked better than the photo.

    Here’s a link to a sort of visual tour of our Courthouse Square. http://community.georgetown.org/listings/?cat=47 In particular, I think our old theater, The Palace, is well done and very typical of its era.

  6. Karen Says:

    Oops, forgot the PDF link. http://www.thc.state.tx.us/mainstreet/msPDF/ms_bfr_aftr.pdf

  7. Petra Says:

    Thank you – very, very interesting. Some styles can be found here, too, but generally there seems to be a distinct difference between building style in Texas and Southern California.

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