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Intermetro Industries (George Guthrie Elementary School)

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George Guthrie Elementary School
1914, Robert Ireland. 643 N. Washington St.

The school is the masterwork of Robert Ireland, who spent most of his career with the Wilkes-Barre school district. Ireland was originally trained as an engineer and his early designs for coal breakers—steel-framed, heavily glazed structures—presage the experiments with daylighting techniques and industrial materials that characterize his school designs. This former school is a four-story blocklike mass with a large hipped roof. Projecting entrance bays—one for boys and one for girls—are developed into two-story, terra-cotta-clad pavilions. Ireland used curtain walls to glaze the two end stairwells, while vertical service towers on the rear elevation house ventilation shafts and enclosures for auxiliary staircases, which served as fire exits. Below the eaves, on the body of Guthrie's facade, Ireland applied an architectural language appropriate to the steel frame. Learning from the work of Louis Sullivan and the Chicago School, he emphasized vertical piers that rise along the line of the steel columns while the horizontal spandrels are suppressed. The front facade emphasizes the non-load-bearing brick wall, treating it as a screen, and giving the building a sense of verticality. Even the massive hipped roof appears to be lifted from the mass of the building by the terra-cotta brackets that spring from the continuous piers. In contrast, the flanking entrance wings are grounded, elongated, and composed. Natural light floods in through the windows. The rear elevation is stripped down to a simple grid of brick, red stone, and glass, faintly suggestive of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's work. On the front and side elevations, however, Ireland took a different approach. The ornament is relatively plain and geometric and the concrete brackets that sit under the rear eaves are here replaced by massive, extravagant terra-cotta brackets, which rise the full height of the building's top story. The school was renovated as offices by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in 1984.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Intermetro Industries (George Guthrie Elementary School)", [Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 471-472.

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