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Pleasantville

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Just off Iowa 5 as it passes through Pleasantville, at the corner of Breckenridge and East Monroe streets, is the elementary school building (1922) designed by Frank E. Wetherell (of Wetherell and Harrison). At the turn of the century, several architects of the English Arts and Crafts movement began to incorporate elements of the eighteenth-century Georgian style into their work. Examples of this work were widely published and by the teens were well known to American architects. The elementary school at Pleasantville is an American expression of the view that an architect could play with classical (Georgian) details and at the same time pursue his commitment to the Arts and Crafts. In this brick building, two low wings flank a central section articulated by a loggialike row of large round-headed windows. Wide overhanging tile roofs hold the composition in place, and a wide variety of terracotta ornamentation depicting books, lamps of knowledge, and cornucopias (some in bright glazed colors) enlivens the faces of the building. Much of the ornament conveys a Prairie-style atmosphere, both in its location on the building, and in its design.

On Breckenridge Street itself, at the corner of North State Street and West Broadway, is another important school building. This is the Pleasantville High School (1940–1942), designed by Oren Thomas of Des Moines. This two-story brick-and-concrete building is a handsome classical example of the PWA Streamline Moderne. There is a horizontal concrete band at the base, and another curves around the middle of the building. The corners of the building are curved, and the bands of steel-frame windows are carried around these curved corners. Patterns of square wall-grilles have been placed at various points within the brick-sheathed walls. A reasonably successful addition was made to the building in 1972, designed by Frevert-Ramsey, Architects-Engineers.

Writing Credits

Author: 
David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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