Mystery 1950's (?) print
June 17, 2011 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Can you help with identifying this mystery print? It shows a 'futuristic' town, with bubbly/jet-like cars and trains going past a mall. I saw this print at the Philly City Archives. They think that it might be set in Lawnview, in northeast Philadelphia, but they don't know, and there are a number of other Lawnviews in the US, e.g. in Dallas.

The signature in the bottom right is 'Gould.' I didn't measure it, but it was probably about 24" x 18", with a large white border of several inches all the around.
posted by carter to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If this is northeast Philly, The hills in the background to the right don't make sense. Especially assuming that the cluster of buildings is center city Philadelphia, which would be to the southwest - that means that the hills would be roughly to the south of the viewer. The hills, if there are any that prominent, would be to the west.

That being said, the hills could have just been put in for effect -- this isn't a photograph. But it seems like evidence in the direction of this being somewhere else.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:42 AM on June 17, 2011

Also, historically the path that's often been suggested for new train lines in northeast Philadelphia is Roosevelt Boulevard. I'm having trouble determining where the "Lawnview" neighborhood is -- the name doesn't seem to be in use any more -- but the only thing I can find with this name is the Lawnview Cemetery which is several miles from the Boulevard. (It's also not actually within the city, but the city limits are not nearly as obvious along the northern border of Philadelphia as its other borders.)
posted by madcaptenor at 11:48 AM on June 17, 2011

madcaptenor, you may be right. If this is NE Philly then I think those rolling hills are where Jersey is. I'm also assuming that if this is from the 1950s, then Center City would not have been visible as a cluster of skyscrapers. That's why I was thinking of Dallas or another city.

This caused quite the discussion the other day.
posted by carter at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2011

Yeah I found Lawnview cemetery to be the only Lawnview on the map. I guess it doesn't mean there wasn't something there before, though.
posted by carter at 11:50 AM on June 17, 2011

I was thinking that Center City wouldn't have been a cluster of skyscrapers in the 1950s. But I was born late enough that Center City has always been a cluster of skyscrapers to me, so I didn't want to say anything. And there are lots of Philly neighborhood names that have gone out of general use -- see this list of old neighborhood names compiled by the city -- and I can imagine a cemetery not wanting to change its name.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:53 AM on June 17, 2011

I don't know about Dallas: One, Lawnview DART Station didn't open until 2010. I guess it didn't have to be an existing station at the time the print was made, but if it was a site of future expansion I would think they would have gotten there sooner than that.

Oh, and two: if you look at the photo of Lawnview Station it shows the skyline in the background. That's plausibly the same skyline, but the perspective is different, with downtown being to the right of the road in the photo but to the left of the road in the print.

I guess it could have been way-future planning in Dallas, that just never panned out until recently.
posted by cabingirl at 12:02 PM on June 17, 2011

This is really interesting to me because I grew up in NE Philly and I love retro future stuff like this.

I lived there for 25 years and never heard of a NE neighborhood called Lawnview. I think the City Archives might have been thinking of either the Lawndale neighborhood or Lawncrest, which is the collective name for the Lawndale and Cresentville neighborhoods.

If the skyscrapers in the background were meant to be Center City in the 1950s, Philadelphia City Hall would be both at least recognizable and also the tallest building in the print.

I agree with macaptenor that most (pie in the sky IMHO) future transit plans for the NE since about the 1950s have usually include heavy rail (Broad Street Subway) or light rail along the Roosevelt Boulevard. In fact this illustration puts me in mind of Oxford Circle. The Boulevard with rail lines would be the lower roadway, and the roadway perpendicular and above it with the electric trackless trolleys could maybe be Castor Ave or Cheltenham Ave, though Cheltenham Ave doesn't have overhead power lines for trollies IIRC.

I tried looking at the Philadelphia Transportation Company track maps from 1954 to see if I could find a Lawnview station or a location that might match up to the perspective of this print, but no luck.
posted by Rob Rockets at 12:32 PM on June 17, 2011

For some reason it's reminding me of the Forest Hills T station in Boston. If you were up on the hill in the Arboretum looking toward downtown it might look like that, at least that's what I remember from when I lived near there many years ago.
posted by mareli at 1:23 PM on June 17, 2011

Btw, I asked the archives folks where they got it from, and they didn't know. I guess that because it is in their collection, they think that it is somehow related to Philly. But the more I think about it, the more I think that this could be speculative.
posted by carter at 1:38 PM on June 17, 2011

That is interesting. This isn't a direct answer but I just purchased a print from EBay that I think is by the same person--the signature certainly looks like "Gould". I work for BART and collect BART-related stuff. When I Googled "Gould Transit Art" I got a link to the Bethlehem Art Gallery and an artist named "John Gould" who may or may not be the right guy. I may send them the picture of my print and see if he's the artist.
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:47 PM on June 17, 2011

What was it's context at the city archives? Hanging on the wall, in a folder, on the website, next to anything useful? I don't think it's a rendering of something that already existed, but instead some kind of future plan. I checked the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project for Lawnview and didn't find anything, but there are a few Goulds that come up. It could have been designed by a local architect. Or it could have been something a city employee was referencing, since there isn't much editing of what finds it's way into the archives.
posted by sepviva at 3:59 PM on June 17, 2011

I received a response from the gallery I mention above and the "Gould" for my print was in fact the same John Gould they represent (1906 to 1996). It is a family-held gallery. He did the work for GE Transit so I would hazard a guess that your image might also be something he did for GE. I'd suggest you send a note to the email address for the gallery and see if they can give you more information on what project it was for.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:04 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

What was it's context at the city archives?

It was a 'show and tell' at a reception, so no context unfortunately.

agatha_magatha, that's quite exciting! I will contact the gallery and see what they say.
posted by carter at 4:34 PM on June 17, 2011

His son, the artist Paul Gould, might know:
posted by technocrat at 11:22 AM on June 18, 2011

Update: I have heard from Paul Gould, and he thinks it is probably NE Philly, but he will look into it. Apparently, John Gould's work for GE included illustrations of possible future transit systems.
posted by carter at 3:26 AM on June 23, 2011

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