The former Northwestern Mutual Insurance Building at 3515 Glenwood Avenue is living on borrowed time. The building I wrote about in 2008, G. Milton Small – My Favorite Architect, is scheduled for demolition unless a tenant steps forward to lease the space.
George Smart of North Carolina Modernist Houses is leading an effort to save this magnificent building, and will hold an open house at the site on May 7th, from 4:30-7:00 PM.
The building is one of the finest structures designed by G. Milton Small, Jr., an underappreciated architect from North Carolina. It’s a grand emblem of Small Jr.’s design aesthetic: tinted glass and aluminum, black iron support beams, wide overhangs, on a base of unique brick work, contrasted with bright walkways.
Good Design Found in ‘Small’ Buildings
His Northwestern Mutual Insurance project landed front page coverage of the New York Times, as seen in the photo above. The mid-1960s was arguably the zenith of Small’s accomplished career. During this period he was designing a number of campus buildings for NC State, as well as the campus of Mount Olive College.
Big Brother of a Raleigh National Landmark
3515 Glenwood is just about a year older than his own firm’s office near the corner of Brooks Avenue and Hillsborough Street. Both feature similar facades, full-height tinted glass, a raised elevation, and striking symmetry. The similarities are unmistakable.
Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company hired the firm of G. Milton Small and Associates to design its eastern headquarters, which was completed in 1964.
A Long Lost Twin, Gone Forever
In going through the G. Milton Small Collection at the NCSU Special Collections Research Center, I discovered a curious fact: the building at 3515 Glenwood had an identical twin in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago.
According to G. Milton Small Jr.’s son, G. Milton Small III, Northwestern Mutual was so impressed with the design of the building in Raleigh that they hired him to design a nearly identical building for their main headquarters.
Then, upon arriving at the Arlington Heights site in April, I discovered a sad fact: the building had recently been demolished.
Small had a strong connection to Chicago. There, he studied under Mies van der Rohe and worked at Perkins + Will and later Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Small followed Henry Kamphoefner (former dean of NC State’s Design School) to Raleigh with the wave of architects and professors whose aim was to establish a new school of modernist architecture in the South.
An Uncertain Future
George Smart is coordinating the effort to find a tenant for this building, and explains why it faces an uncertain future:
Recently, the owners filed plans with the City of Raleigh which involve tearing it completely down and replacing it. While there is no agreement between NCMH and the owners, who are moving forward with the redevelopment, NCMH believes that if we can find an alternate offer to lease the existing property, the owners may be willing to listen. We’ve been in dialogue with the owners since July 2013 and appreciate their willingness to listen. The realistic window for finding a tenant before the redevelopment process goes much further is 90 days from Monday, April 22.
–George Smart, NC Modernist Houses
An Icon Worth Saving
This iconic building won an AIANC Honor Award in 1964, and is more than just a relic from Raleigh’s most prolific modernist architect. Situated near the Beltline and not far from Cameron Village, its location is convenient for both downtown and suburban visitors.
As a result of an unfortunate injury several years ago I spent a lot of time here when it was home to the Raleigh Orthopedic Clinic. Much of the interior retains the original Midcentury charm, though it can easily be repurposed for its tall windows and open floor plan.
Open House on May 7th
As part of the effort to save the building, NC Modernist Houses is hosting an open house at 3515 Glenwood from 4:30 to 7:00 PM, May 7. The aim is to show the space to prospective tenants, but it’s also an opportunity to see an architectural treasure.
G. Milton Small III will be at the event to discuss the building and answer questions about his father. G. Milton Small, III, is an architect with the firm of Small Kane Webster Conley, once known as G. Milton Small and Associates.
Spread the Word
Unlike other recent losses such as the NC State University Bookstore and the Northwestern Mutual building in the Chicago suburbs, there is a real chance to save this building. If you know of a company looking to occupy a beautiful and iconic building, let them know about this vacancy and contact George Smart at North Carolina Modernist Houses. There is still time to find a tenant and preserve this work of art.
- G. Milton Small Building
- NC State: Please Don’t Destroy the Bookstore!
- G. Milton Small – My Favorite Architect
- Let’s Not Repeat Mistakes: Don’t Destroy the Municipal Building
- 3515 Glenwood Open House (NC Modernist Houses)
- Modernist fans hope to save iconic Glenwood Avenue building (Triangle Business Journal)
- Raleigh architecture fans work to save Glenwood Avenue modernist office building (News & Observer)