Loewenstein, Edward (1913-1970)

Edward Loewenstein (1913-1970), a native of Chicago, moved to Greensboro in 1945 with his wife, Frances Stern, following Army service in World War II. Frances, a native of the Greensboro area and stepdaughter of Julius Cone, local businessman of the Greensboro textile magnate family, provided access to a large social network of contacts within and outside of the Jewish community. Through this web of relations, Loewenstein secured design commissions for residential and commercial projects that redefined Greensboro in the post-World War II period. With a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1930-1935), he established a design practice in Greensboro in 1946, and in 1953 began a flourishing partnership with Robert A. Atkinson, Jr., that continued until Loewenstein’s death in 1970. Loewenstein-Atkinson produced more than 1,600 commissions spanning that time period, one third of them residential.

Committed to the community, the firm hired the first African-American architects and design professionals in Greensboro, among them the late William Streat (Loewenstein’s MIT classmate who eventually joined North Carolina A&T’s faculty), the late W. Edward Jenkins, and Clinton E. Gravely, all of whom went on to establish prolific architectural careers in North Carolina and beyond. He also mentored hundreds of students in the office as interns, among them Frank Harmon, North Carolina, and Anne Greene, Washington DC, both going on to design award-winning buildings and interiors throughout the United States. Loewenstein also taught history of architecture lecture courses and studios at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (present University of North Carolina at Greensboro) from 1958 through the late 1960s. He also offered design studios for three years resulting in the development of a student-designed structure dubbed the “Commencement House” in each of those studios.

Because of Loewenstein’s active community engagement, serving with the Cerebral Palsy Association, the Evergreens Retirement Home, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, on the board of the Greensboro Preservation Society, and as an advocate of civil rights, the firm completed many buildings for the public good of Greensboro. These public structures—schools, hospitals, and religious institutions, as well as buildings for industry and commerce—included the development of the master plan and the completion of twelve buildings for Bennett College, a traditionally African-American women’s campus. Loewenstein was also active in the Weatherspoon Association, the local art museum, and a member of the Friends of the Library. He was the president of the North Carolina Architectural Foundation, the editor of Southern Architect, and president of the Greensboro Registered Architects.

Non-residential commissions for Loewenstein-Atkinson ran the usual gamut of buildings for a prospering architectural practice of the post-war period. In some ways, the commercial buildings reflected Loewenstein’s own belief in the community. Beyond Bennett College, Loewenstein embraced the African-American community and some of the inequities in facilities existent among segments of the population. Shortly before his death, Loewenstein completed the design for the YWCA Building (1971) to bring together membership from the black and white branches that had existed through the 1960s. His involvement on the building commission of the Beth David Synagogue led to much service work but never the full commission for the facility.

In the 1950s, the firm designed schools, hospitals, religious buildings, and public facilities, including the Woman’s College Physical Education Building and Coleman Gymnasium (1949-1955), which provided a home to the dance program and intramural sports, as well as a symbolic community meeting space for both the university and the surrounding neighborhoods. In the more tumultuous 1960s, Loewenstein remained true to his open-minded spirit and sense of civic engagement as he forged additional avenues for commercially based work. Among other commissions, the firm designed the Golden Gate Shopping Center (1961) to provide an easily accessed store east of Elm Street for the growing populations on that edge of town. Through the Bessemer Land Company, Loewenstein and the firm’s employees continued to design in traditionally African-American neighborhoods in east Greensboro, including the Dudley High School Gymnasium (1959). Several commissions came through Cone Mills and its related institutions including the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (1952) and school complex near the mill. The Greensboro Public Library (1964), a symbol for the progress of the town, remained an important landmark and anchored the civic pride of the community in troubling times.

As significant as this commercial and institutional work was to understanding the power of design and the presence of Modernism in traditional Greensboro, Edward Loewenstein’s greatest contribution to the emerging contemporary architectural lexicon of the Piedmont is best represented by his residential commissions. He created livable houses that mediated between the crisp high-style Modernism of his training and the traditional buildings on the local landscape. Working with a diverse clientele, including some of the chief leaders of the Jewish community, Loewenstein said something different with these innovative buildings in a community that valued the tried and true, starting with his own home, the Frances and Edward Loewenstein House (1954), featuring slanted exterior walls, curving interior fieldstone walls, and broadly horizontal overhangs in antithesis to conservative, upright Colonial Revival neighbors. With the Eleanor and Marion Bertling House (1953), Loewenstein found unsolicited support from the neighbors to the property, all of whom signed a petition to the Greensboro Zoning Commission to allow a Modern building to be constructed in the Kirkwood neighborhood, which was compose almost exclusively of Cape Cod-style houses. Through homes like these, Loewenstein’s clients brought an avant garde cultural and social agenda to a community attempting to redefine itself in the 1950s and 1960s.

Yet alongside the Modern structures, Loewenstein-Atkinson also designed numerous ranch and Colonial-inspired structures with more traditional details. More than two-dozen residential commissions incorporate both Modern and traditional spatial organizations, details, and landscape relationships, blending the two different approaches to design within the same buildings, as in the Joan and Herbert S. Falk, Jr., House (1964-1965), and the Bettie and Robert S. Chandgie House (1958), a building that features a curved fieldstone full-height wall to define the dining room space, lurking behind a Ranch-style façade.

Celebrating his Modern approach to design, magazines including Architectural Record, McCall’s Magazine, Bride’s Magazine, House and Garden, and Southern Architect published Loewenstein’s own work as well as that of his firm. The North Carolina American Institute of Architects bestowed an award for Loewenstein’s Martha and Wilbur Carter House (1950-1951), the community’s first Modern dwelling. In that vein, Loewenstein brought to the landscape nearly two dozen houses following the Modernist idiom, mostly located within the Irving Park and Starmount neighborhoods of Greensboro, but spread farther afield in the Triad in Sedgefield, Summerfield, Pinehurst, Alamance County, and in southern Virginia (Danville and Martinsville). To support the supervision of these jobs as well as many commercial commissions, Loewenstein opened a series of satellite offices in Burlington, Martinsville, Danville, and Raleigh, the lattermost associated with Edward W. “Terry” Waugh.

Loewenstein worked with numerous collaborators in the firm and as consultants to the firm, among them Gregory Ivy, Chairman of the Woman’s College Department of Art (1938-1961), who hired Loewenstein to teach at the Woman’s College. Ivy, after his resignation from the Woman’s College, worked from 1961-1965 for Loewenstein as the director of the interior design division within the Loewenstein-Atkinson firm. Loewenstein partnered with Eugene Gulledge of Superior Construction Company to bring to fruition a broad number of residential and commercial commissions for Loewenstein-Atkinson. As a collaborator, Gulledge brought sub-contractors and laborers and formed a satellite network to bring to ground the many residential and commercial designs from the architectural office. One of the more significant results of the Loewenstein-Atkinson connection to Superior Construction resulted in Gulledge fronting the money for all three of the Commencement House projects built on speculation: the Frances and Irvin Squires House (1958); the Marion and Kenneth P. Hinsdale House (1959), and the Nancy and Herbert L. Smith House (1965), in Sedgefield. Later, Gulledge lured Loewenstein-Atkinson into designing the Horizon House (Alf Hollar House, 1962), a structure that focused on the innovative us of concrete, part of a national competition locally sponsored by Carolina Quality Block Construction.

Loewenstein also collaborated with Sarah Hunter Kelly (1896-1982), a New York interior designer with an international clientele. She aided Loewenstein’s firm with several significant residential commissions: the Loewenstein House and the Katherine and Sidney J. Stern House (1955-1956), and the Leah and A. Jack Tannenbaum House (1957), all in Greensboro, as well as the Ann and Lloyd P. Tate House (1954-1955) in Pinehurst. Loewenstein collaborated also with local designer Otto Zenke (1904-1984). Together they worked on a handful of commissions in Greensboro, most notably the Edyth and Herman L. Davidson House (ca. 1961) in the Starmount Forest neighborhood, where Zenke’s French Provincial style living and dining rooms masked a Modern kitchen, family room, and bedroom wing opening to the rear. Additional Modern dwellings can be found throughout Greensboro, with concentrations in the Irving Park and Starmount neighborhoods, and commissions in Sedgefield, Summerfield, Pleasant Garden, and along Westridge Road.

Although his mid-century Modern buildings comprise a tremendous physical legacy to Greensboro, Loewenstein’s greatest contribution to the North Carolina built environment was the training he provided for a number of architects and designers who practiced in Greensboro and throughout the state. More than thirty architects, draftsmen, and support staff worked at the firm at its peak size in the mid-1960s. As heirs of Loewenstein’s mid-century Modern aesthetic, these practitioners continued to shape North Carolina architectural and design endeavors.

Note: The building list represents a fraction of the total body of work from the hundreds of Loewenstein-Atkinson projects across the spectrum of their commissions. At this writing, only Guilford County commissions are included, because address and status confirmations have not been completed in other counties. The firm’s work encompasses many residential and commercial commissions in North Carolina without explicit confirmed addresses, including those in Ahoskie, Blowing Rock, Burlington, Clemmons, Conover, Elkin, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Hillsboro, Jacksonville, Kernersville, Madison, Mount Airy, Newland, Pinehurst, Reidsville, Sanford, Southern Pines, Statesville, Thomasville, Winston-Salem, and elsewhere. Further information on Loewenstein may be obtained from the author, and the posted list will be expanded as the locations and status of buildings can be confirmed.

  • Charlotte Vestal Brown Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Edward Loewenstein family papers, private collection, Greensboro, North Carolina.
  • Loewenstein-Atkinson Architects firm records, private collection, Greensboro, North Carolina.
  • Patrick Lee Lucas, interviews with clients, employees, friends and family of Edward Loewenstein, 2005-2009.
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro, et al., “Close to Home: Edward Loewenstein + Modernism in Greensboro,” http://www.uncg.edu/iar/modernism/index.html.
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