In Praise of Masonry Screens

I’ve pretty much fallen in love with masonry screens since I first started noticing them a few years ago. Most popular in the 1950s through 1970s, these decorative concrete block are a low-cost way to create a wall, provide privacy and shade to a big window wall, and generally just look stylish. The sun plays games with the varied shapes throughout the day, making for hours of viewing fun.

Here are a few examples just in the Jackson area of the great variety and inventive uses for these wonderful mid-century modern materials.

We’ve got nothing on Jamaica though, where they use all sorts of block shapes, usually as part of the low wall that runs along most front property lines. The Catholic church in Falmouth even uses them as the upper part of the exterior wall of the building, with no glass, allowing complete natural ventilation of the interior.

St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Falmouth, Jamaica (1966)

As the Modern Charlotte (NC) blog points out, these blocks are still available, so damaged walls can be fixed, not destroyed (as I sometimes see during renovation projects). Check out this catalog of the A-1 Block Corporation, of Orlando, Florida or this longer list of companies still making these cool blocks. Head out into your town and start noticing the blocks–it won’t take you long and then you’ll start seeing them everywhere. If some of us find a way to use the block in new projects, we might just bring masonry screens back into fashion!

Categories: Architectural Research, Jackson

13 replies

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Sometimes we just don’t notice prettyand unusual things like these. So many different shapes. Beautiful !


  2. Here’s one (at least that is what it looked like from the road! LOL). The pictured building is just south of Walgreen’s on the west side of Gloster St at Crosstown (intersection of Gloster/US-145 and US278/MS6 Main St.) in Tupelo. The building used to be the site of a Chrysler/Plymouth automobile dealership.


      • Yes, it is! I was stopped for the train at the “Crosstown” intersection (that’s another story in itself! HA) and was just looking around my old stomping grounds and thought, HEY, that’s cool looking so I pulled over and parked and tried to get the picture before the sun went down. The sunshine was already in my eyes! You know they’ll tear stuff down in a blink of an eye up there so you better snap the photo when you can!


  3. Here’s another one that I saw on the ‘net. I don’t know where it is.


  4. Here’s a masonry screen that I noticed the other day. It’s the former SEARS service and parts center building on Greenway Drive across from Wal-Mart in South JACK-SUN!!!

    Let me see if I can post these photo links correctly. Photobucket has changed (and not for the better) their website.


  5. I saw this postcard that shows a masonry screen. I do not know if the building still exists.


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