Architect Benedetto designed 3 major local bldgs.
There are three larger standout buildings—two constructed from the ground up, one a renovated former Acme Supermarket—that are standing in Hammonton and were designed by local architect Joseph Benedetto. They remain three of the largest buildings in Hammonton.
Benedetto took some time with me to discuss the buildings he designed that changed Hammonton’s architectural landscape. Here are his memories about each project and his reflections on each building today.
Atlantic County Library
The library on S. Egg Harbor Road was dedicated in 1981, according to a plaque near its front doors.
Benedetto: “The Atlantic County Library Board decided to build three libraries. The main library was to be built in Mays Landing at the county seat and one was to be built in Egg Harbor Township and the third to be built in Hammonton. I interviewed for the project and was awarded the contract. There were numerous design challenges. To start with the site was very narrow and originally a part of St Martin’s Church site. The question was: ‘how do I design the parking and get a focal point front entrance?’
“It was decided to put all the parking in the rear along with the entrance. This decision was made to avoid the feeling that the church parking lot continued on, creating a sea of asphalt. The next question was how do I get natural lighting into the building and still leave wall space for shelving, computers and books? I decided early on to use high windows. Clearstory high windows on vaulted ceilings were used in the main library and high operable windows in the alcoves. In addition, I designed a closed off children’s reading area with a sunken floor and settee all around. A competition was held to see what kind of graphics could be used to articulate this space. The winner was a relief of the Pegasus horse to be placed on the wall.
“All the fenestration in the children area were two-foot slit windows so that the parents may take a peek in without being noticed.
“Once again, I chose an iron spot brick for warmth and its earth tones. The original roof was a raised rib copper tone metal roof to enhance the earth tone brick.
“Lastly, in the rear of the site there was a natural low circular area, which at first was thought to be filled in. However, I thought this would be a good place for a small amphitheater. So, I designed it with seating all around and a concrete raised stage in the middle. The idea was to have outdoor art classes and some musical events.”
One White Horse Centre
(Formerly One Empire Centre)
Standing prominently at one of the most-trafficked intersections in Hammonton, One White Horse Centre was completed in 1987 as the headquarters of Empire Savings, a locally-owned savings and loan. After Empire Savings went out of business in the 1980s, the building became home to several different office tenants.
Benedetto: “Hired in 1994 to design and build a banking headquarters building for Empire Savings and Loan on an empty site at the corner of White Horse Pike and Rt 206. The design program consisted of a three-story building to serve as a banking facility and banking offices. It was decided at the offset that all parking should be in the rear of the building so as to enhance the front view. The concept was to create two offsetting pods with a connecting pod in the middle. The middle pod would be a spacious entry with elevators, stairs and reception. One pod would be for banking the other for offices. I took occasional rides down Bellevue Ave toward the site and thought I would like to have something to catch the eye and draw the driver toward that building. I thought of an obelisk with the address on it a large ONE. However, the board didn’t want that so I settled for flagpole, but not any ordinary flagpole. We found a pole that operated by sunlight. At sunrise the flag (which was stored in the pole) unfolded and rose, at sunset in was pulled back into the pole. The conference doors I designed came from California and were over seven feet and had to have special hardware. The brick chosen is a glazed iron spot; the idea was to use as many earth tones as possible, which would complement the landscaping. Each floor is articulated by a Dryvit facade, which complements the brick.
Atlantic County Human Services
(Formerly Acme Supermarket)
The brick façade of the former Acme at 310 Bellevue Avenue was remodeled into the Atlantic County Human Services Building in 1983.
Benedetto: “This by far was the greatest challenge. An existing old Acme building made of ugly old brick, a rectangle with no offsets, no fenestration and a column in the front holding an overhang and a horrendous sign. WOW!
“The county wanted some open spaces but mostly offices. This was easy. Since the building had high ceilings and a spacious basement, it was decided to make a two-floor office. Elevator, stairs and second means of egress were added to meet the new occupancy and the present codes. Wall graphics were used to enhance (as much as possible) the interior spaces.
“The exterior was another matter. How do I make this mundane building look attractive? First and foremost, get rid of that sign. I didn’t want to remove the overhang, which was good for inclement weather. I thought: ‘If I can’t hide it, I’ll articulate it and make the focal point of the entrance.’
“Next, I decided to do something in the front. My first thought was to add windows, this was turned down by the county because of budget and compatibility with the space use. So, it was decided to use fake windows with a tinted reflective glass. I wanted the glass to reflect the movement of the town. Cars and people going by. The idea was to have something kinetic rather than static.”
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.