Blue is without question my favorite color (possibly dating back to when my parents dressed me in blue and my twin in red so they could tell us apart easily when we were babies). So I was pleasantly surprised to find a unique space here at Unity Village lovingly called the Blue Room.
I’ve found quite a few gems on campus, and the Blue Room is most assuredly my prized sapphire (pun fully intended). Located on the south side of the Administration Building on the first floor, the Blue Room appears rather nondescript from the outside; the exception being the two ornate hand-carved walnut doors fashioned by the late Unity master craftsman Ivan Lee (see the January/ February 2016 “Around the Village” for more on Lee’s doors). But step through the threshold, and something special greets you.
The Blue Room was originally a reception area for the Unity printing department when it started in 1947. It was one of the first wings built in the Administration Building, designed to house a new printing press that would print Unity publications and literature until the mid-1970s (when printing was outsourced).
The Blue Room was a showstopper, as workers and customers alike would pause to marvel at its intricacies. The room featured a large circular receptionist’s desk and hardwood floors when it first opened, but over time the desk was removed and the floors were covered with carpeting. Six more of Lee’s doors adorn the roughly 23-foot by 23-foot room, and that’s just the start. Other standout features include etched glass blocks, colorful mosaic inlays above the doors, and of course, the room’s eponymous glowing blue lights.
As with most of the architectural innovation at Unity Village, Rickert Fillmore (son of Unity founders Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore) was the mastermind behind the mosaic inlays. He drew swirling, floral designs on paper and then backed the paper with Masonite. Artisans then glued bits of broken glass onto the designs with flour paste and then set the creation at the bottom of a mold. Once set, the paper and Masonite were stripped off. Most of the glass that the artisans used for the mosaics was provided by Unity employees, who picked up discarded pieces of broken glass from around the area. Think of it as an early recycling effort!
Fillmore also designed the room’s etched glass blocks, which are stacked up to form the walls. For a unique effect, he placed cardboard cutouts over the glass and then sandblasted the exposed surface to create a textured look. Once the cutouts were removed, a delicate, swirling, floral pattern (complementing the pattern on the mosaics) was left on the smooth surface of the glass, adding to the room’s overall magnificence.
Of course, the Blue Room’s namesake is its magnificent blue lights, which run around the perimeter of the room, inset just below the mosaic inlays. Close your eyes and think of the most vibrant blue imaginable on a bright moonlit night perhaps the blues in Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” That’s what this room looks like when just the blue lights are turned on. It’s positively ethereal.
To save energy, these days the Blue Room is lit in its serene glory only during special requests for tours. Luckily, I’ve been blessed to see this magnificent lighting effect and to center myself in its tranquil majesty.