08 January 2008

The House Has Been Demolished: The Harvard Five in New Canaan

I was in a rush when I dashed off yesterday’s post about William Earls, the author of The Harvard Five in New Canaan, and his speaking engagement this week at Waveny in New Canaan.

The full title of his book is The Harvard Five in New Canaan: Mid-century Modern Houses by Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, John Johansen, Philip Johnson, Eliot Noyes, and Others.

It’s a bit of an odd book because there’s hardly anything written by the author – just a brief introduction and a handful of short captions. But it includes terrific photos of a number of New Canaan’s modern houses, and it reprints a really good essay, called “New Canaan Modern: The Beginning 1947-1952,” written by Jean Ely and published in 1967 in the New Canaan Historical Society Annual.

What also struck me was to see in black and white the partial documentation of New Canaan’s shameful history of allowing significant modern houses to be razed. It is the history of knocking down modern houses and replacing them, presumably, with obnoxious mcmansions (New Canaan allows 18th and 19th century farmhouses to suffer the same fate too, so it’s not just a modern house issue).

Earls has photos of eight such houses:

Noyes house, designed by Eliot Noyes in 1947: “The house has been demolished.”

Kniffen house, by Noyes and Marcel Breuer, 1949: “The house has been demolished.”

Johansen house, designed by John Johansen, 1949: “The house has been demolished.”

Mills house, designed by Breuer, 1949: “The house has been demolished.”

Dunham house, designed by Johansen, 1950: “The house has been demolished.”

Stackpole house, designed by Noyes, 1951: “The house has been demolished.”

Riley house, designed by Chauncey Riley, 1952: “The house has been demolished.”
Goode house, designed by Johansen, 1953: “The house has been demolished.”

It is both eye-opening and sad. -- TA

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