04 March 2008

Architects We've Never Heard Of

Living near New Canaan, we sometimes let ourselves be fooled into thinking that if a house wasn't designed by an architect we've heard of, then it's not worth noting. We have the Harvard Five all over New Canaan, Edward Durrell Stone in North Salem, Bedford Hills and New Canaan, Edward Larabee Barnes in Pound Ridge and Mount Kisco, so what else do we need?

It's a ridiculous tautology of course -- this architect isn't interesting because we haven't heard of him; we haven't heard of him because he isn't interesting -- but it's sometimes true.

Overnight there was a notice of a house now on the market, designed in the late 1950s by Taylor Gates -- an architect I've never heard of. It's an interesting house, at least from the photos, and it's owned by a woman Gina and I sort of have a connection to, so I Googled the architect and found this MidCentArc Flickr page, which has a fantastic array of photos from around the country, many more than I could click through this morning and many of houses designed by architects I've never heard of.

So what about Taylor Gates? Unfortunately there's not a lot about him on Google -- in fact virtually nothing except the listing for the house now on the market in New Canaan, which perhaps explains why I've never heard of him. The house, by the way, is 3,500 square feet, has five bedrooms, sits on three acres, and can be yours for about two million. But it's not bad looking at all, and if you photoshopped out some of the furniture shown in the real estate ad, it'd be even better.


Mezzodrama said...

The architect you are wondering about was my father-in-law. His name was Frederick Taylor Gates, but his friends called him Taylor. He and Russell Ford had an architecture firm in New Canaan in the early '50s. Taylor designed and built his family's home in New Canaan. Taylor went on to become a partner in Robertson Ward in Nassau, Bahamas. He was a resort architect and also designed many private homes throughout the Caribbean.

Gina Federico said...

Hi MezzoDrama - your comment was so interesting to read! One of my elementary school friends was Kitty (Catherine) Ford - the youngest of Russell's 3 daughters. Between spending time at Kitty's, growing up in our own Mid-Century Modern, and visiting my parents' friends in Moderns, I grew up thinking EVERYone lived in a house with radient heat, flat roofs, and big walls of glass. The Ford's house was on the 2001 New Canaan Historical Society's Modern House Day Tour and Symposium, and it was certainly some kind of a "moment" for me to be back there visiting the house and envisioning the horse show ribbon-bedecked rooms, and the enclosed terrace where Herb Oscar Anderson the rabbit lived 40 years ago . . . The Ford's had an amazing vacation home in Bequia which (from photos only do I know this) looked as if the rooms each occupied a different treetop (this is my recollection from when I was maybe 8 years old). Until your comment on our blog, I didn't know that Russell himself was an architect. Thanks so much for writing! – Gina

Mark said...

I looked at the house in New Canaan today. Beautiful and totally kid-friendly. Sent photos of it to my friend in California who's shopping for an MCM in Connecticut. Fingers crossed. I hope whoever buys it, doesn't raze it and put up a vile Frankenmansion like the other homes in the neighborhood.


Tom Andersen + Gina Federico said...


Did you happen to drive by or was there an open house that we missed?


Mezzodrama said...

Hi Gina,

You are correct about the Ford's houses. We never visited Becquia, but my mother-in-law did and the house was indeed lovely. My husband Derick and his siblings, Cindy, Joan and Dick grew up with the Ford gang. You may have actually met some or all of them. I just found out the old firm's name/address: Gates & Ford, Architectural & Planning Associates, 105 Main Street, New Canaan, CT. We would love to find the other houses designed by (Frederick) Taylor Gates. Derick and Dick are not sure that Russ was actually an architect. They thought he was a planner, so it may be possible that Taylor actually designed their house too.

Tom Andersen + Gina Federico said...

A reader named Katherine left a comment yesterday about Frederick Taylor Gates but left it on the wrong post, This is what she said:

"Hi All,

"I thought you may be interested to know that I live the the home that Gates designed for his family. We bought the house in 1992. My husband is an architect, as are his parents. One of our three children, Daniel is working on his Masters in Architecture at Yale. There was an aritcle in the New Canaan Advertiser last Thursday 1/15/2009.

"My husband won the CT AIA award for new construction design for an apartment he did which is attached to our home for his parents to live with us.

"I searched Frederic Taylor Gates on the internet and discovered he was very involved with The University of Chicago. Our other two children are studing there, Christopher now working on a PhD and Alexandra is in second year. Is he a relative?"

lidguy said...

The architect Frederick "Taylor" Gates is my great uncle, he is the son of the Frederick Taylor Gates who comes up on a google search who was involved with Rockefeller and University of Chicago. I was actually named after him (Taylor). I never met him but was told as a child that he had indeed moved to the Bahamas. I know of one other house he designed because he designed it for his mother (my great grandmother) and I spent some time there as a child. It is a large mid-century contemporary on the beach in Woods Hole, MA. Our family sold the house in the mid 80's but it still stands nearly unchanged as I walked past it on the beach while visiting the cape last week.

John Atchley said...

My parents, John & Martha Atchley, came to Lakeville, CT from New Canaan in the mid 50's and had Frederick Taylor Gates design their home. My father died a few years ago and my mother just died. We are selling the house and just hope that we can find someone who appreciates it for the classic that it is. It is beautiful, but needs much updating, particularly the single pane glass that covers half of the house!

How do I post a photo?

Tom Andersen + Gina Federico said...


Blogger doesn't let readers post photos. But send us one and we'd be happy to post it. Our email addresses are on the blog. Thanks, and good luck!

Tom Andersen