19 March 2010

Philip Johnson's First House is on the Market, in Bedford, New York


The first house designed by Philip Johnson for a client just came on the market, for $2 million, in Bedford, New York, the next town over from us. Built in 1946, it's called the Booth house but most recently it was the longtime home of Robert and Sirkka Damora.

Mr. Damora, an architectural photographer of note (Walter Gropius said of him, "I consider him the best the best photographer of architecture in this country") passed away at age 97 a year ago, and his family is selling the house.

Here's a description of it:

Unlike the Glass House, where Johnson shaped the landscape with carefully created vistas, the Booth House was set within an existing topography. Sited on the graded crest of a wooded slope, it takes full advantage of the towering trees that enclose the house. Nature enters into the house as an almost physical presence. While the Glass House has a temple-like quality, the Booth House strives to be only a comforting shelter for daily family life—a fact valued by the late architect and pioneering architectural photographer Robert Damora and his widow, architect Sirkka Damora, who acquired the house in 1955 and lived there appreciatively for 55 years.

The 36 acres next to the house are permanently protected as a nature preserve by Westchester Land Trust, my employer, and in fact on my first visit to the preserve, in 1997, I met Mr. Damora and chatted with him for a couple of minutes, and I remember thinking that he was someone Gina and I should visit. We never did, but last June we were invited to have lunch there with Mrs. Damora and the Damoras' daughter and son, Jesa and Matthew. It was a surprisingly cool, rainy day but the house was warm, and it gave me that sense that modern houses often do of being part of the outside world even when I'm inside and comfortable.

Here's the website with the real estate listing. There's a lot of good information and photos. And here's a website the Damoras' created to showcase Robert Damora's photographs (the photo above is by Robert Gregson). It's well worth looking at.

I should note by the way that the Booth/Damora house is listed for about $850,000 less than the much smaller, right-next-to-the-road Alice Ball House that Johnson designed about a decade later. - ta

1 comment:

peterhalle said...

Hi Tom and Gina. Long time. The Damora's house is so spare and practical, yet warm. And it fits into its surroundings. It is a triumph for block construction which can be so harsh, but there it it feels as natural as wood. I spent many happy hours at the Damora's with Matty and Jesa, and of course Florence and the irrepressible Bob Damora. Dear friends from an earlier, simpler (for me at least) time.