23 January 2012

Edward Durell Stone's Houses in the Suburbs

We’re interested enough in Edward Durell Stone to borrow the new book about him, by his son, Hicks Stone, from the library and to flip through it, which I started to do last evening, although speaking for myself I’m probably not interested enough to read it all. Stone was a big architect who designed major buildings all over the world, and I’m much more parochial. I’m interested in his houses and, in particular, those that are near where we live.
Stone was a celebrity. His picture was on the cover of Time magazine in 1958, and his divorce from his second wife was on the cover of the Daily News in 1966 (“BEAUTY SETTLES FOR A MILLION. Mexican Divorce Splits Stones”). His major works, like the Museum of Modern Art, made him a presence in New York City but he’s also a presence here in the northern suburbs as well.
The Celanese House, from 1959, is easily visible to anyone driving along Oenoke Ridge Road in New Canaan. He designed a similar house in North Salem, New York, for the grandfather of a friend of Gina’s and which, coincidentally I happened to visit 15 years ago when a subsequent owner was auctioning off all his possessions.
His Mandel House, up the road from the train station in Bedford Hills, New York, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s at the end of a long driveway and not visible from the road; about five years ago, when it was empty and on the market, I drove up and snapped the picture above.
It seems as if Stone designed seven houses in Westchester County (and at least one that he designed but was not built). Here’s what Hicks Stone wrote (page 55):
Stone’s work on the Mandel House led to another residential commission in Mount Kisco, for Ulrich and Elizabeth Kowalski. This house was more in keeping with the tenets of the International Style curvilinear element of the Mandel House was replaced by a more subdued curvilinear volume containing a spiral stairway that was faced with glass block. There relationship of the rooms and common area suggests an emphasis on functionality and the spare use of interior space. The influence of Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat House, which Stone may have seen when he visited Brno, Czechoslovakia, on his Rotch scholarship, was evident in the volumetric massing, fenestration, and detailing of the home, particularly that of the rear facade. Apparently the town was upset by the work, and Stone remarked that local zoning regulations were instituted as a result of the house to prevent architecture of the sort from reoccurring.
Both the Mandel House and the Kowalski House are listed as being in Mount Kisco, but neither actually is. They are in parts of adjacent towns that are (or were) served by the Mount Kisco post office and therefore have a Mount Kisco address. The Mandel House is in the Town of Bedford; the Kowalski House is in the Town of New Castle (the same town as Bill and Hilary, and Andrew Cuomo). So it must have been New Castle that changed its zoning rules to prevent modern architecture from reoccurring (although that story sounds apocryphal to me).
Here are his other Westchester houses:
1947. Seymour Kimmel House, Larchmont (although this Triangle Modernist Houses website says it might be in New Rochelle, under the same post office principle that the Mandel and Kowalski houses are in Mount Kisco).
1948. Robert L. Popper House, White Plains (razed and replaced by five houses).
          William S. Rayburn House, White Plains
1949. David Stech House, Armonk.
1959. Carlo Paterno House, North Salem
Stone also had a hand in the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, which I didn’t know, and, in 1946, designed the Rhinebeck Central School in partnership with Moore and Hutchins, the architects who designed our house, but I don’t think it ever got built.
Hicks Stone’s book, by the way, is called Edward Durell Stone: A son’s untold story of a legendary architect. It’s published by Rizzoli and is well worth spending a couple of hours with. Hicks Stone was on the Leonard Lopate radio show in December; you can find a recording of the interview here. -- TA

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