Friday, March 23, 2007

Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House: Renovated and on the Market for $3 Million

[Read 'Modern,' our new Modern House blog, here.]

Of the four houses Philip Johnson designed in New Canaan, I’ve been in two, both during the New Canaan Historical Society’s Modern House Day in 2004 – the Boissonas House, which isn’t visible from the road, and the Alice Ball House, which is. It’s small – a cottage really – and a sort of off-white, muted yellowish color. You can find it on Oenoeke Ridge Road, which has become almost a monoculture of gargantuan houses that, like invasive species, have replaced older and more modest (though still large) houses. The Alice Ball House is opposite Hemlock Hill Road and a couple of houses down from Edward Durrell Stone’s Celanese House, which is being renovated.

I had been told (and I wrote on this blog a couple of times; you can find my Modern house posts on the lower right) that the Alice Ball House was owned by an architect who was converting it into a pool house that would be part of a larger property (with a larger house behind it) and that she was planning to build a wall for privacy between the road and the house Johnson designed. [Noon update: These minutes from the New Canaan zoning board indicate that as recently as a year ago the idea was still to turn it into a pool house.]

If that was ever the plan, it has changed. The owner-architect, Cristina Ross, has renovated and updated the house and has put it on the market. If you have $3 million and want a Modern trophy, it can be yours.

Christina sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that it was for sale and directing me to Pruddy Parris, the agent who is selling it (the listing, here, includes some good pictures). Here’s what Pruddy Parris told me:

The Alice Ball House by Philip Johnson is one of his favorites. He built his Glass House a couple of years prior and brought ideas from it to the Alice Ball House. This is his "little jewel.” … There are stone terraces, stone walls, a walled courtyard with its 'secret garden' on 2+ acres.

It has been completely restored leaving the original intact, and completely renovated where owners added on. There are new roofs, new electric wiring, new plumbing, new heating-humidifying system, new master bath, new guestroom and bath, new landscaping and driveway, interior all painted, newly finished lower level, and the exterior will be painted when weather improves.

New Canaan, of course, has become as well known as a place that tolerates the destruction of Modern houses as it is as a center of Modern houses. I don’t think any Johnson houses have been destroyed in New Canaan but houses by Breuer, Noyes, Johansen and others have fallen to make way for neo-colonial McMansions. But maybe times are changing. Cristina Ross wrote to me:

I am very proud to have saved and restored this house. We are looking for one great person who will treasure it.

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Blogger Tamara said...

How awesome.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Mr. Paper said...

Update. The house is still on the market. Cristina Ross has written a letter to the Glass House team (and copied Town Hall) saying, basically, "you had your chance to save this house and you did nothing". While she is not specific in the letter, it would appear she is moving forward with her plans to build on the site.

Christy Maclear, the Director of the Glass House has responded by saying, "we urge you to use your considerable skills and talent to develop a compatible design for new construction that preserves the integrity of the Alice Ball House and respects the scale and character of the site. We have full confidence in your ability to achieve these design goals and we are pleased to offer the resources of our respective organizations to assist you throughout this process."

She then asks Cristina Ross to consider the following actions:
1. grant a preservation easement on the Alice Ball House to remove the threat of demolition and ensure the preservation of the property
2. Offer the Alice Ball House for asale at a fair market price.
3. Secure a new site for the construction of your new home.

It sounds like the preservation of the Alice Ball House is by no means assured.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmm..speaking as someone who has followed this saga far too closely, I recommend you check the New Canaan Advertiser's excellent coverage of Alice Ball over the last several months. A read-through will give you a fuller, more accurate perspective.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous house and lot for sale philippines said...

Amazing! The place so great!

Deirdre G

9:19 PM  

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