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