Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Canaan's Modern Houses and the National Register of Historic Places

[Read 'Modern,' our new blog about mid-century modern houses, here.]

The people who want to put New Canaan's modern houses on the National Register of Historic Places
(which I wrote about last Friday) say they've already been in touch with more than 80 homeowners and that, so far, the reaction has been good.

The project seems to be a collaboration among the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, the New Canaan Historical Society and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (which owns and operates Philip Johnson's Glass House). And there's an advisory committee of John Johansen, John Black Lee, Toshiko Mori, Theo Prudon and Robert A.M. Stern. (Johansen is the only survivor of the Harvard Five architects (Johnson, Breuer, Noyes and Gores were the others); John Black Lee designed a number of New Canaan moderns, including one of my favorites, on Chichester Road, which Toshiko Mori, the chair of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, re-did a few years back (Lee also supervised the construction of my in-laws' house in Pound Ridge, although he didn't design it); Stern is the dean of the Yale School of Architecture; I don't know who Theo Prudon is, although I probably should).

Here's the idea behind the project, from the Glass House website:

The knowledge gained from this project is not only intended to shed light on the individual importance of this community in its greater influence outside of CT, but it is intended to inform other Modernist communities across the United States that wish to embark on similar studies. The recognition of mid-century Modern homes and their role as an asset within real estate investment is growing, however the formal recognition of this architecture is still necessary for a proactive approach to preservation. The thematic National Register Nomination of a number of these homes will serve this purpose.

I haven't heard about any modern houses in New Canaan being razed lately, which not long ago was a huge problem. I'm sure there are still threats, and I think the town government itself still takes a hands-off attitude about it, as if tear-downs were merely a function of the free market when in fact, with all the zoning regulations in New Canaan and elsewhere, real estate and development are almost completely under government control and tear-downs could be regulated too if the town thought it important enough.

Listing on the National Register in itself won't prevent tear downs. But it will be one more way to put encourage owners to preserve modern houses and, with any luck, discourage the spec developers from buying them and tearing them down. I think it's a terrific and very ambitious idea.

Which prompts this thought: while the list is being prepared for the National Register, someone ought to come up with a complementary list of developers who buy and tear down modern houses. Maybe they'd be less willing to do it if we make their names known (like this guy, in Westport).

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Blogger Bob del Grosso said...

If you are blogging as a means of developing interest in your world view and sell books, it is not a great idea to disallow any type of comment, anonymous or otherwise.

Comments, even "dumb" comments, encourage dialog. And if readers come to see your blog as a place to communicate with you and others, they will keep coming back, which means your blogs gets more hits, rises in the ranking engines (e.g. Technorati) and importance in the blogoshpere.

Between comments at my blog ( and the blog where I guest-post ( with Tony Bourdain, I've had >1K comments to consider, and you can bet your laptop that more than a few have been off-topic drivel and vulgar diatribes against whatever. But unless someone threatens me or someone else with violence (hasn't happened yet) I always let them stand. Tony and Michael (Ruhlman) take the same approach.

And consider this: If you disallow anonymous commenting and someone wants to write something dumb or threatening, they can respond by using a pseudonym and a fake or untraceable email address (e.g. Hushmail). The worst of this type will use a proxy server so you cannot recognize and trace their real IP address.

A lot of the old rules of social ettiqutte don't work very well here. It is generally true that if someone uses their real name they will tend to be more polite. Trouble is, they might use their real name once then come back again as someone else and ruin your day.

My final word of advice (and I promise this will be it) is to never post any personal stuff that you don't want some crank to comment on. With exception of a single post at, wherein I wrote about the eating habits of my son, I've never felt comfortable revealing much of anything about my family simply bec. I do not want to have to suffer reading what some lunatic thinks of anyone I love.

Good luck with the blog! Funny how I found it. My newsfeeder turned it out as news from Pound Ridge.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Tom Andersen said...

Thanks for the advice. I'm satisfied that the comment policy is working the way I want it to. I accept some anonymous comments and reject almost no comments of any kind but reserve the right to not allow people to mouth off unless I know who they are. Since they know who I am, it's a fair deal.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Bob del Grosso said...

Seems like a reasonable policy following your explanation. Sorry if my comment is out of context. I thought I was posting it under the "Policy on..." header.
Best, bdG

9:59 AM  

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