Friday, November 30, 2007

National Trust for Historic Preservation Highlights Philip Johnson's Endangered Ball House

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

I never got around to linking to two
stories in local New Canaan papers about the public hearing on the application to tear down the Alice Ball House, which Philip Johnson designed. No big deal though because the National Trust for Historic Preservation web journal, Preservation Online, has an article up today that's better than what I would have done on this blog.

alice ball demolition notice 11/8/07

There's more than one issue here but this is one of the key ones:

Although the Connecticut Trust's Web site promotes selling the Ball House, no takers have emerged. Christopher Wigren, Higgins' deputy director and an architectural historian, characterizes this as a case where the home's inherent simplicity may actually work against it.

"People in a position to pay $3 million for a house want more than a galley kitchen," Wigren says. But, he adds, the home is a treasure for the right buyer.

"These houses were not designed to be flashy. It was a conscious simplification of life," he says.

And here's some background:

Earlier this year, the National Trust, in partnership with the New Canaan Historical Society and supported by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, launched a town-wide survey of new Canaan's modern residences, outbuildings and landscapes. Why New Canaan?

"The decision to focus our efforts and resource sin New Canaan was based on the belief that New Canaan has one of the most important collections of modern residences in the United States," wrote National Trust President Richard Moe in a Nov. 14 letter to the chair of the town's historical review commission. "Our work will ensure the placement of those resources based in New Canaan in their proper national and international context and elevate the public's awareness of the importance of them to prevent senseless demolitions."

Another of Johnson's champions, architect Richard Bergman, says the trend toward knocking down older, architecturally significant homes not protected by historic designations is increasing.

"A building lot in New Canaan is worth $2 million from the get-go," Bergman says. He believes the Ball House should be preserved, but that the current owner has priced it so high it will be difficult to find a buyer. "I like the house; I could live in it myself," Bergman says.

Bergman, by the way, lives in a beautiful Greek Revival House near the train station that was the home of Maxwell Perkins, the Scribner's editor who edited Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and others.

Here's the Preservation Online story.

Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House

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