Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House, New Canaan, Ct.

A place to catalog, review, and discuss specific Mid Century Modern locations across the world, both past and present.

Moderators: Joe, moderns-r-us, Futura Girl, nichols, Java

Tom Andersen
Modern Groupie
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:06 pm
Location: Pound Ridge, NY
Contact:

Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House, New Canaan, Ct.

Postby Tom Andersen » Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:35 pm

Name: Alice Ball House
Architect: Philip Johnson
Year: 1953

Oenoke Ridge Road
New Canaan, Ct.
U.S.

This house is owned by an architect named Cristina Ross who has applied to the town for a demolition permit. The 90-day waiting period mandated by town law expires on or about Feb. 1, 2008. New Canaan has lost a lot of classic modern houses but this would be the frist Johnson house to go.

More on our blog: http://www.modernhousenotes.blogspot.com/

Image

User avatar
rockland
Mondo Lounge Lizard
Posts: 1504
Joined: Sun Dec 24, 2006 8:45 am
Location: wesley hills,NY

Postby rockland » Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:40 pm

thanks for posting Tom.
i'll keep your blog handy. nice to see another new yorker around L.L.

User avatar
Tony
Lotta Living Host
Lotta Living Host
Posts: 718
Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2002 3:42 pm
Location: The Desert
Contact:

Postby Tony » Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:52 pm

HI tom,

And welcome to Lotta Living!

I really wish architecture schools would teach some respect for the past. It's rather shocking for an architect to want to demolish this sort of house.

Nice blog site by the way!

Tony
Tony Merchell

Architectural Photographer
www.glassandsteel.com

User avatar
jessesgirl
Modern Socialite
Posts: 86
Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 10:17 pm
Location: NYC

Postby jessesgirl » Sat Jan 12, 2008 6:03 pm

Welcome to LL, Tom!

I posted about this house a month ago http://www.lottaliving.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=11007 thanks for the reminder about the deadline coming up...

It's really a shame that this could likely be torn down (by another architect, yet!). With all the modern art and architecture lovers in and around NYC, you would think somehow this could be saved... I for one would rather have this place versus a Warhol silkscreen painting of a Campbell's soup can for $3M.

Nice blog, esp. that article about preservation and conservation easements!

User avatar
rockland
Mondo Lounge Lizard
Posts: 1504
Joined: Sun Dec 24, 2006 8:45 am
Location: wesley hills,NY

Postby rockland » Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:19 pm

this did have a bit of press a few months ago...
should get some more obviously.
i'll do some poking...
(if i win the lottery, i'll take the soup can, but only after saving some threatened architecture)
...note to self, play the lottery.

User avatar
jessesgirl
Modern Socialite
Posts: 86
Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 10:17 pm
Location: NYC

Alice Ball House demolition delay to expire

Postby jessesgirl » Fri Jan 25, 2008 6:37 pm

Latest Update from the New Canaan Advertiser

Jan 25, 2008
Alice Ball House demolition delay to expire
By Kimberly Nevas

By next week, the wrecking ball will have at least twice swung closer to the Alice Ball house. But New Canaanites needn’t be reaching for hardhats just yet.

On Tuesday, January 29, the Historical Review Committee’s 90-day hold on the demolition of the house at 523 Oenoke Ridge will expire.

The end of the delay period follows the January 9 release of the house’s owner, Cristina Ross, from a lien issued by the Town last June to collect $7,712.27 in unpaid property tax.

If the lien were to have remained in place after the delay period had ended, it would have further prevented Ms. Ross from obtaining a permit to demolish the 54-year-old house. According to Chief Building Official Brian Platz, the Building Department cannot honor an application filed by an applicant who owes back taxes.

Last November, Ms. Ross told the Advertiser that she would refuse to pay the tax until she felt the Town was treating her fairly.

Still unresolved is a separate mechanic’s lien. Filed in March, 2006, it claims $55,459.32 against the property for non-payment of services rendered, as well as interest and legal costs. Mechanic’s liens, however, do not have the same power to block demolition as municipal liens, Town Attorney Christoper Jarboe said.

Although this month’s developments help pave the way for the wrecking crew, Ms. Ross’ application still requires several documents before it can be acted upon.

In a call to the Advertiser Wednesday, Mr. Platz said he had not received notice that utilities had been disconnected; an asbestos manifest; verification that oil tanks have been removed, nor any demolition contractor’s certificate and insurance information.


While Ms. Ross’s submission of these elements are “routine, not insurmountable steps,â€￾ Mr. Jarboe said, he added, “It’s not coming down next week.â€￾

Administrative reviews by the Inland Wetlands and Health departments of the site’s erosion and sediment controls, as well as its lead and asbestos situation must take place, Mr. Platz and Mr. Jarboe said.

Advocates of preserving the New Canaan landmark and Ms. Ross have traded emotionally tinged barbs since at least November 1, when Ms. Ross filed to demolish the house.

Her move followed the Environmental Commission’s unanimous rejection, in April, 2006, of her vision for the Alice Ball property. Ms. Ross, who is an architect, had planned to convert the structure into a poolhouse, dig a pool and build a 7,200-square-foot, six-bedroom house with a four-car garage. All were brought to a halt by the commission’s ruling that the project would result in an unacceptable amount of impervious surface.

She told the Advertiser at the time that the she felt the decision meant that no other homeowner could do anything reasonable with the property, which she said she has extensively renovated.

Using New Canaan’s demolition delay ordinance — which allows a single objection to temporarily block the razing of structures that are at least 50 years old and deemed of historical, architectural or cultural value — architectural preservationists were able to stall the issuance of Ms. Ross’ demolition permit.

Passed in 2006, the ordinance’s intent is to allow more time to find a buyer willing to preserve an older structure, or at least salvage or document historical artifacts.

Ms. Ross, who purchased the three-bedroom, three-bath house for $1.5 million in 2005, put the house up for sale several months ago. It has remained on the market, listed for $3,099,000.

Ms. Ross declined to comment for this story.

User avatar
jessesgirl
Modern Socialite
Posts: 86
Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 10:17 pm
Location: NYC

Postby jessesgirl » Tue Jan 29, 2008 1:04 pm

From today's Arch Record
http://archrecord.construction.com/news ... lhouse.asp

Wrecking Ball to Swing on Johnson’s Ball House?
January 29, 2008

By Diana Lind

Philip Johnson was perhaps the most famous of the Harvard Five and the only one of these noted mid-century Modernists whose entire residential oeuvre remains standing. That might soon change. The New Canaan Historical Review Committee’s demolition delay on his 1953 Alice Ball House, in New Canaan, Connecticut, expires today.

But hold the wrecking ball—the house could be saved if someone is willing to buy it. Located on Oenoke Road, one of New Canaan’s ritziest streets, the 1,700-square-foot residence is being offered at $3.1 million and sits just two doors down from another Modern house, designed by Edward Durrell Stone, also recently restored and on the market.

The current owner, Cristina Ross, bought the property in 2005 intending to use it as a pool house accompanying a new larger, main residence—reportedly encompassing some 7,000 to 15,000 square feet—she was hoping build on the 2.2-acre lot. After the New Canaan Wetlands Commission denied her plans in 2006, Ross acquired the right to demolish the Ball residence. But Prudy Parris, the Sotheby’s broker for the property, says that Ross is now anxious to find a buyer who will preserve it. “The house is a work of art and needs someone who will appreciate it as such,â€￾ Parris says.

Given the resounding success of the Glass House’s public opening last summer—tours of Johnson’s compound are sold out almost a year in advance—and the increasingly mainstream appreciation of Modern architecture, the uncertain future of the Ball house surprises many observers. But Johnson scholar Hilary Lewis points out that other trends are at work.

“We’ve seen a resurgence of interest in Modern design, but there’s been a change in people’s attitude toward size,â€￾ Lewis explains. “Johnson’s houses are part of what makes New Canaan special, but they require a different kind of living. Philip [Johnson] was proof positive that you can live comfortably in less than 2,000 square feet.â€￾

Size may indeed be part of the problem. The Alice Ball House has been on the market for six months, and while Parris notes that in the New Canaan market many houses take that long to sell, most buyers in the area are looking for “a five-bedroom Colonial.â€￾ With two bedrooms and tile floors, though, the Ball House isn’t exactly family friendly.

According to Stover Jenkins, the author of The Houses of Philip Johnson, Johnson’s design for Alice Ball, a single woman in the conservative 1950s, was influenced by Mies Van der Rohe’s unbuilt Resor House. It features 10-foot ceilings, glass-enclosed living areas, and private bedroom and service areas.

“It’s a very rationalist house,â€￾ Jenkins says, adding that that its massing and siting give the composition the feeling of a romantic garden villa. “It’s not one of Johnson’s masterpieces, but it’s part of a collection of houses he designed in New Canaan. That collection is unique. When you start demolishing parts of a group, it’s like taking apart a community.â€￾

Not everyone shares this view. “We shouldn’t preserve these houses in amber,â€￾ says William Earls, AIA, author of The Harvard Five in New Canaan. “What’s more important is the spirit in which they were built. They’re an inspiration point for what should happen now. What are we doing now [architecturally] that people will be interested in fifty years?â€￾

Not much, preservationists contend. If the house were demolished, they say, most likely it would be replaced by a McMansion—cheap enough to compensate for the exorbitant price of the property and large enough to accommodate today’s families’ need for space. While such a house might be more financially practical, Lewis foresees the emotional downside of destroying the work of a Pritzker Prize winner. “I have no doubt that if and when we lose the Alice Ball House, people are going to feel a great sense of loss and ask, ‘Wow, why did we do that?’

Tom Andersen
Modern Groupie
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:06 pm
Location: Pound Ridge, NY
Contact:

Alice Ball House

Postby Tom Andersen » Sun Feb 03, 2008 4:37 am

Over the last year I've occasionally exchanged emails with the owner of the Alice Ball House, Cristina Ross. I asked her last week if she'd be willing to talk to me about her plans for the house and to give me her perspective on the controversy over it (I'm not completely unsympathetic to her plight, by the way). We're going to meet on Tuesday morning, and I'll have a report on our blog, probably on Wednesday morning: http://www.modernhousenotes.blogspot.com/

User avatar
rockland
Mondo Lounge Lizard
Posts: 1504
Joined: Sun Dec 24, 2006 8:45 am
Location: wesley hills,NY

Postby rockland » Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:57 pm

i understand a small part of this Tom. as you know more, it is an odd sale, price double for careful renovation.?
but then destroy it? it is confusing for outsiders, and odd so public that even i, if i ran into a Cristina Ross i would
scold her for her insensitivity to historical gems. could you live in a community that knows this? and a much wider
world that is following this?
being familiar with that closed world, she surrounds herself with support, i still see an eventual recourse.
sell it for what you paid for it.
move on.
or save it and build your palace behind it. hidden. and 6 ft back?. 7,000 sq ft is an odd show-off and silly. but not necessary
to wreck a gem.
maybe with her friends support she will live with her own fabulous design. but we will always see it as a horrible loss.
does she really think that she will build something noteworthy? is that the driving ego behind this?...

User avatar
ch
Special Secret Modern Agent
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Oct 02, 2002 8:31 am
Location: CT

Postby ch » Mon Feb 04, 2008 3:55 am

Couldn't agree more, Rockland. Well put in, in your haiku-like way.

I have been in the house and it's not what anyone would call a sensitive renovation. The roof is a mess, there is a new bathroom tacked on which juts out of the front facade, stucco is falling off, a "wine cellar" built with quality of an Ikea display and the original landscape lights battered and lying about, to name a few. Given the nature and amount of work done and the current real estate situation there is simply no way to justify the asking price - hence the house sits unsold.

This is simply a case of sour grapes. The architect/developer cannot have her way and is now attempting to strong arm the town. Rockland is right - the easiest solution is to set a reasonable price, sell and move on. And while you're talking to her, ask her what she thinks is the best use of the Glass House down the road? I'd be curious as to how many Mansions she thinks she could squeeze onto THAT property?

User avatar
classic form
Special Secret Modern Agent
Posts: 731
Joined: Mon Oct 25, 2004 7:23 am
Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.

Postby classic form » Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:56 pm

I don't even want to talk about it.

Tom Andersen
Modern Groupie
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:06 pm
Location: Pound Ridge, NY
Contact:

Alice Ball House

Postby Tom Andersen » Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:30 am

We had a long talk yesterday with the owner of the Alice Ball House. I wrote about it on our blog: http://modernhousenotes.blogspot.com/

Feel free to let us know what you think.

User avatar
rockland
Mondo Lounge Lizard
Posts: 1504
Joined: Sun Dec 24, 2006 8:45 am
Location: wesley hills,NY

Postby rockland » Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:11 pm

thanks Tom.
i'm not surprised with the outcome of the conversation.
publicity brings out the worst in both really.
no one wins? just a stink to be in.
one has to wonder if this all took place under the radar 5-10 years ago?
the house would be gone. remembered in pictures. move ahead, and those that care try once
again to make a similar situation noteworthy.
at least in this case, we still have hope...

User avatar
modernvintage
Modern Socialite
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2003 3:44 pm
Location: Long Beach, Bixby Knolls, CA
Contact:

Postby modernvintage » Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:22 am

There is an add to sell this house in the back of the new Modernism magazine.

DW


Return to “FAVORITE BUILDINGS (and signs)”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests