The National Trust for Historic Preservation / The Glass House Announce the Restoration of the Historic Brick House
THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION / THE GLASS HOUSE ANNOUNCES THE RESTORATION OF THE HISTORIC BRICK HOUSE, REOPENING AN ICONIC MODERNIST LANDMARK AFTER BEING CLOSED FOR 15 YEARS
The comprehensive $1.8 million restoration plan, developed by National Trust Graham Gund Architect Mark Stoner, AIA, and executed by Hobbs, Inc., general contractor, will be completed in time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Glass House in 2024
NEW CANAAN, Conn. (November 15, 2023) – The Glass House, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announces the complete restoration of the historic Brick House (1949) designed by Philip Johnson. Completed just months before the Glass House, the Brick House was an integral part of the architect’s original plan for the site, offering two essential halves to a single composition. Closed to the public since 2008 due to ongoing damage from water infiltration, it has left half of the property’s core architectural story untold. The National Trust has secured $1.8 million to restore, renovate, and conserve the Brick House and its collections. Restoring the Glass House campus to its full glory as a National Historic Landmark will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Glass House in 2024.
The Brick House, aka the “Guest House,” is an essential foil to the glass pavilion it faces. Clad in iron spot brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern, the structures are linked by a grassy court and offer a lesson in contrasts. The Brick House served as both a guest house and a retreat for Johnson and his partner, David Whitney until they died in 2005. Given the vital role of the Brick House in the site’s composition and social history, it is one of the most important and central assets of the 49-acre historic site. Restoration of this building will significantly expand the site’s interpretation and programming, allowing it to engage new visitors and preserve and advance understanding of 20th-century architecture and LGBTQ cultural heritage.
“We are incredibly excited to embark on this project and finally be able to introduce visitors to such an integral part of the Glass House story. Launching this major restoration now, as we reach the 75th anniversary of the Glass House’s construction, is a testament to our commitment as stewards of this National Trust Historic Site. We look forward to using the Brick House as a catalyst for more projects ahead – both future restorations of our buildings, landscape, and collections and as inspiration for new site-specific artistic commissions in the future,” says Kirsten Reoch, the Glass House’s new executive director.
Predicated on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s idea for a “courthouse” that surrounds a central court, Johnson’s home splits the two wings apart: one opaque and private, the other transparent and exposed. Although both structures are 56 feet long, the 900-square-foot rectangular Brick House is only half as deep as the Glass House. Their fundamental connection is underscored by the fact that the Brick House contains the mechanical equipment for both buildings and is connected by underground pipes and wiring necessary to support the Glass House. Philip Johnson spent his first night on the property in the Brick House.
As a guest house, the Brick House accommodated prominent overnight visitors, including Phyllis Lambert and Andy Warhol. But beginning in the 1950s, the house was primarily used by Johnson and Whitney as a retreat from the exposure of the Glass House, affording Johnson the privacy to relax and the freedom to modify the interior décor in a way the Glass House rarely provided. Originally, the Brick House contained three rooms of equal size, each with a porthole window. In 1953, two rooms were combined into a single large bedroom with an adjoining reading room and bath. This interior was opulent and luxurious with low, sleek, white vaults decorating the bedroom based on the breakfast room of the Sir John Soane House in London (completed in 1824) and harbingers of the elements later found in Johnson’s design of the 1954-56 Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Port Chester, New York, and the 1964 New York State Theater (now David H. Koch Theater) at Lincoln Center. The walls were covered in a patterned cotton fabric designed by Fortuny. The Clouds of Magellan, 1953, a sculpture by Ibram Lassaw, hung prominently on the wall above the bed, where dimmer switches (a novelty at the time) were placed to control indirect lighting, further enhancing the spare yet exotic sleeping area. Works collected by Johnson and Whitney hung in the corridor connecting the reading room, which held Johnson’s personal library of philosophy, history, art history, and fiction books. In addition, the privacy of the Brick House allowed for creature comforts such as air conditioning, television, and, for a period, a sauna.
Restoring and reopening the Brick House has long been the museum’s greatest preservation priority. Built at the base of a slope, the building has been susceptible to water infiltration since its conception. And, with failures of the flat roof and skylights, the building damage has been extensive. Despite temporary protection measures, the interior has experienced deterioration of plaster, mold growth, and rusting mechanical systems. However, all objects and furnishings have been preserved and stored safely off-site until restoration commences. The project will be a complete interior and exterior restoration, which includes improvements to site drainage, exterior masonry and metal cleaning and restoration, replacement of the roof and skylights, restoration of interior plaster and finishes, restoration of the building’s three distinctive porthole windows and entrance door, full replacement and upgrade of the mechanical and electrical systems serving both the Brick House and Glass House, and the conservation and reinstallation of artwork, furniture, and books.
Beginning in 2022, National Trust for Historic Preservation Graham Gund Architect Mark Stoner, AIA utilized extensive conservation studies and surveys completed by Li – Saltzman Architects, PC in 2010 to develop a thorough architectural restoration and mechanical renovation plan for the Brick House. In addition to Mr. Stoner, the project design team includes Landtech Consultants (Civil Engineering), Altieri Sebor Wieber (MEP Engineering), and RSE Associates (Structural Engineering). Hobbs, Inc., has been chosen as the general contractor for the project. Fortuny, the source for the bedroom’s fabric wallcoverings, has generously donated the production of the same fabric to replace the water-damaged original. Edward Fields Carpet Makers, who worked with Johnson on the original 1953 bedroom carpet, will generously provide replacement carpets.
Approximately 13,000 people visit the Glass House each year, and reopening the Brick House is critical to providing visitors with a complete experience of the Glass House campus. This project is scheduled to be completed and unveiled in April 2024 at the opening of the annual season of tours, art installations, and public programs. 2024 is also the 75th anniversary of the Glass House and the Brick House, completed in 1949, and this marked year will host a series of special events, featured artists, and exhibitions. Opening the Brick House provides new and exciting avenues for the Glass House site to expand its interpretation, continue to preserve and advance an understanding of LGBTQ heritage, and deepen its impact on new and diverse communities.
The Glass House, built between 1949 and 1995 by architect Philip Johnson, is a National Trust for Historic Preservation site in New Canaan, CT. The pastoral 49-acre landscape comprises fourteen structures, including the Glass House (1949), and features a permanent collection of 20th-century paintings and sculptures, along with temporary exhibitions. The campus serves as a catalyst for the preservation and interpretation of modern architecture, landscape, and art and a canvas for inspiration and experimentation. The tour season runs from mid-April through mid-December, and reservations are required.
Hobbs, Inc. Brothers Scott and Ian Hobbs are committed to honoring Hobbs’ heritage of integrity, quality, and customer service. Hobbs, Inc. has maintained the highest standards in building custom homes for nearly seventy years. Hobbs’ approach for the Brick House Restoration is to join forces with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Glass House teams to learn what is most important to them about this project, to analyze the site, and to work with them together to deliver the best results for this legacy project for present and future generations. Ted Hobbs, who founded the company in 1954, and Mike Hobbs, who ran the company for 25 years, constructed many modern houses designed by the Harvard Five in New Canaan and surrounding areas during their careers. Over the last 25 years, Hobbs, Inc. has been involved with the historic restoration of numerous architecturally significant residences in Fairfield County, Westchester County, and the Hamptons. They also recently completed the restoration of Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, New Jersey.
Fortuny is a world-famous luxury textile design and manufacturing company known for their exquisite and elegant fabrics since 1921. Fortuny fabrics are still produced exclusively in the original factory on the small island of Giudecca in Venice, using the original machinery and methods established by founder and inventor Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) over a century ago. Using proprietary dyes and applications of metallic patterns, the company continues their deep-rooted tradition of art and alchemy to create handcrafted textiles and products that are each a unique work of art.
Edward Fields Carpet Makers is a vanguard of American design that has created heirloom-quality rugs and carpets for almost 90 years. From its inception through the present, the company embodies the essence of a contemporary brand. In the mid-1930s, Edward Fields developed the first multi-directional tufting tool, known as the “Magic-Needle,” which would define the company’s signature hand-tufted quality and forever change carper production. Edward Fields coined the term ‘area rug.’ He pioneered innovative design, collaborating with notable visionaries, including Raymond Loewy, Philip Johnson, Van Day Truex, Marion Dorn, and George Nakashima. In 2005, Edward Fields Carpet Makers joined the House of Tai Ping. In keeping with the brand’s legacy of mid-century modernist aesthetics, Edward Fields Carpet Makers continues collaborating with inspiring creative contemporaries.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places to enrich our future, reimagining historic sites for the 21st century. The guiding principle of this initiative is that historic sites must be dynamic, relevant, and evolving to foster an understanding of history and culture that is critical, sensory, and layered.