In the past few decades, overdevelopment throughout New England has erased some of the region's most inspired Modernist homes. Towns like New Canaan, Connecticut, and Lincoln, Massachusetts, are architectural hotbeds thanks to the Harvard Five, a group of Harvard graduate architecture students and professors that settled there in the 1940's. But more recently, homes by Modern titans like Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius are being razed for subdivisions and McMansions.
Enter Historic New England, the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the nation. It was founded in 1910 to preserve and present the cultural and architectural heritage of New England. They recently started a Stewardship Program so owners of significant historic houses (from any time period, from the 17th century to 1960s) can protect their property through preservation easements. There are currently 81 properties protected, three of them dating from the modern movement, including the Marcel Breuer-designed Robeck House in New Canaan. Easements obtained through Historic New England’s Stewardship Program can prevent insensitive alterations, neglect, or demolition of these houses perpetually, even if they transfer ownership. Curious to hear more about the program, I contacted Jess Phelps, Team Leader for Historic Preservation at Historic New England. Here's what he had to say.
February 12, 2012