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Midcentury-modern LI homes: demolished and preserved

The now-demolished Sand Box in Bridgehampton was built

The now-demolished Sand Box in Bridgehampton was built in 1933. Credit: Alastair Gordon Collection


The Canvas House, early '30s, Northport

Architect Albert Frey

This so-called "concept house" was an early experiment in using modern materials that were both innovative and inexpensive. It was during the Great Depression, after all. A summer retreat, it was built on stilts of canvas and aluminum, allowing a car to be parked underneath.

Bunshaft Residence, 1963, East Hampton

Architect Gordon Bunshaft

Avante garde for its time, the marble-clad "Travertine House" was willed to the Museum of Modern Art upon the 1994 death of Bunshaft, an architect with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill responsible for "Mad Men"-era skyscrapers. The museum sold it that same year to Martha Stewart without any protective covenants. It was eventually sold and razed in 2005. It was the only house built by Bunshaft, who also resided there.

The Sand Box, 1933 Bridgehampton

Architect Lansing Holden

Heiress Frances Breese Miller grew up in "The Orchard," a Stanford White house reminiscent of a still-standing Southern plantation. But Miller, who possessed a Modernist aesthetic, scandalized Southampton society when she built a tiny flat-roofed abode on the dunes. Even worse for her reputation, she lived there with her inamorato, a Haitian painter.

Holiday House, 1950, Quogue

Architect George Nelson

George Nelson, renowned furniture designer of iconic lamps and benches (familiar to Nickelodeon viewers) finagled Holiday magazine to pay for him to design and build the structure to be published in its pages as a showcase for his designs. No fool, Nelson moved right in.

Elkin House, 1966, Sagaponack

Architect Andrew Geller

A critic called the Elkin House a "train wreck" when it was built. Its architect, Geller (filmmaker Jake Gorst's grandfather) named it "The Reclining Picasso" because of its abstract profile. His wife, Shirley Morris (Gorst's grandmother), called it "The Grasshopper" because it looked as if it was ready to spring. Gorst called it "a mathematical sculpture." Some scholars feel it marked the beginning of Postmodernism. Others disagree. It was demolished sometime in the '90s.



A. Conger Goodyear House, 1938 Old Westbury

Architect Edward Durell Stone

Once called "one of the most important houses built between the two world wars" by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the "International Style" house was designed for Goodyear, the Museum of Modern Art's first president, by an architect who worked on both the Waldorf Astoria and Museum of Modern Art. It was awaiting the wrecking ball in 2001 when the Society to Preserve Long Island Antiquities came to the rescue and was able to get the house listed as a historic landmark. It was purchased in 2007 by interior designer Eric Cohler, who spent his entire savings on its renovation. It sold last year to ardent preservationists.

The Frank House, 1959, Fire Island Pines

Architect Andrew Geller

Built on the highest hill available, the wooden house featured two glass walls, affording both ocean and bay views. When painter Philip Monaghan bought it in 2003, it was in such disrepair that he's convinced anyone else would have razed it. Luckily Monaghan had just read Alistair Gordon's book "Weekend Utopia," which featured pictures of the house in its glory days. He invited Geller, who died last year at 87, to visit. Ironically, the architect advised him to tear it down and start over. "Respectfully, I wanted to restore it," says Monaghan, who took the house down to its studs before rebuilding it. Geller was thrilled when he revisited the house upon its completion.

Pearlroth House, 1958, Westhampton Beach

Architect Andrew Geller

When attorney Jonathan Pearlroth inherited the "Double Diamond" beach house in which he'd spent his childhood vacations from his father, his first thought was to demolish it and replace it with a larger house for his family. Describing it as "an incredibly beautiful geometrically shaped shack," the unheated 600-square-foot home that was "appropriate for the time" just didn't fit his current needs. Preservationists stepped in and a solution was found. Pearlroth is restoring the house while building a 3,200-square-foot house on the lot, which "barely fits." The older house will become a museum.

The Aluminaire, 1931, West Hills

Architects Albert Frey and Lawrence Kocher

The house was originally built on the site of the Allied Arts and Building Products Exhibition at Grand Central Palace in Manhattan to demonstrate how aluminum could be used in construction. After the exhibition, architect Wallace Harrison bought it for $1,000 and moved it to his property in West Hills. When it was threatened with demolition, Frances Campani and Jon Michael Schwarting, a pair of architectural professors at the New York Institute of Technology, disassembled it and moved it piece by piece to the Central Islip campus where their students reassembled it over the course of several years. When the architecture department moved, the house was vandalized to near destruction. The pair recently disassembled it again and are keeping it safe till the opportunity arises to reassemble it again.

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