Ackerman House


Victor Christ-Janer


1975


Description

The Ackerman House is set on a hill overlooking a valley, allowing for a full-height basement at its rear fa?ade. As with many of Christ-Janer's houses from this time period, he essentially takes the form of a traditional New England house and manipulates it by experimenting with different roof planes. The Ackerman House features his typical right-angle dormers (essentially shed-roofed dormers turned at a 90-degree angle so that the dormer windows face the gable end of the building, reminiscent of a sawtooth roof); this design device is also used at Christ-Janer's Grant House (1981) and the Branch House (1979). The right-angle dormers are intended to act as clerestory windows, bringing light into the interior of the building. At the Ackerman House, the dormers give a geometric appearance to the fa?ade and break up the symmetricality of the house. Other notable features include wood clapboard siding, large picture windows with small rectangular sublights, deep overhangs, the use of brick veneer at the basement, and the intersecting geometric planes between the house and the garage.


Significance

The Ackerman House was constructed in 1975 for Don E. and Joan M. Ackerman. The Ackermans began planning their house by 1974 and acquired the property in the spring of 1975. A set of handwritten notes written by one of the Ackermans indicates that they were considering both Victor Christ-Janer and John Black Lee to design their house. In a document that compares the two, Christ-Janer is described as having a superior reputation, being cost conscious, charging a lower fee, fast, and poetry-oriented, while John Black Lee was described as having a good reputation, being less cost conscious, charging a higher fee, slow, and engineering-oriented. Both were considered to be creative. In other comparisons, it was noted that Christ-Janer delegated details, was maybe difficult to communicate with, and had designed fewer houses, while Lee worked on both the concept and details, had designed more houses, was easy to communicate with, and had a compatible philosophy with the owners.

Ultimately, the Ackermans chose Christ-Janer. In a second set of notes on a meeting with the architect, Christ-Janer apparently said that architects were going through a depression which had compelled him to return to house design. He wasn't "wedded to any specific style" but would not design a Colonial house because he didn't know how. Christ-Janer suggested using Lee Construction or Borglum & Meek as contractors. Ackerman described Christ-Janer as an "honest & open man, enthusiastic about designing exciting things" ("Meeting with Victor Crist Janner [sic]," handwritten notes dated 22 July 1974, in Modern house file in collection of the New Canaan Historical Society).

In 1986, the property was purchased by Don Ackerman. Guy S. and Margaret M. Brossy purchased the house in 1998 and undertook significant interior and some exterior renovations. The renovations were intended to make the house more "traditional" and less Modern. The exterior renovations included the removal of a huge two-story stained-glass window, painting the brown exterior walls and red brick veneer a grey color, replacing the exterior flush doors with Colonial-style paneled doors, replacing most of the wood casement windows with aluminum casements, and replacing the exterior lighting fixtures. The wrought iron railings on the exterior stairs are also likely replacements. The current flagstone pavers may not be original, since the original specifications called for brick paving, but this could have been a change made during the construction phase.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.