Boissonas House


Philip Johnson


1956


Description

Field survey was not conducted on this house.


Significance

The Boissonas House was designed by Philip Johnson for Eric Boissonas and his family. Boissonas was a geophysicist and an executive at a French engineering firm based in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Eric H. Boissonas et. ux. acquired the property in 1954. The house was completed in 1956. The contractor for the project was E.W. Howell, Co. and the structural engineer was the Eipel Engineering Company. The landscape was apparently designed by Johnson. Johnson later said the Boissonas House was his favorite and his best house (Metropolitan Home, March-April 2001).

The original house, located on a 33.3-acre lot, was designed as a series of pavilions constructed of steel, brick, and glass. The house plan was zoned into three areas: a bedroom wing containing four bedrooms, three full baths, and a half-bath; a service wing containing the kitchen, two maid's rooms, and a bath; and a social wing containing the living room and dining room. All three wings were joined by an entry foyer. In the basement were the laundry room, playroom, a half-bath, storage rooms, utility space, and a 3-car garage. The two-story living room contained an organ and was designed as an "acoustical chamber" with the organ pipes hidden in the floor (New York Times, 23 June 1957).

The Boissonas House was included in the 1957 and 1967 Modern House tours in New Canaan and featured in the September 1959 issue of Architectural Forum. In the article, the house was described as "deriv[ing] from the rigid components of checkerboard, square bay, and pier. The checkerboard, eight units across by five units deep, was marked off on an artificial earth terrace overlooking a landscape of woods and water. Once the 16 ft. squares were established, the composition grew into three dimensions by enclosing some of the rectangular building bays as rooms and leaving others open as outdoor space. The rectangular piers, two bricks wide and four bricks long are columns when seen head-on and slabs when viewed from the side. As columns they mark points in space; as slabs they direct the eye from the entrance to the rear terraces in accordance with the plan" (Architectural Forum, September 1959).

In 1960, the Boissonas family sold the house to the Logan Road Realty Corp. and moved to France, where Johnson had designed another house for them. John F. Hennessy Jr. acquired the property in 1963. The 33.3-acre parcel was subdivided at some point, likely by the Logan Road Realty Corp., leaving the house with a 8-acre lot. In 1969, a swimming pool was installed. In 1971, William S. and Ann T. Gilbreath purchased the property, which was then sold to interior designer Jay Spectre in 1983 with four acres of land. After Spectre's death, the house remained vacant for about three years. In 1994, the property was sold to Bill Matassoni and Pamela Valentine. Matassoni and Valentine restored the deteriorating house and made some alterations, including replacing the plate glass with insulated glass, rebuilding the roofs, and updating the systems.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.