Irwin Pool House


Landis Gores


1960


Description

The pool house is a wood-frame Palladian structure on a concrete foundation with painted wood siding and slate-clad hipped roofs. The roofs project beyond the planes of the walls to create deep overhangs, which are supported in many locations by cross-shaped columns.

The structure is symmetrical and has a shallow cruciform-shaped plan. On the primary fa?ade, the core is marked by double-height expanses of glass; the flanking wings are more solid, each four bays wide and clad with vertical wood siding. Slender, cross-shaped wood columns divide the bays, and narrow windows at eye level relieve the solid wall surfaces. The secondary facades are more utilitarian. They are clad in wood siding and have painted hollow wood doors that open onto terraces with flagstone pavers. There is a slight grade change, so the west terrace is several feet above grade and the east terrace is at grade. The rear facades of the flanking wings are treated with the same finishes and arrangement as the primary fa?ades. The central portion of the back facade projects beyond the face of the building and has three sliding glass windows with fixed transoms.

The core of the building contains an open double-height space with a living room that is anchored by a fireplace at the center of the room. The living space opens onto a terrace through very tall, rail-and-stile glazed doors. There is a small kitchen at the opposite end and two bathrooms in between the kitchen area and the living area. The core areas are flanked by one-story changing areas with built-in benches.


Significance

Built to the designs of architect Landis Gores as a pool house for Jane Irwin (1915-71) and John N. Irwin II (1913-2000), the Irwin Pool House was completed in 1960.

John Nichol Irwin II was a lawyer who served as the Deputy Secretary of State (1970-73) and the United States Ambassador to France (1973-74). Jane Watson Irwin was the daughter of Thomas J. Watson, the founder of International Business Machine Corporation (IBM).

In 1949, Jeanette K. Watson, wife of Thomas J. Watson, bought an improved parcel of land on Weed Street. The parcel contained a two-and-a-half story single-family residence, built in 1908, a garage and staff quarters, and a pump house. In 1950, the Watson family built a swimming pool. In 1952, they constructed a separate bathhouse (demolished when the Gores-designed pool house was built) and two tennis courts.

In 1957, Jeanette and Thomas Watson transferred the property to their daughter Jane and her husband John N. Irwin II. The Irwins commissioned architect Landis Gores to design a pool house (known as a cabana in the assessor's records) for their estate. Mrs. Irwin was familiar with Gores' design work through his work with IBM and his longstanding relationship with her family.

To celebrate the completion of the pool house, the Watsons surprised Landis Gores with a housewarming party attended by such luminaries as Philip Johnson, Eliot Noyes, Paul Rudolph, I.M. Pei, and Edward Larabee Barnes.

In 2005, the Irwin family sold the estate to the Town of New Canaan for use as a public park.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.