Latham House


Richard Bergmann


1968


Description

The Latham House is located on a secluded lot and sited at the top of a hill that slopes sharply down at the rear to a pond. The house is dominated by its deeply overhanging, steeply pitched hipped roofs terminating in shed-roofed light scoops formed by two opposing pitched roof planes that do not intersect but were originally connected by a vertical pane of glass; the glazing in the light scoops has been removed and shingled over. The house is finished in natural materials like vertical wood siding, brick veneer at the basement, and wood shingles on the roof. A knoll with cutstone retaining walls at the driveway supports a wood bridge with stone footers that leads to the upper floor of the house. Cantilevered decks extend from the front and rear of the house. The rear of the house, which faces the pond, has large window walls fitted with fixed and casement sash. The Latham House typifies the later period of Modernism in New Canaan when the International Style began to give way to designs evoking more traditional elements.


Significance

The Latham House was designed by architect Richard Bergmann for the Latham family. Ernest B. Latham II worked for Greeff Fabrics in Port Chester, NY, and became vice president of sales in 1974. His wife Chaillie owned a business called Quail Hill Designs with Susan Carney. The Lathams had four children.

Ernest B. and Chaillie W. Latham purchased property overlooking the Noroton River in 1967 after spending a great deal of time looking for an appropriate site with the architect (Bergmann, 1 November 2007). According to Bergmann, the Latham House was his first commission and the first house he ever designed. The Bergmanns had been renting a house from the Lathams, and Ernest Latham asked if he would design a house for him in exchange for ownership of the rental house. Bergmann agreed, but had to resign his job with Eliot Noyes' firm since moonlighting wasn't allowed, but Noyes was supportive and began sending Bergmann commissions that he didn't have time to work on.

According to Bergmann, after finding a site and determining the program for the house, the client gave him a fair amount of freedom. Bergmann left the rugged landscape untouched. He designed the house as two joined pavilions, using natural materials including brick and cedar. Light was an important factor, and "light scoops" were included on the roofs to bring light into the house at different times of day. Bergmann described the house as "a contemporary style with steeply pitched roofs. I went to school in the International Style, but I never liked flat roofs on houses. The roof sits like a hat on a house." (Ross, 2003, 15) The house was designed to accommodate four growing children. The youngest children had bedrooms at the upper floor with a bridge to a hill on the driveway (which served as a fire escape), while the older children were in the lower level with a separate entrance down to the river.

The Latham House was designed in 1967 and finished in 1968 for $125,000. The structural engineer on the project was Arne Thune Associates and the primary contractor was Theron Thurston of Danbury.

In 1981, Ian Zwicker acquired the house. In 1983, a portion of the site was sold off, and Bela J. Garet became owner of the house. In 1984, a permit was filed for interior alterations, which were completed in 1985. In 1985, Donald S. and Jean N. Lamm acquired the property. In 1995, Darryl Neider became owner of the property. In 2005, David G. Scannell, Trustee, purchased the property. The original wood shakes on the roof were replaced with wood shingles in 2007. Scannell hired Richard Bergmann to design an addition to the house, which will be constructed in 2007-2008.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.