Lee House 2


John Black Lee


1956


Description

Lee House 2 is a rectilinear one-story house with a flat roof and a veranda that wraps around the house. The roof extends beyond the plane of the walls to cover the veranda and is supported by columns at the outside perimeter of the veranda. At the center of the house, the roof is raised above rectangular clerestory windows. The plan and fa?ades of the house are largely symmetrical. The house is currently clad in vertical wood siding and characterized by extensive glass walls. The house was originally clad in 5'x 8' and 3/4'-thick ping-pong tables painted white.

In 2006, a storm felled a large tree on the property, which crashed through the roof of the house. The damage to the house was substantial. The owners of the house decided to use the damage from the storm as the impetus to redesign the landscape and house itself. Many of the tall pine trees surrounding the house, which is set on a terrace in the center of an irregular-shaped and sloping site, were cleared away to open the house to the rolling landscape beyond its glass walls. The plan of the house was redesigned. The original open kitchen was removed, leaving the central portion of the house a wide-open space set between two window walls. One of the four bedrooms (originally located at each corner of the house) was converted to open space. A new glass pavilion with a large kitchen, formal dining room, and master bedroom suite will be built to the designs of architect Kengo Kuma. The addition will be connected to the house by a glass-walled corridor extending from one side of the house.


Significance

Lee House 2 was designed by John Black Lee for his family after they had outgrown their first house on Laurel Road. Lee acquired the lot in 1955 (transferred to John Black and Clara S. Lee in 1974) and the house was completed in 1956. This lot was part of the twenty acres on Chichester Road that Lee and Hugh Smallen had purchased in 1954 to be subdivided into six parcels with the provision that the new houses built on the lots were of Modern design. Lee chose a low, flat site for his house because it provided a different challenge than the site of Lee House 1 (Brooks, Fairfield County, n.d.). The house was built by Ernest Rau. The landscape was designed by Paschall Campbell, who lived in the Campbell House designed by John Johansen (1952, largely demolished and rebuilt as the Goldberg House). Lee House 2 had a rectangular footprint with a veranda extending around the perimeter of the house. The upper roof extended over the veranda and was supported on wood columns. The plan of the house was very symmetrical. In the center of the house was the living space, including the entry, the living/dining room, and the kitchen, all of which were open to each other. A clerestory window provided additional light to the living space. Two bedrooms and a bath were on each side of the house: one side contained the children's bedrooms, and the other side contained the master bedroom and guestroom/study. The bathrooms were lit by skylights. Sliding glass doors provided access to the veranda from each room. The basement contained a playroom. In an article in New York Times Magazine, Lee said he placed the family living space in the center of the house because "my wife, three children and I like being together most of the time" (New York Times Magazine, 3 November 1957, 82-83). The house was featured in several publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Architectural Record, Better Homes and Gardens, and House & Home. According to the article in Architectural Record, the exterior siding of the wood-frame house was formed of ping-pong table tops painted white (Architectural Record, November 1957, 152-166). In 1959, Lee House 2 won an award of merit from the American Institute of Architects. The house was included in the 1963 Modern House Tour in New Canaan. In 1990, Susan L. and L. Eric Pollish acquired the property. The Pollishes hired architect Toshiko Mori to renovate the house and design a new studio/garage building. The renovations included raising the roof by 18 inches, thereby creating a larger clerestory window; replacing the rotting wood columns with T-shaped sandblasted stainless-steel posts; replacing the sliding doors and large plate glass fixed sash with stainless-steel pivoted doors and stainless-steel insulated fixed sash; replacing the skylights; extending the width of the bedroom windows; and updating the baths and kitchen. The original aluminum sliding doors were reused in a new freestanding glass-and-steel pavilion containing a studio, bath, and two-car garage. The renovations were completed in 1992. In 2004, Thomas Phifer and Partners designed a new family room for the basement, accessed through a stair in the main floor. Currently, the house is undergoing extensive renovations, as outlined above.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.