Leuthold House


Allan Gelbin


1966


Description

The Leuthold House is set on a gently sloping site with an extensive open lawn area at the front of the house. A large curving pond sits at the front of the house with a curved swimming pool set above it in a raised terrace. Large contemporary sculptures are placed throughout the landscape. Terraces paved in quarry tile face the pond and lawn area; the lawn area contains an outdoor kitchen. A utilitarian storage shed, which does not appear to have been designed by architect Allan Gelbin, is set away from the house and partially hidden by trees. The Leuthold House is defined by an irregular plan and curving walls, in contrast to Gelbin's Murphy House in New Canaan, which features angles as a motif. The Leuthold House consists of a main house connected to a guesthouse by a breezeway with an attached carport. The flat-roofed structures are finished in stucco with mahogany trim, doors, and windows. The flat roofs are placed at different heights to create intersecting planes. Some of the fixed windows have mitered corners and rest directly on the quarry tile paving, which continues from the interior to the exterior terraces, blurring the line between interior and exterior spaces. The window sash itself is not curved, but the casings that run parallel to the soffit are curved to follow the line of the wall. The breezeway between the house and guesthouse has quarry tile paving and openings cut into the flat roof to allow trees to grow through the roofline. The carport roof is supported on heavy concrete tapered piers at one end, then cantilevers deeply and is detailed with exposed mahogany beams. The guesthouse is also detailed with exposed mahogany beams that extend beyond the face of the building.


Significance

The Leuthold House was designed by Allan Gelbin for the Leuthold family. The engineer on the project was C. Foti, and the builder was Walter Smith of Wilton. In 1964, Adolph Leuthold purchased the property. At that time, according to the assessor records, the lot contained a bath house and a tennis court (considered to have little to no value), and three artificial pools measuring 6'x10', 60'x15', and 105'x30'. According to architect Allan Gelbin: "The original 5 acre site contained a large pond and a host of magnificent old trees, oak, maple, birch, etc. The house was created to wrap around the pond facing south and turn it's [sic.] back to the north. A combination of circles, parts of ellipses and rectangles blend together harmoniously to form an entirely original sense and flow of space. The various site levels are used to obtain changes in floor elevation. Upon entering one views a beautiful interior pool which was originally on the site and built around, spring and run-off water fed. Large, beautiful lawns carpet the floors beneath the stately trees. Mr. Leuthold did much of the original landscaping, if not all of it" (Gelbin, August 1978).

A building permit for a new house was filed on June 9, 1965 and the house was completed in 1966. Gelbin later described the construction details of the house: "Main walls are of cement block, insulated, stuccoed and of wood stud, stuccoed inside and out. The floor is a slab laid over with Swedish dark brown tile. Cantilevers are of wood and steel frame, roofs flat of tar and gravel. The wood fascia, often curved, is of solid mahogany and all trim throughout of mahogany. Much furniture is built in throughout. Walls and ceilings are mainly of sheetrock, textured, painted. All lighting integral. Doors and windows are custom wood, plate glass. Heating and air-conditioning are from perimeter ducts beneath floor" (Gelbin, August 1978). The main floor of the house was designed to contain a living room, master suite (bedroom, dressing room, and bath), study, dining room, workspace, playroom, powder room and laundry, and utility room. The upper floor contained four children's bedrooms, a maid's room, and three baths. The property also had a three-car carport, a guest house, and a work studio and tool shed.

The Leuthold House was included in the 1967 Modern House Tour in New Canaan. At that time, Gelbin was quoted as saying: "Owner and architect were determined to create an atmosphere free of past, imitative, cliche-ridden forms" (County, May 1967, 17). The Leuthold House became very significant to architect Allan Gelbin, who later wrote, "[n]o study of my work is complete without this project. It was my first opportunity to be able to use a little imagination. My opportunities were great as my budget was limited" (unattributed clipping in "Gelbin, Allan, Leufhold House," Modern house file in collection of the New Canaan Historical Society),

In 1977, Joseph and Jeanne Spielman purchased the house. A storage building was added to the property in that same year. In 1982, a small addition to the studio in the guesthouse was constructed. In 1997, Lionel N. Sterling, Trustee, became owner of the property.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.