Parsons House

Hugh Smallen



Sited on top of a rock ledge forty feet above street level on a three-acre woodland site, the Parsons House is clad and framed in wood and supported by eight exterior thin steel columns set in concrete footings. Architect Hugh Smallen enhanced the parcel's dramatic grade changes in both the siting of the house and its design. Although the footprint of the house is square and its roof is flat, the base of the house is angled to match the grade change of the rock ledge it straddles, resulting in two stories at one end of the house and one story on grade at the opposite side of the house. Stone stairs lead up from the driveway at street level to the entrance of the house.

Unrelieved walls clad in vertical wood siding face the street and the rear of the house. The one-story end of the house is divided into four equal bays that stretch across the full width of the house and contain sliding glass doors and fixed plate glass sash. The ground floor of the two-story façade is divided into four bays centered on the façade. The primary entrance is located in the first bay and has a painted flush panel door and a floor-to-ceiling fixed plate sash. The other three bays have fixed and operable window sash. The second floor is divided into five bays and has horizontal sliding sash windows.


Architect John Black Lee bought twenty acres of land on Chichester Road in the mid-1950s and subdivided the land into six parcels for the development of Modern residences. In September 1955, Erik Simonsen bought an unimproved three-acre parcel from Lee, but never developed the land. In 1959, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Parsons purchased the plot for their dramatically-sited Modern house from Erik Simonsen; Simonsen purchased the Gratwick House (1953, Christ-Janer) that same year. The Parsons House was finished in 1964.

The Parsons House was featured in the May 1967 issue of House & Garden and the New York Times Magazine in July 1965. In 1971, the property was sold to Norman Rowe. Rowe built a separate two-story, two-car garage with a studio and workshop at the base of the hill, designed by John Black Lee. In 1999, the property was transferred to Michael and Ulrike Gavin. In 2006, the property was sold to Michael Formica and Bob Hiemstra.

The house, included on the 1965 Modern House Tour, is significant for its association with Modern architects Hugh Smallen and John Black Lee and for its creative design solutions in plan, massing, and framing. The house retains high integrity at the exterior.

National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.