Rantoul House


Sherwood, Mills and Smith


1947


Description

Field survey was not conducted on the Rantoul House.


Significance

The Rantoul House was built for Talbot and Claire Rantoul and completed in May 1947 or in 1948. Designed by architects Sherwood, Mills & Smith shortly after their firm was founded in 1946, the house is one of the earliest Modern houses in New Canaan and could be considered the first Modern. (The brochure for the first Modern House tour lists Noyes House 1, generally considered to be the first Modern, as being completed in December 1947; the Rantoul House is listed as being completed in May 1947, although the assessor notes the house was finished in 1948.) Claire Angert Rantoul acquired the property for the house in 1946.

Talbot Rantoul was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts and attended Harvard College. He became an administrative officer at the Harvard Business School in 1967. In 1969, he became president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Claire Angert Rantoul was an artist who had graduated from the Childe Walker Art School in Boston. She later became a trustee of the Silvermine Guild of Artists in New Canaan. The Rantouls had three children (Stamford Advocate, 20 May 1969).

The Rantoul House was included on the first Modern House Tour in New Canaan in May 1949 and featured in a November 1948 article in Progressive Architecture. The Progressive Architecture article shows an L-shaped plan with a large combination living/dining room, a kitchen/laundry room, a master bedroom and bath, a nursery, a baby's room, a nursemaid's room, and a second bath. The baby's and nursemaid's room were separated by a temporary partition to allow conversion to a larger bedroom. The Rantouls praised the efficient layout and easy maintenance of the house, along with the many "gadgets," including the pass-through window between the dining room and kitchen, built-in storage units, and drop-leaf tables. The exterior of the wood-frame house was sheathed in painted striated plywood and local stone with a composition shed roof over plywood sheathing. Fenestration consisted of horizontal sliding wood-sash windows, awning windows, and fixed sash with double glazing. The house had a radiant heating/cooling system in the concrete slab floor. Interior finishes included slate, linoleum, or carpeted floors; wood-fiber acoustical tile ceilings; and two-panel fir doors with striated plywood veneers. The article noted that the house was designed to "spread out to provide desirable southeast exposure for main living rooms...solar principles used in design of fenestration and roof framing" (Progressive Architecture, November 1948, 73-76).

In 1949, a 20'x13' addition containing a new entry, bedroom, and bath was constructed on the east end of the building in place of the terrace. The house had originally been held to 1,500 square feet because of wartime restrictions; the addition was likely part of the original plan. In 1960, according to the assessor, a "small old building 10x12" was acquired for use as a studio. In 1961, a swimming pool was constructed. A flagstone terrace off the north side of the house was also added during this time period. Around 1968, the 2.124-acre lot was subdivided. Although the assessor records for the 1960s are not currently available, other sources indicate that Robert E. Greer acquired the house with 1.124 acres, and Harold D. and Mary Williams acquired the remaining 1 acre, which contained the swimming pool and studio building, in 1969. In 1975, Zachariah and Mary Ellen Allen acquired the house. In 1980, Doris Driver purchased the house. A small addition was constructed in 1987 at the northeast corner of the house; a wood deck at this corner was completed sometime after 1988.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.