Roles House


Victor Christ-Janer


1953


Description

The Roles House has been significantly altered at both the interior and exterior.

As built, the one-story (plus full basement), symmetrical, brick-clad Roles House had white painted wood trim and a flat roof. Floor-to-ceiling fixed plate glass windows and sliding windows were symmetrically and strategically arranged to bring natural light into the load-bearing masonry structure.

Two one-car garages flanked the primary entrance. The entry hall had flagstone pavers and a reflecting pool. The entry space opened up to a flagstone-paved indoor terrace, which was separated from the adjacent living space by a curtain. Rolling storage partition walls were strategically placed in living, dining, and family rooms to create more intimate settings. The exterior materials were brought inside, with the fireplace and select interior walls finished with brickwork.

The plan, arranged on a rectangular footprint, was designed to have a central utility core with living spaces at the perimeter. The kitchen, bathroom, mechanical equipment, and staircase down to the basement level were located at the core of the house, freeing the perimeter spaces, with their window walls, for living and sleeping. Daylight was introduced to the utility areas through skylights and a raised roof area above the kitchen containing clerestory windows. Bedrooms were lined up along the back wall of the house.

In the 1980s, the Perkins family extensively remodeled and altered both the interior and exterior of the house. Major alterations include wholesale demolition of the primary entrance, entry lobby, and fish pond at the front of the house, partitioning the open living area into smaller rooms, and demolition of the sliding partition walls. Several windows and doors were also replaced at this time. A family room addition with a fireplace was built at the side of the house.


Significance

The Roles House was designed by Victor Christ-Janer for Robert Roles, his wife, and their two children. Roles was a prolific builder and developer of Modern houses in New Canaan and often partnered with Christ-Janer; he also acted as builder for his own house. The Roles House was completed in 1953. The house was intended to be a model home for a speculative development proposed by Roles and Christ-Janer for a 150-acre parcel on Frogtown Road between Weed Street and Ponus Ridge Road known as Frogtown Terrace. Frogtown Terrace does not appear to have been developed.

Christ-Janer's plan for the house clustered utility spaces at the core of the rectangular footprint and moved living and sleeping uses to the perimeter to take advantage of the natural light from the window walls. An interior terrace with a reflecting pool and rolling partition storage walls were also character-defining features for this highly individualistic house. The Roles House was one of six houses shown on the 1953 Modern House Tour.

The 1950s property street card for the Roles House was not available at the New Canaan Historical Society, so early alterations and ownership changes are unknown. In 1966, George W. Peck IV bought the parcel. In 1984, Maurice and Sara Perkins purchased the house. The Perkins family remodeled the house as described above, significantly altering its character and integrity. The Roles House is still owned by the Perkins family.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.