Talbert House


William G. Jones


1951


Description

The Talbert House is sited on a hilly rock outcropping, allowing for a full-height basement level at either end of the building. The house is heavily fenestrated with glass openings divided by muntins into horizontal panes in groups of twos, threes, or fours. Unlike many of the Modern houses in New Canaan, which feature vertical wood siding, the Talbert House has horizontal tongue-and-groove wood siding. The main part of the house has a shallow gable roof with the primary entrance at the side gable. A narrow wood deck shaded by a wood brise-soleil extends across the front of the building. At one gable end is a wing with a steeply pitched shed roof that stands in sharp contrast to the massing of the rest of the building. At the other gable end is a screened-in porch supported on V-shaped metal piers on concrete footers. This porch was originally open and extended over the basement garage openings, now enclosed as living space.


Significance

The Talbert House was constructed in 1951 for Merrill E. Talbert, an executive with American Houses in New York City, and his wife Annette (Andy), a copy group head at Benton & Bowles Advertising Agency. Their architect, William G. Jones, was the New York architect for American Houses.

According to current owner Allan Mitchell, who was friends with the Talberts and was present during the construction phase, neighbors nicknamed the building "the glass house" during construction. The house was one of the earliest Moderns. Because of the hilly property, which was formerly part of a tree nursery, a notch had to be blasted through the rock outcropping to construct the house. Mitchell remembered the interior as being finished with expensive wallpaper, "[giving] the interior a unique character. Much of the paper had bold colors and designs, including art deco." The basement living space was intended as a mother-in-law's apartment. The house originally had a Sarcotherm heating system. Mitchell remembers the Talberts being very happy with their Modern house: "The choosing of the hard-to-build-on site...the blasting through the ledge...the international style...the upstairs living area reached by exterior wooden stairs...the saving and use of trees...and so many other things indicated a bold willingness to try things new...and to satisfy one's own desires...I remember...[t]heir thrill in this new creation of theirs" (Mitchell, 13 October 2001).

After the Talberts divorced, Annette Talbert sold the house to John P. and Helen M. Winandy in 1964. The Winandys sold it to Catherine S. Kniffen in 1965. Alan J. and Nancy C. Mitchell purchased it from someone named Hahn in 1971. Allan Mitchell is a well-known photographer and has photographed many buildings in New Canaan. Sometime after purchasing the house, the Mitchells converted the basement into a studio, darkroom, and office. The basement originally contained a two-car garage, a bedroom, a den with a fireplace, a bathroom, and a furnace room, pump room, and a storage room. At an unknown date, but likely early in the house's history, the porch at the east end was enclosed as a screened porch, and the original wood stairs, which led to the deck at the southeast corner of the house, were removed and replaced with the current marble stairs and brick walkway.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.