Category Archives: Preservation

Peabody Project Progressing

A view of the Central Gallery from the new addition to historic Yale Peabody Museum. (credit: Centerbrook Architects)

Our extensive Yale Peabody Museum of Natural history renewal project has recently received approval from both the New Haven Board of Alders and the City Planning Commission. As part of the municipal approval process, a number of new renderings were made public for the first time.

Among these renderings are two images of the Central Gallery, the first interior views to be released. The Central Gallery is the centerpiece of the project’s new construction, a four-story infill addition between the Peabody Museum and neighboring Environmental Science Center.

Also included in this image update are six new exterior views featuring landscape designs by James Corner Field Operations, whose portfolio includes award-winning projects like the High Line in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Domino Park.

The multi-year project is currently targeted to commence construction in March 2020. More information can be found in this detailed update from the Yale Daily News.

New Life for Urban Trees

Elm Bench, Bradley Airport

Just up river from Centerbrook, in Haddam, a new company has emerged devoted to giving dearly departed timber a new life by artfully transforming it into fine furniture. These expressive pieces evoke the life form from whence they came. Having used locally sourced wood in many of its projects, often from trees cleared from a building site or sustainably harvested on a client’s land, Centerbrook has a natural affinity for these two intrepid entrepreneurs, who launched their business in the teeth of the recession.

To Zeb and Ted Esselstyn, brothers and partners in City Bench, trees represent more than raw material. They view them as important strands in the web of life. For example, a venerable maple that presided over the lawn of the Ivoryton Playhouse is sorely missed. Beneath its protective boughs generations of aspiring actors (Katharine Hepburn among them) learned their lines. Nonetheless, when it died it was destined to join America’s burgeoning waste stream – that is until Ted and Zeb rode to the rescue. Continue reading New Life for Urban Trees

On the Trail of Le Corbusier

Villa Savoy, Poissy, near Paris, 1931: Le Corbusier’s iconic house incorporates his five points, pilotis, ribbon windows, flat roof garden, planar curtain walls, and free plan.

Like many architects of a certain age, I am sitting on a slide collection of innumerable images gleaned from many trips to architectural shrines and lesser destinations. I recently began to digitize some of these so I could more easily share them with colleagues and remind myself of old lessons. In the process I also learned some new ones. Continue reading On the Trail of Le Corbusier

The Model of Loveliness (video)

In the clip above, Master Model Maker Patrick McCauley explains his process for planking the deck of Aphrodite.

Long and sleek, well accessorized, and built for speed, she is the center of attention wherever she goes. Her torpedo stern allows her to maintain a horizontal posture in the water even at speeds of 40 knots. She draws a dainty four feet.

The Aphrodite, a 74-foot, twin-engine waterborne missile, was christened in 1937 by financier John Hay “Jock” Whitney to commute from Long Island to Wall Street faster than his brother-in-law could make the trip. He boarded Aphrodite in his pajamas and 45 minutes later disembarked in lower Manhattan showered, shaved, and dressed to the nines.

Whitney’s nautical (and nice) guests included the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Shirley Temple, and Tallulah Bankhead. After Pearl Harbor, he loaned his yacht to the U.S. Coast Guard, which used the lovely lady to ferry President Franklin D. Roosevelt up the Hudson River to Hyde Park.

Aphrodite at the Ocean House. Photo: Derek Hayn

Continue reading The Model of Loveliness (video)

A Preservationist’s View of the Ocean House

The Ocean House, constructed in stages between 1867 and the early 20th century, was a key landmark in the Watch Hill Historic District and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was one of seven resort hotels plus guesthouses and private cottages that made Watch Hill a popular and premier summer destination a century ago.  While the Ocean House building was in dire need of improvements, it was one of the last of the great Victorian seaside resorts in Rhode Island.  It retained its historic appearance on the exterior, and the public lounges and dining rooms on the first floor still kept the real architectural quality of seaside hotels of a past era.

Public controversy erupted in 2004 when plans were announced to sell the historic hotel to an out-of-town developer who would demolish it and build a number of luxury homes on the site.  In response, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission worked with preservationists, Town Planner Bill Hasse, and the Westerly Town Council to create an “Oceanfront Historic Hotels” ordinance to try to protect the landmark hotel and to preserve the historic character of Watch Hill. Continue reading A Preservationist’s View of the Ocean House

Ocean House, To Save It We Had to Destroy It

More than half a dozen grand hotels once graced the Watch Hill peninsula on the western shore of Rhode Island, but a decade ago only one remained, Ocean House, an aging and ailing wooden behemoth whose top floors had been condemned for years.  Odds were increasing that this iconic landmark, its era long past, would soon vanish like the rest.

By 2003, bumper stickers around Watch Hill implored “Save Ocean House.”  The 1868 renowned, resort, ocean front hotel, where the silent movie “American Aristocracy” starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. was filmed, had just closed for good.  Its future was manifestly uncertain.  If Ocean House was torn down, could a litter of McMansions be far behind? Continue reading Ocean House, To Save It We Had to Destroy It