Preservation Promises

Another modernist New Canaan icon gains full historic protections

The Gores House was designed by Landis Gores in 1947. (Zachary Groz/Wikipedia)

A 72-year-old modernist icon in New Canaan, Connecticut, will live on with its original look. Last month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation signed off on a preservation and conservation easement that will protect the Landis and Pamela Gores House from demolition or subdivision forever. 

The residence, burrowed in the hilly landscape of southwestern Connecticut, is the work of architect Landis Gores (1919-1991), one of the “Harvard Five” group of New Canaan architects. Currently owned by the Gores family, the easement requires them and future owners to gain the approval of the National Trust for any planned changes to the house, additional constructions, or alterations to the surrounding landscape. 

Ainslie Gores Gillian, the daughter of Gores, said she considered her family home more satisfying than other houses she visited as a child. “It was as solid as a monument yet it had freedom and grace,” she said in a statement.

“The giant glass walls of the living room felt suspended in space; I could sit warm by the fireplace and watch a snowstorm outside. Out or in, I had expanses for play. And when my sister wed, the house was entertainment space—scores of guests dined on the terrace as I ran to greet Philip Johnson, striding across the meadow, an Andy Warhol array of Marylin Monres dangling under his arm.” 

The picturesque vision of the Gores House still exists today, largely thanks to the family’s commitment to its preservation. In 2002, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But it was long-deemed an architectural marvel well before that—in 1964, the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave Gores an Award of Merit for the project. Even though it was “planned and built more than a decade ago,” they said, “this house has become a classic example of the Wright tradition adapted to the environment of New England.” 

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The Gores House may resemble a landlocked version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, which was built over 10 years earlier, but many have come to see it as a perfect combination of the international-style work done by Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Marcel Breuer. A single-story home with wood framing, the building stretches 130 feet long on a 4-acre landscape. It features a flat roof, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and a stone base in places. In some ways, the Gores House even mimics the Glass House, which Gores worked on with Johnson, and was built around the same time in the late 1940s. 

This isn’t the first time this year that the National Trust has granted a conservation easement to a modernist New Canaan residence. In June, the “design intent” of Noyes II by Eliot Noyes was put under protection by the preservation organization. 

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