New Canaan Update: Victor Christ-Janer House
September 27, 2012
A second hearing on the pending demolition of the Victor Christ-Janer house in New Canaan was held September 20. A new 90-day demolition delay was granted by the town’s Historical Review Committee, firmly setting the window of opportunity for saving the house at November 29.
Victor Christ-Janer was part of the early group of young architects who departed architecture school well versed in the tenets of Modern architecture and chose New Canaan as a place to test the waters. Designing over a dozen houses, and numerous commercial buildings, Christ-Janer contributed immeasurably to making New Canaan the exceptional enclave of Modern architecture that it is. The house he built for his family at 77 Frogtown Road was perfectly sited, spatially and visually Modern to its core and according to his daughter’s testimony “a living laboratory filled with creative energy.”
The current owner of the property is Lindsay Warren, whose company LTW Builders, Inc. specializes in large new home construction. Warren has agreed to hold off on pre-demolition asbestos abatement of the roof and to allow people access to the property to document the house during the delay period (after requesting permission). Janet Lindstrom, director of the New Canaan Historical Society, said the society makes it a practice to document important houses facing demolition and she is in the process of beginning documentation of the Christ-Janer house.
In late summer the town’s zoning board quietly approved Warren’s request to subdivide the property and he is moving ahead with construction of a new house on half of the approximately five-acre original lot. Warren says he is willing to resell the remaining portion of the parcel with the Christ-Janer house intact. Reports differ on selling price, from around $2 million—more than what he paid for the entire parcel—to $3.8 million, which is what Warren says he could get from a new single-family home on the lot.
The Christ-Janer House is not on the National Register of Historic Places, even though 18 other Modern Houses in New Canaan were added via a multiple-property listing initiated in 2008, which coincided with Christ-Janer’s death at age 92. Without National Register status there is no legal action that can be taken to delay or stop the demolition. (Connecticut’s Environmental Protection Act includes a provision for petitioning for a permanent injunction to halt demolition if a property is listed on the National Register.) The Christ-Janer family did not request inclusion in the nomination or place any preservation restrictions on the deed before selling the house. Christ-Janer’s two daughters are now working with local preservationists in hopes of finding a second chance to preserve the house.
Saving the Christ-Janer house means finding a buyer before November 29. Make your calls and send your emails. Anyone interested in purchasing the house should contact the current owner directly (Lindsay Warren, LTW Builders, Inc., 1191 Smith Ridge Rd, New Canaan, CT 06840, 203-644-2018). http://www.ltwbuildersinc.com
How did we get here?
The New Canaan Preservation Alliance is hosting a presentation this Sunday to help answer that question. Noted author and architectural historian Rachel Carley will give a talk on the development of New Canaan’s center village from 18th-century farmlands to the Modern architecture mecca.
“Growing Pains: New Canaan Village and the Suburban Dream”
Sunday September 30, 4:00pm
New Canaan Public Library, Lamb Room
151 Main Street
Free. Please call (203) 966-4617 for reservations