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New Canaan’s Gores Pavilion receives Merit Award from CT Trust for Historic Preservation

April 22, 2013

On April 4, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation held its annual event to recognize outstanding preservation projects and the people behind them. This year’s awards include a wonderful mid-century Modern site, the Gores Pavilion, in New Canaan, CT, designed by Harvard Five architect Landis Gores in 1959. 

The award was shared by all who participated in saving and restoring the Pavilion: Friends of the Gores Pavilion, a local group organized to lead and fundraise for the project; the New Canaan Historical Society, which coordinated the project; William D. Earls, AIA, project architect for the restoration; and the Town of New Canaan. 

The Pavilion building was originally a pool house built for the Irwin family estate. It was dedicated in 1960 at a grand surprise party arranged by Philip Johnson in honor of its architect, Landis Gores. Guests including Marcel Breuer, Eliot Noyes, Paul Rudolph, Edward Larrabee Barnes, I.M. Pei and other leading mid-century architects.

In 2005, the Town of New Canaan purchased the 36-acre Irwin estate for use as a park. The pool house, in disrepair, was slated for demolition. Friends of the Gores Pavilion organized and after getting the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places convinced the Town to lease the building to the New Canaan Historical Society. The Friends of the Gores Pavilion and the Historical Society raised more than $75,000 to match a Connecticut Department of Culture & Tourism Historic Restoration Fund grant. This funded a two-year restoration led by William Earls, architect and author of The Harvard Five In New Canaan.

The main entertaining space—the tall, glass enclosed central volume—was fully restored and contains original furnishings along with two custom sofas designed by local design legend Jens Risom. The wings flanking the central space originally housed bathrooms, changing rooms and bedrooms and were repurposed as gallery spaces.

The Gores Pavilion now serves as a museum and cultural center highlighting the legacy of New Canaan’s Modern architects and architecture. It offers exhibit and meeting space for artists, students and town residents. It is also a symbol of the New Canaan Historical Society’s commitment to raising awareness of and protecting the Town’s extensive Modern heritage.

The Pavilion is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., or by appointment; call 203-966-1776. Admission is free to Society members and $5 for non-members. Closed during winter months.

For further information contact the New Canaan Historical Society

L to R, Bill Earls, project architect; Janet Lindstrom, Executive Director, New Canaan Historical Society; Helen Higgins, Executive Director, CT Trust for Historic Preservation and Tom Nissley, representing Friends of the Gores Pavilion.
The Gores Pavilion, originally Irwin Pool House, 1959-1960; restored 2011, New Canaan, CT.
Gores Pavilion interior with furniture design by Jens Risom .