High Point Road — where I grew up — was a street of 70 nice homes. Colonials, Capes, split-levels, custom-designed houses — all melded together in a handsome streetscape.
Unfortunately, there were 71 houses on the road.
The 71st — even more unfortunately, it was #6, meaning everyone drove past it every day — was hideous.
Imagine my surprise to see it featured in the Westport Historical Society’s Little Gallery, as part of the current exhibit “Westport Modern: When Cool Was Hot!”
The show pays homage to mid-20th century modern architecture. There are photos galore, of Westport and Weston homes designed by Mies van der Rohe and Paul Rudolph, and local architects like Larry Michaels and Joseph Salerno, along with tons of informative text.
Opening day last Sunday was packed. Perhaps it was the novelty of a historical society shining a light on Modernist architecture — or maybe Westporters wanted to show their enthusiasm for a piece of town that is fast disappearing.
The Modernist movement’s record is mixed. It gave us beautiful buildings like Victor Lundy’s Unitarian Church (below), which stood the test of time
and his less-than-celebrated Hillspoint Elementary School, which — with its decibel-producing gym in the center of the building, and windows that fell into classrooms soon after it opened — did not.
The Historical Society exhibit is comprehensive, educational and fascinating — all that something like this should be. It even includes original examples of mid-20th century furniture, which made me think I’d wandered onto the set of “Mad Men.”
But back to that Victor Civkin house on High Point.
A Russian refugee, he designed 900 projects independently — residences, stores, theaters, synagogues, office buildings, restaurants, community centers — and hundreds more for GE, including the 1939 World’s Fair GE Pavilions, FDR’s White House kitchens, and futuristic model homes.
The guy was no slouch.
But that house on High Point was not one of his high points. I know a family that rented there for a year and — I am not kidding — said they were so embarrassed by it, they never wanted anyone to visit.
Anyone who reads “06880” knows I deplore the Westport hobby of knocking down normal-sized homes, to build houses on steroids.
Yet no one cheered louder than I when the house at #6 High Point went to that great dumpster in the sky.
Until this week I had no idea the architect was so revered, he’d have his own Little Gallery at the Historical Society show.
As the great mid-20th century modernist Lawrence Welk might have said, “There’s no accounting for taste.”