Tag Archives: Laura Blau

Frazier Forman Peters: A Legacy In Stone

Take even a brief drive around Westport, and you’ll see the signs: Able Construction. Milton. SIR.

They and other builders are redefining our town, with new construction that — in its use of stone — often tries to imitate old.

But they need to go a long way to reach the standards of Frazier Forman Peter.

Frazier Forman Peters

Frazier Forman Peters

Best known as an architect — but also a builder, teacher and writer — Peters was born in 1895 to a New York Episcopalian clergy family. He graduated from Columbia University as a chemical engineer, yet quickly grew disgruntled with the industry,

He came to Westport in 1919, hoping to work the land as a farmer. The rocky soil intrigued him, and he soon found his calling as a designer and builder of stone houses.

Peters’ homes can be found from Virginia to Maine — but most are in Connecticut. Between 1924 and 1936 he designed and built at least 41 stone houses in Westport. His designs are revered for their unique fieldstone wall construction method, as well as their spatial organization and sensitive placement in relation to the natural environment.

Susan Farewell wrote:

Were Frazier Peters to build houses today, he’d be receiving all sorts of accolades for being an architect on the leading edge of environmentally-conscious, energy-efficient, sustainable design and construction.

The thick fieldstone walls (as much as 16 inches) typical of a Peters stone house make them energy-efficient; the stones effectively hold the heat in winter and keep the interiors cools in summer….

Frazier Forman Peters designed and built this house for himself, and his 7 children.

Frazier Forman Peters designed and built this house for himself, and his 7 children.

He segregated rooms by giving each one a separate identity, and through the use of step-downs, varied building materials, and interesting transitions. He was also taken by how beautifully European stone structures aged and compared them to American-built frame houses that “droop and pout if they are not continually groomed and manicured.”

Another important component of Peters’ designs was the marriage of the house and its surroundings. He wrote a great deal about this and was especially enamored with the brooks, hillsides, and woods of Connecticut.

Adam Stolpen — who lives in a Frazier Peters house — adds: “He was our first ‘green architect.’  And he was completely self-taught.

“These are definitely not cookie-cutter McMansions. They are homes meant to be lived in. And each one has a bit of whimsy.”

This Frazier Forman Peters house on Riverview Road features The exterior to the Tudor cottage at 9 River View Road features fieldstone facades, slate roof and copper gutters.

This Frazier Forman Peters house on Riverview Road features fieldstone facades, slate roof and copper gutters.

Peters’ work is revered in Westport. (Though not always: a gorgeous one belonging to the late pianist Natalie Maynard on Charcoal Hill, near several of his others, has been torn down.)

Now the architect lives on in more than his buildings. He’s the subject of a book — Frazier Forman Peters: Westport’s Legacy in Stone — by Laura Blau and Robert A. Weingarten.

She’s Peters’ granddaughter, and a noted Philadelphia architect. He’s the Westport Historical Society‘s house historian.

Frazier Forman Peters bookThe handsome, lovingly designed book includes stories of Peters’ life, descriptions of his building techniques and philosophies, and plenty of photos of his Westport houses.

The interior shots are great, showing double-height rooms with central hearths, balconies and built-in casework.

But the exterior photos are even more compelling. Except for one on Greenbrier Road (demolished in 1997), the authors have found shots of every Westport house Peters was known to build.

From the Old Hill section to Coleytown; from Wilton Road to Compo South; from Longshore to Hillspoint, Frazier Forman Peters’ legacy surrounds us.

You just have to know where to look.

(Frazier Forman Peters: Westport’s Legacy in Stone is available at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880, or by mail at that address [$25 plus $5 shipping per copy]. Click on the WHS website for more information.)

 

Frazier Peters’ Houses

Adam Stolpen has a thing for Frazier Forman Peters houses.

As a child he lived in a South Compo Road home designed by Peters, arguably Westport’s most famous architect.

Today he lives in another Peters house on Spring Hill Road.  Neighboring homes are also Peters-built.

Adam Stolpen's Frazier Peters house. (Photo by Douglas Healey/The New York Times)

This Saturday (April 24), Stolpen will host Laura Blau.  Peters’ granddaughter — and an architect in her own right — she and Stolpen will ride around Westport, looking at the handsome stone homes created in the 1920s and ’30s by her grandfather.

Her visit comes at a propitious time.  The Westport Historical Society is considering a 2011 exhibit devoted to Peters.  Under the direction of Bob Weingarten, the WHS is also identifying Westport homes designed and built by the legendary architect.

They’ve found 25 so far.  Ten more are being investigated.  They’re on the lookout for others.

Though Weingarten will be away when Blau visits, she’ll have a full itinerary.  And she’ll enjoy seeing — first hand — the mark her grandfather made on Westport.

Writer Susan Farewell wrote about Peters:

Were Frazier Peters to build houses today, he’d be receiving all sorts of accolades for being an architect on the leading edge of environmentally-conscious, energy-efficient, sustainable design and construction.

The thick fieldstone walls (as much as 16 inches) typical of a Peters stone house make them energy-efficient; the stones effectively hold the heat in winter and keep the interiors cools in summer….

He segregated rooms by giving each one a separate identity, and through the use of step-downs, varied building materials, and interesting transitions. He was also taken by how beautifully European stone structures aged and compared them to American-built frame houses that “droop and pout if they are not continually groomed and manicured.”

Another important component of Peters’ designs was the marriage of the house and its surroundings. He wrote a great deal about this and was especially enamored with the brooks, hillsides, and woods of Connecticut.

Stolpen has a copy of Peters’ final — and unpublished — book.  Decades ago, the architect wrote about urban planning.  “He was our first ‘green architect,'” Stolpen says.  “And he was completely self-taught.

“These are definitely not cookie-cutter McMansions.  They are homes meant to be lived in.  And each one has a bit of whimsy.”

The rear of Adam Stolpen's house. (Photo by Douglas Healey/The New York Times)

Blau — who co-founded BluPath Design, a Philadelphia firm specializing in environmentally sensitive spaces — has been to Westport before.  Stolpen drove her around.

“We just looked at the homes,” she recalls.  “One or two people were in their yards.  We introduced ourselves, and chatted.”  For the 1st time she understood the depth, breadth and impact of her grandfather’s work.

This weekend, she hopes to get inside more properties.  She also plans to meet WHS volunteers who are considering next year’s Peter’s exhibit.

Blau, her husband and son will stay in Stolpen’s guest house.  Of course it’s a Frazier Peters structure — built elegantly to house masons, as they worked on other Peters homes that still stand proudly, all around town.

(If you think you live in a Frazier Peters house — and the WHS does not know about it — email Bob Weingarten: rwmailbox@aol.com.  If you’d like Blau and Stolpen to see your house when she is in town, call Stolpen at 203-227-8758.)