Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Modernist Hideaway

Growing up in a Philip Johnson jewel



Robert Gregson

Tucked away and rarely seen by the public is a prime example of mid-century modernist architecture. It is the Booth House, named for its original owners, and designed by modernist architect Philip Johnson, one of his earliest commissions and the first one to be built. This Bedford home even predates his own famous Glass House in New Canaan.

Johnson was part of the Harvard Five, a group of architects that settled in New Canaan in the 1940s, and included John M. Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, and Eliot Noyes. All were influenced by Walter Gropius, a leader in the Bauhaus movement and the head of the architecture program at Harvard. Coming out of the war, there was a need for affordable housing for the middle class, and the group adopted the European concept that new architecture should be available for the masses and not be simply an elitist proposition.
Richard and Olga Booth, who lived and worked in Manhattan, wanted a weekend house that was both practical and open to the forest surrounding their land. Coming up the steep driveway, one arrives face to face with their vision—a glass and concrete structure set on a hill amid a natural backdrop—an example of Johnson’s ability to marry a building with the environment. In 1955, the Booths rented it to Robert and Sirkka Damora, who eventually bought it and are still its owners.

The original plans called for two structures. The larger main house measures 20 feet by 72.8 feet, a long rectangular block encompassing an open living space with floor-to-ceiling glass exposure. A smaller guesthouse, 14.8 feet by 20 feet, was designed to sit at the corner, diagonally across from the center of the main house. However, the guesthouse was never completed. “It was a typical situation between architect and client,” Damora’s son, Matthew, related. “The budget was modest—about $14,000—but the Booths were getting tight on money and Johnson was getting frustrated. The kitchen and bathroom were never finished properly; they had been placed, but the owners bought their own fixtures, which horrified Johnson.”

The Damoras were the perfect couple for the Booth House. Robert, who died in 2009, was not only a prize-winning architect, but he was considered the best architectural photographer in this country. His wife Sirkka, also an architect, worked with her husband for some 60 years. Originally, the Damoras wanted to build their own modern house. “But Bob’s architectural career was taking off and we were very busy,” Sirkka said. “We hadn’t found a suitable site, and once we settled in, we didn’t want to move. Over time, we made adjustments to it as well as to ourselves.”

One of the changes was to tear down the dilapidated garage at the end of the driveway, which Booth had constructed himself. The Damoras replaced it with a studio for Bob’s photography, of the same materials used for the main house. It is a space that can be converted easily to a garage.

Over the years, the Damoras had two children, Matthew and Jesa. Once they became a family of four in a house built for two, there were certain adjustments to be made. “Having grown up in the Bronx, my dad didn’t think it peculiar for my sister and me to share a room as kids, or to have to pass through our room to get to the kitchen,” Matt commented. “When we became teenagers, he began turning the basement into our space, including his and her bathrooms with a central shower between.”

In a town like Bedford, the Booth House is as much of an anomaly today as it was 50 years ago. “This is the only family home I’ve ever known. As a kid, other people’s houses looked weird to me. We had this great open space at home and they had all these little rooms, with decorative moldings and felt much more confining.” Matt said. Now, after so many years, the Damoras are leaving their beloved home. “I think the thing I’ll miss most,” Sirkka said, “is the intimacy with nature. You look out these magnificent windows and there is something going on all the time. You really can appreciate the change of seasons.”

It takes a certain sensibility to live in a modern house, where the public space is one open area and the bedrooms are small and utilitarian. When most people today are adding on enormous bedroom suites and media rooms, the Damoras have treasured the genius of Philip Johnson. “Now that we are selling the house, I realize that it is a piece of real estate, but it’s also a piece of art and needs to be treated as such,” said Matt.

But the Damora legacy won’t end with the selling of their home. During his career, Bob Damora photographed some of the most important buildings in 20th-century architecture. The family will be working to preserve his enormous photography archives and to publish a book of his work.

Web Bonus: Watch Charlie Rose interview Philip Johnson.

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

              

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Catch the Vibe Newsletter

Weekend activities and events in the area
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Mis En Place

Cooking at home with Jean-Georges Vongerichten

On the Edge

Ten years ago, John Docherty discovered his personal Shangri-la when he was looking to relocate from White Plains. The Bedford property he found, known as Quarry Lake, was simply magical to him.

Presidential Aspirations

With Chelsea now married and their own financial condition solid, the Clintons are likely moving into this 20-acre, $10-million estate in the heart of Bedford horse country—for, if nothing else, more privacy and some very nice neighbors.

Better With Age

DPD Builders transforms a village gem

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

December 2016

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Lasting Impressions,” a group show of colorful prints by leading contemporary artists Ross Bleckner, Jim Dine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Only yesterday, it seems, one was hard-pressed to name more than a handful of successful women artists; now the list would be extensive, and the choices rich and varied. Although numerous recent...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit examines the 19th-century origins of this traditionally African-American congregation, as well as Antioch's growth, people, music, and ministries over its long and vibrant history...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bedford Hills Train Station
Depot Plaza
Bedford Hills, NY  10507
View map »


Sponsor: Bedford Hills Historical Museum
Telephone: 914-806-2518
Contact Name: Ellen Cohen, Elin Peterson
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Lasting Impressions,” a group show of colorful prints by leading contemporary artists Ross Bleckner, Jim Dine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

We all feel stress during the holidays. The expectations are that it is a happy time with family, friends, filled with gifts, good food, and company. However, many of these expectations are not...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Quest Yoga Arts
11-13 East Main Street
Mount Kisco , NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Slow Medicine
Telephone: 914-218-3113
Contact Name: Tanya Neiman
Website »

More information

Only yesterday, it seems, one was hard-pressed to name more than a handful of successful women artists; now the list would be extensive, and the choices rich and varied. Although numerous recent...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The United Way Women’s Leadership Council 4th Annual Celebration of Women in Philanthropy brings together like-minded business women and community leaders to network, while raising...

Cost: $125.00

Where:
Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill
81 Highland Avenue
Tarrytown , NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: United Way of Westchester and Putnam
Telephone: 914- 997-6700 ex 737
Contact Name: Margaret Tramontine
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Lasting Impressions,” a group show of colorful prints by leading contemporary artists Ross Bleckner, Jim Dine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

You don't have to live with back pain! Learn about treatment options from ONS pain and rehabilitation experts, Christopher Sahler, MD and Alicia Hirscht, DPT, SCS, CSCS. The program...

Cost: Free

Where:
Greenwich Hospital
5 Perryridge Road
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Greenwich Hospital
Telephone: 203-863-4444
Contact Name: Brigitte Lundgren-Foscante
Website »

More information

Only yesterday, it seems, one was hard-pressed to name more than a handful of successful women artists; now the list would be extensive, and the choices rich and varied. Although numerous recent...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

By appointment only, a trained Navigator provided by the Westchester County Dept. of Health will be available to help with choosing and signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Lasting Impressions,” a group show of colorful prints by leading contemporary artists Ross Bleckner, Jim Dine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Only yesterday, it seems, one was hard-pressed to name more than a handful of successful women artists; now the list would be extensive, and the choices rich and varied. Although numerous recent...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Counselors offer older adults one-on-one counseling covering a broad range of topics including Medicare health and prescription plans, food stamps, HEAP, EPIC, weatherization, minor home repair,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Mount Kisco Public Library
Telephone: 914-864-0130
Contact Name: Lisa Graziadei
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Kick off the season with a Holiday Market on Thursday, December 8th between 10am-5pm. There will be unique items including jewelry, clothing, plants, food and much more. This holiday...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
New Canaan Nature Center
144 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Lasting Impressions,” a group show of colorful prints by leading contemporary artists Ross Bleckner, Jim Dine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Celebrate the holiday season at John Jay Homestead with a guided tour of John Jay's historic Bedford House focusing on the holiday traditions and decorations of the 1820s. Tours are offered on...

Cost: $7/adults; $5/seniors and students with ID; FREE/children 12 & under and members

Where:
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
400 Jay Street (Route 22)
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Telephone: (914) 232-5651
Website »

More information

Only yesterday, it seems, one was hard-pressed to name more than a handful of successful women artists; now the list would be extensive, and the choices rich and varied. Although numerous recent...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the holidays at Westchester's Winter Wonderland with its one-of-a-kind holiday experience featuring Santa and Friends, unlimited skating with skates included, performance by the...

Cost: general admission pay one price (0-5 yrs free) $15

Where:
KENSICO DAM PLAZA
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

Beginners are welcome and instruction is provided. Participants must bring their own set.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Mount Kisco Public Library
Telephone: 914-864-0130
Contact Name: Lisa Graziadei
Website »

More information

Dogs love listening to stories! Come meet "Rover" and read your favorite story. For school age children age 5 and up.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Mount Kisco Public Library
Telephone: 914-864-0130
Contact Name: Lisa Graziadei
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Lasting Impressions,” a group show of colorful prints by leading contemporary artists Ross Bleckner, Jim Dine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

It’s designed to celebrate all things Harry Potter and we’re hoping for lots of costumes, dancing and music. There will be activity/coloring stations, crafts, photo ops. The store will...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble Westport
1076 Post Road East
Westport, CT
View map »


Telephone: (203) 221-9192
Contact Name: Tricia Tierney
Website »

More information

Celebrate the holidays at Westchester's Winter Wonderland with its one-of-a-kind holiday experience featuring Santa and Friends, unlimited skating with skates included, performance by the...

Cost: general admission pay one price (0-5 yrs free) $15

Where:
KENSICO DAM PLAZA
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the holiday season at John Jay Homestead with a guided tour of John Jay's historic Bedford House focusing on the holiday traditions and decorations of the 1820s. Tours are offered on...

Cost: $7/adults; $5/seniors and students with ID; FREE/children 12 & under and members

Where:
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
400 Jay Street (Route 22)
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Telephone: (914) 232-5651
Website »

More information

Only yesterday, it seems, one was hard-pressed to name more than a handful of successful women artists; now the list would be extensive, and the choices rich and varied. Although numerous recent...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate the holiday season at John Jay Homestead with a guided tour of John Jay's historic Bedford House focusing on the holiday traditions and decorations of the 1820s. Tours are offered on...

Cost: $7/adults; $5/seniors and students with ID; FREE/children 12 & under and members

Where:
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
400 Jay Street (Route 22)
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Telephone: (914) 232-5651
Website »

More information

PANCAKE BREAKFAST - THIS SATURDAY! - @  8:00 -11:00 am         Bedford Village Elementary School Cafeteria ​          45 Court...

Cost: $5 Pancake Breakfast

Where:
Bedford Village Elementary School
45 Court Street
Bedford , NY  10506
View map »


Sponsor: BVES
Telephone: 718-974-4326
Contact Name: Ruth Toporoff

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Lasting Impressions,” a group show of colorful prints by leading contemporary artists Ross Bleckner, Jim Dine,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Ayurveda defines health as a balance of body, mind, and spirit. But how do you stay in balance during the winter months when all you want to do is hibernate? How can you prevent from getting sick,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Dr. Kaushik's Ayurvedic & Naturopathic Clinic
765 Rte 35
Yellow Monkey Village
Cross River, NY  10518
View map »


Sponsor: Dr. Somesh Kaushik
Telephone: 646-670-6725
Contact Name: Dr. Somesh Kaushik
Website »

More information

Here's how it works: Your Love, Our Musical features Rebecca and Evan interviewing a real couple in the audience for details on how they met and fell in love, because they're nosey....

Cost: $20

Where:
The Barn at The Egremont Village Inn
17 Main Street
South Egremont, MA  01258
View map »


Sponsor: The Barn at The Egremont Village Inn
Contact Name: Jenny Rubin
Website »

More information

Only yesterday, it seems, one was hard-pressed to name more than a handful of successful women artists; now the list would be extensive, and the choices rich and varied. Although numerous recent...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the holidays at Westchester's Winter Wonderland with its one-of-a-kind holiday experience featuring Santa and Friends, unlimited skating with skates included, performance by the...

Cost: general admission pay one price (0-5 yrs free) $15

Where:
KENSICO DAM PLAZA
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Bedford Hills Farmers’ Market, a project of the community group Bedford Hills LIVE, is unveiling its Second Annual Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday, November 5 beginning at 10am....

Cost: Free

Where:
Bedford Hills Train Station
Depot Plaza
Bedford Hills, NY  10507
View map »


Telephone: 917.951.3588
Contact Name: Vanessa Pahucki

More information

If you’re an adult looking for a relaxing, fresh, and new activity that will help bring stress relief to your busy life, try our new coloring class which meets every Saturday from 10:30 am -...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Website »

More information

Looking for something relaxing, creative and fun to do this Fall for the whole family. Take part in Clay Art Center’s Saturday Drop-In Clay Class, Saturdays from 2-4pm. One-time classes for...

Cost: $25

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Sponsor: Clay Art Center
Telephone: 914-937-2047
Contact Name: Adam Chau
Website »

More information

If you’re an adult looking for a relaxing, fresh, and new activity that will help bring stress relief to your busy life, try our new coloring class. All materials will be provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library Small Meeting Room
100 East Main St.
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Telephone: 914-666-8041
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags