137 BEACH HILL WALK

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Architect: HORACE GIFFORD, 1963. Addition: LOUIS MULLER, c. 1985.

 

From Beach Hill Walk, it may be difficult to square the sight of the home before you with its vintage images. That is because you are looking at the side of the house, while a second story was added around 1985 by Horace Gifford’s sometime collaborator Louis Muller.

 

Horace Gifford obtained the commission for the Leedom-Cott House through his first clients, Edwin Wittstein and Robert Miller. Kenneth Leedom, director of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, purchased a treeless, low-lying lot that was soon to be surrounded by other homes. Without views to exploit, Gifford created his own. A courtyard bounded by separate living and sleeping structures created a protected outdoor space. It also sheltered the lifestyle of its gay occupants at a time when the Pines was still a nominally straight community. Enormous sliding doors tucked into pockets to shut out prying eyes, while long, narrow jalousie windows facing east and west balanced privacy with cross ventilation. An article in The American Home’s 1964 Vacation Houses issue (which featured 291 Bay Walk on the cover) brought the Leedom-Cott House to a national audience. In the background of its double-page spread (on Coast Guard Walk) loomed a pokey knockoff of Gifford’s first, pyramid-roofed residence; after just two years in the Pines, Gifford already had lesser imitators.

 

This home is featured in Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction.

 

Color Images: The American Home. Black and white photo: Courtesy Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society. Plan: The American Home. Section rendering: Christopher Rawlins.

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