257 BAY WALK
Architect: HARRY BATES (with Horace Gifford), 1965. Renovation: DAS STUDIO, 2015
The crisp, straightforward lines of 257 Bay Walk belie its complex authorship and the touching, unusual relationship of its patrons.
Nicholas Rompapas (1930-91) hailed from an aristocratic Greek family, but grew up in Washington Heights. His close childhood friend was Alexander Simos; their bond endured despite differing sexual orientations. At “Alec’s” wedding, “Nick” served as best man. Newlyweds Alec and Alice Simos in turn leant the funds for the house. All three shared 257 Bay Walk, which soon included son Jason, godson to Nick, and daughter Julie.
Rompapas was handsome, modestly burdened by teaching and writing demands, and a gregarious presence in the Pines. Jason Simos recalled “houseguests always coming by, smoking, laughing, and listening to music. I remember men crowded onto the couch, including the guy who wrote ‘Dames at Sea,’ George Haimsohn.” In later years, the home served as a virtual hospice for many of these same men as they suffered with AIDS.
A romantic entanglement with Horace Gifford led to a commission to design the house. Its terraced organization of rooms recalls other Gifford projects, while the materials and design details bear a stronger resemblance to the work of Harry Bates, the architect who completed it. As Alec Simos recalled:
“I met with Gifford, and was very impressed with him. He was legendary in his own time, both in talent and his personal beauty. Nick was very taken with him. They had a falling out, but it was personal rather than professional. They were involved romantically, but not a very long-range thing. Harry Bates then got involved…Nick wanted a grand stair on the water side of the house, for a parade of drag queens to walk down before wading into the Bay.”
Gifford returned in 1970 to design an elaborate pie-shaped deck, pool, and water feature, but it was not built.
The home was originally entered via the east façade at its middle level, a floating stage between three elevated bedrooms and a Kitchen/Dining/Living level opening to the Great South Bay. Homebuilder Ed Isaacson and Alec Simos fashioned a copper sculpture for the Living Area that reflected the sunset.
DAS Studio opened a new Kitchen to the rest of the space, redesigned the bathrooms, and fashioned a terraced pool deck.
House photos, Plan, and Section: DAS Studio. Portraits: Alice Simos, 1967. Sketch and title block: Horace Gifford Archive, courtesy Christopher Rawlins.