491 BAY WALK
Architect: HORACE GIFFORD, 1962. Addition: MICHAEL KINLAW, 1990.
Though enlarged and much-altered today, the distinctive roofline of this home is still apparent.
Edwin Wittstein and Robert Miller nearly hired Andrew Geller (see 547 Beachcomber Walk) to design their home. That is, until the upstart Horace Gifford brazenly seduced Wittstein and Miller, thereby landing his first Fire Island clients. The well-connected couple soon referred Gifford to many other patrons, and a career was born. The architect-with-benefits arrangement produced a dynamic house. It retained the cruciform plan of Gifford’s own residence but shook off its strict symmetry. Wittstein and Miller were sheltered by a serrated roofline that flooded the interior with light. Smooth mahogany ceiling panels set against gray-stained redwood beams drew the eye upward and outward, toward the bay to the north and the forest to the south. Trees freely penetrated the south deck, shading it during the summer, while a rustic cast-iron stove warmed the interior. The three-bedroom home of 1,150 square feet cost only $12,500. It was published in The New York Times, followed by The American Home, which made it the cover feature for its 1964 “vacation homes” issue. In 1990, architect Michael Kinlaw undertook a massive enlargement of the house.
This home is featured in Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction.
Magazine Photos: Bill Maris. Black and White Interiors: Richard Jeffery. Exterior Photos: Edwin Wittstein. Plans and Sketch: Horace Gifford courtesy Christopher Rawlins.