Among the many unique facets of Fire Island Pines is its unmatched mid-century modern architecture, a legacy of its status as a “safe space” and a premier resort for tastemakers in the 1960’s and 70’s. AIDS took a terrible toll on the population here, which in turn led to a “dark age” in which so much history and culture was lost. Pines Modern is a non-profit endeavor dedicated to the rediscovery of all that the Pines has created, particularly its mid-century architectural and cultural heritage. These are assets that, properly nourished, will ensure that the Pines remains a meaningful and relevant destination for generations to come. We cannot bring back a lost generation, but we can preserve their most salient artifacts and the environment in which they flourished.
As it becomes (tentatively) safer for gay people to venture to any number of leisure destinations, our hope is that Fire Island Pines remains a homeland and a rite of passage, a place where one finds community and a connection to LGBT history. So enjoy a free virtual tour, discovering this public treasure of private architecture. While we are a house-proud bunch, please respect private property when exploring our little utopia.
Join our Mailing List for tour announcements, newly-added homes, and other public programs. And please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our documentation and preservation efforts here.
Personal Statement by Pines Modern co-founder, Christopher Rawlins.
As far back as I can remember, I have been a house explorer, with interests that extend beyond a seductive proportion or a well-crafted detail. Houses are not static objects. They are the stages upon which our lives unfold, and where culture is created. Since my first foray to the Pines, I have been peering over fences and knocking on doors. It was immediately apparent to me that the Pines is a community that looks and lives like no other, but how did it become this way? After modest beginnings in the 1950’s, a talented roster of architects emerged to create an architecture as distinctive as its inhabitants. Harry Bates, Marcel Bretos, Earl Combs, and the prolific Horace Gifford lived and worked in the Pines. Their homes shared the spotlight with inspired cameos by Bray-Schaible, Arthur Erickson, Andrew Geller, Julius Kaufman, Michael Kinlaw, James McCleod, Don Page, and Steven Robinson. While each pursued different forms, all shared the belief that life at the beach should be carefree as well as maintenance-free. Rare were the painted surfaces, clipped lawns, and all the brute force associated with maintaining the typical suburban home. Naturally-weathering cedar and cypress pavilions in a riot of shapes established our signature architecture. Yet for all of their sculptural purity, these homes offered a relaxed and sensual ambience that resonated with weekenders attired in nothing more than a bikini and Bain de Soleil.
The Stonewall generation artfully and gently colonized this fragile landscape. They realized that, like most beautiful things, the Pines is an easily marred countenance. Today, when confronted by an aggressive fence, or a steroidally bloated house, or a renovation that obliterates the finer aspects of the original, I worry that the Pines has lost its way. This tour of (mostly) mid-century homes is a call to action that aims to unlock our history, rethink our priorities, and honor the homeowners who have maintained the integrity of their vintage properties.
Christopher Rawlins is an award-winning architect, the Principal of Rawlins Design, and the author of Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction.
91 Payson Avenue #5K, New York, NY
Email: chris@rawlinsdesign dot com
Web Design: Rafael Kalinoski.
Pines Modern logo design: Joey Mendoza.