Thursday, December 08, 2016


05newport1-master768My friends Joyce and Tom live in Dallas. In a very modern house in Dallas. In a very upscale neighborhood in Dallas, where upscale neighborhoods tend toward chateaux, Taras, and the types of haciendas where Zorro lived.

When they were planning their very modern house, my friends had to work around a ton of opposition from the neighbors, who considered the house that Joyce and Tom were building an atrocity.

I, on the other hand, love their house – it’s just stunning - and consider most of the stately mansions in their ‘hood ridiculous eyesores.

Come on? What’s a chateau doing in Dallas?

On the other hand, why not?

If you’ve got it – money, “taste” (à chacun son goût, as we used to say in Chateau Rogers when I was a a girl) –  why not flaunt it?

That’s what the Vanderbilts, the Astors and their ritzy pals were doing when they put up “cottages” in Newport like The Breakers and The Elms.

But what might have seemed like colossal, out of proportion and out of place piles in the late 1800’s are now tourist attractions. And the locals have gotten used to having them around. They rather like them.

What they don’t like is the modern house going up not far from historic, mansion-lined Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive.

“This looks like a 30-foot-tall Martian spaceship landing on the Newport skyline,” said John Peixinho, a former chairman of the Historic District Commission.

Ross Cann, an architect whose apartment in a grand house overlooks the new home, said, “We’re just baffled by why somebody would want to inflict themselves on Newport in such a way as this.”(Source: NY Times)

Sorry, Ross, that ‘inflict themselves’ sounds just plain peevish.

If more houses like this are built, Cann said, Newport will start to look like the Hamptons — or even California.

The Hamptons? “Even” California? I so hate when that happens!

…“As humans we need to have sympathy for them [owners Gina and James McCaffrey]” said Ruthie Sommers, an interior designer who lives nearby. But, she said, “I’m so upset that my children will look at this spaceship forever.”

Maybe, maybe not. Children have been known to become adults and – get this – move away from the town they grew up in.

“It sets a precedent,” Peixinho said, “for further bad design and overscale development in the community.”

At least from the picture, I’m not wild about the architecture of the McCaffrey house, either. But ‘bad design  - or, if not ‘bad’, then something out of place and derivative - and overscale development’ seem to have been what put Newport on the map, no?

I’m actually more in sympathy with the ‘scale’ argument than the design one. The Spaceship is going up in a neighborhood that used to have the ‘cottage’ carriage houses in it. Having lived in a carriage house – although a modest scale Boston one – I recognize that The Spaceship is no carriage house. But the Newport arguments – sniff, sniff – seem to be leaning more towards design.

“We need people to continue — as they had in the past — to be cognizant of the neighborhood they’re moving into,” said Pandy McDonough, who owns the home directly in front of the new mansion. “If they don’t, take your life’s dream of a house someplace else.”

Hey, if I lived across from The Spaceship, I’d probably be NIMBY-ing – or, in the case of Pandy McDonough, NIMFY-ing – up a storm. (In the spirit of the holiday season, I will not be making fun of someone just because her name is ‘Pandy’.) But if Ross sounded peevish, Pandy seems just a couple of syllables short of telling the McCaffreys to take their house an shove it. Tsk, tsk.

Overll, I find it ridiculous for Newport to complain about the size and shape of a modern home going up, given what’s in Newport to begin with.

Anyway, the McCaffreys probably didn’t build this far without having permits in hand. So the NIMBY PIMBY crowd should just get over it. And who knows, maybe it will look better when it’s covered with cedar shakes and those shakes get weathered in a bit. Another couple of years or so, I bet this new pile will fit right in with the old ones

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