Applicants know they might not succeed on their first go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission. But if they try, try, try, the second time around might end in their favor. Such was the case for the somewhat controversial proposed changes to the former residence of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's author Truman Capote, a glorious townhouse at 70 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights.
The house, located between Orange and Pineapple streets, was built in 1839 and has undergone many changes over the years. The applicant, Dan Houser of Rockstar Games (who created Grand Theft Auto), purchased the house in 2012 for $12.5 millionsetting a neighborhood record at the timeand now said he seeks to restore it to its Greek Revival origins.
The proposal, handled by the architecture firm Bories & Shearron, sought to strip the façade's yellow paint to reveal the original brick, replace the entryway, demolish the existing rear porch and replace it with a new two-story rear deck (which would give the residents better access between the driveway and the kitchen), replace the existing driveway gate with a new, solid one, replace ironwork, change the windows, add shutters, extend the rusticated base, and add a shed and, of course, the fear-inducing pool.
The commissioners approved most of those changes. Replacing the entryway and ironwork were points of contention last time. So the revised design retains the existing entryway and ironwork and does not extend a rusticated base around the house. In addition, the LPC staff will work with the applicant to assure that any brick infill matches the historic brick.
LPC chair Meenakshi Srinavasan said the original proposal was "very strong," but this revised one was a "much better proposal overall." Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron spoke of the "fault line between conservation and the re-creation of pure style" and in the end, saw fit to support the proposal. It was approved unanimously.
As far as Brooklyn Heights residents go, More than one neighbor is psyched about seeing the house returned to 19th-century glory, even if there is a pool involved. And after the applicant's first presentation to the LPC, the reaction was skewed extremely positive.
"Architectural fabric completely intact, no additions, not added floors, on its original extra wide lot, AND, it's early, 1839! There were letters of endorsement from the Merchants House Museum in NY, the dean of Classical Architecture at Notre Dame, and the 5th great grandson of the original builder Van Sinderen," wrote one commenter after the first hearing, a self-proclaimed "interested neighbor" thrilled with the imminent restoration and renovation. "A moment like this happens only every 10 years, if that… the right owner with a passion and respect for architectural history, deep pockets, and the perfect house."
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· Capote House Alterations Do Not Sit Well With Landmarks [Curbed]
· Truman Capote's Old Brooklyn Heights House May Get a Pool [Curbed]
· All 70 Willow Street coverage [Curbed]
· All Landmarks Preservation coverage [Curbed]