It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But let’s face it; Modernism is a style, and, as such, significant Modern structures warrant preservation as much as important structures built in more commonly recognized historic styles like Greek Revival, Federal, or Georgian. Jaci Conry writes in the Globe that five Modern cottages in Wellfleet are en route to preservation thanks in large part to the efforts of Peter McMahon, an architect and executive director of the recently formed Cape Cod Modern House Trust.
The cottages, among 115 other homes, were built on land later assigned to the Cape Cod National Seashore when it was created in 1961. The National Park Service obtained the properties by eminent domain, offering their previous owners lifetime use of them or 25-year leases. Once empty, the five Wellfleet cottages fell into disrepair. They were slated for demolition in the late 90’s. Then times and attitudes changed. McMahon is now arranging to lease the properties from the Park Service through the Cape Cod Modern House Trust in order to preserve them. McMahon's organization plans on restoring the Gips House, designed by Charles Zehnder, first with hopes of opening it this summer to the public for tours, among other activities.
According to the Globe article, David Fixler president of DOCOMOMO/US New England, another non-profit engaged in preserving Modernism, said, “The cottages were built very cheaply and close to nature. They spoke to a wonderful way of life…”
McMahon is quoted in the piece saying, “There’s a lot to learn from these houses.” I don’t doubt it. I look forward to visiting them one day.
by Katie Hutchison for the House Enthusiast