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Sunday, December 17 News

Way Back When... 2005

This museum and cultural center, located in Irwin Park, highlights the legacy of New Canaan’s modern architects and their creations. It symbolizes the New Canaan Historical Society’s commitment to raising awareness of, and protecting the town’s extensive modern heritage.

The Pavilion was designed by Landis Gores, who was Philip Johnson’s associate on the Glass House as well as one of the celebrated “Harvard Five” architects who settled here in the 1940’s and 50’s. Intended as a combination lodge and pool house for Jack Irwin (Ambassador to France and later Undersecretary of State) and his wife Jane Watson (daughter of IBM’s founder), it was situated about a hundred yards from the Irwin’s more conventional house.

Composed of glass and redwood, this impeccable showpiece draws inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van de Rohe. The Irwin’s “entertainment house” has enormous hinged glass facades and dramatic cantilevers. Inside is a floor to ceiling Prairie-style fireplace and horizontal redwood paneling, along with multiple built-in cabinets throughout.

Also noteworthy is the Jens Risom Room, named in honor of the famed Danish-American furniture designer and longtime New Canaan resident. The seating area contains original pieces that reflect his masterful pairing of sleek lines and functional comfort.

Though it was slated for demolition when the property was sold to the town in 2005 to create a public park, the Pavilion was saved and ultimately restored, thanks to matching State grants and generous supporters of the Society.

It is open May through October, Friday-Sunday, 11am - 3pm. It offers exhibit and meeting space. Tours are available by appointment.

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