New York Home (July-August 2006)


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It's Better Than New

by Ruth J. Katz

"This is a new 'old' house," says the owner of the four-bedroom Greek Revival home she and her husband built — or rather re-created — when their original 1860s Greek Revival farmhouse in Rhinebeck was destroyed by fire six years ago.

The devastation was traumatic, but at least it presented the couple with a chance to rebuild a "historic" home with amenities — like air conditioning in the state-of-the-art, energy-efficient mechanical systems. "You can't always find the 'right' old house," she continues, "and the old houses always come with issues. But this challenge gave us the opportunity to actually custom-build. And we had plenty of pictures of the original to use as a guide."

Architect Jimmy Crisp, of Crisp Architects (a local Millbrook firm), understood the owners' respect for the past. "We try to make even new homes seem as if they've always been there," Crisp says. The collaboration was especially successful because the trio share a shorthand, a love of the unique landscape historic architecture of the mid-Hudson Valley. (The wife is a former president of the Hudson River Heritage, an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting that landscape and architecture.) "We were designing a new home in the exact footprint of the old home, my sympathies tied to the old home in a straightforward way, but the old home was a vernacular Greek Revival," not a high Greek Revival, Crisp observes. "So we didn't try to be perfect in every detail."

(end of excerpt)

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