Historian Uncovers “Lost” Modernist Home Once Exhibited at MoMA

A landmark work from architect Gregory Ain gets its due

Gregory Ain
Architect Gregory Ain went on to design homes like this one in Los Angeles, California.
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The legacy of architect Gregory Ain has a number of components, including demonstrating that great design and socially conscious housing could be one and the same. A 2017 article at Artsy argued convincingly that Ain had never really gotten his due, in part due to his running afoul of the FBI during the Red Scare. One element of that, the article noted, involved a high-profile home he’d designed for exhibition at MoMA in 1950 — which disappeared after the house’s stint in MoMA’s garden was over.

How exactly can a fantastically-designed Modernist home vanish? That’s an excellent question, and it’s one that now has an answer. At The New York Times, Eve M. Kahn ventured into the house’s history — and made contact with the architectural historian who located the famed home.

That would be George Smart, who runs the design-centric site USModernist — which has an extensive archive on Ain’s work. Smart spent time in MoMA’s archives, eventually finding where the house is currently located. “I could not believe that the most famous house in New York in 1950 would simply vanish,” he told the Times.

The house is now located in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Its owner, Mary Kelly, bought it with her husband in 1979; she was a longtime fan of Modernist homes and described being thrilled to find a find an example of one for sale. All told, the article makes a fine case that this home has found its ideal inhabitant — someone who both savors the design involved in making it happen and who has made use of the distinctive components Ain and his collaborators installed within.

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