This estate modeled on Versailles’ Petit Trianon is one of the Greenwich architectural treasures we are honoring April 29 at the Greenwich Landmarks Recognition Program (4pm at Greenwich Country Club). Others are a Mid-Century Modern, a Tudor Revival and an 1856 church with Tiffany windows. The keynote will be by Anthony Malkin on the restoration of the Empire State Building’s iconic lobby. An afternoon not to be missed!
All photos by ChiChi Ubina.
Northway is a striking two-story mansion sited on 12 park-like acres. It was built by Laura Robinson (1872–1964), an heiress from Chicago who received permission from the French government to reproduce the Petit Trianon’s elements, with the proviso that the main staircase be erected in the opposite direction from the original.
An architectural icon and the finest example of the Classical Revival, the Petit Trianon has been celebrated by scholars for the purity of its rectilinear dimensions, the perfection of its proportions and the delicacy of its ornamentation.
Despite differences, Northway maintains the general Neoclassical look and decoration of its prototype. Its architects, J. Edwin Carpenter and Walter D. Blair, both graduates of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, adapted the original design by replicating its most imposing features and designing other elements strictly within the original’s Classical Revival style so that the entire assemblage, including the landscaping, would appear as if it were created in the 18th century. The house’s monumental facade and the dramatic approach through a sculpted allée achieve a rare symmetry that presents a formal statement unrivaled in Greenwich and beyond.
Gleaming white stucco covers a symmetrical, five-bay facade distinguished by a colossal portico of four fluted Corinthian columns. The front entrance features a pair of very tall, transomed French doors set in a molded frame surmounted by a denticulated entablature. Gleaming white stucco covers a symmetrical, five-bay facade distinguished by a colossal portico of four fluted Corinthian columns. The front entrance features a pair of very tall, transomed French doors set in a molded frame surmounted by a denticulated entablature.
A distinctive balustrade on the portico extends on either side of the front entrance. Surmounting the entire second story is a continuous entablature accented by a cornice of foliated brackets. Above the cornice is a parapet interrupted by symmetrical positioned courses of urn-shaped balusters, a design that continues around the edge of the house’s flat roof.
On either side of the facade are identical wings, essentially enclosed porches, with tall, transomed, multipaned windows. At the second story of the main block, the three-bay elevations are virtually identical, with French doors opening onto balconies. A service complex of three buildings faces a central courtyard.
The interior of Northway expresses much the same Neoclassical style as the exterior. The first story is stunningly distinguished by its 15-foot ceilings and features a curving, divided-flight, marble staircase; a marble floor and a pipe organ.
Flanking the entrance foyer are two rooms paneled with elaborate bas relief floral-designed acanthus-leaf cornices, a dining room with French doors and a paneled living room with a carved wooden mantelpiece.
Northway’s second story has five paneled bedrooms, each with a curved ceiling, an elegantly carved gilded fireplace mantel and marble surround. In 1915 Robinson married William A. Evans, a prominent New York lawyer and a director of B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co. Their home became the setting for many musicales and other entertainments, and the couple’s one child, William A. Evans, Jr., was raised there.
Tragedy struck twice in 1939, when their son died in an automobile accident just before his 24th birthday and his father died a few months later. Laura Robinson Evans remained in the house for 25 years until her death. Her will left half interests in Northway to Christ Church in Greenwich and Greenwich Hospital, of which William Evans had been a director.
Plans for demolition of the house and subdivision of the property were under way when it attracted the attention of Rene Anselmo, who restored the house and grounds to their former majesty. When he died in 2000, the property passed to his widow and then, upon her death, to their son Reverge.
Support historic preservation and attend the Greenwich Landmarks Recognition Program April 29!