Pioneering engineer Paul Weidlinger built this home for his family in 1953. Intended as a summer house, it is located in Wellfleet, a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, located halfway between the “tip” and “elbow” of Cape Cod.
The home was built in less than auspicious circumstances. Laws established in 1951 sought to prevent the overdevelopment of Cape Cod by creating a national park, the Cape Cod National Seashore. As a result, there was a rush to build houses before the law came into full effect.
Yet rather than beating the deadline, homeowners were forced to sell the houses to the park, Weidlinger’s included. As a result, the homes entered a state of administrative limbo: they were supposed to be demolished, but no one got around to doing it.
Following decades of deterioration, the Cape Cod Modern House Trust (CCMHT) was established to revive the handful of architecturally significant homes that had been built in the area. Among the first three was the Weidlinger residence, since it had consciously absorbed the principles of modernist design (just beginning to become widely popular in the United States at the time).
Renovation of the mid-century house began in 2012 and was concluded in 2014. As pictures illustrate, it involved extensive changes. The interior was completely emptied, and major adjustments were made to the structure.
It’s quite a relief that it made it through, since the house now stands as a real beauty. Nestled in amongst a wooded area, and perched on a hillside which descends right to the nearby water, it is a delightfully simple design, hovering delicately above ground, all the better to admire the surrounding nature.
Weidlinger was a friend of the Bauhaus founder Marcel Breuer, who had left Germany to escape Nazism, arriving in the US in 1937.
You can see the influence Breuer had on Weidlinger’s mid-century design. Having the single-floor house rest as a straight horizontal line against the uneven earth captures their preoccupation with pure form.
Meanwhile, like much Bauhaus architecture, especially that of Breuer’s colleague Le Corbusier, the home imposes a very rigid delineation of public and private sections, with a large amount of space given over to the open plan living area. This space enjoys the full effect of floor-to-ceiling windows and is therefore bathed in light.
The renovators evidently wished to hammer home this connection, since they’ve retained a set of Breuer’s famous Wassily tubular steel chairs. As mid-century modern furniture goes, this is some of the more militantly modernist. It’s a nice touch which points to a really sensitive restoration overall.
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Photos by Kent Dayton