May 25, 2009
Part of Effort to Preserve Fairytale Norman-Style HomesGLEN ROCK, N.J. – The fairytale Norman-style homes of New Jersey architect Carl Kemm Loven served as a source of inspiration and admiration for a group of more than 20 architects from the Architects League of Northern New Jersey who toured the homes on May 9.
The tour, which was sponsored by the Architects League, was preceded by a well-attended Power Point presentation for the public by Glen Rock Historian Nancy Atkins Peck on the prolific architect, who was the creator of more than 500 designs, mostly in Bergen County, between the 1930s and his sudden death at age 58 in 1965.
Peck, who was recently honored by the Architects League for bringing Loven’s work to the public’s attention through the publication of a brochure, “Karl Kemm Loven: Designer of Dreams,” also led the tour.
The tour featured the interiors of four homes in Ridgewood and Glen Rock, and the exteriors of five others. The designs of the homes, which ranged in size from a cottage of about 1,800 square feet to a stone mansion of about 4,000 square feet, displayed Loven’s extraordinary virtuosity.
The architects were impressed by the warmth, livability and sense of balance and proportion that Loven brought to his work, as well as the incredible attention to detail, which many said they find wanting in more modern structures.
“He inspires a dedication to detail and a consideration of the human scale in the way he works features such as benches and barbecues into the esthetics,” observed Jennifer Mortensen, an architecture student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). “In any design some elements may take a back seat, but he never seemed to compromise.”
Loven, who studied in Europe, included European details such as dovecotes, turrets, leaded glass windows, half-timbering, embossed copper gutters, gargoyles, balconies, courtyards, terra cotta roof tiles and hand-forged hardware in the homes he designed. Such details lend the homes a magical quality that identify them as being his.
Although he designed many different types of structures, including commercial buildings, hotels, churches, schools, country clubs and hunting lodges, and in many styles, Loven always made an effort to incorporate some of his signature details into his designs.
An aim of the tour, which was in keeping with the designation of May as National Preservation Month by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was to raise public awareness of Loven so that other works of his can be identified and possibly saved from being razed or rescued from unsympathetic renovations.
“If people know what they have they will preserve these houses and make sure they are maintained into the future,” Peck said at her library talk. “Some of these houses have been destroyed. Bergen County has the highest percentage of teardowns in the state. That’s why what we’re doing is so important.”
Peck’s comments were echoed by Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, president of AIA-NJ and past president of the Architects League, who urged participants in the day’s events to join in the effort to identify and preserve Loven’s work.
Peck, who lives in the Glen Rock neighborhood of Loven’s former home, started her research when she realized that many residents no longer recognized his name. Her quest is to identify all of Loven’s works, and she is not above knocking on doors to inquire who the architect was, which is how she discovered several of the homes on the tour.
A major interest of the architects was in seeing how the homes have been sensitively renovated or added on to, with the homeowners — and their architects — taking extraordinary pains to be true to the original designs and materials.
At Loven’s former house, Glen Rock architect Glenn A. Grube, AIA, of Paredes-Grube Architecture, who carried out an 18-month renovations for owners Keith and Michele Waller, described how reorganizing the space created a larger kitchen and family area, thus meeting the needs of a modern family while preserving the original feel.
The Wallers were deeply involved in the renovation, with Michele casting reproductions of the gargoyles lining the eaves of the original house to adorn a new exterior wall. And at a Loven home in Ridgewood, owner Joyce DeGregorio explained the extraordinary pains she and her husband took to match the original embossed copper gutters.
A special aspect of the architects’ tour was the presence of Loven’s daughter, Mimi Mathey of Bradenton, Fla., who shared her memories of growing up in the Loven home, and of her father, whose big-hearted approach to life is reflected in the inscription on the mantelpiece: “I cannot warm you if your heart is cold.”
“I’m extremely proud that people are still interested,” Mathey said in speaking about the extraordinary care her father took with every detail, starting with how the house was situated on the lot. “There are a lot of architects around today, but where are the architects who are doing this kind of work?” she asked.
Peck is available to give her Power Point presentation to other groups. Those who are interested should contact the Borough of Glen Rock and ask for the historian. Copies of the brochure are available at the Glen Rock, Ridgewood, Midland Park and Ho-Ho-Kus public libraries or can be downloaded from www.glenrockhistory.org.
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