Mott Schmidt Biography

Country Houses
by Mark Alan Hewitt

Several of Schmidt's most distinguished country estates were designed in the years around the Great Crash. Rabbit Hill, his William S. Lambie house (1929) in Scarborough, New York, initiated a series of excellent variations on a theme. The Bernard Peyton house (1931) in Princeton, New Jersey, (Figure 34) and Richard W. Woolworth house (1934) in Salem Center, New York, were inspired by English Georgian models, notably Honington Hall in Warwickshire. By cleverly adapting the hipped-roof H-plan, Schmidt was able to pro­vide distinctly different entry and garden facades. Schmidt's house for Clarence's son, C. Douglas Dillon, Dunwalke Farm (1936) in Far Hills, New Jersey (Figure 35), explores themes begun at Pook's Hill. This exquisitely formal brick Georgian is one of Schmidt's finest country houses. Here he seemed to find the formula for a minimum of articulation which produced maximum effect. The only flourishes in an otherwise rigid grid of windows are the two classical door sur­rounds. As evidence of Schmidt's maturity, this series of houses is analogous to the confident, crisp and minimalist townhouses he designed during the twenties.

Though Depression brought Schmidt a few commissions for public and commercial buildings, including the Mount Kisco Town Hall and Post Office (1932-33) (Figure 36) and the Elizabeth Arden stores at 669 Fifth Avenue and Connecticut Avenue in Washington, residential commissions continued to be his mainstay. As the lean decade wore on Schmidt designed more modest and compact houses, but still utilized one of the three basic plan types he favored: the three-part block, the five-part block with dependencies, and the articulated block or H-plan. The clapboard Thomas H. Mclnnerney house in Greenwich (1937), and the brick Jeremiah Clarke house on Long Island (1933) (Figure 37) demonstrate his talents as a superbly efficient planner. These houses were generally simple gabled boxes with small wings, forcing the architect to squeeze both formal and service rooms, with their accompanying circulation systems and stairs, into the main block. The plan of the Clarke house (Figure 38) shows how deftly he handled this problem, accommodating both oval and circular stairs while still providing spacious entertainment rooms. Outside, the building looks a bit like a miniature of Pook's Hill or the Douglas Dillon house.

FIGURE 34. Peyton Country House, Entry Facade
Rosanna G. Liebman
FIGURE 35. C. Douglas Dillon House, Far Hills, New Jersey, 1936, Rear Elevation
DIllon Family Photo
FIGURE 36. Town Hall, Mount Kisco, New York. View of and Front and Portico.
Avery Architectural Archives
FIGURE 37. Jeremiah Clarke House, Old Brookville, Long Island, 1933, Entrance Front circa 1960
J.T. Sadler
FIGURE 38. Jeremiah Clarke House, Old Brookville, Long Island, 1933, Ground Floor Plan
Drawing by Mark Alan Hewitt, from working drawing