Sunday, Apr 14th

Developer Granted Approval to Raze Mid-Century Modern Home at 46 Lincoln Road

46LincolnRoadThough members of the Committee for Historic Preservation seemed to have the will to save a Mid-century modern home at 46 Lincoln Road that were unable to find a way to do it at their meeting on Tuesday February 13, 2024.

Armed with new information about the man who designed the house, those who wished to save it were hopeful that his unique history might help the house to meet one of the criteria for preservation, that “That the building is associated with the life of a person or persons of historical significance;” or “That the building is the work of a master.”

The committee had held over a decision on the house at a previous meeting until they could get the opinion of architectural historian Andrew Dolkart. However, Dolkart’s letter fell short of fully endorsing the preservation of the house. In his opinion he says, “the most interesting feature of the house is that it was designed by an engineer rather than an architect and that Francis Holbrooke was a Black mechanical engineer. He calls 46 Lincoln Road “a very good Modern house” but says that Holbrook cannot be considered a master. He concludes by saying, “the fact that a Black engineer designed a very fine Modern house in Scarsdale makes this a special, and probably unique house in the village.”

The application to take down the house was filed by Raj Krishnan a local developer who was represented by Lucia Chiocchio and Joshua Kimerling from Cuddy and Feder. They also relied on evidence from Emily Cooperman and Kyle Toth who are both architectural historians and maintained that the home did not meet the Village’s criteria for preservation.

After weighing the evidence the committee members felt that the Black engineer, Francis Holbrook could not be judged historically significant or a master architect, as he was primarily an engineer who only designed one home. Furthermore since the home had been approved for demolition in 2008 and 2021 some committee members felt that they needed to uphold precedent and not reverse a prior decision, despite the fact that Holbrook’s history was unknown at the time of the prior votes. The vote was 6-1 in favor of approving the application. Casting her vote to approve the application, committee member Amy Lawrence expressed her frustration with the dilemma. She said, “We are eliminating our examples of mid-century modern homes in Scarsdale. We are un-diversifying the architecture of Scarsdale. This is an underrepresented home style in Scarsdale and a significant example of Mid-century modern architecture.”

However, the committee was fully convinced that Francis Holbrook’s story was one to be chronicled in Scarsdale history.HolbrookThe house was designed by Black engineer Francis Holbrook, a rennaissance man with many talents. Leslie Chang from the Scarsdale Historical Society uncovered previously unknown facts about Holbrook demonstrating that he was indeed remarkable. She found that Holbrook was a mechanical engineer rather than an architect and a member of the Black professional elite of his day. He was a draftsman under Lewis Latimer, who was the only black member of “Edison’s Pioneers” who helped to bring electricity to the masses. Holbrook also worked for Alexander Graham Bell.

Holbrooke had connections to the family of Lena Horne, he authored several published articles about mechanical engineering and was involved in professional organizations. He was well aware of the challenges that faced Black professionals and even published an article in a Harlem-based magazine called Opportunity, The Journal of Negro Life, about the difficulties of getting jobs or internships for Black engineers.

Arguing that the home should be taken down, applicant Krishnan spoke of its condition, which is not a criteria considered by the Committee for Historic Preservation. He said, “The topography is not conducive to living. With climate change the stream that runs through the property drains 35 acres of Heathcote – and the water goes into that basement. The topography is not practical. To ask us to renovate this goes against my integrity as a physician. There is malignant mold in this house. We are asking for special dispensation.”

LincolnRoad TreesKrishnan is proposing to build a third house on the land between 101 Carthage and 46 Lincoln Roads.

Ironically, water woes are not stopping Krishnan’s quest to develop the property. He currently has an application before the Planning Board to subdivide two lots at 101 Carthage Road and 46 Lincoln Road into three and build the third house between the two existing houses. The area he plans to build on is a recessed depression between the two homes that includes a watercourse. He has proposed to divert this watercourse into the Village right of way and build on an area that now serves as a collection basin for run-off.

StreamA stream runs through the property.The application was reviewed at the January 31, 2024 meeting of the Planning Board where many neighbors expressed their fears that the development would further exacerbate flooding in their East Heathcote homes and streets. The application will be considered again at the Planning Board’s next meeting on February 28, 2024. The notice for the 2-28 meeting says the Planning Board will consider the application for a three-lot subdivision and site plan approval related to disturbance in the adjoining property buffer in order to legalize an existing piped watercourse and for a wetland permit approve for regulated activities with the wetland control area.

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