Friday, May 24th

A House With a Unique Provenance

46LincolnRoadAn application to raze a mid-century modern home at 46 Lincoln Road spurred an interesting discovery about its provenance.

Members of the Committee for Historic Preservation, who are charged with granting or denying the application, asked architectural historian Andrew Dolkart for his assessment of the house and Dolkart considered some research done by Scarsdale Village Historian Jordan Copeland and Leslie Chang.

The report shows that the house, which was built in 1954-56 by Norman and Edna Schreiber, was one of very few Modern style houses in what was then called Quaker Ridge Park. Edna had grown up at 73 Carthage Road, just a few blocks from the new house. Her father Harold Grossman was the attorney and treasurer for the Grossman Steel Stair Corporation in the Bronx, which was founded by his father. Harold Grossman paid to build the new house for his daughter and son-in-law.

Dolkart’s memo outlines some of the Modern features of the house including rectilinear massing, the use of natural materials and redwood siding and a dominant chimney at the back of the house, which he says is “reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses.”

But who was the architect? Though the CHP previously knew that Francis Holbrook designed it, they were unable to find anything about his career. It turns out that he was a mechanical engineer rather than an architect and a member of the Black professional elite of his day. He 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 about the difficulties of getting jobs or internships for Black engineers.

Though Dolkart cannot say with certainty how Holbrook came to design the house, he raises the possibility at Holbrook was involved in the construction of steel stairs. However, Dolkart does conclude that “Holbrook’s house at 46 Lincoln Road appears to the be the only historic house in Scarsdale designed by an African American.Holbrook

Furthermore Dolkart says, “46 Lincoln Road is a very good Modern house. The house, which is almost entirely intact to its original design retains integrity of location, design, setting, materials and workmanship. The house represents a style used only infrequently in Scarsdale. It was erected in the early 1950’s, a period when undeveloped section of Scarsdale, such as Quaker Ridge Park, were undergoing significant development, thus it is reflective of a broad trend in the development of the area. Although Francis C. Holbrook cannot be considered a “master,” 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.

Though the application to take down the house was on the agenda for the January 16 meeting of the Committee for Historic Preservation, it was not considered that night. Since only five of the seven members of the committee were present and the applicant required four votes for approval, the applicants opted to adjourn the application until the next meeting.

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