The Glass House in Connecticut

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The Glass House in Connecticut

Have you ever seen a glass house? Connecticut is home to one. It’s hard to imagine living in a transparent box, but Philip Johnson not only lived there but he also designed and created it. With only the bathroom fully private, Johnson cooked, read, and entertained in his Glass House for decades. Let’s learn more about this iconic Connecticut Glass House so you can plan a visit soon!

What Is the Glass House in Connecticut?

The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, is an architectural masterpiece and symbol of modern and postmodern art. Philip Johnson built it in the 1940s as his residence, now a museum. As Johnson’s signature work, he continued to add on to the property for 60 years.

In 1955, Johnson designed and built a circular pool. In the 1960s and 70s, he also developed and built the Lake Pavilion, the Painting Galley, the Sculpture Galley, and the entrance gate. Johnson continued his work in the 1980s by completing a library/study, a Ghost House using chain links, and the Lincoln Kirstein Tower, which he dedicated to his college friend.

Johnson granted future ownership of the Glass House property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1986. In the 1990s and 2000s, Johnson continued adding to the property and completing small works of art. He died in 2005 at 98, and in 2007, the National Trust opened the Glass House property to the public.

The Glass House in Connecticut

What Is the Glass House Used for?

Originally, Philip Johnson lived in the Glass House. Later, his partner David Whitney joined him. Although they called it a house, the Glass House is simple. The kitchen, dining, and sleeping areas were all in one glass-enclosed, open room. Only the bath hid from the public’s view. Later, they only used the house for entertaining.

A second brick building had two guest bedrooms, a picture gallery, and a study. Other than the entrance and a few ports, there are no windows. It is an entirely different architectural design from the Glass House.

Today visitors can explore the 1,815-square-foot Glass House. Inside is a kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, hearth area, bathroom, and an entrance area. Although the floorplan is simple and open, the furniture defines the spaces. It may feel like a modern house, as open floorplans are standard today, but in the 1940s, this was truly unique.

History of the Glass House

Philip Johnson earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and classics from Harvard and studied architecture in the university’s graduate program. It was during his years at Harvard when Johnson spent time abroad in Dessau at the new school of architecture and design, the Bauhaus.

These trips influenced his early work at the Museum of Modern Art. Throughout his life, Johnson continued to support the museum and contributed so many pieces that he became the second largest donor.

In the 1940s, the Harvard Five, which included Johnson, came to New Canaan to build homes for themselves and their clients. He designed the Glass House during 1947-1948 and completed it in 1949.

It reflects Johnson’s study at the Bauhaus, his experiences at Harvard, and his determination to create new architecture. Continuing to build it with his partner David Whitney, the two men also took great care in designing the landscape and grounds of the property.

Today the 50 acres include many structures beyond the original Glass House and Brick House. There are two galleries for painting and sculpture, a library, the Lake Pavillion, and more. The art on display is from Johnson and Whitney’s combined collection, created by artists they knew well . 

Can You Tour the Glass House in Connecticut?

You can book a one-hour Glass House tour or a two-hour Glass House plus Galleries Tour on Monday, Friday, and Saturday. On Sundays, visitors can enjoy self-guided tours of the property. The Glass House closes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You need to buy a ticket to access the property.

Couple dancing together in Glass House

Tips for Visiting the Glass House in Connecticut

If you want to visit the Glass House in Connecticut, you should plan ahead. They won’t grant access without a ticket, and there is no parking on-site. Here are a few tips to make your visit more enjoyable.

Buy Parking Pass and Tickets in Advance

Go online and purchase tickets in advance. Some tours range from one to three hours, and they often sell out. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to book your reservation. Public parking isn’t available at the Visitor Center. There are three municipal metered lots one block from the building.

All children must be at least ten years old to participate in tours, and an adult must accompany them. Car seat regulations prevent the transportation of younger children to and from the Glass House via shuttle bus.

Arrive at Least 20 Minutes Early

No matter which tour you choose, arrive early. You never know how available parking spaces will be, and you don’t want to drive around to find a place to park and miss your tour time. Leave early in case you encounter traffic, construction, or anything else that may delay your arrival. 

Meet at the Visitor Center

Tours begin at the Visitor Center and Design Store on 199 Elm Street in New Canaan. Visitors travel to and from the Glass House in a shuttle from the Visitor Center. When on the shuttle bus, they require you to wear a mask. They do not require them elsewhere on the property, although they recommend wearing masks.

Dress for the Weather

Tours don’t close due to the weather. Check local conditions and dress appropriately. Bring an umbrella or wear a poncho or raincoat. In the winter, wear gloves, a hat, and cold-weather attire. In the summer, apply sunscreen and wear a hat.

Traveler’s Tip: After exploring the Glass House, check out these 5 Creepy Abandoned Places in Connecticut.

Don’t Throw Stones While Visiting the Glass House in Connecticut

In the September 26, 1949 edition of Time Magazine, Philip Johnson said, “People don’t throw stones at shop windows. Why should they throw them at mine?” His friends joked about the perils of living in a glass house. However, Johnson believed his transparent living experiment was a success.

Regardless of how comfortable, unique, or odd the Glass House was in the 1940s, it has remained a testament to Johnson’s architectural genius. He received the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and was the first Pritzker Architecture Prize winner for a reason. You can’t ignore his influence in the field of architecture and design.

If you’re looking for an outing as you travel through the Northeast, book a tour and explore the Glass House in Connecticut. You’ll be inspired and awed by Johnson’s work and appreciate the beauty of the modern and postmodern design.

Is a visit to the Glass House in Connecticut on your bucket list?

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