crimson_beach_400In the first half of the twentieth century, it was rare to find an architect who had never heard of Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright had made a name for himself by developing new styles of housing, including the Prairie style and the Organic style.  He was known for his practical house designs and for his love of manufactured homes. After the Great Depression, he realized that what people needed were affordable homes. By the 1950s, he had teamed up with Marshall Erdman, a house manufacturer, to create a series of affordable prefabricated homes which would cater to middle-class Americans.

The homes created by Wright and Erdman became known as the Marshall Erdman Prefab Houses. They had two different designs which were quite similar.  The first design was named Prefab #1, and consisted of a one-story, L-shaped home.  The second design, Prefab #2, consisted of a two-story house with a two-story living room. Between 1956 and 1961, nine Prefab #1 Houses were built and only two Prefab #2 Houses were built.

Of these eleven houses, two were placed in New York, but only one was located within New York City. This New York City house just so happens to be on Staten Island, in the luxurious neighborhood of Lighthouse Hill. In 1959, this house was manufactured in Wisconsin and shipped to Staten Island for William and Catherine Cass, a couple who had been living in Queens.

When the Cass family first acquired the plot of land for their house, it was already home to a copper beech tree that had resided there for centuries. This resident was the reason why William and Catherine Cass decided to name their house Crimson Beech. Just ten years after acquiring the property, the tree was taken away by a hurricane. Shortly after, a new beech tree was planted where the original had been.

Crimson Beech is located at 48 Manor Court. Lighthouse Hill, the neighborhood in which the house is located, is made up of roughly one dozen streets, all with custom-built homes. This location was perfect for the house because, although it was part of a series of houses, each of the Prefab #1 Houses had variations which made them unique. Crimson Beech, for example, has two stories due to the slope of the hill, while the original design for the Prefab #1 House had only one story.  From the street, it looks as though the house has only one story, but from any other side of the house, it is evident that there are actually two stories.

When it was originally erected, the exterior of the house was constructed with cream-colored Masonite and red brick.  The steel roof was painted red to match these outer walls. Inside, the walls were given a mahogany color.  Constructed on one side of the house were the sunken living room with a cathedral ceiling, and a kitchen and family room combination.  The other side of the house was given a gallery which lead to four bedrooms.

In August of 1990, Crimson Beech had been designated as a New York City Landmark. Just six years later, the Cass family sold their home to another couple.  As new families have moved in and out of the house, the exterior of Crimson Beech has remained the same, along with some of the interior features originally in the house. Today, the house is once again privately-owned.

Posted by Anthony Licciardello on


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