Though Philip Johnson’s skyscrapers changed the nation’s skylines during his career, it was in 1949 that he gained a kind of pop celebrity as The Man in the Glass House for the simple all-glass one-room weekend retreat he built on a 47-acre pastoral property in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Now, for the first time, through Nov. 30, you can take a self-guided tour ($75; reservations required) that allows you to explore, at your own pace, the iconic Glass House and the other structures Johnson built during the 50 years he lived and worked here and the thoughtful landscaping he designed with longtime companion David Whitney: the underground Painting Gallery (inspired by Agamemnon’s tomb), the Sculpture Gallery, the Library, the Pond Pavilion and the Lincoln Kirstein Tower. On-site guides can provide background and answer questions.
Bring your camera for once-in-a-lifetime selfies and wear comfortable, sturdy shoes (no heels) as there is some uneven terrain.
The first building you’ll see is the jagged red-and-black gatehouse known as Da Monsta, inspired by a Frank Stella design. Walk down the hill and a diagonal path leads you to the house, at the edge of a crest overlooking a pond. The living, dining and sleeping areas are divided by low walnut cabinets, so nature’s colors provide the house’s paint and her trees the wallpaper. There’s one tiny concession to privacy: a brick cylinder housing the bathroom on one side and a wood-burning fireplace on the other.
Linger at the house and you’ll experience an installation called “The Veil” by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya, whereby a ghostly fog created by fresh water pumped through 600 nozzles shrouds the house once an hour and gradually recedes.
Lillian Africano is the author of 16 books, and she is a member of the Travel Industry Advisory Board for both the New York Times Travel Show and the Los Angeles Times Travel Show. She travels the world but loves coming home to New Jersey and New York.
MORE SUMMER TRAVEL QUESTS
14) See Philip Johnson’s Glass House on a Self-Guided Tour