Thursday, October 1, 2009

RIP La Ronda

Today is a very sad day for me, as a preservationist movement failed to save the Mizner designed mansion, La Ronda, outside of Philadelphia today.
Finally breaking through layers of secrecy, the owner, Joseph Kestenbaum,(biography of him as well as contact information, should you feel so inclined to contact him to let you know how you feel) finally came out claiming that he had been open to selling the mansion but no buyers came through. Really? This has been proven to not be true -1 serious buyer was desperately trying to reach him, Benjamin Wohl. Mr Kestenbaum, if you are not ashamed of your actions,why the big secret who you were?
Mr. Kestenbaum, our nation's buildings are our legacy. You decided to destroy this home (which you bought for some unknown reason) and are in talks to build a home which will undoubtably be of less importance and lesser quality. While you may not care about La Ronda, many of us do and this is a heart-wrenching day for us. I hope you enjoy your sprawling mcmansion - I'm sure many of your neighbors won't be bothering you with invites over for coffee or warm apple pies. I hope your home makes you very happy and you lose oodles of money when you go to sell it someday.
Read more about the end of the struggle online :
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Wikipedia
Save Ardmore Coalition
and the Philadephia Inquirer - again - where the owner laments the 'public circus' this has become. Gee, Mr. Kestenbaum - are you seriously surprised by this? I'm only the more depressed that I wasn't able to chain myself to the front gates of the mansion. I hope I never meet you in person and I'm guessing you probably feel the same way. I think the only thing more depressing than the tearing down of this masterpiece is this hokey picture of you. Karma is a bitch, please remember that. After you are gone, THIS is what you will be remembered for: your legacy.

22 comments:

David said...

Get him Tiger!

Style Redux 2 said...

Stefan-I am just sick. I went to Bryn Mawr College undergrad just down the road. The man clearly has money but no style, soul, sense, or sensitivity. I hope the ghosts of this stunning masterpiece haunt him all his days and nights.

MaryBeth said...

I drove by just last week and saw antique removal trucks in the driveway. I am so sorry to see such a beauty torn down. I will have to go by tomorrow to see how much is left. MB

Renee Finberg said...

disgusting!

even trump would have made it into a public building of sorts.
(like he did here in fla. with mara lago)
they could have made it into a club of some sorts.
a ballroom/meeting space for high end events.
this would never ever happen down here.
mizner is king in florida.

xxx

Karena said...

So sad, and so much greed, Money does not make class!

maison21 said...

for shame, mr. kestenbaum. for shame.

Amanda said...

Makes me ill! From the pics I've seen, it was a gorgeous place.

YSLGuy said...

I hate when such amazing buildings are torn down. I'm sure he will put up something ghastly and boring!

bwemerson said...

Total madness. I had hoped that the tear down insanity would stop with the economic turndown, but this guy clearly would rather win than do the right thing. I just don't get the idea of buying superb buildings and then destroying them in favor of the mundance. surely there must have been another house in Ardmore?

As for Mizner being King in Florida, the awful fact is that many Mizner houses there have either been torn down in recent years, or gutted and added to in ways that destroy their aesthetic integrity, despite the efforts of the landmarks commission of Palm Beach. And, up in Georgia, the revered Cloister hotel by Mizner was torn down and rebuilt in an awful pastiche, suburban Tuscan Spanish, with all the usual bad proportions and bad detailings, and everybody raves about how the Cloister was 'saved'. Save me.

DAM said...

Makes my eyes well a bit, literally, to read the articles and see the destruction of one of the Nation's true treasures and times long gone.

So now where La Ronda sits will be a McMansion. Great.

bwemerson said...

This is a tragic story on all fronts. It's a pity that the Kestenbaums get an ego rush from 'winning' in this. It's bizarre that so many superb buildings have become teardowns in what I call the 'HGTV Syndrome' (Buy something nice, replace it with something from Home Depot, Everything MUST BE NEW at all costs. I'd hope the economic downturn would bring an end to the wholesale destruction, but, no. It's hard to absorb that this was the only place in Ardmore that would suit the Kestenbaum's quest for a gross mcmansion,and that they would rather win than do a good thing. HOWEVER: The town of Ardmore is just as to blame for not having an historic preservation ordinance with enough teeth to prevent this sort of vandalism.

On another note, in response to Ms. Finberg's assertion that Mizner is King in Florida, that is only partly true. The IDEA of Mizner is king, but in fact many, many of his Palm Beach houses have been seriously compromised by aggrandizing additions, interior gut jobs, etc., and new construction in a sort of 'Mizner Light' that captures none of the elusive qualities that made his architecture so special and liveable. Likewise with the wonderful old Cloister hotel by Mizner up in Sea Island. It was 'restored' by tearing down all but a couple of rooms, and replace with a 'Mizner Light' monstrosity that 'captures the spirit of the original', only without the sure sense of proportion and understatement...

Sorry this is such a long comment, but it's a complex and sad issue, historic preservation, and both sides have blood on their hands with this one. Let's hope Ardmore learns from this and passes a stronger ordinance. Sadly, this is why the Kestenbaums were able to do as they did....

katiedid said...

Horrifying. The worst of what other countries perceive as an "American capatalist". Is he going to subdivide?! His neighbors will be so pleased!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

BWEMERSON -thanks for your insightful comments! I'm glad to see that everyone feels as strongly about this as me. I think in the past 20 years the US has finally come to realize the importance of many of these historical structures but I think we have a long way to go.

Anonymous said...

If ignorance is bliss, Kestenbaum must be the happiest man on earth.

Landscape Designer said...

Well said Sefan, my feelings exactly. I live in an historic house and had terrible reservations about adding invisible double pane windows to keep the draught out. (we could not light candles!)

These people have to be stopped. It is so sad that this country destroys it's cultural heritage and that $$$$ talk.
Sandra

The Matters of Style Girls said...

Very sad to see something so historically significant be torn down. Being from South Florida, I can definitely attest that a "Mizner-lite" mentality now pervades a lot of architecture, especially in Florida. A house is deemed "Mizner-inspired" simply because it has a spanish tile roof when clearly none of the same design, details, and workmanship are present.

Calimyrna Moon said...

Another Philistine with more dollars than sense. The stupidity of this is breathtaking.

bwemerson said...

I've been pondering La Ronda's place in the greater scheme of things, and we do need to take the hyperbole down a peg. I agree wholeheartedly and passionately that the destruction was an unnecessary crime, and the circumstances on both sides that led to the destruction were stupid to the point of evil. BUT, wonderful though La Ronda was, with some sensational moments and details, it was not one of Mizner's masterworks by a long shot. It was a large, well designed, well crafted, dramatic, impressive and intriguing building. But it lacked the perfect harmony with site and location, and the subtlety, of Mizner's best buildings, such as the superb Warden House, or the unforgettable Everglades Club that started it all, or his amazing shopping and apartment complex, Via Mizner, or Playa Reinte, the vast Cosden/Dodge Villa, which had the most in common in design with La Ronda, but which was an infinitely more interesting and controlled design, also tragically gone. Don't get me wrong; I am firmly on the side of La Ronda having been worthy of preservation at all costs, but I don't think we should let our emotions interfere with our critical faculties. The British have a graded listing system for their architectural treasures that recognizes this fact...Grade I, Grade II, etc. After all, isn't this why we all care so much about design? And thanks, Architectdesign, for providing a great forum for raising our awareness and for discussion. And gosh, I'm long winded on this subject. But it matters. Cheers.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

BWE, I know exactly what you say and couldn't agree with you more. WHile it wasn't his best example, it still was probably the best thing for miles around. Also, just the oddity of a Mizner mediterranean palace in the hills of Philly really appealed to me. I think we have already lost so many treasures, we can't afford to loose the few we have left: be they grade I or grade IV. Even if a Meier or Piano masterpiece (2 current architects I REALLY admire) was built in its' place, I would still mourn the loss of the Mizner. I know -I get too emotionally involved with buildings!

bwemerson said...

AD, absolutely agree----and there's no such thing as too emotionally involved with buildings. I still am holding grudges for buildings demolished forty years ago.

Prairie Girl Studio said...

ouch. pretty hard to express the pain of something like this ... completely senseless and unfathomable ... really and truly sorry for the loss in your community ... unfortunately the new landowner will never conceive the magnitude of his actions ... so sad that he is so disconnected from the land of the living as such ... he lost before he began what he thinks he has won ~ he is to be pitied ... i hope that someone has documented this magnificent structure in photos and words so that there is some way to keep it living ...
wishing we could save all the heritage buildings,
prairiegirl

SAMUEL LIMA said...

Absolutely horrifying. I lived on Worth Ave. in Florida for a summer and his work is nothing less than delightful.

I hope whatever is built in its place will be published so that architects everywhere can mock it to no end.