Iconic NJ beach house sails to NY

March 13, 2009 8:33:02 AM PDT
Sure, housing prices are falling. But how's this for a bargain for a Long Island, N.Y. couple: An iconic beach house, designed by a world famous architect, for just $1. The catch? They had to pay at least $100,000 to move it on a barge from the Jersey shore to their home.

But that's just fine with Robert Gotkin and Deborah Sarnoff, who run a husband-and-wife dermatology and plastic surgery practice in New York. They already live in one house designed by architect Robert Venturi, and plan to use the newest addition as a guest cottage.

The house set sail from a marina in Barnegat Light, on Long Beach Island, just before 8 p.m. Thursday and arrived in Glen Cove, N.Y., Friday afternoon after a 95-mile waterborne trip.

"We're really excited about this," said Sarnoff, who began researching Venturi and his work after she and her husband moved into a boat-shaped Venturi home on Long Island. "It became an obsession. He really shook things up and broke a lot of conventional ideas."

The house Venturi built in Barnegat Light in 1967 is best known for the huge number 9 on its front, and the sailboat-shaped window on one side.

But new owners recently bought the land it sat on, and planned to tear it down to make way for something newer and bigger. They told the architect's son, Jim Venturi, he could have it for free if he could get it off the land soon.

The Venturis turned to Gotkin and Sarnoff, with whom they had become friendly. They quickly struck a deal and made plans for the voyage.

"This is a wonderful opportunity, that we can get it of the site safely," said Denise Scott Brown, Venturi's wife who designed it with him. "It became a campaign for a wonderful house that was designed with lots of love. It's very unusual; it looks like a little radio rather than a house."

Robert Venturi said he was concerned that the house might be demolished, but prepared for that possibility.

"Architecture is the most fragile of mediums," he said. "You don't repaint a painting or change sculpture, but architecture often is demolished. I'm just glad it worked out."

The house, which was removed from its original location several weeks ago and stored in a bay-side marina, was jacked up and lifted onto a huge marine barge Thursday morning. Work crews had hoped to have it on its way by 9 a.m., but they delayed the departure to take advantage of more favorable tides on Long Island on Friday.


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