“People think I’m well connected,” Caroline Rob Zaleski says over lunch at The Four Seasons. “I’ve been at the center of these campaigns to save modern buildings. But it is harder than they think – all of the letter writing and phone calls.”
An energetic blonde with the distracted look of an academic but the focus of a laser beam, she brokered an eleventh-hour deal on October 26 to stop the demolition of a brick and concrete house with dramatic glass-curtain walls in Old Westbury designed by Edward Durell Stone and known as the Conger Goodyear house. This after recently rescuing the Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal at JFK.
“It’s a little bit like being an archaeologist,” says Zaleski, who lives on Central Park West with her husband, Michel Zaleski, an investment banker (his father, Joseph Zaleski, was a well-known modern architect.) “Many of the houses were not on the official log of the firms. They’re bootleg houses.”
After lunch she is going out to Huntington to save a 1936 house by R. Clinton MacKenzie. Directly across the street is the house of Wallace Harrison, the architect of the Time-Life Building and most of Rockefeller University, not to mention the United Nations. But that doesn’t seem to mean much to buyers. The house has been on the market for nearly three years. So Zaleski’s pitching in there. “I document the houses I discover – and often I end up being their advocates too.”
Zaleski is currently investigating Bauhaus master and Whitney Museum designer Marcel Breuer’s Long Island work. So far she’s found a house of his in Lloyd Harbor, as well as examples in Hewlett Harbor and Lawrence. It’s not easy work. “You can’t see these houses from the road,” she says.