Can You Name the Oldest House in America?

A heavily debated subject, the oldest house in the United States is the Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts. Built between 1637 and 1641, it’s the oldest surviving timber-frame home in North America. Puritan settler Jonathan Fairenbanke constructed the farm house for his wife Grace and their family. The original house was rather grand for the times and had a total of four rooms, two on the first floor and two on the second floor. The house was passed down through eight generations of the family until the early 20th century and is now a historic museum. Since the original purchase, the estate has never had a mortgage incumbrance on it. The home is open to visitors from May 1st through October 31st. For more on the Fairbanks House please visit

Courtesy of Fairbanks House

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How The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach is Raising Young Architects

Every year the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach takes the 4th grade class at Rosarian Academy through the ‘Heritage Education Program’. Through the study of local architecture, the program teaches the lesson of pride in the cultural history to the area’s children. The students learn about the history of their community and an impressive architectural vocabulary through lessons in fine arts, mathematics, science, social studies and technology. Taking their knowledge, the young architects then design floor plans on graph paper, making proper marks for doors, windows, stairs and furniture. They are then asked to create model houses complete with landscape architecture elements, some even add matchbox cars, trees, dolls and rubber snakes.

Through this program students acquire an appreciation for their own heritage and an understanding of architectural symbolism expressed through concepts of proportion, balance and scale.

The “Heritage Education Program” is provided free to schools and has been so successful that it was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award in Education by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 1993. For more on the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach please visit

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Telluride’s Mountain Film Festival adds FREE Screenings in Town Park

Each year we look forward to the Telluride MountainFilm Festival, which is this weekend, May 27th-30th. Mountainfilm is one of the longest-running film festivals in the United States and this year the festival will be playing FREE screenings in Telluride Town Park. With our small office in downtown Telluride and projects ranging from private residences to affordable housing projects, we are always inspired by the films presented.

After designing a new festival infrastructure for Town Park, we hope that the Town will be able to implement the design to provide festival-goers and performers with the updated stage and infrastructure they deserve. For more information on Telluride’s Mountain Film Festival, please visit:

For more on our projects in Telluride please visit our website at:


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Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society Museum

Our team at Charles Cunniffe Architects has an affinity for historical structures, and what could be more historic than the Martha’s Vineyard Museum (c.1740). Located in Edgartown, the founders devoted a great deal of their time, energy, and resources in the documentation of the Island’s role in American history and the community’s involvement in the maritime industry.

On exhibit this summer, “Your Town, Our Island,” includes objects, oral histories and photographs showing how each of the Island’s six towns instills a sense of
belonging and pride in its residents.

For more information visit

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Mountain Living Magazine Interviews Charles Cunniffe on Art, Aspen and Everything in Between

Celebrating his firm’s 30th anniversary this year, Charles Cunniffe was interviewed by Mountain Living Magazine on all things art, architecture and Aspen. With inspiration ranging from Le Corbusier, Richard Neutra, Santiago Calatrava to Alberto Giacometti and Richard Serra, Cunniffe’s work is influenced by a wide variety of artists.

Charles calls Aspen’s Red Mountain his home and feels that with its commanding views and accessibility to downtown, it is still a very hot place to live. When asked by Mountain Living what has been the most significant change that he has witnessed in the last thirty years, Charles said that his clients are looking for a more contemporary way to connect to their surroundings. You might be surprised to hear that Charles’ camera is his most essential tool and that he carries it with him at all times.

To read the article in its entirety visit

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Ira Rennert Engages Architect to Build a 10,000 sq ft Museum at his Hamptons Estate without Approvals

As summer heats up in the Hamptons, so does the real estate. Word on the street is that billionaire Ira Rennert, with his 63 acres on Sagaponack Island called Life at Fairfield (otherwise known as “The House That Ate the Hamptons”) has engaged an architect to design a 10,000 square foot museum. We guess his colossal 110,000 square foot mansion, playhouse, private synagogue and auxiliary buildings weren’t enough for Rennert.

He is now constructing a 10,000 square foot museum to house his $500 million art collection. Rather than dealing with the Town Board after being turned down when he wanted to build an outdoor bathroom, Rennert decided to keep his latest addition under wraps.  New York Post reports that a building inspector has slapped Rennert with a notice of violation and a stop-work order notice. A handyman who tweets at @hamptonsborn, tweeted about the museum – leading to the bust. There was no permit attempt for the structure.

Photo credit: Astrid Stawiarz for The Wall St Journal

What do you think about Rennert’s latest addition?

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Telluride’s Frazier Homestead

On a windswept bluff high in the Rockies near Telluride in Southwestern Colorado is a remote and raw place. The air is thin and cool; the sun is bright and less hindered by the atmosphere than that found in most civilized human habitations. The site is spectacular in a timeless ancient way and provided the inspiration for the architect to build on the past. The history of the region and a stone outcrop on the site offers up clues to the solution Charles Cunniffe Architects realized for a unique and sophisticated client.

The rock found on the site had fractured off of the matrix of the sandstone through endless freeze-thaw cycles, gravity and the elements. The size of the rubble reminded our architects of the scale and coloration of the ancient masonry structures of the nearby and long ago Anasazi people. Indeed, the exposed cliff-like setting suggested the need for the strength and durability of the ancient building forms found in Anasazi structures.

It is no wonder that the owner, who chose to build this 11,800 square foot residence in such a remote and inhospitable place, would possess bravery and confidence in sufficient quantity to have become a success in life, and up to the challenge of inhabiting this uncompromising location.

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History of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Have you ever wondered how your town was formed? Researching the history of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for a project we’ve been working on, we’re so intrigued by this town’s unique history.

The Geneva Lakes area with its beaches, specialty shops and galleries, golfing, boating, Potawatomi Trail, lake cruises, great food, and lodging services are what most us of know about the area. The earliest record of white men seeing the beautiful expanse of water was a party traveling with the Kinzie family between their army post at Fort Dearborn (Chicago) and Fort Winnebago (Portage City) near the Fox and Wisconsin River portage in1831. This area was not on the river and lake highways of the earlier frontier period and thus lay undiscovered.


Following a “Wild West” battle to settle ownership, grist and sawmills were built. The town was surveyed and laid out in 1837 and lake shore logs and many walnut trees were floated to the mills and cut into lumber from which the town was built. Earlier land sales were confirmed at the Federal Government Land Office in 1839. The price was $1.25 per acre! Most came via the Erie Canal and steamboat or sailing ships through the Great Lakes, embarking at Southport (Kenosha) or Milwaukee. Others trudged through the swamps and forest of Southern Michigan, Northern Ohio and Indiana. By 1840, there were two hotels, two general stores, three churches, and a distillery added to the mills, cabins and houses.

Prior to the civil war, Lake Geneva was on the reverse route to the Great Lake ports for slaves escaping from Southern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky. After the war, the town became a resort for the wealthy Chicago families. These families began construction of the many mansions on the lake, and Lake Geneva became known as the Newport (RI) of the West. Visitors included Mary Todd Lincoln and Generals Sherman and Sheridan.

The Chicago Fire of 1871 caused many Chicago families to move to their summer homes on the lake while the city was rebuilt. The construction and maintenance of these mansions, as well as household employment, developed a separate industry in the town adding to the milling, furniture, wagon and typewriter manufacturing enterprises. After arrival of the railroad, thousands of tons of Lake Geneva ice were shipped each year to the Chicago market, until the beginning of World War II. Lake Geneva is filled with homes and buildings from these earlier times. They represent the frontier and pioneering, as well as the later Victorian period.

To see some of our other projects, visit Charles Cunniffe Architects.

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