Lifetime’s treasures now gone

The Times
25 May, 1989

Lifetime’s treasures now gone
Designers lament loss

By Carla Anderson
Staff Writer

PRINCETON TOWNSHIP — An extensive collection of decorative woodwork and furniture made by noted craftsman George Nakashima was destroyed when a disastrous, accidental fire raged through a Stuart Road home Tuesday. The fire engulfed the house even before firefighters reached the home in a secluded; wooded section of the township.

The house, owned by Dr. Arthur Krosnick and his wife, Evelyn, and designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, contained more than 100 Nakashima pieces the couple had collected over three decades, the craftsman said yesterday from his studio in New Hope, Pa.

The home and its contents were reduced to a smoking, blackened concrete foundation by the sudden blaze, which was sparked in the basement when an acetylene torch, being used by a plumber to weld a pipe-fitting, suddenly caught fire, according to Princeton Fire Chief Mark Freda.

At the scene of the fire Tuesday, Freda estimated the financial loss to be ‘about RI million. However, no official estimate has yet been established, he said yesterday.

IRONICALLY, THE house was featured in a 1981 article on state-of-the-art fire and burglar alarms in House Beautiful’s Building Manual, shortly after the house was completed in 1981.

The eight-year-old article reported that the house was designed with a ”deft Mend of natural materials and sensitivity to the role that furnishings executed by architect George Nakashima would play. Understandingly unwilling to compromise this in-tegrity, the owner; insisted that security devices he as unobtrusive as possible.”

According to the article, smoke and fire sensors were recessed into ceiling and wall panels throughout the honk, and designed to signal Honeywell Protection Services. which would then alert the local fire department should a fire break out. Workers at that company said yesterday that Krosnick’s name still showed up on a list of protected customers, but could not say whether they were signaled at the outbreak of Tuesday’s fire.

Freda said yesterday that al-though he was aware of a burglar alarm system at the house, he did not know whether it included a fire protection system. He did say, however, that preliminary investigations of the fire did not point to either local police or fire companies having been notified of the fire through the protection company.

Neither Dr. Krosnick, a specialist in diabetes and medical (Hue-tor of the Princeton Diabetes Education and Treatment Center. nor Evelyn Krosnick, director of the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra, could be reached for comment yesterday.

ARCHITECT John Randall Mc. Donald said from his home in St. Croix, V.I., yesterday that he was “devastated” Over the’ loss of the house, which was the second home he had designed for the Krosnieks.

“I’ve lost a mother, a father, grandparents, but I’ve never had a loss like this. This is different, it’s losing too and-half years of total dedication to art and music”

Evelyn Krosnick, passionate about her love of music, was “demanding” in her ideas for the house, and ‘her desire to incorporate music into its design, McDonald said.

The result of more than two years of work, the one-story Western red cedar and stone home was -built around a central music room. and “based on symphonic music.” according to McDonald. The sharp angles of the shaded home were designed to complement the smooth, flossing lines of Nakashima furniture, he said and to capture the changing character of shadows cast by the passing sun.

Nakashima, who works out of his studio in New Hope, Pa., said yesterday that while he still has designs for much of the furniture that was burned, and all of it was “adequately” insured by the Krosnicks, some pieces will be impossible to reproduce.

“I think especially the dining table,” he said yesterday. That piece, which he made about 15 years ago, was fashioned out of two “book match” joining pieces of walnut, “quite special, unusual in grain and rich in color,” he said.

UP IN SMOKE — Dr. Arthur Krosnick surveys the ruins of his $1.5 million home yesterday after a morning fire destroyed the Stuart Road house in Princeton. Authorities say the blaze was sparked by a plumber’s blow torch. No one was seriously injured.

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