Arthur Everett "Chick" Austin, Jr. is best known as the celebrated director and caretaker of the Wadsworth Atheneum art museum, but his home is equally noteworthy, not for its extravagance, but for the fact that it is little more than a pasteboard fake.
Austin took inspiration for his unique home from the Italian villas of architect Andrea Palladio, classically styled edifices that incorporate a columned style. The Connecticut faux-manse was built in 1930 to Austin's strange specification that it be a long, thin, one-room-deep home. The "Facade House," as it came to be known, has an impressive edifice that stretches 86 feet from end to end, but viewed from the side, it becomes clear that the width of the home is just 18 feet. In addition to the illusory design, the home was constructed not out of sturdy brick and stone, but from pine board painted to make it look grander than it was.
The unimpressed locals took to calling Austin's house "the pasteboard palace," but Austin, ever the raconteur, soon turned his house to the hottest spot in Hartford, entertaining luminaries like Gertude Stein and Salvador Dali. The interior was lushly decorated with rich European furniture and decorations.
No matter how the Hartford community once felt about the strange home, it is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is seen as one of Austin's finest remaining works. Visiting the house, it is still hard to tell the true shape of the house from the front, and the effect of the unique shape is still strangely impressive.
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