The House my Grandfather Built

My maternal grandfather – Colin Webster Innes (1893 -1964) – was an architectural engineer by profession.

Colin Webster Innes by Bernard Safran 1978

My maternal grandfather Colin Webster Inness, painted by my father Bernard Safran (1978, oil on masonite, 16.75″ x19.5″)

He worked on skyscrapers in Chicago and New York, and eventually became the Vice President of Rheinstein Construction Corporation in Manhattan. (In addition to skyscrapers and office buildings he also worked on the New York Times building, luxury homes, and hospitals in the New York City environs.)

My grandparents had built a country house in upstate New York that my grandfather had designed himself. It was a small salt-box style home with a wing addition.

They also owned a couple of properties in Bronxville, NY, just before I was born. Including a double lot with a house on it at 73 Gard Avenue.

In the beginning my grandparents rented the house at 73 Gard Ave to my aunt Coline and her family for a few years, while my grandparents lived closer to the Village of Bronxville on Kensington Road.

country house477

The country house in upstate NY that my grandfather designed and built.

The property on Gard Ave had a large open yard that ran down to McIntyre Street – and it was big enough to build another house on… and that was what my parents ended up doing in 1959. (I wrote an earlier post about my parents’ search for a home in the late 1950s which included seeing the notorious Amityville house that was up for sale)

My parents used my grandfather’s blueprints from his country house to build our house.

Eventually my grandparents moved into the small house at 73 Gard Avenue, and that is how I grew up with my Nanny next door (my grandfather died from arteriosclerosis when I was three and a half).

Gard Avenue 1959

The house at 70 Gard Avenue just after it was built. You can just see my grandparents’ house in the background on the left.

Our house had a simple floor plan – the main floor of the main part of the house consisted of the kitchen, my parent’s bedroom, an open living room/dining room and a small lavatory off the kitchen – accessible to the studio that was located in the wing addition. The studio also had a door into it from the living room.

There were two doors on the front of the house with one door that directly entered the studio. And there was one door at the back that entered the kitchen.

Upstairs there were two bedrooms and one full bathroom. My room faced Gard Avenue. It was a cozy little house.

Gard Ave front path

The front of our house at 70 Gard Avenue circa 1965. My mother had rock gardens in the front and back yards.

Gard Ave living room481

A view of our living room/dining room looking into the studio. The paintings are museum copies of Old Masters done by my father at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had a fireplace (barely visible on front left) that we enjoyed – I remember roasting chestnuts in it.

Living Room Bronxville by Bernard Safran 1967

This painting by my Dad shows the other end of the living room including the fireplace. My mother is sitting in “the big chair”. and those lamps flanking the sofa had live goldfish in them at one time. There was a built in bookcase to the right of the sofa that you can’t see in this painting -above the bookcase hung the notorious painting of The Three Graces that my father painted using my mother as model, much to my childhood chagrin (see my earlier post). The Living Room, Bronxville by Bernard Safran, oil on masonite, 1967, 15″ x 20.5″


Gard Ave l482

The view up Gard Avenue from our corner – our yard is on the front right. My grandparents’ house is the next house up the street where you can see a stone wall. Note the big beautiful trees – sadly they aren’t there anymore.


Bernie in studio blk and white

My Dad in his studio in Bronxville. You can see the door that opened to the front of the house on the left. The painting on the easel is of my grandfather Colin Webster Innes and my Nanny, Elsie Innes. And for bonus points – if you look closely you can see the sofa that my Dad took naps on everyday.

Gard Ave backyard snow

This view of the back of our house was taken from my grandparents’ back yard. On the left is the two car garage that we shared with them.