A “Dual in the Sun”. The Rockefeller/Ron Martin home.
607 Shore Walk.
Designed by Architect Harry Bates at the height of his Fire Island Career. 607 Shore Walk remains an intact example of Bates style as well as classic 60’s architecture. Built in 1965 by Walter Reich for Alan Morton, the two simple glass boxes that are the main house and a separate cottage inspired the house’s original name “Dual in the Sun.”
After serving as a rental property for several seasons, the house was purchased in 1968 by Jeanette Rockefeller following her divorce from Winthrope Rockefeller- Governor of Arkansas at the time. Mrs. Rockefeller wanted to be close to her long-time friend Joe Lombardo (Band leader Guy Lombardo’s brother) who resided at 606 Shore with his partner Eddie Harmon. Lombardo a well established interior designer, helped his old friend transform the house, using many furnishings which had been shipped from Winrock Farms, the fabled Rockefeller estate in Arkansas.
Mrs. Rockefeller’s bed remains in the guest bedroom of the main house, and the stone statue in the front garden and the stone planter on the front deck are examples of the items from the Arkansas estate that were transported down to the beach by truck. Lombardo often told the story that seven coats of white paint were required on the interior walls before he was satisfied that Mrs. Rockefeller could move in.
Jeanette Rockefeller loved to entertain informally on Shore Walk, with guest often gathering to sing around a treasured player piano that she had shipped from Arkansas. One of the much talked about parties of the early 70’s was a glamorous affair she and Lombardo had next door at 606 in 1972 with a full orchestra playing poolside and tables lavishly laden with food. Guests felt as if Southampton had arrived in the Pines. The evening culminated with fireworks, and Mrs. Rockefeller, through a very generous contribution to the Pines Fire Department, had arranged for the firefighters, hoses ready, to stretch down Tuna and Shore in case a spark from the fireworks touched down.
The house was sold in early 1974 to Four Shore Associates, a partnership of four young men ( John Macunovich, Jim Meade, Ron Martin, and David Napoli), all under the age of 32, who had made a down payment the previous fall after concluding that it was outrageous that their rent at 209 Midway was going from $3,000 to $3,500 for a long season!
Throughout the 70’s, the design of the house, with interior spaces opening to the outside along with an easy flow between the three decks, created a venue for some of the fabled parties of the era. Theses included the “Lady Pizza Goes to Havana” party in which the house was transformed into a Cuban nightclub circa 1940., and an annual Labor Day Weekend night long party beginning with one in 1976 in which super model Pat Cleveland, two pigtails aloft with red helium filled balloons, turned the walk between the two houses into her own catwalk. The “Hot Safari” party in 1977 featured life size jungle animals painted by noted artist Gustavo Novoa throughout the gardens. The 1978 party was the first in the Pines to have a live DJ, with Howard Merritt, one of the premier DJs of the 70’s, giving the classic “Native New Yorker” it’s first spin ever.
All the initial conceptualizing and planning for the legendary BEACH party of 1979 took place around the round living room coffee table in the fall of 1978. And the house became headquarters during the days leading up to the “party of the decade”, providing food and showers for the production teams, an office for the media relations, and residence for the entertainers. The three girls from the Ritchie Family participated in the merry chaos from the guest house, Bonnie Pointer played diva in Mrs. Rockefeller’s bed, and several of the Village People boys just hung out to lend support and have fun even though they hadn’t been asked to perform.
Mrs. Rockefeller had commissioned architect Harry Bates to design a second floor addition to the main house and a pool between the two structures. She passed the blueprints along to the new owners, who wisely rejected any notion of altering the lines and size of the house. The architectural integrity of the original design has now been maintained for more than 40 years. Its timeless simplicity and beauty provide a classic example of the 1960’s and Harry Bates early work. Today Ron Martin, the only surviving member of the initial partnership lives quietly with a house filled with history, yet still surrounded by beauty, community, and love that remain…
Photos from Fire Island Modernist By Christopher Rawlins.
Copy by FIPAP 2006 House Tour.