Lifestyle,Spotlights

Jack Lenor Larsen…”If somebody’s already done it, why do that?”

By Richard Lewin - April 7, 2021

Jack Lenor Larsen (1927-2020), Founder of LongHouse Reserve

When the founder and figurehead of any established organization passes away, one of the first normal concerns is, “What will become of the place without them?” Fortunately for us and for future generations, Jack Lenor Larsen, textile designer and guru, collector, author of ten books and founder of LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, always had a vision for a rich future, even after the end of his own life.

LongHouse Reserve is on sixteen acres in East Hampton’s Northwest Woods area where visitors of all ages can experience immersion in the drama of a unique combination of natural surroundings, and artworks in scale. Sixty thoughtfully placed works of art, including a life size chess set by Yoko Ono titled “Play It By Trust”, Will Ryman’s 24-foot tall sculpture of roses, titled “LongHouse 6” and a huge serpentine blue rope sculpture by Orly Genger, titled “Honey” surprise you at every turn.

When Jack acquired the property in 1975, his mission was to share with visitors his own experience of “living with art in all forms”, and for its “collections, gardens, sculpture and programs to reflect world culture and teach the fostering of a creative life.”

Always a man who practiced what he preached, Jack decided he would reside in the middle of his dream. So, in 1986 he had a 13,000 square foot, four level house built on the property, with design inspired by the seventh century Shinto Shrine in Ise, Japan. Maintaining a continuum of atmosphere between indoors and outdoors, Jack’s living space was always filled with plants and museum-quality collectibles.

When LongHouse Reserve opened to public visitors in 1992, Jack did maintain his privacy as much as possible in his residence. On a small glass entrance door, there is a small sign saying “Private”. Only Jack and his personal guests entered there. In addition, Sundays were known as “Jack’s Day”, so LongHouse was closed so he could enjoy its peace and beauty on his own.

Now that Jack has passed away, LongHouse has different plans for Sundays. According to Dianne Benson, who has been either LongHouse Board President or Co-president since 2006, family and other small gatherings may be allowed (with proper P.P.E., of course) on Sundays. Dianne also reports that, during this season, which opens on April 17th, a Legacy Exhibit area honoring Jack will be designed for outside visitors in the upstairs residence. Public tours of the rest of his living space will be allowed as soon as possible. Everything will be kept as Jack lived and enjoyed it.

Although Jack Lenor Larsen left us in December, of course a special day had to be chosen to commemorate his life and genius: Valentine’s Day 2021. Because of the pandemic, there couldn’t be the usual annual gathering at LongHouse, so nearly 400 LHR Friends and Family joined together and shared their love for Jack via Zoom at the LongHouse Reserve Winter Benefit, called “Love Song to Jack”.

Visitors to LongHouse will enjoy that reservations are required, that only 60 visitors at a time will be allowed, and that bookings are made online in advance on the soon-to-be updated web site: www.longhouse.org

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