LeClear House // c.1915

Waban in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a hotbed for architect-designed houses as their own residences. This Colonial Revival/Tudor Revival style estate was designed by Gifford LeClear (1874–1931), a prominent architect in the Boston area. Gifford LeClear was born in Rutherford, New Jersey to Thomas and Cornelia (King) LeClear. He was educated in the private schools in Boston before entering Harvard University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1895 and Master of Arts in 1896. He then worked for a year in the engineering department of the West End Street Railway before forming his partnership with Densmore in 1897. The partnership of Densmore & LeClear was formed in April 1897, practicing as mechanical and electrical engineers. One of the firm’s major projects in this role was the design of the building systems for the new campus of the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Paine Furniture Building // 1914

Located on Arlington Street between St. James and Stuart streets in Boston’s Back Bay, this gorgeous masonry commercial block stands as a testament to the amazing architecture built in Boston in the early 20th century. The Paine Furniture Building was constructed in 1914 to house the extensive showroom, offices, and manufacturing operations of the Paine Furniture Company. Founded in 1835, the company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company, a name which stuck until the company closed in 2000. The architects for the building, Densmore & LeClear, were very busy in the early decades of the 20th century and designed many iconic buildings nearby and in towns surrounding Boston through the 1940s.

Oak Hill Middle School // 1936

In the 1930s, America was in the throes of the Great Depression, and towns and cities struggled to provide services for the ever-growing populations, all the while suffering from lower tax revenues. The New Deal was enacted as a result, which provided a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939. One of these programs was the Public Works Administration (PWA), which funded and built large-scale public works projects such as dams, bridges, hospitals, and schools, to provide jobs and bolster local economies. In Newton, the developing Oak Hill Village required a new public school, and the town received funding for the Oak Hill Middle School in 1935. Architects Densmore, LeClear, and Robbins were hired to provide designs for a new school, and builders completed the building the next year. The Georgian Revival building is constructed with red brick with cast stone trim. The 16-over-16 windows and cupola also work to showcase the beauty of the design.

Do you know of any PWA projects near you?

Marion Nichols Summer Home // 1935

This summer estate in Hollis, NH epitomizes the hidden architectural splendor that can be found off the beaten path in many small New England towns. Hollis began serving as a summer destination in the late 1880s and the trend continued until WWII. In many cases, old family homesteads became summer residences for descendants who had moved to the city but desired to return to their “roots” periodically. The Nichols Home is unique in Hollis as it was designed to be a summer retreat for a well-to-do widow and her considerable servant staff, combining all the comforts available with the advantages of a rural retreat. The design of the main house offers separate living spaces for the family and the servants, including a library, living room and dining room for the use of the family. The servants’ wing was designed to include a two-car garage, a butler’s pantry, a manual dumbwaiter connecting the basement and first floor used to transport fireplace wood and a receiving unit for the delivery of milk, groceries and other goods. Sleeping porches, capitalizing on the benefits of the fresh country air, are an integral component of the house design and are included in both the family and servant wings. The home was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Densmore, LeClear & Robbins, who were hired by the 52 year old widow’s children for their mothers’ summer home. It is said that Ms. Nichols never liked the home and decided to summer instead at the old family summer home down the street.

Waban Branch Library // 1929

The Waban Branch Library was designed by Gifford LeClear of the architectural firm Densmore, LeClear & Robbins in the Tudor Revival style in 1929. The village of Waban, in the aims of constructing a new public library for the established suburban neighborhood, gathered over $63,000 for the designing, construction and furnishing of the new branch library in Newton. The building is constructed of brick and faced with limestone at the entrance, stone trim exhibits some carvings of books and other library-oriented objects, the building topped by a slate roof.