The Brick Tavern was an important stopping point on the old Union Turnpike, and the original two-story brick structure was completed about the time of the turnpike construction by Paul Willard, who with his heirs, operated the inn for 25 years. In the first years of the 1800s, the Union Turnpike Company planned and built a road providing a link for travel from Boston to Albany. Realizing the possibility for an inn along the first leg of the route, Willard financed this substantial brick building for travellers to stop, eat and spend the night. The tollroad was later made free, and less people stayed at the inn. After subsequent ownership, the building started to suffer from deferred maintenance and it was sold to a local Quaker group. The Quakers modernized the building by constructing the mansard roof and updating the interior. They never occupied it, but rented it to tenants for income. After, it was a hospital, boarding house, and in WWII, as a barracks of sorts for soldiers training nearby at a military base. The building is now a house!
The only estate in Lancaster that can rival the Nathaniel Thayer Estate in size and grandeur is the OTHER Thayer estate, built for Bayard Thayer. Sitting on over 55 acres of forests and gentle rolling fields, Hawthorn Hill is one of the most impressive mansions in Central Massachusetts. The property is so secluded that I had to rely on real estate photos to share! The listings mention that there are over 40 bedrooms and 27 bathrooms… Bayard Thayer (1862-1916) is the grandson of Nathaniel Thayer, Unitarian minister of the First Church of Christ in Lancaster and son of Nathaniel Thayer, a banker. When his brother was willed the family estate (featured previously) after the death of their father, Bayard used the opportunity to build a modern estate high upon a hill in town. The mansion was built in 1903-1904 under the direction of Guy Lowell, a renowned Boston architect of the time. In 1907-1908, Little and Browne were commissioned for landscape alterations and in 1914-15, Ogden Codman Jr. was commissioned to renovate the interiors. Bayard died one year later, and the property remained in the family until around WWII. In 1953, the property was acquired by the Boston Cenacle Society, who added a massive dormitory addition to the building. Recent plans were unveiled to subdivide the land and build house lots on half the estate, which gives me mixed feelings.
The Newhall-Lane House (could be the home of many wives) was built in 1809 by Pliny Newhall, a bricklayer. He purchased the land here at a prominent crossroads in Lancaster in 1808 from his employer who owned a brickyard across the street. At a previous home in town, Newhall’s wife Patty died giving birth to their son, at just 23 years old. Their son also died during childbirth. He remarried and had a full family to grow into the couple’s new house. They relocated to Lincoln and the home was sold to Captain Anthony Lane, who was the son of Deacon Jonas Lane, an important figure in Lancaster town history. Jonas had four wives, outliving three of them. Captain Lane himself, was married twice while living in this house; he had no children from either marriage. Although he was a talented craftsman and cabinetmaker, Captain Lane listed his occupation as farmer. The house is significant architecturally, as a fine example of Federal style architecture in Lancaster . Its sophisticated design is reflected in the graceful entrance. One of the unique features of the house is the pedimented gable of the facade which in combination with the narrow plan of the house, creates a delightful massing in this distinctive combination of Greek Revival and Federal styles.
This beautiful old building was constructed in 1881 in Lancaster, MA as a Swedenborgian Church. The congregation in The United States has always been much smaller than other prominent religions, but Lancaster had a sizable group of believers. Some wealthier residents bankrolled for a new church building, which would and could not compete with the Unitarian Church designed by Charles Bulfinch. Architect Francis Ward Chandler from the Boston firm of Cabot & Chandler designed the modest, yet beautiful building in the Queen Anne style. The congregation died off and in 1923, the building was purchased by members of the Current Topics Club, seemingly a debate and social club in town. The old church sold in 2020 as a residence.
In 1814, wealthy Salem businessman, Benjamin Pickman transformed a modest, mostly un-finished 1796 Lancaster farmhouse into an exquisite showpiece worthy of his bride-to-be. The farmhouse was built by Merrick Rice, an attorney, who was hoping this gift would earn her hand in marriage. It didn’t. So the second act of this home is more romantic I guess! Using the finest carpenters in the area, he added a Federal façade and four grand front rooms with soaring ceilings, elongated windows, and superb moldings. The grand Federal style home was known locally as “the mansion” and the owners hosted grand parties, with many Salem and Boston socialites attending. Fast-forward to 1981, when antiques specialist Stephen Fletcher was looking for a place to call home. By that time, the property desperately needed a savior. “It was dark and so moist that condensation had frozen on the walls,” says Fletcher, now Skinner auction house’s director of American furniture and decorative arts and a regular commentator on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. The home sold in 2014 and the interiors are just… wow!
In 1831, Joseph Andrews married Thomazine Phillips Minot and the young couple moved into this newly constructed Greek Revival style home. Joseph worked as an engraver for the Carter and Andrews Publishing Company (featured in the last post). The company failed shortly following Thomazine’s unexpected death in 1834, she was 23 years old. Joseph moved to Boston, remarried and started a new life there, selling his Lancaster home back to the builder. The temple-front house, oriented south, is one of the finest in town, but was sadly only lived in for less than three years by the young couple.
Here is a two-for-one post! These two absolutely gorgeous Federal style buildings on Main Street in Lancaster were built in 1820 for George Carter and his brothers who ran a publishing company in the sleepy town. The Carter family was very active in the Swedenborgianism, a very small church in the general realm of Christianity, and they helped create a small enclave of worshippers in town. The brick, Carter and Andrews Publishing Company building (on the other side of a dead end street from this house) was built at the same time as the Carter home. The company was extremely popular in publishing children’s books, textbooks, and maps. One of my favorite publications the company made was “Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation”, now say that three times fast!
Lancaster isn’t known as a town of summer retreats, but there are a handful of gorgeous historic summer houses built for urban residents of Boston and Worcester to escape the hustle-and-bustle of city life and to take in the natural Massachusetts scenery. One of these houses is the Mary Johnson House, built in 1910. When Mary E. Johnson mapped plans for her summer mansion to be built in 1909, her husband had been dead for 14 years.The Norwegian-born Iver Johnson was a successful businessman. He made guns, bicycles and motorcycles for many years in Worcester and Fitchburg. Iver Johnson firearms gained some notoriety when they were used in assassinations in the United States of President William McKinley and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and in an attempt on the life of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Johnson firearms were also issued to all the Moscow mounted police in Russia in 1907 – 10 years before the Russian Revolution. The Arts and Crafts mansion built for Iver’s widow was designed by Herbert Langford Warren, founder of the School of Architecture at Harvard University. She died in 1915 and the property was taken over by the McAlister-Hawk School, a prestigious preparatory school for boys. In 1934, the school was sold to Dr. Franklin Perkins, who moved what was originally known as the Hillbrow School in Newton to Lancaster. The school, renamed in Dr. Perkins’ honor, occupied the 120-acre Johnson estate, serving children with developmental disabilities and emotional and mental health needs.
Murray Potter (1871-1915), a professor of Romance Languages at Harvard, purchased an older Shingle-style house at this location in Lancaster with the desire for it to become his summer residence with wife, Bessie. They deemed the 1895 house too small and decided to raze the 14 year old dwelling and construct a larger, more academic home. Bessie was born and raised in Salem, and her upbringing was likely the inspiration for their Lancaster house. This home was designed as a copy of the 1782 Pierce-Nichols House in Salem, designed by Samuel McIntire. Murray died at just 44 and Bessie lived at the homes for just a couple summers alone (they did not have children) until she sold or gifted the house in Lancaster to the Perkins School as a dwelling for the unmarried female teachers. It remains owned by the private school.
The largest home in Lancaster (and possibly all of Central Massachusetts) is the old Nathaniel Thayer Estate, an 1846 country house built for Nathaniel Thayer II. A house was built on this site in 1798 when Reverend Nathaniel Thayer (1769-1840) constructed his parsonage in South Lancaster. Thayer was the town’s Congregationalist minister for 47 years. His son Nathaniel, who had made a fortune in business, took down the original home and developed the estate in 1846, building the core of the present house. It was enlarged and remodeled in 1902 by the architect and interior designer Ogden Codman Jr. to 42 rooms for Nathaniel Thayer III. After being sold out of the Thayer family and having its furnishings sold at auction, the house was sold to Atlantic Union College in 1943 at a cost of $12,500. It was used as the school’s administration building between 1945 and 1951, and then as a dormitory until about 1970. From 1973 to now the Nathaniel Thayer estate is now home to Thayer Conservatory. What do you think of this home??