Oak Hill Evangelical Chapel // 1903

On a busy road in Oak Hill Village in Newton, Massachusetts, I saw this house which appeared as if it was built for a different use. After searching historic maps, I found it was originally home to the Oak Hill Evangelical Society, as a rural chapel. The chapel served as a local religious gathering place for the handful of families who lived around this section of Oak Hill and did not desire to travel to nearby villages to worship. The practitioners had money, and hired the Boston architectural firm of Cooper and Bailey, who designed many stunning civic and institutional buildings in New England. With the proliferation of the personal automobile, locals would later be able to travel to nearby churches easier, and this building was sold to a member, who converted it to residential use, which it has been used as to this day. The building is an excellent example of the Arts and Crafts architectural style with the raised rubblestone foundation, flared eaves with exposed rafters, and shingle siding which flares where it meets the foundation.

Murdock-Wiswall House // c.1718

Another of Oak Hill Village’s pre-Revolution homes is this stunner! This home was built some years before 1718 and was eventually occupied by Robert Murdock (1663-1754) and wife Hannah Stedman. Murdock emigrated from Scotland to Plymouth, MA in 1688 with his brother, later settling in Roxbury. In 1703, Robert bought a house and 120-acres of land here, and worked as a housewright. Like the King House (last post), the house was likely rebuilt or modified substantially at this time. Robert also served as a selectman, Constable, Surveyor of Highways, and Assessor in town until his death; and his son, Robert Murdock Jr., took over the property. By the mid-18th century, the estate was purchased by Jeremiah Wiswall (1725-1807). Wiswall served as Captain of the militia at the battle at Concord and Dorchester Heights during the Revolution and held a number of positions in the community including Overseer of the Poor, Constable, Selectman and as a hogreeve (person charted with the prevention or appraising of damages by stray swine). He was very involved in the events leading up to the Revolution including the committee on the tea embargo and drilled with the militia. He also lent money to the town to hire soldiers and owned a house designated as a place to receive smallpox inoculations in 1777, though it is unclear if it was this house he used. The house was eventually slated for demolition in the 1960s, but was saved by Dr. Roy Carlson, President of nearby Mount Ida College (now owned by UMass. For $1, he purchased the home from a developer and paid for it to be moved from its original location at the corner of Brookline and Dedham streets a ¼ mile southwest to its current location, on Carlson Ave, and it served as the President’s House.

Dike-King House // c.1740

Located in the Oak Hill Village of Newton, the Dike-King House remains as one of a few pre-Revolution houses, but the history is a little murky from what I found. Oak Hill was the most remote village of Newton historically and has maintained much of its open space to this day, as it did not see the suburban development following the streetcar in other villages in town connecting to nearby Boston. This house was apparently built by Jonathan Dike (1673-1751), a cooper, who lived here with his second wife Experience French (yes that was her name). The home he built was likely a much smaller dwelling and was added onto as the family grew. Jonathan died in 1751 and the home went to his eldest living son and later sold to Noah King in 1796. The house plaque on the house gives a date of 1795 as King purchased a house on the lot, but it was likely much older than one year old. Noah King was a housewright, deacon, and son of Dr. John King a prominent civic leader in the town. With his expertise as a housewright, he likely rebuilt much of the house into what we see today. Starting in 1796 through 1923 the property was run as a farm by members of the King family, but land was sold off around the Great Depression for much needed funds. Due to the asymmetry of the house, it is likely that it started as a half-house with just three bays with the door at the left-most bay, with the saltbox roof added around that time.

Frederick Collins House // 1847

This house was built in 1847 by Frederick A. Collins on land owned by his father, Mathias Collins III. Frederick Collins (1818-1892) had this house built just after his marriage the same year to Amelia M. Revere, purportedly a grandniece of Paul Revere. Prior to his marriage, Frederick A. Collins lived in Newton Upper Falls and started a glue factory with his brother, which
by 1855, had grown to three three factories and which folded upon the death of his brother Edward Collins in 1879. Collins was active in local affairs, serving in later life on the City Council. The home remains a significant monumental temple-front Greek Revival house in the Boston area. It was designated as a Newton Landmark, meaning it will be preserved for future generations to appreciate.

William Strong House // 1896

William C. Strong purchased the old Wyman Farm in present day Waban Village in 1875, consisting of 93 acres of open land and rolling hills. He subdivided some of the land after the completion of the Waban Station, later developing the Strong’s Block, the premier commercial block in the village. To kick off the development along Windsor Road, he hired architect Herbert Langford Warren, the Dean of Harvard’s Architecture School (who also owned a historic farmhouse nearby) to design a couple homes for sale. This stunning house is notable for the prominent gable end gambrel roof, shingle siding, and porte-cochere.

Staples-Crafts Farm // 1750

In 1688, John Staples, settled in the untouched landscape seven miles west of Boston, now known as Waban Village in the town of Newton. John was a weaver by trade but he ended up as the first public school teacher, the town clerk, a policeman, and an alderman. John married and lived in a modest farmhouse for decades here, witnessing the birth of a new nation nearby. The couple had no children of their own but raised some of Mary’s relatives including Moses Crafts, who would eventually take over the home. Craft rebuilt the house on the original foundation around 1750, constructing a colonial farmhouse two and a half stories high with five windows and two rooms across, one room wide.

Joseph Crafts died in 1821 at the age of 85, leaving no will and considerable
debts owed. The Judge of Probate ordered the property to be auctioned, and
Joseph’s son, Moses Crafts II, made the winning bid of $5.50 for the house,
barn, and a large tract of land! In 1824, Moses Craft II sold the property to his cousin William Wiswall, who gave the house a Federal period remodeling.

By the late 19th century, the home and ample farm land were acquired by William Strong and his wife Mary. William, President of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, used the property for some time as a nursery, with apple orchards and rose gardens. After his petitioning for a train station in Waban, he parceled up the farmland into large house lots for sale, seeing the neighborhood shifting to a suburban village. He soon after built the Strong Block, the first commercial building here.

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.

Georgia C. Stetson House // 1899

This crazy eclectic house in Waban was built in 1897 for a Georgia C. Stetson. The home features a prominent frontal sloped roof, punctuated by an eyebrow dormer, two pedimented dormers, and a Palladian dormer. The roof overshoots the porch on one side, creating a sheltered porch supported by Tuscan columns. I couldn’t find much information on Ms. Stetson besides the fact she lived at the home from when it was built in 1899 until her death, at home, in 1952!

Strong’s Block // 1896

William C. Strong, a prominent local citizen who resided nearby, had this stylish commercial block built to serve the expanding population of the village which eventually became known as Waban. After the completion of the Waban Train Station, the demand for neighborhood retail became apparent and William Strong was an early developer to realize this. He hired Lewis Bacon, an architect who resided nearby, to design the commercial block. The result is a stunning Dutch Revival building with gables showcasing stepped parapets. The upper stories were apparently used as apartments when completed. Notwithstanding Strong’s efforts, the Waban commercial district developed rather slowly. It was not until 1924 that the row of one-story shops was added to its right. The addition was designed by Edward B. Stratton, who followed suit with Tudor and Jacobean motifs, to compliment the Dutch Revival block.

Lewis H. Bacon House // 1892

Another architect-designed home for their own use in Waban Village in Newton, is this house on Chestnut Street. Built in 1892, the Colonial Revival home is set far off the street with a commanding presence and symmetrical facade. The home was designed and occupied by Lewis Howard Bacon (1857-1941), a former chairman of the Newton board of appeals and a member of the school committee and the board of aldermen in Newton, also a practicing architect. He studied architecture in the office of Samuel Lane, architect of Cleveland, 1877-80, when he moved to Boston as a draughtsman and supervisor of construction for the firm of Sturgis & Brigham, 1880-1886. For four years he was a member of the firm of Morrison & Bacon (1888-1892), before embarking on his own practice in an office in Downtown Boston. He resided in this home until his health failed and he moved to a nursing home where he died.