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 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??
In 1643, Lancaster, Massachusetts, was first settled by colonists as “Nashaway” (named after the local Nashaway Native American tribe). The Nashaway’s principal settlement was a piece of land in what is now Sterling that was located between two ponds, their land occupied much of the land in north-central Massachusetts. The Nashaway Tribe comprised of an estimated 200 individuals, with was reduced in numbers by smallpox and the Mohawk Wars. The town was officially incorporated and renamed Lancaster in 1653, after Lancaster, England, where some of the earlier colonists were from. During Metacom’s War in 1676, which was fought partially in Lancaster, a group of Native Americans pillaged the entire town of Lancaster in response to English colonial brutality against them, a series of bloody raids and attacks left dozens dead. The town was abandoned until the 18th century.
Fast-forward to the 1900s… Lancaster had become a proper town, with a growing population, including some very wealthy residents. In 1906, the three living sons of Nathaniel Thayer (a Boston-area banker, who spent much of his later life in town to get away from the woes of city life) donated funds to the Town of Lancaster to erect a suitable memorial to their late father. The 1848 Town Hall was cramped and not suitable for the town, so it was decided a new town hall building would be constructed in his name. Boston architect Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (one of my favorites) was hired to design the building, which took 13 months to complete. The Colonial Revival building was built using brick laid in Flemish bond with marble trim. A massive portico with pediment supported by four monumental Doric columns, strict symmetry, and the ocular windows with wreath and other detailing really caught my eye.
Built in 1911 as a single-family home for Bayard and Ruth Thayer, this building on Beacon Street is one of the most visited in the city (I will get to that later). The four-story home replaced two large townhomes across from the Public Garden and was designed by New York based architect, Ogden Codman, Jr., who was born in Boston into the esteemed Codman family. Bayard Thayer died within five years of the completion of the house, and his widow, Ruth, and their children continued to occupy the massive residence into the 1930s. By 1944, the home was being used as a lodging house, a violation, and it was sold two years later to a realty company who operated apartment houses. From this time the house functioned as a residential hotel known as the Hampshire House. In 1969, Thomas Kershaw acquired the property and kept its name, which it retains today. In the same year they opened the Bull & Finch Pub in the basement, which in 1982 became famous world-wide as the locale for the bar in the television sitcom Cheers, one of the most-watched programs in television history. Pictures of the exterior of the building were used in the show’s credits and scene changes, and the interior was faithfully replicated in a set used in Hollywood. The building is now habitually swarmed by locals trying to get to drink in a piece of cultural history.