Early Modern Period, 1915-1940

In 1915 Lexington’s population stood at 5,538; by 1940 it had grown to 13,113.  Equally important but not apparent in the numbers alone is the fact that the town’s population was much more diverse in ethnicity and class than it had been a century, or even 75 years, earlier. 

Globally, the early modern period was full of apprehension and change.  War broke out in Europe in August 1914 and Lexingtonians anxiously followed the events leading up to the United States’ entry in April 1917 into what became World War I.  The soldiers were welcomed home in June 1919.  A decade later the stock market crashed in October 1929 and the Great Depression followed.  Despite these major events, Lexington continued to prosper and develop. 

Mass Ave 1920

Mass. Ave., c.1920
Source:  Richard Kollen, Lexington from Liberty’s Birthplace to Progressive Suburb

The town’s central business district saw considerable activity during this period.  The Theatre Block at 1792-1804 Massachusetts Avenue was erected in 1916 and the Ribock Block (now Michelson’s/Theatre Pharmacy) was built at 1780 Mass. Ave. five years later.  New brick commercial blocks included the Aldrich Block at 1736 Mass. Ave, corner of Waltham St. (1925), Lexington Trust at 1822 Mass. Ave. (1930) and the building at 1846 Mass. Ave. (1929). The Old Town Hall on Mass. Ave. opposite Waltham Street was demolished in 1928.  New municipal buildings were constructed including Cary Memorial Hall (1605 Mass. Ave., 1928) and the Town Offices (1625 Mass. Ave., 1927).  The Post Office (1661 Mass. Ave., 1936) also dates to this period.   

Fair Oaks

Elsewhere in town housing developments continued to fill former open space.  The first house connection with sewer occurred in 1916 and the first Planning Board was elected in 1918.  In 1921 there were thirty-five developments underway in Lexington, encompassing 1,431 acres.  The Liberty Heights development (see Area Q) was under construction in East Lexington, south of Massachusetts Avenue.  It was one of numerous developments in the region constructed by developer  J.W. Wilbur.  Off Marrett Road, the former Valley Field Farm/Grassland Farm was being developed into “Farmhurst” by Neil McIntosh who lived on Middle Street in Lexington.  The Fair Oaks development (see Area Y) off Marrett Road was originally conceived by landscape architect Arthur Horton in 1910 although most of the houses built there were not constructed until the mid 1920s when the development was taken over by McIntosh. All told, McIntosh developed over 500 acres of land in various parts of town including Farmhurst, Fair Oaks, the 178-acre Cary Estate (on Cary Ave. near Shade Street) and Prospect Hill Road area. By 1925 he had built over sixty houses on his Lexington properties and was also active in other communities including Wellesley and Arlington.   In North Lexington, the Lexington Manor neighborhood (see Area AU) was developed by the Lexington Building Trust beginning in the early 1920s.  In 1927, some 53 acres of land were laid out on a hill in East Lexington, south and east of Locust Avenue.  Following this burst of real estate activity, a number of local estates and farms were sold during the Depression.  In 1937 the Charles Goodwin Estate on Meriam Hill was divided into house lots and the house and stable were demolished.   

The rise in the number of children meant new school buildings and additions to existing facilities.  The Munroe School (1403 Mass. Ave., 1904) was enlarged in 1915 and the Parker School was built on Bedford Street in North Lexington in 1920 with an addition constructed just five years later.  The high school (1475 Mass. Ave., 1902) saw a substantial addition/remodeling in 1925 and the Franklin School was constructed on Stedman Road in the southern district of Lexington in 1930.    An addition was made to the Adams School (739 Mass. Ave.) in East Lexington in 1931.

Other open space was put to different uses.  Land off Bedford Street in North Lexington was purchased by the town in 1917 for a new cemetery, Westview Cemetery, which was laid out by landscape architect A.A. Shurtleff in 1919.   Golf was a popular recreational activity.   In 1928 the former Benjamin Wellington farm at 177 Concord Avenue) became the Minuteman Golf Club and the Dick Dunn farm on Cedar Street gave way to the Paul Revere, later Pine Meadows, Golf Club.  The Colonial Club burned in the 1930s.

Early farming photo

Courtesy Lexington Historical Society

By 1915 Lexington had become a center for “truck farming”.  Local residents such as the Busa family, immigrants from Italy, grew vegetables including “Boston celery”, tomatoes and broccoli, for the wholesale market at Faneuil Hall.   Other farmers sold their vegetables to grocery store chains including A & P and First National.   By the 1940s many of Lexington’s farms began to decline.  Farmers faced difficulties finding labor during World War II and after the war faced competition from large scale agri-business and produce shipped from warmer climates.  Another agricultural operation, Lexington Gardens, was established by Stephen Hamblin in 1929 at 93 Hancock Street for the purpose of displaying and testing hardy plants.  In order to raise funds, vegetables were later also grown on the farm and plants were sold from the greenhouse.  

In 1930 the Poor Farm buildings on Hill Street were demolished as was the old Pumping Station on Lincoln Street.    The Town purchased the Barnes property at 1557 Massachusetts Avenue in 1937 to serve as overflow for the town offices.   The Metropolitan State Hospital was constructed on 378 acres of farmland in Lexington, Waltham and Belmont between 1929 and 1935.  In Lexington, the affected land was located south of Concord Avenue (see Area Form AA).  The Middlesex County Hospital was constructed nearby in Waltham in 1932 as a tuberculosis sanitarium and also included some land in Lexington. 

Although the town continued to be dominated by single-family construction, in 1924 zoning regulations were passed to encourage the construction of side-by-side duplexes rather than three deckers.   John Hutchinson, an insurance agent who lived on Mass. Ave., had purchased the first automobile in town, a Stanley Steamer, in 1900 and the impact of the automobile continued to grow exponentially in the early 20th century.  Initially, small detached garage structures were constructed behind private homes throughout town.  By the end of the 1920s these began to give rise to attached and underground garages.  The need for fuel and repair also resulted in the construction of commercial filling/service stations in select locations.  The rise of the automobile also spelled the end of the street railway as well as of Lexington Park, the popular destination in North Lexington maintained by the streetcar company.  Bus transportation had replaced the trolley by 1924 and the street railway tracks were removed in 1926.  On another front, the depot in Lexington Center was badly damaged by fire in November 1918.  Initially earmarked for demolition, the railroad company was persuaded to renovate the building instead. 

Directional Street Sign

This cast metal sign was erected on the triangle at Woburn Street and Mass. Ave.
about 1920 to help direct traffic

The expanding use of motor cars meant that existing roads became part of regional highway systems and volumes of traffic that could never have been anticipated passed through town.  As early as 1912 a circumferential artery was envisioned to encircle Boston and extend from Cohasset to Gloucester.  During the 1920s and 30s the Massachusetts Department of Public Works designated a series of local streets as “Route 128”.  In Lexington, this included parts of Massachusetts Avenue, Woburn Street and Waltham Street.   In 1933 the Concord Turnpike (Route 2) was constructed from the Arlington line to Lincoln, opening up new areas of town for residential development and creating additional opportunities for commercial centers, many of which included “filling stations”.   Crossroads commercial centers became established – including several along Marrett Road – at the intersections with Waltham Street, Spring Street, Middle Street (“Grapevine Corner”) and School/Lincoln Streets (“Five Forks”).  The commercial development at the intersection at Woburn & Lowell Streets became known as “Countryside” and began with a country store/gas station which H. Irving Currier operated in the 1920s (pictured below).   The Countryside Restaurant was built in 1938.  Manor Crescent, which included a grocery store and a gas station, was built at the corner of Bedford and North Hancock Streets in 1924, as part of the Lexington Manor development (see Area Form AU). 

Country Side Store

Source: Beverly Allison Kelly, Lexington: A Century of Photographs

Surviving Properties - Residential

After World War I, Lexington continued to see the construction of a number of impressive, large dwellings in established neighborhoods.  However, to a great extent, it is the construction of more modest, affordable houses that dominated this period.  Beginning in the 1920s small houses appeared in many forms nationwide beginning with the Bungalow and American Four Square.  Nationwide, the availability of factory cut, mail order houses from companies such as the Hodgson Company of Dover, Massachusetts, Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward did much to spread the popularity of these forms.   How many of these mail order house kits found their way to Lexington is not known although the illustrated catalogs published by the companies almost certainly did.   From 1921 to 1933 the Sears and Roebuck catalog even included a design for a modern, nine-room Colonial called “The Lexington”. 

The Lexingto home from Sears catalog

While Lexington had a number of important local architects working during this period including Willard D. Brown (1871-1944) and William Roger Greeley (1881-1966), local builders and new sources catered to the needs of the less affluent homeowner.   Newspapers including The Minute-man featured advertisements offering working drawings and plans for sale for small house designs.   Popular magazines including Better Homes and Gardens, American Home, House & Garden, etc. featured articles on home design and improvement.   The growing diversity of architectural forms which resulted is readily apparent in Lexington’s subdivisions dating to this period including Lexington Manor, Fair Oaks, Farmcrest, the Slocum/Highland area and many other neighborhoods. 

Lexington Manor Homes Advertisement

Architectural Trends of the Period

Bungalow

Growing out of the Craftsman Style, the Bungalow was a popular choice for smaller homes built in the U.S. during the 1910s and 1920s.  Although it was not a dominant style in Lexington, examples of the practical and affordable bungalow are found throughout town, interspersed in older neighborhoods as well as in newer subdivisions, especially in the southwestern and eastern parts of town. 

67 Lowell Street

67 Lowell Street


759 Waltham Street

759 Waltham Street

The typical bungalow is a single-story house with a low-pitched gable roof and overhanging eaves that are decorated by exposed rafters, false beams or braces.  The use of rubble for foundations and chimneys is common.   The front porch may be recessed under the front roof slope or housed in an extension; the porch posts are often tapered or shingled.

85 Oak Street

85 Oak Street

American Four Square

Examples of the American Four Square form were constructed in Lexington as early as 1905 but were especially popular in the 1920s.   As its name suggests, the two-story house has a box-like form which is usually set on a rubble foundation and capped by a hip roof and dormers with a single-story porch across the front.    A number of Four Squares are found in East Lexington and the Manor in North Lexington as well as Parker Street among other locations.

15 Butler Avenue

15 Butler Ave. (note early garage)


21 Parker Street

21 Parker Street

Colonial Revival

Not surprisingly, the Colonial Revival style continued to be the preferred architectural style for many homes in Lexington in the early 20th century.  The variations within this category are wide and include traditional Colonials, Dutch Colonials and Colonials infused with Spanish, Tudor and other influences.  Clearly, few designers or owners were troubled by the need for historic accuracy and many enjoyed great latitude in adapting “Colonial” forms to modern living.   

Highland Avenue

Highland Avenue

Examples of large-scale Colonial Revival dwellings of the period include the brick Colonial with two-story portico at 171 Grant Street which was constructed in 1930 for Paul Bowser, professional wrestling promoter.


71 Grant Street

171 Grant Street

An example of the Spanish Colonial, “Journey’s End” at 110 Shade Street was the home of J. Willard Hayden who organized the Pageant of Lexington in 1915 to commemorate a century of peace between the United States and England.  Constructed in 1937, this is the second house designed for Hayden by local architect Willard Brown.  (The first house was built in 1906 and burned).   

Journey’s End, 110 Shade Street

Journey’s End, 110 Shade Street

In other cases, the Colonial was freely mixed with English Revival influences as is seen at 3 Eliot Road, built in 1928 (see below).

3 Eliot Road

3 Eliot Road

Lexington’s more modest Colonial Revival dwellings of this period display a variety of forms.  The house at 100 Simonds Road was constructed in 1932 as part of the Manor subdivision.

100 Simonds Road

100 Simonds Road


97 Blake Road

97 Blake Road

The house nearby at 97 Blake Road is a more traditional Garrison Colonial was constructed about 1934 and includes an attached garage and side porch. 

42 Wachusett Drive

42 Wachusett Drive

Dutch Colonial

The Dutch Colonial is a variation on the Colonial Revival which found widespread popularity in the 1920s and 1930s.  It is readily identified by the gambrel roof which is oriented with the roof ridge parallel to the street and long shed dormers spanning the front and rear.  In addition to a central front porch there is usually a single-story sunroom on one end. 

11 Bloomfield Street

11 Bloomfield Street


Dutch Colonial example

Tudor Revival

The Tudor or English Revival style was used in Lexington for everything from subdivision houses to mansions.  It is loosely based on a variety of early English building traditions and took many forms.   Most of the houses display brick veneered exteriors, some have stuccoed or decorative half timbering present.   Steeply pitched gables are usually part of the design but sometimes the houses have hip roofs.

Constructed in 1929, the rambling Tudor Revival dwelling at 28 Oakmount Circle was constructed for Frank Sheldon, a plumber.  It incorporates many of the hallmarks of the style including a brick veneer, stucco, half timbering and multi-light casement windows. 

28 Oakmount Circle

28 Oakmount Circle


11 Taft Ave.

11 Taft Ave.

The house above is one of six Tudor-inspired cottages constructed in a 1933 subdivision originally known as “Brick Village”, on Taft Avenue in East Lexington.   The unusually symmetrical Tudor dwelling below was constructed in the Manor subdivision in 1926. 

7 Dexter Road

7 Dexter Road

The house at 1 Grassland Street is a Tudor-inspired dwelling constructed in 1923 by architect G. Merle Judkins for his own use.   The steeply-pitched, side-gabled main house has a smooth stucco exterior with “live edge” siding on the side-gables as well as the adjacent wing. 

1 Grassland Street

1 Grassland Street

In some cases Tudor Revival houses were designed with a wooden wall cladding, as is seen in the house at 29 Downing Road, constructed as part of the “Fair Oaks” subdivision.

29 Downing Road

29 Downing Road

William Roger Greeley

A number of dwellings (and other public buildings – see below) of this period are the work of local architect William Roger Greeley (1881-1966).  Greeley was born in Lexington and lived here all of his life.  He graduated with a Masters’ degree from M.I.T. and worked in the office of Boston architect R. Clipston Sturgis from 1903 to 1913.  From 1913 he was with the firm of  Kilham, Hopkins & Greeley (later Kilham, Hopkins, Greeley and Brodie) and designed residences, municipal buildings and churches throughout the state.  

Greeley’s designs are eclectic and many are decidedly modern in feeling.  He designed the Colonial Revival dwelling at 38 Somerset Road for his family in 1912 and they lived there until 1925. 

38 Somerset Road

38 Somerset Road

In 1919 Greeley designed this unusual fieldstone and stucco dwelling with hip roof which is located at the top of Follen Hill.

39 Locust Avenue

39 Locust Avenue

Other Property Types

Town Buildings

In 1928 the Old Town Hall (on Massachusetts Avenue opposite Waltham Street) was torn down and a new municipal complex was constructed further east consisting of the Isaac Harris Cary Memorial Hall and a Town Offices Building.  The two buildings were designed by the firm of Kilham, Hopkins & Greeley with local architect Willard D. Brown serving as associate architect.  Both buildings were designed in a Colonial Revival style with red water struck brick walls laid in a Flemish bond, white wood trim and slate roofs.  The Cary Memorial Building has a central pediment with three-bay central pavilion adorned by two-story Ionic pilasters.  It is embellished by a variety of  details include fanlights over the three portals, a lunette window, a mix of arched and rectangular double-hung windows, decorative panels and a swag-draped clock. 

Cary Memorial Hall-1
 
Cary Memorial Hall
 
Cary Memorial Hall-2
 
Cary Memorial Hall-3

The adjacent Town Offices Building is a simpler two-story brick building with brick pilasters, and a brick pediment. 

Town Offices

Schools

Population growth in the early 20th century necessitated a number of school building projects. 
The Munroe School (1403 Mass. Ave., 1904) was enlarged in 1915 and the formerly clapboarded building saw the addition of a brick veneer.

Munroe School

Munroe School

The Parker School was built on Bedford Street in North Lexington in 1920 but due to population growth from the nearby Lexington Manor subdivision, an addition was necessary just five years later.   Both the original brick school and addition were designed by Willard D. Brown.   The High School (1475 Mass. Ave., 1902) underwent a substantial remodeling in 1925 under the direction of architects Ritchie, Parsons and Taylor.  A large addition was constructed to the east and the original 1902 façade was altered significantly.   

Franklin School

Franklin School

The The Franklin School was constructed on Stedman Road in the southern district of Lexington in 1930.   The eight room, two-story building with single-loaded corridor was intended to accommodate grades one through six. The Georgian Revival building was designed by the firm of Kilham, Hopkins, & Greeley of Boston (which included Lexington resident William Roger Greeley).   The same architects designed an addition to the Adams School (739 Mass. Ave.) in East Lexington in 1931.

 

High School

High School

Other Public Buildings

Dating to the 1850s, the Depot Building at 13 Depot Square was damaged by fire in 1917 and renovated by the Boston & Maine Railroad.  The former Italianate train shed saw the addition of various Colonial Revival features including a cupola, balustrade and colonnade.  William Roger Greeley of Kilham, Hopkins and Greeley served as the architect for the renovation.   The building is thought to be the only surviving train shed depot in the state. 

Depot Building

Depot Building

In 1917 the Masons purchased the old Normal School/Historic Hall at 1 Hancock Street.  Boston architect Walter T. Littlefield was responsible for the dramatic changes that transformed the building (which had been last renovated in the Queen Anne style in the late 19th century) into the Colonial Revival Masonic Temple seen today.  As part of the renovation, a prominent arched entrance, arched windows, and a square front tower were removed and the pilasters, dentil course, side-lit and pedimented entry and double-hung windows were added.

Masonic Temple, 1 Hancock Street

Masonic Temple, 1 Hancock Street

The U.S. Post Office at 1661 Mass. Ave. is a fine example of Colonial Revival institutional architecture, designed by Federal Supervising Architect Louis Simon in 1938.  The building is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Inside the building is a mural of Paul Revere’s Ride by local artist Aiden  Lassell Ripley, funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

U.S. Post Office, 1661 Mass. Ave.

U.S. Post Office, 1661 Mass. Ave.

Churches

The Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church was constructed at the corner of Follen Road and Pleasant Street in 1929 to serve the Italian Catholics of East Lexington, many of whom were farmers.  The brick Gothic Revival building was designed by prominent Boston architect Edward T.P. Graham.   The Great Depression began just two months after ground was broken; the interior remained unfinished for many years. 

Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart Church

In an unusual example of adaptive use, in 1918 Willard D. Brown redesigned a former kindergarten building at 16 Forest Street for use by the First Church of Christ Scientist.   In recent years the Neo Classical building has been repurposed once again, this time to residential use.  

16 Forest Street

16 Forest Street

Commercial Buildings

In the early 20th century Lexington’s central business district was still taking shape and there were still 19th century houses standing alongside more modern commercial blocks.  Between 1915 and 1940 five new commercial buildings were erected on the south side of Massachusetts Avenue, resulting in the moving or demolition of earlier residences. 

The Theatre Block at 1792-1804 Mass. Ave. was constructed in 1916 on the site of the former Phelps House.  The yellow brick façade has modest Colonial detailing and was designed by W.T. Littlefield who was later architect for the Masonic Temple renovations.  The single-story Ribock Block was constructed next door at 1780-1788 Mass. Ave. in 1922.

Theatre Block, 1792-1804 Mass. Ave.

Theatre Block, 1792-1804 Mass. Ave.

The Holmes House at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Waltham Street was torn down in 1925 to make way for the two-story Colonial Revival Aldrich Block (1736-1740 Mass. Ave.).

Aldrich Block, 1736-1740 Mass. Ave.

Aldrich Block, 1736-1740 Mass. Ave.

Further west at 1844 Mass. Ave., Kilham, Hopkins & Greeley designed a two-story brick commercial block for undertaker A.A. Marshall in 1929.  The so-called Arcade Building included a chapel. 

1844 Mass. Ave.

1844 Mass. Ave.

The former Lexington Trust Company at 1822 Massachusetts Avenue was constructed in 1930 and stands on the site of the old Monument House hotel which was demolished to make way for the building.  The side-gabled brick building is domestic in scale and detailing and was designed by the Thomas M. James Company.

1822 Mass. Ave.

1822 Mass. Ave.

The one-story Colonial Block at 1709-1727 Mass. Ave. was constructed in 1927 on the site of the former Keeley Institute. Commercial buildings constructed outside the downtown during this period include the single-story block of stores at 844-856 Mass. Ave. in East Lexington in 1925.

844-856 Mass. Ave.

844-856 Mass. Ave.