The Case Estates Area was documented by the Weston Historical Commission in 1994. It includes the following properties: 226 Ash St; 84, 86, 89, 101, 102, 128, 130, 132, 131, 133, 134, 135, 137, 138, 142 Wellesley St.
The Case Estates Area and Maple Road/Wellesley Street Area were later combined to form the Case’s Corner Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. To see the original 1994 Area Form including data sheets and photographs, see Case Estates Area Form.
The Case Estates Area includes farmhouses, 19th century summer estate buildings, and turn of the century residences set within a horticulturally significant landscape of farm fields, woodlands, orchards, wetlands and landscaped gardens. Among the houses are good representative examples from the Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Shingle Style and Colonial Revival periods, including an estate mansion, estate worker housing, and middle class housing. The area includes a total of 15 houses dating between about 1790 and 1952 and also 14 outbuildings, including ten barns and farm storage buildings. Most structures are frame with clapboard and occasionally shingle exteriors; notable exceptions are the shingle and brick estate mansion, a brick barn, and a stucco cow barn. Located throughout the Case Estates Area are plantings of horticultural significance including many specimen trees and shrubs. Stone walls dating from the late 18th to early 20th century exemplify varied construction methods and serve as important landscape features. Because of the large amount of open land, the area retains a distinctly rural feeling.
Located in the geographic center of Weston at the intersection of four well-travelled roads, the Case Estates Area occupies approximately 118 acres, of which more than 100 acres are undeveloped. About half the area, approximately 60 acres, is owned by Harvard University and managed by the Arnold Arboretum as a horticultural facility known as the Case Estates. The remaining acreage includes a 35-acre town field, originally part of the Case Estates, and also the Case family estate mansion (now Weston school administrative offices) and privately owned houses that contribute to the character of the area.
The oldest building in the Case Estates Area is the 2 1/2 story Thomas Rand Jr. House at 131 Wellesley Street (ca.1790, Map #4, MHC 296), one of less than thirty houses from the Federal period (1776-1830) remaining in Weston. The five-bay, side gable clapboard farmhouse has been altered over the years with the addition of two bay windows on the front facade, flanking an entrance porch enclosed by latticework. The house has a four-bay west wing with a one-story open porch in front, supported by Doric columns. Twin interior chimneys are located on the main block behind the ridge. Windows are 6/6 with shutters.
Three houses were built in the mid-19th century in the Greek Revival style. #101 and 137 Wellesley Street are particularly intact and can be considered among the best examples of this style in Weston. These houses represent front and side-gable versions and have the formal portico, fluted Doric columns, sidelights, and wide corner pilasters and entablature typical of the style. The 2 1/2 story Nathan Barker House at 101 Wellesley Street (ca. 1843, Map #7, MHC 327) has a three-bay gable front facade with one-story portico along the front (south) and part of the east facades. Flush boarding is used on the first story to achieve a smoother, more formal effect. The house has a six bay, 2 1/2 story east wing with a second entrance marked by paired Doric columns. On the main block, windows are 6/6 with shutters. The Train/Milton House at 137 Wellesley Street (ca.1847, Map #1, MHC 291) is a 2 1/2 story, five-bay, side gable variation, with a one-story, Doric columned-portico extending across the front. This house has 6/6 windows with shutters, twin interior chimneys behind the ridge, and two pedimented dormers at bays 2 and 4. A small ell extends to the rear, and from the ell, a one-story rear entrance room and one-car garage project out to the east.
The Otis Train House at 138 Wellesley Street (ca.1855, Map #17, MHC 289) exemplifies the Greek Revival style in more subtle features, including the wide entablature, transom and sidelight arrangement at the entrance, and well-preserved interior features including the circular staircase and fireplace mantels. The 2 1/2 story house consists of a 2-bay main block and an east wing with Queen Anne details, probably dating to the late 19th century. A one-story porch, which appears to date about the turn of the century, is located at the junction of the main block and wing. Windows on the front facade have simple lintels and 6/6 sash, with shutters. Two small interior chimneys are located at the ridgeline on the main block. A frame barn is located behind the house. (Map # 18)
The 1 1/2 story clapboard house at 84 Wellesley Street (ca.1857-1866, Map # 11, MHC 330), is one of the best examples in Weston of a small scale Italianate bracketed cottage. Notable for its intact quality and pastoral setting at the edge of the 35-acre town field, the house has an L-shaped main section with characteristic paired brackets at cornice level, bay windows at each end of the L, and paired windows above the bays. At the bend of the L is a one-story screened porch sheltering the front entrance. The house has a small interior chimney on the main block at the ridgeline and two rear additions extending east and north which are not bracketed. Located behind the house are two large frame outbuildings, one a barn with a stone foundation and clapboard siding (Map #12, MHC 331) and a second, used as a hay barn, which has vertical boarding and no foundation (Map #13, MHC 332). This simple weathered structure, which contributes much to the rural landscape, is in need of stabilization.
The 2 1/2 story Shingle Style James Case House at 89 Wellesley Street (1889, Map #10, MHC 329, now called Case House), designed by Ernest Boyden, is one of the last great 19th century estate houses in Weston. The large brick and shingle mansion retains its 19th century grandeur but is in need of exterior maintenance and restoration. The gambrel-roofed structure which is basically rectangular in plan, with a kitchen wing and an imcompatible 1950’s addition, both extending from the northwest corner. The principle (west) facade originally had a porte-cochere, and the present modern glass entrance porch obscures the original effect. A one-story room projects out from the main body of the house on the Wellesley Street side; this once connected with a one-story piazza which has been removed. On the east side, the principal feature is a hexagonal second floor sunroom added in 1913. Inside, the house has remained largely intact and is used as school administration offices. Interior details include a wide entrance hall extending the length of the house, with a floor-to-ceiling Romanesque brick and brownstone fireplace, beamed ceiling, golden oak paneled walls, and a built-in seat on the side of the impressive oak stairwell. Just to the west of the main house is a small carriage shed (Map #9) which was once attached to a large barn. Part of the foundation remains from this barn, which burned in 1947.
Between 1893 and 1900, three houses were built along the south side of Wellesley Street utilizing elements from the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival vocabulary . As is typical of Weston, these houses are simple rather than high style versions of the asymmetrical 2 1/2 story, front gable, late 19th century house. The Isaac W. Hastings House (132 Wellesley Street, ca.1893, Map #21, MHC 294) is the most architecturally notable of the three and features a bay window and recessed entrance porch at level one, with recessed balcony area and spindle screen above. The porch and balcony are supported with turned posts. Windows are most commonly 2/1 with shutters. A large 1 1/2 story shingled barn is located at rear (Map #22, MHC 295) The clapboard George O. Hastings House at 134 Wellesley Street (ca.1900, Map #19) is a mirror image of #132 in plan and basic features. In this house, however, the entrance porch has been enclosed and the recessed balcony omitted. Windows are generally 2/1 with shutters. The third late 19th century house, the Howard L.Cooper House(#1) at 102 Wellesley Street (ca.1896, Map #25, MHC 297) is a four-bay shingled house with a two-bay flat-roofed two-story west wing. The wing, dating ca.1936, has a one-story front sunporch with small-pane leaded glass windows. The rear of the property faces onto open fields. Two outbuildings complement the landscape: a 1 1/2 story shingled barn (Map #27, MHC 298) and board and batten shed (Map #26, MHC 299)
In 1909 Marian Case established Hillcrest Farms (see historical narrative) and most of the buildings from the next three decades were built for this horticultural enterprise. In 1910, the Hillcrest Clubhouse at 133 Wellesley Street (later the Case Estates Schoolhouse (Map #3, MHC 293) was under construction across the street as a residential building. (The original location is now the root cellar at Map #28) The house was moved to its present location and converted to a clubhouse/schoolhouse with meeting rooms. The simple two-story, three-bay aluminum-sided structure is topped by a bell cupola at the peak of the hipped roof. Windows are generally 6/6, and the house has a shed-roofed entrance porch and a one-story open porch across the east side.
The Hillcrest/Case Estates Cow Barn at 101 Wellesley Street (1916, Map #8, MHC 328) is an unusual example in Weston of a stucco barn, notable also because of the harmony between building and landscape. The simple 1 1/2 story pale pink stucco structure was designed by the firm of Fox and Gale and includes a few distinctive architectural details such as a large tin vent with cow weathervane at the ridgeline. The gable end faces Wellesley Street and has a semi-circular window in the attic story. The slate-roofed building has an irregular fenestration pattern with numerous entrances and six-pane fixed sash windows in groups of 2,3 and 5.
About 1921, the 1 1/2 story, three-bay Colonial Revival cottage at 86 Wellesley Street (Map #15) was built as housing for the gardener of the James Case estate. The most prominent features are the center entrance porch and the large shed dormers at front and rear. The original 6/6 windows on each side of the center door have been replaced with larger paired window/doors. The one-story frame barn, built for wood storage, (Map #14) needs stabilization and repairs.
The Hillcrest/Case Estates Barn at 135 Wellesley Street (1927, Map #3, MHC 292), designed by Weston architect Samuel W. Mead, is unusual in its brick material and style, which features four truncated gables. The large barn is rectangular in plan, measuring 71’ by 46’ with a greenhouse extension at the rear west. The structure is built into a slope to allow ground level access to both the basement and first floors. The interior has unpainted vertical boarding and other original features.
Located behind 132-128 Wellesley Street are two mid-20th century houses which overlook the rolling fields of the south portion of the Case Estates. These houses are not visible from the street and do not impinge on the historic landscape. 130 Wellesley Street (Map #24) is an example of the International Style designed in 1952 by architect Lionel LaRochelle.
The buildings in the Case Estates Area are representative of important periods in the town’s history, including the early 19th century farming era, 19th century estate period, and turn of the century early suburban development. Although architecturally diverse, many of the buildings are linked historically to the locally prominent Case family. Located within the area are the main estate house, outbuildings, and acres of undeveloped former estate land once belonging to James Case, one of Weston’s first summer estate owners. The James Case estate can be considered among the most complete remaining Weston summer estates. In the early 20th century, one of the Case daughters, Marian, purchased additional properties adjacent to family holdings and established Hillcrest Farms (later Hillcrest Gardens), an experimental farm and work/study experience for local boys during their summer vacation. The significance of the Case Estates Area to Weston and the region derives principally from the horticultural activities of Marian Case, who established Hillcrest Gardens as a regional horticultural center and helped preserve the agricultural tradition and rural landscape. After Miss Case’s death in 1944, the property became part of the Arnold Arboretum and was renamed the Case Estates. As the Case Estates, the property has continued to occupy a central place in the horticultural life of the Boston metropolitan area.
For the next 45 years, the land was used for display gardens, Arboretum classes, and special events, and as a nursery and testing area for new plants. In 1986, about one-third of the property, a 35-acre field, was sold to the town of Weston. In 1989, the Arboretum determined that the Case Estates was no longer central to its mission. Some of the houses have been sold to private owners, but the Arboretum has retained the land and does not presently plan to sell it.
Because of its unique history, the open farm fields and woodlands that comprise Weston’s rural heritage have been preserved here. From the Colonial period to the present day, sections of rich agricultural land in the Case Estates Area have been used for farming. Farm buildings and fields found new uses which preserved the area’s pastoral qualities: the 19th century estate, the early 20th century experimental farm, and, most recently, the suburban satellite of a major university horticultural center. Even today, the 35-acre town field continues to be farmed by a non-profit organization which maintains the agricultural usage and involves local residents in the raising and harvesting of food.
Wellesley Street, which connects Weston Center to the town of Wellesley, is one of the oldest roads in Weston. Located on this principal north-south route is the Thomas Rand Jr. House at 131 Wellesley Street (ca.1790, Map #4, MHC 296), the oldest in the Case Estates Area. Thomas Rand Jr. was a farmer whose family homestead was nearby at One Chestnut Street. Rand Jr. was also a housewright who may have built the house himself prior to his death in 1794 at age 36. His heirs sold the property in 1817 to the Hastings family, and successive generations lived here until Marian Case purchased it for Hillcrest Farms in 1909. She also purchased farmland between Wellesley and Ash Street from the Hastings family.
Nathan Barker, also a farmer, built the neighboring house at 101 Wellesley Street (Map #7, MHC 327), probably shortly after he purchased the land in 1843. The fact that he was prosperous is indicated by the size of his land holdings and the quality of the fashionable Greek Revival house. The choice of style may have influenced the style of the nearby house at 137 Wellesley Street (Map #1, MHC 291), probably built by farmer Otis Train after he purchased the land in 1847. Deed records indicate that Otis Train was also the original owner of the house at 138 Wellesley Street (Map #17, MHC 289). Train purchased this land from Edwin Hastings in 1855 and probably built a house by 1859, the year he sold the farm across the street at #137.
In 1845, Nathan Barker sold part of his land to Charles White, who was the uncle of Laura Williams Case (Mrs. James Brown Case). It was through Charles White that the Case family came to summer in Weston beginning in 1863. James Brown Case (1826-1907) was a dry goods merchant and later a banker. He married Laura Williams (1833-1918) and the couple had four daughters: Caroline (1856-1919), Mabel (1858-1883), Louisa Williams Case (1862-1946) and Marian Roby Case (1864-1944). Mabel died in early maturity and Caroline was the only one to marry. During the winter months, the family lived at 468 Beacon Street or traveled.
James Case’s first purchase of land in Weston included 30 acres with a colonial farmhouse which served as the family summer home until it burned in 1882. The present Shingle Style James Case House at 89 Wellesley Street (Map #10, MHC 329), originally called “Rocklawn,” was built in 1889 from designs by architect Ernest Boyden and was said to have been one of the three most expensive houses in Weston when built, the others being the Blake and Hubbard estates. (The Blake estate has been demolished, the Hubbard House is at 80 Orchard Ave, MHC form #378).
Over the years, James Case purchased additional acreage including the field across the street. One of these purchases included the small Italianate cottage at 84 Wellesley Street, built for “Deacon” Henry J. White (ca.1857-1866, Map #11, MHC 330, see also Maple Road/Wellesley Street Area), which James Case used as housing for the estate superintendent. The land was farmed, and outbuildings were built for storage of hay (Map #13, MHC 332) and winter firewood (Map #14) The principal outbuilding, a large frame barn behind the Case House, burned in 1947, leaving only a small section originally used for carriages (Map #9). Although the barn is no longer extant, the James Case property remains one of the most intact examples of a 19th century estate in Weston. The mansion house, superintendent’s house, and four outbuildings have survived in the Case Estates Area, and much of the surrounding land has remained undeveloped. Additional buildings associated with the Case family remain within the Maple Road/Wellesley Street Area.
In the 1890’s, some of the Barker and Hastings family farm land in the Case Estates Area began to be subdivided into house lots. The Howard L. Cooper House (#1) at 102 Wellesley Street (ca.1896, Map #25, MHC 297) was built on one of two newly created lots once part of the Barker farm. Two brothers in the Hastings family built the “twin” Isaac and George Hastings Houses at 132 and 134 Wellesley Street (Map #21 and 19, 132 Wellesley is MHC 294) about 1893 and 1900 on family land acquired from their father, Edwin. Perhaps foreseeing the break-up of these two farms was part of what motivated Marian Case to begin purchasing land adjacent to her father’s holdings.
The death of James Case in 1907 brought changes to the family. Marian, at age 45, decided to embark on a career combining farming and education. She began buying nearby properties in 1909, and by 1920 her holdings included 105 acres, either purchased or inherited from her parents. Over the years, about 40 acres was under cultivation. Marian Case preserved the land from further suburban development and maintained the local agricultural tradition well into the 20th century.
From 1910 to 1919, her property was known as Hillcrest Farms and was operated primarily as a truck farm. One of the “Hillcrest boys” described Miss Case’s original goals as follows: “Miss Case has said that we want to make this the most perfect farm in New England, to grow the best quality of fruit, to inspire New Englanders to return to the soil….(1913).” A 1917 article lists 50 vegetables grown at Hillcrest, with the most important being potatoes and corn. Cherries, pears, plums, apples, peaches and grapes were also grown, along with ten varieties of berries. These were delivered to Weston residents and sold on the premises. The income from the sale never equalled the cost of operating the property in Miss Case’s unique manner.
Horticultural development began in the 1920’s, primarily through the work of John Wistar. The roads and paths, as well as iris and peony gardens no longer extant, resulted from his work in 1923. The name was changed to Hillcrest Gardens in 1920, reflecting the new emphasis on horticulture and additional uses of the property for display gardens and as a plant introduction station.
Another of Miss Case’s goals for Hillcrest was to operate a practical school of agriculture which employed boys on their long summer vacations. Much of the farm labor was done by the “Hillcrest boys,” generally up to twenty local boys age 12 years and older, working full or half time for low wages of between $4 and $20 a month. They were given khaki uniforms and Hillcrest hats. Since “boys need amusement as well as work,” they had picnics, outings and sporting events. To interest the boys in nature and to keep in touch with the best work that was being done in agriculture, Miss Case planned regular lectures throughout the summer by specialists from horticultural organizations throughout the region. These lectures were open to the public, and by 1919, they were held weekly. Beginning in 1913, the boys had an hour each day of classroom work for the study of agriculture. As a way of training their eyes, they were required to write observation papers each day.
Each boy had to write a more formal essay during the summer for presentation at the annual Labor Day exercises. These essays, along with the comments of Marian Case, were published each year from 1911 to 1941 and provide an invaluable record of the history of Hillcrest Gardens, including the development of the property and the underlying philosophy of Marian Case. In addition, there were included special papers by such horticulturists and botanists as John G. Jack, Elmer D. Merritt, Arthur Williams, E.H. Wilson, and John Wistar. The student reports have been described as
generally of high quality and lasting value, covering such subjects as agriculturalpractices weather data, hurricane damage, monthly flowering lists of herbaceous plants, lists of birds, wild flowers…..records of plant introduction trials. These data have been of value. . . in determining the date of introduction and the persistence in New England of exotic plant introductions.
Marian Case was a prominent member of local and international horticultural societies and was influential in horticultural affairs in New England. She used Hillcrest Gardens for experiments in raising seeds and plants collected from all over England, the Mediterranean area, and South Africa. Charles Sargent, John Jack and E.H.Wilson provided her with new and unusual seeds and plants for her horticultural displays and lectured at the school. She was an active member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, establishing the Hillcrest Medals for children’s gardens from 1918 to 1933. In 1926 and 1930, she was awarded medals by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for her work at Hillcrest. Her series of summer lectures brought well-known specialists to Weston. She also contributed financially to Horticulture Magazine in its initial years and regularly contributed articles.
In assembling the Hillcrest Gardens property, Marian Case purchased the three farmhouses on the north side of Wellesley Street, at 101, 131 and 137 Wellesley Street and the late 19th century house at 102 Wellesley Street. The latter was renamed “Appletree Cottage” and served as Miss Case’s home from 1910 until her death in 1944. The farmhouse at 131 Wellesley Street was purchased from the Hastings family, which had owned the property since 1817. The farmhouse at 137 Wellesley Street was purchased from George Milton, who had owned it for about 40 years. Milton retained the right to life tenancy and remained in the house until his death in 1918. The farmhouses were used as housing for staff and occasionally for boys boarding from neighboring towns. A relative of Miss Case, Mary Williams Chandler, lived at #137 from 1918 until her death in 1954. The red schoolhouse at 133 Wellesley Street (1910, Map #3, MHC 293) known as the clubhouse during the Hillcrest period, was under construction as a residence in 1910 when Marian Case moved it across the street to its present location and remodelled it as a meeting space. The clubhouse served as the social and educational hub of Hillcrest Gardens and was the location for games, parties, teas, Red Cross sales, picnics and social gatherings. Lectures were held on the second floor, which served also as the study hall and classroom. About 1913, Miss Case purchased 226 Ash Street (by 1908, Map #29) for use as a residence for her chauffeur, George Olson.
Miss Case also built a number of new structures, the most notable being the Cow Barn at 101 Wellesley Street (1916, Map #8, MHC 328) and the large brick barn at 135 Wellesley Street (1927, Map #2, MHC 292) The cow barn, designed by Fox and Gale, was actually built on land owned by Marian’s mother, Laura Case, who died in 1918 and left the property to her daughter. The cow barn was the center of dairy operations at Hillcrest. The cows roamed the adjacent pasture and were watered at the pond, which is now the site of the town pool. The large brick 1927 barn, designed by Samuel Mead, was central to the operation of the Hillcrest agricultural program. Considered “an outstanding structure for its time,” the barn incorporated advances in design in the cold rooms for storage of fruits and vegetables and the special facilities for storage of manure. The building is unusual for its size, stylish design, and brick material.
Hillcrest Gardens flourished in the 1930’s until the disastrous hurricane of 1938, which damaged many of the specimen trees and destroyed the orchards and over 3,000 trees in woodland areas. The following year, ill health forced Miss Case to look for an organization to carry on the Hillcrest tradition. At her death in 1944, the property was willed to the Arnold Arboretum. which used the property, renamed the Case Estates, as a center for plant propagation and experimentation and for educational programs held in the schoolhouse. Teaching and display gardens for perennials were developed here, the small ornamental tree collection was planted, and the rhododendron gardens expanded under the direction of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. Numerous small plant societies maintained gardens on the property. Over the next decades, two directors of the Arnold Arboretum, Dr. Richard Howard and Peter Ashton, lived at 137 Wellesley Street, while other houses were used as residences for superintendents and staff.
In 1986, the Arboretum sold the 35-acre field across from Case House to the Town of Weston, which currently leases the property to a non-profit agricultural organization called Land’s Sake. Part of the mission of Land’s Sake is to maintain the agricultural heritage of Weston through the cultivation of crops and summer employment of Weston youths who earn money working in the farm fields. In this way, the preservation of the land and its use for agricultural purposes has been maintained in Weston to the present day. In 1989-90, the Arboretum determined that the Case Estates was no longer central to its mission and began to phase out operations. The houses at 86,101,102 and 137 Wellesley Street were sold to private owners. The Arboretum has agreed to give the town 18 months advance notice before selling the undeveloped land.
Layout, Topography and Horticultural Resources
The Case Estates Area can be broken down into four sub-sections separated by roadways and will be discussed in the following order: 1) the 45 acres north of Wellesley Street; 2) 30 acres between Wellesley and Ash Street; 3) 39 acres east of Newton Street and 4) the Case House and immediate environs, about four acres. MHC form numbers will be given in the next section, where the buildings themselves are discussed.
The section of the Case Estates Area north of Wellesley Street and west of Alphabet Lane contains the cluster of four buildings which have historically formed the operating core of the agricultural and horticultural enterprises located here. Clustered here along Wellesley Street at the west end of the property are 137 Wellesley Street (Map #1), the barn (#2), the schoolhouse (originally called the clubhouse) (#3) and 131 Wellesley Street (#4), all accessible from a paved circular driveway. These four buildings are screened from the street by plantings of evergreen and deciduous trees. A fifth building, the Barker House (#7) is located at 101 Wellesley Street approximately 1000 feet east of the main cluster. The cow barn (#8) is located on Alphabet Lane about 300 feet from Wellesley Street. Two small ancillary structures are also located in this north section: a large fieldstone incinerator (#5) and a small concrete block 1950 summer house (#8) bordering the natural woodlands and overlooking the terraced hillside, which forms an outdoor amphitheater.
During the years when the Arboretum was actively managing the Case Estates, this section of the property was used for display areas; and formal landscape elements alternate with more naturalistic features. In general, formal gardens and display areas are grouped either around the buildings #1-4 or in the area of 101 Wellesley and the cow barn (#7,8), with wooded areas between and behind these two center of interest.
In the vicinity of buildings #1-4 is the hosta garden and the fountain garden (A) next to the schoolhouse, landscaped with terracing and a fountain and including a variety of hosta cultivars and shade tolerant perennials. Behind the schoolhouse is a perennial teaching garden (B) developed in conjunction with Arnold Arboretum classes beginning in 1988. This garden is sheltered and framed by evergreens and features a variety of perennials and ornamental grasses and espaliered plants, including euonymus. To the east of this garden is a general nursery area (C), where plants were grown to be evaluated for winter hardiness. This area is now planted with a variety of deciduous shrubs such as lilacs, as well as small trees. To the east of 131 Wellesley is a collection principally of rhododendrons and azaleas (D).
Extending east along Wellesley Street is a single row of “Henrietta Crosby” crabapples (E) followed by a rhododendron garden planted by Marian Case in 1937, which forms a natural break in the landscape pattern. This garden has matured into an oak and rhododendron woodland, along the edge of which is a large and mature collection of flame azaleas in pink, cherry red, orange, yellow and white colors. Nearby, along Wellesley Street, is a more recently planted hedge of yellow and green chamaecyparisevergreens (G) and purple Cotinus. Behind this leafy screen is a lawn (H) with specimen trees, extending back to a high stone wall. Among the trees located here is a large white oak and a mature Cornus kousa.
Behind the stone wall is the new rhododendron display garden developed in conjunction with the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and featuring a large variety of the newer cultivars displaying a range of flower color, blooming season and form (I). Along Alphabet Lane behind the cow barn is an unparalled display of trees of small stature and narrow form suitable to the smaller lots of suburban Boston. This street tree collection (J) is now 40-45 years old. In front of the cow barn, extending along the stone wall on Alphabet Lane, are tall grasses and bamboo,that can be seen above the wall from the other side. Several notable small trees are also located here, including aMagnolia korbus and a paper bark maple Acer griseum. Behind buildings #1-4 is an area of gently rolling terrain and open fields interspersed with a variety of freestanding trees. Near the knoll where the summer house is located is an orchard of flowering spring fruit trees including crabapples and ornamental cherries (K). Behind the orchard, the land is graded into large terraces, and various cultivars of lilacs are planted here. Behind these more formal areas is a large natural woodland consisting mostly of white pines with some black, red, scarlet and white oaks (L). The northwestern portion of this area abuts conservation land owned by the town of Weston and contains trails which wind through natural woodlands abounding in wildflowers. Colorful red maples dominate a swampy portion of the woodlands. Along the western border of the property is a wetlands area (M).
Stone walls are used extensively in this section of the property to define edges and for formal landscape purposes. Many of these are classic New England stone walls, some dating to the 18th and 19th century and others built during the early 20th century Hillcrest years. A stone wall runs along Wellesley Street from the west end to the front of the barn. At that point a long row of single large boulders (N), called a hen’s-tooth or balancing wall, continues almost to 101 Wellesley. This wall was built in 1913 from boulders found on site. A high stone retaining wall separates the Barker House from the cow barn area (O). Behind the Barker House is the largest stone wall on the property, said to be the largest free-standing dry wall of native stones in New England (P). Dating from 1913, the wall is about 200 feet long, 10’ high and about 4’ thick and was built for the protection of fruit trees.
Across Wellesley Street, the Case Estates Area includes eight privately owned houses, as well as a 21-acre portion of undeveloped Case Estates land owned by Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. Visually, the houses at #102, 132, 134 and 138 Wellesley Street (#25, 21,19,17) and their associated frame outbuildings contribute to the streetscape and complement the architecture of the houses across the street. 226 Ash Street (#29) stands alone along the west side of Ash Street, and 128 and 132 Wellesley Street (23,24) are interior lots with no street frontage. Also located here is a root cellar (#28) or covered basement used for storage of fruits and vegetables in winter. A dirt road enters the 21-acre undeveloped portion of the property from Wellesley Street and extends about 150’ into the center, ending in the open field (Q).
The most important formal landscape element located her is a large perennial garden (R). The Arboretum recently removed many of the perennials, leaving behind large curvaceous island beds framed with mature plantings of flowering trees, a variety of evergreen shrubs and the large, slow-growing chamaecyparis cultivars. Also on this side is a collection of fringetrees Chionanthus virginicus, a large shrub or spreading tree, and magnolias (S) and a tree collection grown for the purpose of showing different pruning techniques (T). Alternating with these plantings are open fields previously used as farm fields (U). The soil is prime agricultural soil, the highest class of agricultural land. South of the fields is an apple orchard (V). Some more exotic fruit trees such as beech plums have also been planted here, as well as Chinese chestnuts.
East of Wellesley Street is a 35-acre field now owned by the Town of Weston. Adjacent to the field and under separate ownership are two former Case staff member’s houses (#11,15) with frame outbuildings (#12,13,14) The land on which these houses are sited is not visually divided from the town field, and the buildings and land present an unspoiled rural landscape. The town field is an aesthetically diverse open space comprised of gently rolling hills, cultivated fields, woodlands, and magnificent specimens of mature trees, some of which appear to date back to the 19th century estate era. The soil here is prime agricultural soil, the highest class of agricultural land. About 11 acres of the field is currently cultivated by a non-profit organization, Land’s Sake, which uses it to grow flowers, vegetables, raspberries and strawberries. The only structure on the 35-acre field is the open stand where produce is sold. (W).
Across from the town field is the Case House (“Rocklawn” )(#10), which is set back from the intersection of Wellesley and Newton Streets on a slight rise, with a lawn and mature trees in front. The Case House is located on the edge of a 75-acre parcel of town land once part of the Case family holdings and now the location of three public schools, the town pool, Alphabet Park, and numerous playing fields. For the purposes of this area form, only the four acres immediately surrounding the Case House is included. This includes the large boulder (X) from which the estate name “Rocklawn” was derived. It also includes the small outbuilding at rear (#9), which was once a carriage shed attached to a large frame barn, which burned in 1947. The inclusion of the Case House and environs maintains the aesthetic and historic connection between the main estate house and the land across the street, which was originally part of the estate.
1. Kennedy, Donald G., “The Case Family Legacy to Weston,” Weston Historical Society Bulletin, Vol.XVIII, No.4, May, 1982
2. Howard, Richard A., “The Hillcrest Gardens,” Weston Historical Society Bulletin, Vol.XVIII, No.4, May, 1982. Article continued in October, 1982. Vol.XIX, No.1.
3. See also individual inventory forms for properties within the area.
4. The Hillcrest Gardens Books, 1911 to 1941 (also called the “green books,” these were the annual books published from 1912 to 1941 by Marian Case recording the year’s activities and including the papers written by the boys as part of their summer program.)
5. Case Estates files of the Arnold Arboretum. These include documents and letters from Marian Case, maps, plans for the cow barn and main barn, planting plans and records, photographs of the Hillcrest boys, newspaper and periodical articles, and copies of the “Green Books”
6. Plans for Case House, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, Weston Public Schools
7. Middlesex Country Registry of Deeds (see individual MHC forms for deed research)
8. “Tom Park of the Case Estates: A Remembrance” by Richard A. Howard, plantSciences, published by the Arnold Arboretum, 1981.
9. “Hillcrest Gardens, a land use proposal presented by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society,” (unpublished booklet), 1993.
10. “A Mystery Solved….and an Accident,” Weston Historical Society Bulletin, May, 1983, Vol.XIX, No.4. Cites newspaper article in 1882 about James Case house being destroyed by fire. The date of the fire has inaccurately been reported as 1876.
Case Estates Area
Landscape and Horticultural Features
See Map 2 below
A. Hosta garden and fountain garden
B. Perennial teaching garden
C. General nursery area
D. Rhododendron and azalea collection
E. “Henrietta Crosby” crabapples
F. Original rhododendron garden
G . Chamaecyparis evergreens
H . Lawn with specimen trees
I. New rhododendron garden
J. Suburban/urban tree display
K. Flowering spring fruit trees
L. Natural woodlands
N. Stone retaining wall
P . Large freestanding dry wall, dating to 1913
Q. Dirt road
R. Site of perennial garden
S. Tree collection grown to demonstrate pruning techniques
U. Open fields, formerly used for farming
V. Apple orchard
W. Farm Stand
X . Boulder that inspired the original name of the Case House (“Rocklawn”)