The Church Street/Coburn Area was documented by the Weston Historical Commission in 1994. The following properties are included in the area: 153, 154, 171, 179 Church St.
The Church Street/Coburn Area is one important area in Weston where the rural landscape has been prominently preserved. Church Street is a main connecting road between North Avenue (Route 117) and Weston Center. (See also adjacent Kendal Green Area). The view along Church Street of the irregularly massed, red-painted Coburn Barn from across acres of meadow may be the best-loved vista in the town. When seen from upper Church Street, the barn and ca.1726 white clapboard Whittemore House are the only structures visible for a radius of more than 180 degrees. The area contains only four houses, along with the large barn and several smaller outbuildings, on a total of over 60 acres of pristine land. The houses date between about 1726 and 1902 and are frame, clapboard examples from the Colonial, Greek Revival, Mansard and Colonial Revival periods. The ca.1726 house is one of the earliest and most intact examples in Weston, and the Mansard cottage is one of only three Weston examples of this type. The Coburn Barn, one of the largest in Weston, is the most prominently sited and best known of the town’s remaining barns. Stone walls, both historic and of more recent construction, run through the area.
The topography of the area enhances its natural beauty. To the west is Pigeon Hill, rising behind the Coburn Barn at the western edge of the area. On the north side of Church Street is 44 acres of conservation land, of which about 30 acres is included within the boundaries of this area form. The conservation land includes meadow and also the stream bed of Stony Brook, which meanders through the area at its eastern edge. Along the stream are groves of deciduous trees marking the wettest portions of the land. On the south side of Church Street, the houses at #179 and #171 are set back from the street and overlook the conservation land from their positions on the rise of a small hill. The house at #171 is set on over 23 acres of land which includes five small ponds which are over the hill and cannot be seen from Church Street. At the southeast corner of the area, the ca.1726 farmhouse is sited at the bend in the road across from the Coburn Barn facing south overlooking more than four acres of open fields.
The Church Street/Coburn Area is the best-preserved example in Weston of a rural family farming enclave in which family members were economically interdependent. For many generations beginning in the early 19th century and continuing until World War I, members of the Coburn family farmed this area and cooperated in seasonal tasks such as plowing fields, taking produce to market, driving cattle to summer pastures, and procuring coal and ice. Although the Coburns were not the first family to live in this area, Jonas Coburn purchased his 122-acre farm at the turn of the 19th century, and all subsequent buildings were built by family members. The character of the area has been shaped by the family, which continues to live here to the present day. The Coburns have also been prominent in Weston business and civic affairs. One member of the family, Arthur L.Coburn, served as president of the Hook & Hastings Co. organ factory from 1916 to 1931.
The Jeremiah Whittemore House (ca.1726, 153 Church Street, Map #3, MHC 13) is significant historically because of its history of ownership by only two families, including nearly 200 years of ownership by the Coburn family. Three generations of Whittemores lived here between 1726 and 1801, including Jeremiah, his son Capt. Isaac Whittemore, who served in the Revolutionary War, and Isaac’s son Aaron. In 1801, the house and property was sold to Jonas Coburn for $4,400, and it has been owned by the Coburn family ever since. The 1801 purchase included 120 acres extending almost to the center of town and westward as far as today’s Fairview and Pinecroft Roads. Jonas’s son, Isaac (1811-1879), and grandson, Arthur Leslie Coburn (1860-1931), owned the house in successive generations, followed by Arthur Coburn’s daughter Anne Cutter Coburn. The Coburn Barn directly across the street at 154 Church Street (Map #2, MHC 12) dates from 1841.
Until 1875, the Coburn family were all farmers, and even after that members of the family earned their living from the land. They are described in Once Upon a Pung as “a closely knit family of many cousins and brothers …(who) enjoyed a system of communal living which was somewhat unique, pooling their resources, and operating as a unit. Different families took turns carting milk, fruit and vegetables to Faneuil Hall in Boston and every spring the job of driving young heifers to pasture in Stow would be undertaken by members of different families. Coal requirements for the winter were specified in advance, and a wholesale order would be placed through Hook and Hastings Organ Factory– Mrs. Hastings being one of the family. Ice was cut in a pond….and stored under layers of sawdust in a commonly owned icehouse. In winter, driveways were plowed by those who had horses and those who had none would make up for this service in some way or other…” The family cranberry bog was located near Hastings Station. This way of life continued until World War I.
The second Coburn house in the Church Street/Coburn Area was the Edward Coburn House at 171 Church Street (1841, Map #4, MHC 10). Edward Coburn was reportedly the town’s first wholesale butcher. He also served as State Representative in 1875 and Town Selectman for 18 years between 1855 and 1881. Behind the house are five ponds; and in early times, a windmill pumped water from these ponds to a high hill behind the house, where a pipe carried water by gravity into a cellar tank from which it was pumped into the kitchen. The present stable was reportedly preceded by two larger barns, the first built in 1841 (destroyed by fire 1889) and its successor, which burned in 1955.
Edward Coburn built the house at 179 Church Street (1863, Map #6, MHC 11) for Mr. Fran(?) Hall, who rented it for many years. Mr. Hall owned and operated a shoddy mill (no longer extant) alongside the road at Stony Brook. The house was subsequently owned and occupied by Albert E. Coburn, second son of Edward, on whose death it was leased to an employee at the organ factory. In 1922 it was purchased by Raymond Coburn, grandson of Edward Coburn, who lived there for many years.
In 1897, Arthur Leslie Coburn, grandson of Jonas Coburn and owner of the family homestead at 153 Church Street, gave up farming and joined the Hook and Hastings organ manufacturing company. He served first as Secretary of the Corporation and Superintendent and, after the death of owner Francis H.Hastings in 1916, as president. The nationally known company, located nearby at North Avenue and Viles Street, manufactured organs for churches all over the country (see Kendal Green Area Form). Arthur Leslie Coburn was one of eight children; his siblings included Anna Cutter Coburn (1853-1950), who was married to Francis Hastings.
Arthur Coburn was married to Helen Haines, and the couple had three children: Anne Cutter (b.1900), Arthur Leslie (b.1903) and Mary Chapman (b.1908). He built his own house nearby on Webster Road (since destroyed) in 1902. Between 1902 and 1935, when his widow and daughter moved back in, the house at 153 Church Street was occupied by tenants. Coburn built the Coburn Cottage at 154 Church Street (Map #1, MHC 12) in 1902 for his hired man and family. [demolished] All farming operations ceased in the 1920’s but the buildings were maintained and the estate retained its rural appearance.
Part of the Coburn land on the north side of Church Street was used for the Weston Golf Club, organized in 1894 and continuing in this location until 1917. The clubhouse was several hundred yards behind the Coburn Barn, reached by a driveway from Church Street. In 1974, the Coburn meadow was given to the Town of Weston as conservation land.
(Additional information) In 1997, at the May Town Meeting, the Town of Weston voted to purchase the property at 153 Church Street. The meadow was split off from the house lot and put into conservation land. The house, with about one acre of land, will be sold in the spring of 1999 with preservation restrictions protecting the exterior of the house and character of the landscape and allowing for expansion only to the east, where a driveway and garage can be built.
For the full text and appendices of the area form, see Church Street/Coburn Area Form
1. Brenton H. Dickson, Once Upon a Pung (Weston, 1973), p. 58-59.
2. “The Coburn Homestead: 153 Church Street,” Weston Historical Society Bulletin, May, 1973, Vol.IX, No.4.
3. Philip F. Coburn, Growing Up in Weston, (Copigraph, Inc ,Waltham,1981)
4. Coburn files, Weston Historical Commission, including historical materials and photographs of 153 Church Street and family members
5. Descendants of Arthur Leslie Coburn, compiled by Anne Cutter Coburn, 1977 (copy at Weston Historical Society) includes house history of #153 and genealogical information
6. See MHC forms for deed records on each house.
7. (added 2011) Farm Town to Suburb: The History and Architecture of Weston, Massachusetts, 1830-1980 by Pamela W. Fox (2002), Peter Randall Publishers.