The Pigeon Hill Area was documented by the Weston Historical Commission in 1998 and includes the following properties: 7, 11, 17-19, 21, 25, 29, 34, 38, 42 44, and 45 Hill Top Rd; 2, 3, 10, 13, 20, 26, 32, 50, and 56 Pigeon Hill Rd.
To see the original 1998 Area form including data sheets and photographs, click here: Pigeon Hill Area Form
This early suburban neighborhood of substantial middle class homes–the first of its kind in Weston– is set on a hill in the geographical center of the town, just north of the abandoned railroad tracks of the former Central Massachusetts Railroad. The neighborhood is characterized by a winding street pattern and naturalistic landscaping, with many mature trees and shrubs. The steeply sloping topography influences the siting of most houses within the neighborhood and adds visual interest. Where houses could not be built because of steep slopes, the hillsides are left in a natural, wooded state. In addition to the topographical irregularity and informal landscape style, the physical setting of the neighborhood is characterized by many ledge outcroppings and large glacial boulders scattered randomly. A few houses have stone walls along the street and some are enclosed by low fences. Included within this area form are 21 houses, several notable carriage houses and a greenhouse on lots of between one and four acres. Houses are frame construction in Shingle Style, Colonial Revival and Tudor styles popular in the first two decades of the 20th century. Most of the houses are simple “country” versions of these styles, predominantly 2 1/2 story, with some smaller houses. Most houses have been preserved largely intact, with their original type of shingle or clapboard facing material; however, in some cases aluminum/vinyl siding has substantially altered design character.
50 Pigeon Hill Road (1891, MHC 254), the earliest house in the neighborhood, is a well-detailed, idiosyncratic Shingle Style example designed by architect Samuel Mead as his own residence. This unusual, well-preserved property, which includes a carriage house and greenhouse on 15 acres, is discussed in detail in an individual inventory Form B.
Almost half of the remaining houses were built within a decade after Horace Sears subdivided the property in 1897. The Sears plan, prepared by W.A.Mason & Son, surveyors from Central Square in Cambridge, was the first in Weston to offer this type of planned residential subdivision located off the main road with a traffic pattern designed to discourage use of the streets except by residents of the neighborhood.
The first two lots in the Sears subdivision were purchased by another architect, Alexander S. Jenney, who built a simple Colonial Revival house at 44 Hill Top Road (1898, MHC 564, Map #12). What was probably the next house in the neighborhood, 21 Hill Top Road (1898, MHC 560, Map #6), was designed in a more detailed and more “correct” version of the Colonial Revival which became popular at the turn of the century as architects and builders began to study Colonial prototypes more carefully. This house imitates the proportions and design of the New England “saltbox,” emphasizing the dramatic sweeping roofline by facing the house to the south so that the gable end faces the street. Other 18th century features on the four-bay, shingled house include 12/12 window sash and a large brick central chimney.
One of the largest of the Pigeon Hill houses, 42 Hill Top Road (1898-99, MHC 565, Map #14) is a 2 1/2 story, asymmetrical clapboard house with irregular Shingle Style massing and Colonial Revival details. Fenestration is very informal and irregular. Focus is on the central entrance, marked by leaded glass sidelights and a heavy hood with balustrade. Above the entrance is a large Palladian window. The house has a hipped roof and jerkenhead dormer. The property includes a large two-story clapboard garage (MHC 566, Map #14) with a hipped roof, probably built at the same time as the house, also with an irregular fenestration pattern.
26 Pigeon Hill Road (1899-1900, MHC 568, Map #23) is a substantial 2 1/2 story, four-bay shingled Colonial Revival house sited to face east rather than toward the street. Simple detailing includes a partially enclosed entrance porch with square posts and a large 5-bay central dormer on the front facade of the gable-roofed structure.
20 Pigeon Hill Road (1900, MHC 569, Map #24), probably designed by its original owner, architect Arthur J. Russell, is a simple 2 1/2 story Shingle Style house which retains the original dark brown color of the shingles. The house is L-shaped, with the entrance at the intersection of the L. The high pitched, hipped roof flares out over wide overhanging eaves. A two-car garage is attached at the west.
The informal style of 20 Pigeon Hill Road contrasts with the more formal, classical features of 45 Hill Top Road (1903, MHC 562, Map #10), a 2 1/2 story Colonial Revival with a symmetrical fenestration, corner quoins, wide overhanging eaves and low hipped roof. The house is divided into only three bays, with windows grouped by threes on the first floor and by twos on the second floor. Design focus is on the center entrance, with its wide door and leaded glass sidelights sheltered by a one-story entrance porch supported by Roman Ionic columns. On the second floor above the doorway is a prominent Palladian window featuring a low-relief classical shell panel under the center light. A photograph owned by SPNEA shows that this house has been altered in the entrance porch and roof/ dormer area. At the rear of this property is a small 1 1/2 story combined staff house and one-car garage constructed of brick and shingles (MHC 561, Map #9).
The unique design of 10 Pigeon Hill Road (1904, converted 1926, MHC 570, Map #25) reflects its origin as a schoolhouse rather than a residence. Much of the building is 1 1/2 stories; however, in the center is a prominent two-story central pavilion set off by quoins. A central one-story enclosed entrance vestibule is also ornamented with quoins. Round-headed windows with fanlight tympanums enhance the neoclassical spirit. A high fieldstone foundation on the east side accommodates the pronounced change in grade.
Frederick V. Hyde House at 56 Pigeon Hill Road (ca.1907, MHC 257, Map #17), described in greater detail in an individual inventory Form B, is an unusual stucco house with a distinctive two-story center pedimented entrance porch which is open at level one and enclosed with patterned glass windows above. This house also has a notable garage/storage outbuilding built about the same time as the house (MHC 258, Map #18).
In 1919, architect Alexander Jenney sold his house at 44 Hill Top Road along with one of his two original lots. Jenney retained Lot L and built the house at 46 Hill Top Road (1919, MHC 563, Map #11), a 2 1/2 story shingled Tudor, asymmetrical in plan, with a well-detailed one-story enclosed entrance porch featuring wide overhanging eaves and a simple stick-work design in the tympanum. The steepness of its gable roof echoes the shape of the roof gable on this section of the house. Windows included 6/6, square, and diamond-paned sash. A large brick wall chimney to the west of the entrance add to visual interest of the front facade. Both 44 and 46 Hill Top feature very large living room fireplaces.
Three houses were built on Pigeon Hill the mid-1920’s, including the notable bungalow at 13 Pigeon Hill Road (ca.1925, MHC 557, Map #2), a well-detailed two-bay, 1 1/2 story example of a style usual in Weston. The shingled house is set on a hill and has a high fieldstone foundation and raised first story. Entrance is up eleven steps to a screened porch which extends across the front and is simply ornamented with 1/2 round columns. The house has wide overhanging eaves, a hip roof, and a large central hipped dormer in the front and another on the east side. The small one-story, one-car detached garage is probably contemporary with the house. The next year, the Dutch Colonial at 7 Hill Top Road (ca.1926, MHC 558, Map #3) was constructed on a rise, with a simple entrance porch, heavy pent eaves dividing first and second stories, and window groupings of four and five 6/1 sash, irregularly placed. The neighboring house at 11 Hill Top Road (1927, MHC 559, Map #4) is also Colonial Revival and has, as its principal design feature, a dramatic round pedimented central entrance porch, supported on two thin columns. This three-bay house has a large addition on the north end with a below grade two-car garage.
38 Hill Top Road (ca.1935, MHC 567, Map #15) is the last of the neighborhood’s handsome Colonial Revival houses, designed by the Boston architectural firm of Kilham, Hopkins and Greeley for Mr. and Mrs. E.Olsen Field. Two gables intersect at right angles, with the enclosed entrance vestibule at the point of intersection. The house has wide clapboards and a green slate roof. The property is landscaped with mature trees and shrubs, especially rhododendrons.
Pigeon Hill was the first “planned” subdivision in Weston. Until the later part of the 19th century, the town was primarily an agricultural community; and new houses, when needed for local farmers and tradesmen, were generally built along existing roads. By the late 19th century, Weston was beginning to attract Boston businessmen who established country homes on large tracts of land purchased from local farmers. These men, in turn, encouraged other business and professional men to settle in Weston, creating a demand for middle class houses in the type of “suburban” neighborhoods which were growing up outside cities across the country. One of the first persons in Weston to recognize and address this demand was estate owner Horace Scudder Sears, who grew up in Weston as the son of the First Parish Church minister and remained in the community even after he made a fortune in textile manufacturing. In the last few years of the 19th century, Sears purchased the land on Pigeon Hill, had a subdivision plan drawn up with 17 lots, and then sold the lots to business and professional men including a doctor, lawyer, bookseller, and several architects. One of the attractions of the new subdivision was its proximity to the Central Massachusetts Railroad, which opened in 1881 and had a station at the foot of the hill just outside the limits of this area form. In 1904, the subdivision became the location for the Pigeon Hill School, the first private school in Weston.
The first house to be built on Pigeon Hill, the Samuel Mead House of 1891 (MHC 254, Map #19) was not part of the Sears subdivision. Some years earlier, the young architect had designed a brown shingled house for his contemporary, Robert Winsor, who would become Weston’s second largest estate owner. After designing Winsor’s relatively modest house, which still stands at 309 Boston Post Road, Mead embarked for Europe for three years of travel and study as the second winner of MIT’s prestigious Rotch Traveling Scholarship. After his return in 1887, Mead moved to Jamaica Plain and began a career with well-known Boston firms including Ware and Van Brunt; Cabot and Chandler; Cabot, Chandler and Mead; and Cabot, Everett and Mead. For his own house, Mead remembered Weston and returned to the country town, choosing a hilltop lot with a beautiful view in an era when Weston was largely deforested. In 1892, he was taxed for a house and stable valued at $3100 and eight acres of land. On the property he also built a carriage house and a greenhouse for Mrs. Mead, who was fond of gardening and oversaw the original landscaping of the property, as well as the planting of an exceptional collection of rhododendrons.
In the years after he settled in Weston, Mead designed impressive mansions for Lorenzo Kettle (ca.1892) at 770 Boston Post Road, Grant Walker at 319 Concord Road (ca.1906), Fannie Morrison, who wanted a new brick facade (1914) on her father’s Wellesley Street summer place, now the Regis College president’s house, and Mrs. Elizabeth Sparhawk Sears, whose neoclassical house at 293 Boston Post Road (1919) is one of the few in Weston with two-story columns. Mead’s house for Charles Richardson at 6 Conant Road (1900 ) was later enlarged and remodeled by Joseph Everett Chandler in 1917. Another of his gracious Colonial Revival homes, the George W. Eliot House at 96 Church Street (1910), has remained largely unchanged. Mead designed the yellow brick barn at what is now known as the Case Estates, the first Weston High School (now Brook School Building A on Wellesley Street), and additions to the Dickson House at 125 Highland Street and the Williamson- Farlow house at 98 Love Lane. Mead also designed the Wayland Public Library.
The remaining 20 houses in the Pigeon Hill Area were built as part of the 1897 subdivision by estate owner Horace Sears, who that year purchased over 46 acres from Daniel Lamson, for $11,000. Sears, the bachelor son of First Parish Church minister Edward Hamilton Sears, had made his fortune as a textile manufacturer with the firm of N. Boynton & Company, which within a few years of the Pigeon Hill purchase would be re-organized as Wellington & Sears. Sears hired W.A.Mason & Son, a surveying firm based in Central Square, Cambridge, to lay out a road pattern which, with minor modifications, is the same today. The road curves around the base of the hill, rising gradually to the top.
This type of subdivision was not new in the United States. The first example, Riverside, Illinois, was laid out by Olmsted, Vaux & Co.nearly thirty years before, in 1869. According to Norman Newton’s book, Design on the Land, Riverside was “the first clearly recorded instance in the United States of the application of landscape architectural design to a real-estate land subdivision project.” (p.468). The Olmsted and Vaux plan for Riverside aimed at creating a “village-like suburb with a sylvan domestic atmosphere.” (p.465). The curvilinear street pattern, so unusual in its day, was chosen for a purpose, as explained in Olmsted’s writing:
…as the ordinary directness of line in town-streets, with its resultant regularity of plan, would suggest eagerness to press forward, without looking to the right hand or the left, we should recommend the general adoption, in the design of your roads, of gracefully-curved lines, generous spaces, and the absence of sharp corners, the idea being to suggest and imply leisure, contemplativeness and happy tranquility. (as quoted in Newton, Design on the Land, p.467)
By the time of the Pigeon Hill subdivision, the curvilinear street pattern, which had been adopted by real estate developers in suburbs throughout the country, was finally making its way to Weston, albeit on a very small scale, as this rural, agricultural community began its transformation to sylvan suburb.
Two of the first lots to be sold in the new development were the adjoining lots L and M at the top of the hill, sold to architect Alexander S. Jenney in November, 1897. Two years later, Jenney also bought Lot Q at the bottom of the hill from his house (now 32 Pigeon Hill Road), perhaps to protect his view. Jenney had began in practice in Boston about 1893 and worked in the firms of Fox, Jenney and Gale and later Jenney and Frost. He was the architect of the 1898 Weston Town Library and the fire stations on Boston Post Road (1914) and North Avenue(1908). Jenney sited his own house at 44 Hill Top Road ( 1898, MHC 564, Map #12), on the crown of Pigeon Hill, where there was undoubtedly a spectacular view to the south in this era when so much land in Weston was deforested. In 1899, the house was valued at $6000, with a henhouse valued at $200, according to town assessor’s records. In 1899, Jenney also bought lot Q at what is now 32 Pigeon Hill Road at the base of the hill from his house. In 1901, his wife, Anne, died at age 37 of double pneumonia; and her two minor children, Paul G. and Marion S. Jenney, inherited the house. In 1919, Alexander Jenney and his children sold off the house at #44, which had been built on Lot M, but retained the adjoining vacant lot “L,” where they built a Tudor style house, now 46 Hill Top Road (1919, MHC 563, Map #11), which they sold seven years later, in 1926. It is not known that Jenney was the architect of either 44 or 46 Hill Top Road, but he is presumed to have designed them. Both houses have similar extra-large living room fireplaces.
Another of the first lots to be snapped up was Lot F, sold to Catherine Anne Everett of Philadelphia and her husband Herbert Everett in 1897. Everett built the carefully proportioned Colonial saltbox at 21 Hill Top Road (1898, MHC 560, Map #6), which first appears on town tax records in 1899, valued at $2000.
In February and September, 1898, two adjoining hill top lots, P and N, were sold to Mary Q.Thorndike and her husband Albert, who worked for the Boston firm of Jackson & Curtis. The Thorndikes combined the two lots and built the house now numbered 42 Hill Top Road (1898-99, MHC 565, Map #14), which appears on the tax records in 1899, valued at $7000 for the dwelling and $2000 for the barn. In 1900, Mary Q.Thorndike also bought Lot D down the hill from their residence, perhaps, like Jenney, to protect their view. The Thorndikes held this land, without building on it, until 1922, when they sold this parcel, later subdivided into two lots, now 7 Hill Top Road and 13 Pigeon Hill Road.
The next house to be built, 26 Pigeon Hill Road (1899-1900, MHC 568, Map #23), belonged to lawyer Grant Palmer and his wife Marian. According to the oral history account of his son, Grant, Jr., when Palmer and his wife were about to be married in 1891, they would take a horse and buggy and go from town to town to see where they would like to live. On one of these occasions they came to Weston and decided this was the place. They lived for a time in Robert Winsor’s mother’s house on Winsor Way (she used it only in the summer) and in other locations before buying their own lot in Horace Sears development in May, 1899. Grant Palmer took the nearby Central Massachusetts Railroad into his Boston office until he was about 90 years old.
Another of the original buyers was Arthur J. Russell, son of First Parish Church minister Charles Russell and architect with the Boston firm of Brainerd, Leeds and Russell. Russell purchased Lot B in April, 1900 and constructed the Shingle Style house, presumably of his own design, now numbered 20 Pigeon Hill Road (1900, MHC 569, Map #24). Russell also designed other houses in Weston including the mansion for cotton broker Brenton H. Dickson Jr. at 125 Highland Street at the corner of Love Lane, built about the same time.
Charles H. Stimpson purchased Lot G in March, 1901 and by the time of the 1908 Middlesex County atlas, they had built a house on the site, now 25 Pigeon Hill Road. It is not clear whether the present house at this location was built then or in 1920. The adjacent house at 29 Hill Top Road was built in 1935 for Stimpson’s son, Charles Jr. and his wife Emily.
William Butler Clarke and his wife Maria Josephine bought Lot I on the Sears plan in 1902 and by 1904 had completed the house at 45 Hill Top Road (1903, MHC 562, Map #10). Clarke owned a bookselling business, W.B.Clarke, Co. on Tremont Street in Boston. His house has been attributed to both A.J. Russell and Samuel Mead, however, a photograph at SPNEA, donated by Wm. B. Clarke in 1922, is captioned “W.B.Clarkes’ house, Pigeon Hill, Weston, built about 1905, Planned by himself.” The photograph shows the original entrance porch, which was quite grand, with paired columns and a balustrade above. The house had large cupola/dormer at the peak of the low-hipped roof, suggesting a stylistic influence from the nearby Sears estate mansion, “Haliewa,” completed in 1902. In 1909, the Clarkes purchased the adjoining lot H and portions of lot G and J, including the cul de sac which had been marked “The Overlook” on the original street plan. With this sale, the Clarkes had enough land to build the combined cottage and garage which still remains on the property (MHC 561, Map #9).
In 1903, Sears sold Lot C to fellow estate owner Robert Winsor as the site for his newly formed Pigeon Hill School. The school was established to educated the children of estate owners in Weston and Wayland; included among its students were the progeny of Winsor, Gen. Charles Jackson Paine and Brenton H. Dickson, Jr. The school’s location near the Weston stop on the Central Massachusetts railroad was important, as some of the children commuted to school from Wayland. In later years, the small site constrained the growth of the school, and Winsor arranged a move to land formerly part of his estate, where the school was renamed Meadowbrook. After the move, the former school building was converted to house, now 10 Pigeon Hill Road (1904, converted 1926, MHC 570, Map #25).
About 1907, Weston doctor Frederick Hyde built his house at 56 Pigeon Hill Road (ca.1907, MHC 257, Map #17). Before moving to Pigeon Hill, Hyde had a house and office on Central Avenue (now Boston Post Road).
It is worth noting that a fourth architect also lived on Pigeon Hill just outside the area covered by this form. Harold Graves built his own house at 23 Old Road about 1910. Graves was the architect of numerous houses in Weston, including 23 Wellesley Street and many houses in the Meadowbrook Road area. He converted the Winsor barn to the Weston Golf Club, although his design was much altered by a later fire. His house at 23 Old Road remained in the Graves family until recent years, when it was sold by the heirs of Graves’ daughter-in-law, Ida, and subsequently “modernized.”
About a decade after the subdivision plan was drawn up, at the time of the 1908 Middlesex County Atlas, eight houses and one school building had been built on the reconfigured 17 lots of the Sears subdivision (21, 25, 42, 44 and 45 Hill Top Road, and 10, 20, 26 and 56 Pigeon Hill Road.) Several notable houses were built in the next two decades, among them the house at 46 Hill Top Road (1919), already mentioned, and the house at 13 Pigeon Hill Road (ca.1925, MHC 557, Map #2), built on the extra lot originally owned by the Thorndikes.
1. Middlesex Registry of Deeds, Book 2525/511, Jan. 5, 1897, Lamson to Sears. See Plans, Vol.101/47 for Plan of Lamson Estate, Dec. 1896. Sears bought a 41.2 acre piece and a 5.44 acre parcel.
2. Middlesex Registry of Deeds (South District), Plan Book 107, Plan 16 (November 22, 1897)
3. Everett (21 Hill Top) Book 2613/526, Nov.26, 1897, Lot F (Sears to Everett), tax records show house valued at $2000, first listed in tax records in 1899.
4. Thorndike (42 Hill Top) Book 2636/286 and 2692/384 (lots N & P). Sold in May, 1913 to Nannie R. Rice (3791/555) Lot D purchased April, 1900 (2812/424) and sold to Jos A. and Mary A. Quinn in May, 1922 (4513/110)
5. Palmer (26 Pigeon Hill Rd) Sears to Palmer, Lot A, May 6, 1899, 2733/577; mortgage taken out in Sept., 1901 indicates that by that time there was a house on the property (2917/475)
6. Clarke (45 Hill Top Road) Sears to Clarke, Oct. 1902 , Lot I, 3004/293; also Lot H and parts of G and J, July, 1909, 3459/275.
7. Russell (20 Pigeon Hill Road) Sears to Russell, Lot B, April 3, 1900, Book 2818/279. We know the house had been built by Sept, 1901, when he took out a mortgage with C.H.Fiske for the land with the buildings thereon. (2918/378)
8. Jenney (44 Hill Top Road) Sears to Jenney, Nov 9, 1897, Lots L and M, Book 2609/33. See also 3267/355 and 3710/211 and sale of house to Arthur H. Morse in July, 1919, Book 4273/443. (46 Hill Top Road) Jenney to Geo. A. and Eleanor W. Furness, June, 1926, 4984/599, Lot L with buildings thereon. Date of 1919 is listed in assessors records and corresponds with the sale date of Lot M, which included the original Jenney house.
9. Stimpson . Sears to Stimpson, Book 2879/216, Lot G, March, 1901. See also 5899/21, mortgage from Mary E. Stimpson to Charles H. Stimpson Jr. and wife Emily, June, 1935.
10. Norman Newton, Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture (Harvard University Press, 1971.)
11. Town of Weston tax records and directories.