The Webster Hill Area was documented by the Weston Historical Commission in 2005 and includes the following properties: 120 Church St; 7, 13, 19, 26, 32, and 36 Gypsy Trail; 8, 16, and 27 Saddle Hill Rd; and 11, 29, 37, 38, 49, 58, 60, 64, 74, 78, 83 Webster Rd.
To see the 2005 area form including data sheets and photographs, click here: Webster Hill Area Form
The Webster Hill Area, located in the northeast corner of Weston, developed in the 1910s and 1920s as a neighborhood of comfortable middle class homes. Webster Hill is one of the topographical high points in Weston. Webster Road, a loop road entering and exiting off Church Street, is marked at each entrance with handsome stone posts. The curve of Webster Road enhances the visual interest of the neighborhood. The roadway is steep, particularly “upper” Webster Road around #83, and large exposed boulders reflect the area’s glacial origins. The Webster Hill Area is heavily wooded with large mature pines and hemlocks along with deciduous trees and mature rhododendrons and azaleas. Large lot sizes and naturalistic landscaping contribute to the wooded character. Houses are set back from the road, and most are designed to fit with sloping topography. Of the 21 houses, 15 were built before 1930 and most are Colonial Revival in style. Two houses are stone, three are stucco, and the remainder have shingle or clapboard exteriors. A number of early garages have survived. Styles demonstrate the variety possible within the Colonial Revival vocabulary and also include French Eclectic and Craftsman examples. Lot sizes range from 40,000 square feet on Gypsy Trail to as large as 8.5 acres on Saddle Hill Road, with most of the lots on Webster Road sized between two to four acres.
The oldest house in the Webster Hill Area, the Webster/Goodale House at 19 Gypsy Trail (1898/1913, MHC 782, Map #17), was built about 1898 as a small summer cabin, then enlarged and remodeled into a year-round house in 1913 in the Colonial Revival style. Later remodeling produced a rambling residence with numerous additions. The main entrance, located on the south facade of the main block, is marked by a handsome Colonial Revival entablature.
Development began in earnest in the early 1910s. The Plumers, who bought and subdivided the land, built the Charles and Mary Plumer House at 11 Webster Rd., formerly #23 (1911, MHC 789, Map #10, Photo #1), a two-story Colonial Revival with a hip roof, paired chimneys, and a pedimented center entrance roughly centered on the six-bay asymmetrical facade. A two-story sunporch on the west end and two-story wing on the east end make the house long and narrow in plan. Windows are 6/6 with shutters.
Three solidly constructed stucco houses were built next: the Paul and Jesse Winsor House at 16 Saddle Hill Road (1912, MHC 787, Map #11, Photo #2 ), the Homer and Mary Lockwood House at 38 Webster Road (1913, MHC 792, Map #6, Photo #4) and the Jonathan & Lalia Powell House at 74 Webster Road (1913-14, MHC 797, Map #3, Photo #3). Of these, the most significant is 16 Saddle Hill Road. With its hard southern yellow pine beams, concrete walls, asbestos shingle roof, expensive handmade green floor tiles in the family area, and plain Venetian red tiles in the large servants’ wing, the house was fireproof and virtually indestructible. It has remained largely intact. Designed in the Craftsman style, it features the wide overhanging eaves and show rafters typical of the style. A balcony on the second floor is cantilevered out on brackets and adorned with a decorative railing which is the house’s most important visual feature. Windows are generally double hung with 12/12 sash. On the first floor at either side of the central entrance door, small glass panes are used in large “picture” windows recessed within an arcade of segmental arches. A well-detailed one-vehicle early outbuilding features an elliptical fanlight window over wooden double doors, along with cross-hatched boarding along the sides. A later three-car garage is stucco with a shaped wall gable over the center bay. The house and outbuildings are located on a secluded 8.5 acre lot with mature landscaping, a gravel driveway, and stone walls. The Lockwood House at 38 Webster Road, prominently located at the curve of the road, is a gracious two-story gable-across stucco Colonial Revival, painted yellow, with a slate roof. The asymmetrical facade features a semi-circular hood sheltering the entrance door. Window sash is 8/1. One- and two-story wings and sunporches add to the picturesque quality. The handsome five-bay, 2 1/2- story tan stucco Colonial Revival Powell House at 74 Webster Road has a number of notable features including a high hip roof, large one-story center entrance portico with balustrade and flanking oval windows, large double dormer on the front facade, and 6/1 windows with shutters.
A second major phase of development occurred in the 1920s. The John and Virginia Lilly House at 58 Webster Road (1920-21, MHC 794, Map #14) is a fine example of traditional Georgian Colonial architecture. The large 2 1/2-story, seven-bay center entrance Colonial features a central portico with balustrade sheltering double entrance doors with sidelights and transom. One-story side porches extend from each side. The entrance facade has three dormers, the largest in the center.
Architect Walter Macomber designed two Colonial Revival houses in the mid-1920s: the Robert and Grace Warren House at 60 Webster Road (1925-26, MHC 795, Map #5) and the Waldo and Evelyn Noyes House at 64 Webster Road (1925-26, MHC 796, Map #4). Walter Macomber, the brother of Evelyn Noyes, was a Virginia architect who worked on the restoration of Williamsburg. Evelyn’s father, John Macomber, was the builder of #64.
About the same time the fieldstone Warren and Elizabeth Campbell House at 120 Church St. (1925-26, MHC 779, Map #1) was designed by reform-minded New York architect Ernest Flagg. Flagg (1857-1947) was the designer of the Corcoran Art Gallery, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and the Singer Building in New York City and author of Construction of Small Houses. Flagg developed a technique of building masonry houses by pouring in concrete to bond the stones. He was an urban reformer interested in construction of multi-family dwellings and economical small houses. Flagg’s early training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris is reflected in the French influences in the house.
During the 19th century, the land in the Webster Hill Area was part of the 120-acre Coburn farm, which Jonas Coburn had purchased in 1801 for $4,400. The Coburn farmhouse and one of the Coburn barns are still located at 153 and 154 Church Street at the foot of Webster Hill, just outside the area. Webster Hill was not suitable for farming and remained undeveloped until 1898, when Arthur Leslie Coburn, a grandson of Jonas, built the first house on the hill for his new bride. At that time, Coburn was working as superintendent of the Hook & Hastings organ factory on Viles Street and also managing the family farm. A. L. Coburn’s handsome Shingle-style house, located approximately where 29 Webster Hill Road is today, was destroyed by fire in the late 1960s.
Webster Hill takes its name from Frank G. Webster, a banker with the firm of Kidder Peabody in Boston. Webster was a close friend of Frank Jonas Coburn, another grandson of Jonas. About 1898, Webster built a rustic summer cabin sometimes referred to as a hunting lodge, at 19 Gypsy Trail (1898/1913, MHC 782, Map #17). The house was initially a simple cabin valued at only $600 on the tax records. Around 1911, the Webster hunting lodge was rented for the summer to author Arthur Stanwood Pier, who wrote for Youth’s Companion and was instrumental in promoting the Boy Scouts. It was purchased about 1913 by Margaret and Francis Goodale, who enlarged and remodeled the cabin into a year-round residence.
Frank G.Webster’s wife, Mary, owned 77 acres on the hill in partnership with Hannah Coburn [Jackson], wife of Frank Coburn and, after his death, of Fred W. Jackson. For the next decade, the only houses on the hill were the Webster cabin and Arthur L. Coburn’s Shingle-style house on lower Webster Road.
In 1910, Webster and Jackson sold land to Paul Winsor, brother of Weston estate owner Robert Winsor. Paul was an MIT graduate who became chief engineer of Motive Power and Rolling Stock with the Boston Elevated. According to family tradition, he was awarded a patent for a street railway braking device and used the income from the invention to build his unique concrete house at 16 Saddle Hill Road (1912). The layout was planned for Paul’s semi-invalid wife, Jesse, and their two small boys. Jesse’s activities were limited but did include caring for plants in a conservatory designed especially for her. Paul Winsor apparently overextended his finances in the construction and had to sell after only a few years.
Development on the hill continued as Webster and Jackson sold land to Mary A. Plumer and her husband, Boston businessman and machinery manufacturer Charles S. Plumer. The couple built a Colonial Revival house in 1910-11 (11 Webster Rd., formerly #23, 1911, Map #7), designed by Samuel Mead. Mead was a resident of nearby Pigeon Hill in Weston and a principal in the Boston firm of Cabot, Everett and Mead. After Charles Plumer’s death in 1912, the house was rented, then purchased in 1915 by architect and engineer Archibald Monks, who owned it until 1957. He sold it to Granton H. Dowse Jr., who lived here until the end of the century.
The Plumers subdivided the land and sold off lots within the loop of what they called Plumer Road, a name later changed to Webster Road. In all, about half a dozen houses were built on Webster Hill between 1910 and the beginning of World War I. In addition to the Winsor and Plumer house, houses built in the 1910’s were located at 38, 74, and 83 Webster Road. Salesman Homer Lockwood and his wife, Mary, built the stucco Colonial Revival house at 38 Webster Road in 1913. Physician Jonathan R. Powell and his wife, Lalia, built a stucco Colonial Revival, at 74 Webster Road (1913-14). Edith and Edward P. “Ted” Ripley built at 83 Webster Road in 1914. Ripley, the brother of teacher Emma Ripley, was an “orchardist” whose family owned apple orchards extending from Ripley Lane into Wayland. In 1913, the Webster cabin was remodelled into a year-round house.
A second building cycle followed in the early to mid-1920s and resulted in houses at 37, 58, 60, 64 and 78 Webster Road. John M. and Virginia C. Lilly built the large, well-detailed Colonial Revival house on the hill at 58 Webster Road in 1920-21. The Lillys had purchased their 30 acres from Paul Winsor, along with Winsor’s concrete house at 16 Saddle Hill Road. Architect Walter Macomber designed two mid-1920s houses, one at 60 Webster Road (1925-26), for lawyer Robert A. Warren and his wife, Grace, and one at 64 Webster Road (1925-26) for lawyer Waldo Noyes and his wife, Evelyn. Walter Macomber, the brother of Evelyn Noyes, was a Virginia architect who worked on the restoration of Williamsburg. Evelyn ‘s father, John Macomber, was the builder of #64.
Hudson shoe manufacturer Lawson T. Hill and his wife, Florence built the Colonial Revival house at 78 Webster Road (1925, Map #2) in 1925. Benjamin P. Whitney and his wife Barbara built a Colonial Revival home at 37 Webster Road (1927, Map #9) in 1927, designed by Samuel Mead. Webster Road has remained largely intact and unchanged since that time, with the exception of a 1954 ranch house and the 1998 mansion at #29, which is set back and cannot be seen from the street.
1. Fox, Pamela W., Farm Town to Suburb: The History and Architecture of Weston, Massachusetts, 1830-1980 (Peter Randall Publisher, 2002). Church Street/Coburn chapter.
2. Middlesex County Registry of Deeds, So. District. Deed research in Pam Fox file on Webster Hill Area.
3. Material on Paul Winsor House courtesy of owners Dusty & Susan Reeder. See also Fox files.
4. Information on 120 Church Street courtesy of owner Dorian Lightbown.