Weston has one Local Historic District (LHD) comprised of eight properties on Crescent Street. These properties are protected under Article XXIV of Weston’s General By-laws, which was enacted in 1993 and is designed to protect the architectural integrity of the district through a process of design review carried out by the Crescent Street Local Historic District Commission.
Properties included within the district: 10, 21, 27, 29, 39, and 49 Crescent Street and 247, 251, and 255-257 Boston Post Road.
Excerpts from the Crescent Street Historic District Study Committee Report, December 1992.
Crescent Street presents a vivid portrayal of life nearly a century and a half ago. The narrow curving road, once an important thoroughfare, remains now essentially as it appeared when horse-drawn vehicles provided the major transportation means for both products and passengers. The harmonious homes lining and facing the street testify to the evolution of Weston from its establishment as a farming community, through a period when local stream-powered industry flourished, then to a town attractive to wealthy Boston residents for their seasonal country estates, and eventually to its present position as a Boston suburb with a dedication to the maintenance of its distinctive New England rural character. This section of the original post road from Boston to New York was by-passed in 1854 when the route, then known as the Great Country Road, was widened and straightened.
Crescent Street is historically significant in two particular aspects. First, the road itself, a major east-west travel route, played an important role in the development of the local community, the Commonwealth, and the country. Secondly, the homes bordering Crescent Street, built over a period beginning at the turn of the eighteenth century and continuing until the 1920′s, provide a unique testament to the changing means of livelihood in this community, representative of evolution throughout New England of the use of streams to power early industrial development. Crescent Street exists as a window on an area where American citizens have lead peaceful productive lives throughout the entire history of the country.
The Post Road
Originally an Indian footpath between the bay and the interior, the post road was the main throoughfare from Boston west to Worcester and Springfield and south to Hartford and New York. What is now Crescent Street was once a section of this former postal route. Throughout the years, the road’s name evolved from Bay Path to Great Country Road or simpe Country Road to its present Boston Post Road. The route was alternately called the Main Road or referred to as Central Avenue in the early 1920s. [Editor's note: name changed from Central Avenue to the Boston Post Road at a Town Meeting in 1927.]
In a speech given at the 1917 dedication of the new Town House and Common, then Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Calvin Coolidge described the road as one of the “great arteries of travel.” Naming Weston’s section of the Post Road for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, Candice Jenkins of the Massachusetts Historical Commission stated that “the Boston Post Road was a crucial transportation corridor in Massachusetts and Weston has the best preserved segment.”
The early established history of the community of Weston is linked to the road itself. Originally part of Watertown, Weston can trace its first documented settlement to 1637, when meadowland in the southern part of present-day Weston was allotted for farming to Townmen of Watertown. These early settlers traveled to and from Watertown Center as well as Boston along the route of today’s Boston Post Road, then an Indian footpath called the Bay Path, one of several such trails or branes by that name. With teh settlement of Boston and Watertown, efforts were directed toward the laying out of public roads leading to the west and following the Bay Path branches used by the Indians, thereby preserving this route for its later role.
As farming settlers increased in the western precinct of Watertown, a separate community evolved, which became known as the Farmer’s Precinct or District, and these farmers traveled along the former Bay Path to Watertown for Sunday church services. As the number of settlers in this farming area increased, sentiment developed afor establishing a separate parish organization to eliminate the long, weekly trip eastward for church meetings. Responding to a petition by these western farmers of Watertown, in 1698 the colon’y General Court permitted the Farmer’s Precinct to build a church. In the same year, a deed is recorded for perperty on which to build the church “by side of the road”, indicating the Great Country Road, or the Boston Post Road of today. The Township of Weston was formally established with its incorporation in 1713.
Concurrently with the settling of the land west of Boston, the use of the former bay path had changed. In 1673, the first postrider made the Boston-New York roundtrip with mail, traveling over what were then mostly Indian trails. This route, which became known as the Great Country Road, was established as a major communication pathway for the colonies. Postriders regularly carried newspapers and mail along this road until the Revolution, providing monthly service. Interruptions occurred only during a brief Dutch occupation of New York and at the time of the King Philip War with the Indians between 1675 and 1685.
As settlements grew west and south, the former Indian patch was widened to allow for teams of oxen and horses putting wagons along the route. The road served as an important conveyance route for farm produce, livestock, and lumber to the growing community of Boston. The streams along the road, one still evident as the western end of Crescent Street, provided watering stops for horses and cattle.
The Great Country Road witnessed significant events during the country’s separation from England. General George Washington passed through Weston avoer the route on July 2, 1775, on his way to taking command of the Continental Army in Cambridge the next day. In 1777, Paul Revere rode over the road toward Worcester to take charge of the British prisoners captured by General Stark at Bennington, Vermont, later returning along the same path with these prisoners and others from Saratoga and General John Burgoyne’s surrender. General Knox transported British cannon captured at Fort Ticonderoga over the road via ox-drawn sleds for the defense of Boston. Throughout the war years, troops marched along the road heading for training posts.
The first two Presidents of the United States traveled along the route of present day Crescent Street, both staying at post road taverns in Weston. President Washington, on a visit to New England in 1789, stayed at the Flagg Tavern on the western side of the town. John Adams journeyed along the route on his way to Washington to take the presidential oath of office and later visited the community while he was president. Records indicate that Daniel Webster and Samuel Dexter followed the Great Country Road when they first headed south to take positions in Congress. At the time of the War of 1812, militia marched over the road en route to their stations of guarding towns along the coast.
The first public stagecoach traveled the road in 1772. With the initiation of regular mail and passenger stagecoach service from Boston to Hartford in 1783, and later to New York, the Great Country Road played yet another important role in the developing country, providing the pathway for transportation of passengers and mail from Boston to the west and south. Although the establishment of the Worcester Turnpike through Framingham in 1808 led to fewer coach runs on the former postal route, still as many as forty oaches passed through the community each week as late as 1840. Until 1885, one stagecoach run per day both east and west passed through Weston.
The road’s role changed as railroads gradually replaced the stagecoaches for transporting goods, mail, and passengers. Railroads were first constructed in the area in 1840, with three lines eentually passing through Weston. Two of these lines, the Fitchburg and the Massachusetts Central, paralleled the postal route through Weston, running between the Country Road and the next northern road, the Lancaster Road (now North Avenue.) With the last local stagecoach run ceasing in 1886, well after the time that the Country Road was straightened and widened. Crescent Street remains today much as it existed during the time of frequent coach runs.
The eight homes along Crescent Street provide a picture of the evolution of the community as means of livelihood changed from the initial settlement until today. Built over a period of 120 years, these buildings are closely linked to a variety of means of income production.
The development of Weston was initially based on the features of its landscape or geography. The first settlers from Watertown were attracted by the meadows ideal for cattle grazing in the southern section of what is now Weston, and the town developed as a farming community. The handsome brick-end home at 21 Crescent Street, built by [Luther Harrington in 1812] originally was built to serve the needs of a large farm family. Abraham Harrington had acquired the land on which he established his farm in 1782, the conveyance noting the property’s boundary along the “Country Road.” Also representing this farming period, the home at 251 Boston Post Road, actually fronting on Crescent Street, was [built around 1846 by Luther Harrington Jr., whose father had constructed the house across the street. Later owners included members of the Hagar family.]
Tavern-keeping, another means of livelihood during the colonial period, is represented in this district. At one time, a small public road, originally a bridle path, ran northward from a point on crescent Street between the present homes numbered 21 and 29 Crescent across farmland to the town road now known as Church Street. In the mid-1700s, Benjamin Peirce, established a tavern on this road to serve the drivers of wagons who arried loads to and from Boston. Located too far from the more heavily traveled Great Country Road, the tavern run by Peirce and his son Benjamin Jr. was abandoned in the 1770s, and Peirce relocated his establishment along the more popular route. A foundation or cellar, purposed to be from the original Peirce taern, can still be seen in the wooded area north of Crescent Street. . . .
Spring-fed streams in Weston attracted industry because of the promise of water power and led to the development of several mills over a period of more than two hundred years. An early mill was established as a grist mill and saw mill in about 1678 on Stony Brook, just east of the beginning of Crescent Street. Three Mile Brook [referred to as Four Mile Brook on some maps], which runs just north of Crescent Street and eventually joins Stony Brook, provided the power for mills which contributed to the development of the homes along this section of the Country Road. The importance of this power source is evidenced in deed records, which contain frequent references to the transfer of water rights along the stream.
The first mill in the Crescent Street area was initiated some time before 1743, when David Sanderson purchased farmland and water rights on the brook in this section. He operated a grist mill until 1745 on the stream and built a small lean-to there. In 1751, the “privilege to turn water” was recorded in deed records, granting that right to Benjamin Peirce. . . .
The land behind the homes at 39 and 49 Crescent Street provides a graphic example of the intricate waterways that were established to provide power for early mills and factories. Still apparent are the remains of a dam, a millpond, and a canal for directing water from Three Mile Brook. Large water wheels to power machinery were constructed here, and evidence of the supporting structure can still be seen.
In 1830, Samuel F. H. Bingham from Concord bought mill rights on the Three Mile Brook and purchased land on what is now Crescent Street. About 1838-1839, Brigham built the home at 39 Crescent Street. He also established a factory in the area behind this residence. Bingham made machinery for the manufacture of heavy woolen goods and invented the Bingham cheese and butter drill, a highly successful item which apparently was in great demand.
During this same period. Samuel Shattuck used the quickly flowing stream water to provide power for a chair factory that he established at the point where Sanderson had initially built his mill. Shattuck’s company prospered; unpon his retirement in 1875, the firm was taken over by Kenney Brothers and Wolkins and later Oliver M. Kenney along. He specialized in school furniture, manufacturing both chairs and desks. The company was later acuired by George Perry, a member of a family which owned considerable land in the Crescent Street area. At the time of its operation, the factory, located downstream from Bingham’s factory, used a water wheel 28 feet in diameter as a power source. Eventually needing greater waterpower, this successful operation moved to Baldwinsville, Massachusetts in 1917. The wheel remained until approximately the 1940s, providing an interesting landmark.
Another change in Boston Post Road, a by-pass of the town center, affected Three Mile Brook as a power source. Town records indicate that the manufacturer Breeman unsuccessfully sued the selectmen for damages due to the impairment of his water rights in the 1930s at the time of the construction of the by-pass. This second by-pass of the major east-west road was built through a long area of swampland, early known as a source of peat. The present slow-moving stream passing throug the woods north of Crescent Street, now largely owned by the Town of Weston as conservation land, no longer evidences the strength to power factory wheels.
Yet another source of local economic development is apparent along Crescemt Street. Beginning in the mid-1800s, wealthy Boston businessmen purchased large sections of land in Weston on which to build estates to serve as their residencies during the spring and fall. These properties often included homes for the estate employees. In the Crescent Street area, the [Francis B. ] Sears [Jr] family established an estate, which included several homes. [These included the main house at 21 Crescent Street, originally built for a prosperous farmer in 1812; the chauffeur's house at 29 Crescent Street built in 1924; and the former mill worker house at 27 Crescent Street. The latter became the home of an Italian immigrant family headed by Joseph Melone, who fixed up the house and also worked worked for Francis B. Sears Jr to help maintain the large property].
Yet another means of livelihood was carried out in the house at 247 Boston Post Road. At least two consecutive physician-owners of this property located their medical practices in a section of the house, the last in the middle of the 20th century, contributing to the then popular name of “Doctor’s Row” for this stretch of the Boston Post Road.
Finally, the evolution of the community as home for individuals earning their income in Boston and commuting to the city is represented by the home at 10 Crescent Street, an example of early suburban house design, which was building in the 1920s, when rail service was frequent and convenient.
Thus, the homes lining Crescent Street demonstrate the evolution of the town from its founding identity as a farming community, through a period as a locale of mills, later to an area attractive to wealthy Boston residents and finally to its present position as a suburb of Boston, populated by commuting residents.
Crescent Street (link to Area Form B)