The Glen Road Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 6, 2006, includes the following properties:
233, 235, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 250, 253, 254, 259, 260, 262, 265, 266, 270, 271, 276, 277, 281, 284, 287, 288, 291, 294, 295, 297, 301, 307, 311, 317 Glen Road
Following are excerpts from the Glen Road Historic District Nomination Form:
The Glen Road Historic District is a residential neighborhood located in the southeast corner of Weston, a Boston suburb. The district of approximately 27 acres extends along a portion of Glen Road, a winding country road dating back to the early years of settlement. The district contains a total of 40 resources, all of which are buildings. Of the 33 contributing buildings, 28 are residences and five are garages. The one-and two-story houses range in size from about 1000 to 3000 square feet. Lot sizes range from about 0.4 of an acre to about two acres.
The Glen Road Historic District is a neighborhood of comfortable early 20th-century middle-class houses, about half of them built in the 1920s. The district also includes a 1732 Colonial farmhouse, an early 19th century Federal farmhouse, and the remnant of a summer hotel surrounded by four small cottages. All the houses are frame construction, generally covered with clapboards or shingles. Two houses from the 1910’s are stucco. Particularly in the heart of the area, between 246 and 301 Glen Road, the houses are remarkably uniform in age, size, style, setback, and detailing. The early 20th century houses located here exemplify one of four basic shapes: 2 1/2 story hipped (Four Square), 2 1/2 story side-gable, 1 1/2 story with pent eave (Dutch Colonial), and gable-front with steeply pitched roof. Stylistic elements from the Colonial and Craftsman vocabulary are superimposed on houses which are in some cases identical in plan. Eleven of the early 20th century houses have the same window fenestration, end chimney, and sunroom. The design of the center entrance porch is repeated with minor variations. Neighborhood cohesiveness is enhanced by relatively consistent lot sizes of between one-third and two-thirds of an acre in the central part of the district. Setbacks of 40 to 50 feet are relatively consistent on the south size of the street. The curve of Glen Road enhances the visual interest of the area, as does the topography, with many houses on the north side of the street set on the rise of a hill that slopes down toward the southeast corner of the district.
See Glen Road Nomination Form for additional descriptive information on properties within the district.
The Glen Road Historic District retains its integrity of design, location, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association and fulfills criteria A and C of the National Register at the local level.
Under Criteria A, the Glen Road Historic District illustrates three themes common in Weston: long-time agricultural use of the land, turn-of-the-century development of summer homes and resorts, and 20th century suburban development. What is unusual about this area is that all three of these historical uses are linked to the history of one farm family—the Jennings—and their vision for their land over the course of more than 100 years of ownership. At the turn of the century, two Jennings brothers, Edward and Willard, ran dairy and market gardening operations in the district. Seeking new sources of income, one brother established a summer resort and the other began subdividing his farmland and developing middle-class houses built by his son. So great was the influence of the family that some Weston residents referred to the area as Jenningsville.
Under Criteria C, the Glen Road Historic District contains a diverse collection of architecturally notable buildings set along one of Weston’s early scenic roads. The district includes a 1732 Colonial farmhouse, one of the earliest in Weston, as well as an early 19th century Federal farmhouse. It also encompasses all the houses developed by the Jennings family during the 1910s and 1920s. These houses are similar in size, style and setback, giving the area its unified, cohesive feeling and demonstrating one type of community development pattern. Although most of the houses in the district date before 1930, some were built after World War II on empty lots or as replacement structures. The period of significance spans from 1732, the date of the earliest house, to 1956, the 50-year cut off date.
Weston was predominantly a farming community from its earliest years of settlement through the 19th century. The land in the Glen Road Historic District was originally part of a 150-acre grant allotted to Watertown resident William Jennison (also spelled Jenison) in 1642, when the area of Watertown known as The Farms (now Weston) was divided into 92 farms. At that time the land was used primarily for grazing cattle. In 1732, William’s 22-year-old collateral descendant, Nathaniel Jennison, inherited part of the land and built the first house in the Glen Road Historic District. The Nathaniel Jennison House at 266 Glen Road (1732, Map #17, MHC 306, Photo 5) was originally located across the street from its present site. Jennison’s first three children were born in Watertown, but the third child was baptized in Weston in 1732, indicating that the house was built that year. Jennings farmed almost 40 acres. Later deeds also mention a “Pot-Ash House” on the property. Potash, an alkali used in the manufacture of soap and glass, was made from burning hard woods to a fine ash and was an important commodity in the colonies.
By the later 18th century, part of the Jennison land had passed into the hands of the Pratt family. The 1794 map of Weston shows a house at the northwest corner of Oak Street and Glen Road belonging to Paul Pratt. About 1812, he built a fine Federal house at the northeast corner. According to tradition, Pratt moved the original house and attached it to the back of his new house, the Pratt/Wyman House at 317 Glen Road (ca. 1812 with earlier ell, Map #33, MHC 220, Photo 4). Farmer Daniel Wyman bought the 72-acre property in 1850 and updated the house with an Italianate hood and door. Wyman’s descendants operate a farm here into the 20th century, raising a variety of crops for family consumption and strawberries as a cash crop. They owned the house until recent years.
In 1817, Josiah Seaverns sold 114 acres of former Jennison land to Joseph Winship, who was also a farmer. In 1826, Winship sold the farm to Levi Jennings, who left it on his death in 1870 to the five children of his son, Levi, Jr. One of the five, Edward, later purchased the shares of most of his siblings, and in 1900 owned 149 acres. Edward and his wife Ella had five sons and no daughters. During the last quarter of the 19th century, Edward developed an extensive dairy operation at “Glen Farm.” The following information appeared in the 1902 Wellesley publication Our Town:
While he (Edward Jennings) started with four cans a day, he now has three wagons on the road. He has between 100 and 125 cows and employs over 20 men, with an equal number of horses. It requires about 75 acres of green fodder for the cattle, a large proportion of which is stored in two silos, each with the capacity of many hundred tons. Two years ago, Mr. Jennings was burned out, but the great barn shown at the left of the larger illustration was soon built and dairy machinery of the latest pattern installed. The apparatus for filling a large number of bottles at a time; the separator; the refrigerator, and the other appliances of modern dairying form an interesting exhibit, well worth a special visit to see. Mr. Jennings’ wagons go as far as Brighton, and one of his special contracts is to furnish the entire supply of milk for Lasell Seminary at Auburndale.
According to tax records, the peak of operation was 1903, when Edward was taxed for 112 cows. Photographs taken about 1902 show two large barn complexes. The farm also included an apple orchard.
While Edward was developing his dairy farm, his brother Willard was expanding his business in different directions. Willard was also a farmer, but he had considerably less land than his brother and utilized it to raise vegetables and fancy raspberries for the Boston market. Market gardening and dairying were the two agricultural specialties where Weston farmers in the post-Civil War era could effectively compete. About 1875, Willard built the Mansard-style Willard Jennings House (later Glen House Hotel) at 245 Glen Road (ca.1875/1931, Map #7, MHC 373). Some time before the turn of the century, Willard began to take in summer boarders–a fairly common way for farmers to supplement their income. By then, Weston had become a popular destination for Boston residents seeking to escape the summer heat. This popularity was due in part to the town’s location along three different train lines. The southernmost line, originally the Boston and Worcester, was constructed in the 1830s and, in 1867, merged with the Western Railroad to form the Boston & Albany. Although there was no station in Weston, the Wellesley Farms train station was located less than a mile from Willard’s house.
Willard kept adding to his original residence. The expanding summer resort, called Glen House or the Glen House Hotel, reportedly included forty guest rooms and a ballroom. At the turn of the century, to promote ridership, the railroad put out a brochure called “Summer Homes” with descriptions and photographs of resort hotels along the line, including Glen House. The photograph shows the original house and large 2 1/2 story gambrel-roofed wing. The hotel is listed in directories from 1911 to the early 1920’s.
Willard built five nearby cottages, of which four remain at 233, 235, 241 and 247 Glen Road (early 20th century, Map #1,2,3,9, MHC 486, 487, 488, 490). These were used at various times for guests, staff, and family members. An advertisement for “Glen House and Cottages” describes the establishment as follows:
High location near station, in Wellesley Farms. The beautiful section often called the ‘Lenox of the East.’ Our neighborhood is composed of a select class who come here to spend their summers. Business men find the place convenient to Boston, as well as a healthy location. Automobile parties accommodated. Tennis, billiards, auto service, garage, etc.
Children visiting the resort could play on the farm while their fathers commuted quickly into Boston by train from the nearby Wellesley Farms station. Families returned each year with their chauffeurs and personal maids. Isabel Jennings did the cooking and Willard Jennings maintained flower beds which furnished fresh flowers in the dining room. The last listing for Glen House is in the 1921-22 directory. The next directory, 1926, does not include the hotel, suggesting that it had closed by that date. According to the present owner, two fires, the second in 1931, destroyed the wing and third floor of the original house.
Edward’s Glen Farm reached its peak of operation in 1903, the year his largest barn was destroyed in a December fire. He continued dairying on a smaller scale, and, beginning about 1916, developed a chicken and egg business. The decision of the Jennings and Wyman/McNutt families to hang onto their land and try to adapt to changing social and economic conditions contrasted with the decision of other Weston farmers to sell out to wealthy Bostonians who purchased farmland for country estates. By the early 20th century there were four such estates in the immediate vicinity of the Glen Road Historic District.
Although Edward managed, with difficulty, to keep the farm going, he was not a good businessman. To supplement his farm income, he periodically constructed houses fronting on Glen Road to sell or rent. His son Warren built most of these houses, which were attractive to middle class residents who liked the rural atmosphere and proximity to the Wellesley Farms train station.
The first of the Jennings-built houses, constructed in 1913 at 260 Glen Road (Map #14, MHC 510, Photo 3), was built for the second son of Edward Jennings, Clifton Victor (b.1879), who became a stockbroker. Two years later, Clifton built an almost identical house next door at 262 Glen Road (Map #15, MHC 509) and moved there. Two more houses were built in the 1910s, including the house for insurance agent Charles Noyes at 246 Glen Road (1917, Map #8, MHC 513, Photo 1).
The pace of building increased in the 1920’s. In 1924, the family homestead (the original Jennison House) was divided into two sections, and the 18th century (west) portion moved across the street to its present location at 266 Glen Road (Map #17, MHC 306, Photo 5).It was sold to Paul K. Thomas, who worked in real estate and as a stockbroker in Boston. The former east wing was moved back from Glen Road and slightly to the east and remodeled into a single family house (now 259 Glen Road, Map #13, MHC 492), occupied by Warren Jennings, who worked with his father on the farm when he was not building houses. Edward’s eldest son, Levi Brown Jennings (b.1878), who became an interior decorator, lived in the Jennings-built house at 277 Glen Road (1923, Map #21, MHC 495). A third son, Charles Dudley (b.1885) lived in a house at 287 Glen Road which was destroyed by fire in 1958. Charles was in charge of milk deliveries and collections. He and his wife boarded as many as four drivers who delivered milk to Newton and Wellesley in horse-drawn vehicles, beginning their routes at midnight. During the later part of his life, Edward Jennings lived in a house he built at 270 Glen Road (1924, Map #18, MHC 508, Photo 5). Large hen houses were located at the rear of that property.
The Jennings family built approximately 18 houses in the district, many of which share the same plan. In some cases, the completed houses were sold to businessmen and middle-level managers. Number 276 Glen Road was sold to Charles Hutchinson, a bond salesman; #281 to Joseph G. Hallett, who is variously listed as a manufacturer, manager, and proprietor in dry goods; #291 to merchant William I Wood; #294 to manager Thomas McCoy; and #301 to Harold Abbott, also listed in directories as a manager. In other cases the Jennings retained ownership and rented the houses. In 1930, Edward’s wife Ella is listed in town tax records as owning eight houses, including houses belonging to her sons Warren and Charles. In addition, she and Edward owned their own house, and their sons Clifton and Levi and daughter-in-law Mildred owned their own houses, making a total of 12 houses owned by the family at the beginning of the Depression. Most of the rented properties were sold by the bank in the early 1940s for non-payment of mortgage loans.
Edward developed a small water system that eventually serviced 32 houses in the neighborhood. Operating under the name “Glen Farm Water Company,”this system apparently included a well, two windmills, and a large wooden water tank on the west side of Glen House Way. At one point, when the Jennings property was in foreclosure proceedings, this water supply was cut off and arrangements were made to tie the neighborhood into the Wellesley water system. Edward Jennings got into serious financial difficulties during the Depression, when he was in his 80’s. In 1932, about 80 acres of Jennings land was acquired by the Town of Weston for nonpayment of taxes. His cows became infected with tuberculosis in the late 1930’s and had to be destroyed. The chicken houses were damaged in the 1938 hurricane and many of the chickens lost.
While most of the houses in the district were built by the Jennings family, 311 Glen Road (1923, Map #32, MHC 502) is an exception. It was built for Frederick Young after he left his job as caretaker/manager of the Dean Estate.
After World War II, Weston completed the transition from farm town to suburb. Just outside the district, former Jennings farm land was developed as a baseball field. The various Jennings barns and outbuildings within and just outside the district were gone by the 1950s. A few post-war houses were built on remaining lots. Since then, the Glen Road Historic District has remained largely unchanged. Charles Jennings’s house at 287 Glen Road burned in 1958 and was replaced. Just outside the district, at the corner of Glen Road and Oak Street, the land formerly belonging to the Wyman/McNutt family is being developed with luxurious mansions on lots of 60,000 square feet and larger. Some houses within the district have been expanded or remodelled, in one case, at 262 Glen Road (1915, MHC 509, Map #15), with little sensitivity to the original design. Although the alterations are unfortunate, the house continues to contribute to the district because of similarities in scale, setback and massing. Because of the high cost of real estate in Weston at the turn of the 21st century, preservation will depend on sensitive remodellings which expand the size of the houses and provide additional amenities without destroying their individual charm and the character of the district as a whole.
The most architecturally significant houses within the Glen Road Historic District are two that remain from the 18th and 19th century, when Weston was still a rural farming community. Both these houses are relatively small, simple examples, reflecting the modest living standard of most Weston farmers. The 1732 Colonial Nathaniel Jennison House at 266 Glen Road (1732, Map #17, MHC 306, Photo 5) is among the earliest remaining houses in Weston. It is also one of the best documented as to construction date, which can be determined from the date Nathaniel Jennison inherited the land (1732) and the fact that his third child was born in Watertown but baptized in Weston that year. The well-preserved house maintains much of its original interior paneling, wide board floors, tight-turn-around stairs and other early features. Photographs document the enlargement of the house at the back—a change which resulted in the central chimney being located in front of the ridge. When the house was moved across the street in 1924, a vestibule was added along with a side sun porch. As a result, the Colonial house looks much like its Colonial Revival neighbors, for which it may have served as a model.
The Pratt/Wyman House at 317 Glen Road (ca. 1812 with earlier ell, Map #33, MHC 220, Photo 4) was also built for a farm family and illustrates the type of simple changes made to keep up with fashion. The house is an straightforward example of the Federal style, with a symmetrical five-bay facade and low hipped roof. Around 1850, a new owner replaced the original door with an Italianate version sheltered by an bracketed hood. In later years, the house was extensively photographed by members of the Wyman and McNutt family, and it is clear that the clapboards were not painted until the early 1920s.
The Willard Jennings House at 245 Glen Road (c. 1875/1931, Map #7, MHC 373) is of significance as a fragment of the Glen House Hotel, once one of two summer resort hotels in Weston. Although the upper floors of the original Mansard house were destroyed by fire in 1931 along with the hotel wing, the house retains some original features and is still surrounded by four of its original five early 20th century cottages, at 233, 235, 241 and 247 Glen Road (Map #1,2,3,9, MHC 486, 487, 488, 490).
The district encompasses 32 single family houses, more than half of which were built by the Jennings family between 1913 and 1930. These houses represent typical early 20th century styles and are similar in size, style and setback. For this reason, the district has a unified, cohesive feeling. This type of early 20th century neighborhood is not typical of Weston and more closely resembles the development pattern of the adjoining town of Wellesley. Houses built in the 1910s generally exhibit at least some Craftsman details. For example, the Charles and Sarah Noyes House at 246 Glen Road (1917, Map #8, MHC 513, Photo 1) has a sunburst pattern in the entrance porch gable and show rafters on the porch and under the wide overhanging eaves. Two of the 1910s houses are stucco, the Noyes house and the Frank and Ella Fales House at 253 Glen Road (c.1917, Map #11, MHC 491, Photo 2). The 1920s houses are generally Colonial Revival but also include two simple Tudor examples at 254 Glen Road (Map #12, MHC 511) and 265 Glen Road (Map #16, MHC 493), both built in 1928.
No architect has been identified for any house within the Glen Road Historic District and it is likely that all the houses were done by builders. Most or all of the Jennings houses were built by Warren Jennings, a farmer and carpenter, perhaps working with other family members and/or farm employees.
Major Bibliographic References
1. Bates, George P., “The Nathaniel Jennison House (The House Presently Located at 266 Glen Road, Weston, Massachusetts)” (unpublished manuscript, 1985) Detailed study with extensive references and primary source material.
2. Bates, Cynthia B., “A Study of One Square Mile in the Southwest Corner of Weston,” (unpublished manuscript, 1978, revised 1979)
3. Fox, Pamela W., Farm Town to Suburb: The History and Architecture of Weston, Massachusetts, 1830-1980 (N.H., Peter Randall Publisher, 2002), 562-571.
4. Middlesex Country Registry of Deeds, So. District (deeds and plans)
5. “Summer Homes on the Boston and Albany,”issued by the Passenger Department of the Boston and Albany Railroad. Text and aerial photo of Glen House and Glen Farms barns. (Undated brochure in “Hotels” file, Wellesley Historical Society).
6. “Weston Neighbors,” Our Town, Vol.VI, Number 11, November, 1902, p.139-40.
7. Weston, Town of. Assessor’s records, maps, and directories
8. Weston, Town of. Weston Historical Commission files.