Silver Hill Historic District

40 Silver Hill Road

The Silver Hill Historic District,  listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 25, 2004, includes the following properties: 173, 181, 185, 189, 193, 194, 198, 204, 213, 217, 221, 222, 226, 227, 230, 231, 235, 240, 242, 245, 246, 251, 254, 255, 260, 261, 268, 269, and 271 Merriam St; 4, 5, 11, 14, 17, 19, 22, 24, 27, 28, 31, 34, 37, 40, 43, 44, 49, 54, 55, 56, 61, 67, 70, and 71 Silver Hill Rd; 12, 14, and 18 Westland Rd.

 

For the full text of the 2004 nomination form, including data sheets and photographs, click here: Silver Hill Historic District Form.

Map

1905 Subdivision Map

Description

Significance

Criterion A: Importance to Weston history

Criterion C: Architectural significance

 

Description

The Silver Hill Historic District is a residential neighborhood located in the northwest corner of the town of Weston, a Boston suburb. The district of approximately 54 acres includes part of Merriam Street, a scenic country road dating back to the early settlement of the town, as well as Silver Hill Road and part of Westland Road, which were laid out in 1905 as part of Weston’s first large-scale subdivision. Many of the houses on Merriam Street date from the 1890s and first years of the 20th century, while houses on Silver Hill and Westland Roads date primarily between 1905 and 1941. The oldest house in the district was built in 1892 and the most recent in 2002, with the majority from the early 20th century.

The district contains a total of 80 resources: 79 buildings and one railroad bridge. Sixty-six are contributing and 14 are non-contributing buildings constructed after 1954. Of the 65 contributing buildings, 24 are barns, garages, or other outbuildings, and the rest are residences. The one- and two-story houses range in size from about 1,000 to 4,500 square feet. Lot sizes range from two-thirds of an acre to about 21/2 acres.

Silver Hill is one of only a few turn-of-the-century neighborhoods in Weston and contains the type of solidly constructed, middle-class Queen Anne and Colonial Revival houses that are typical in other Boston suburbs but not common in Weston. Almost all the houses are of woodframe construction with shingle or clapboard sheathing. Many are set on high fieldstone foundations and have generous front porches. Silver Hill Road has a cohesiveness created by harmonies of scale, style, and massing. Houses generally share a common setback line, adding to the visual unity of a neighborhood. Visual interest is enhanced by the varied topography, with many houses set on slight rises. Stone walls and stone retaining walls add landscape interest, as do the mature trees and shrubs. Common house types include the 21/2 story gable-front house built using either Queen Anne or Colonial Revival detailing on the porch, as well as the early 20th century “Four Square,” the traditional five-bay Colonial Revival, and a myriad of simple 11/2-story cottages. As is typical of Weston, most houses within the Silver Hill Historic District have limited architectural embellishment.

The earliest houses in the Silver Hill Historic District are located on Merriam Street and include the Roland Rand House at 227 Merriam St.(1892, MHC #226, Map #37; barn: MHC #227), the Waldo C. Hill House at 231 Merriam Street (1896, MHC# 601, Map #38), the AlbertHarding House at 222 Merriam Street (1900, MHC #606, Map #53) and 181 Merriam Street (ca.1902, MHC #600, Map #30, Photo #8). All four are 21/2 story, gable-front Queen Anne houses with porches across the front. The Hill House has been altered by the addition of aluminum or vinyl siding and by screening the front porch, but retains its form and massing.

Both 227 and 181 Merriam have typical Queen Anne features like patterned shingles in the gable and turned porch posts with decorative brackets. 181 Merriam Street is important because the house visually marks the entrance into the Silver Hill Historic District from the south.

245 Merriam Street

In 1900-1901, three substantial houses were added on the east side of Merriam Street, all built by members of the same family. The Frank and Carrie Brooks House at 245 Merriam St.(1901, MHC #602, Map #40) is a 3 x 2 bay, 21/2 story Colonial Revival with a hipped roof and prominent one-story center entrance porch. The square massing of the house is broken by a two-story polygonal bay in the center of the front facade. The house underwent a complete renovation in 2008 and now has wood clapboard siding. Just north of Brooks’ house, his brother-in-law, Charles Peakes, and sister Mabel built the clapboard house at 255 Merriam Street (1901, MHC #228, Map #41, Photo #3. Barn, MHC# 229). This is also a 2 x 3 bay, 21/2 story Colonial Revival with a wraparound porch and simple classical detailing including a Palladian window in the gable. Next door is a house built for Brooks’ widowed mother, Arvilla Stickney, at 261 Merriam St. (1901, MHC #603, Map #42, Photo #3). The corner polygonal tower and polygonal cap on this 21/2 story shingled house make it more elaborate than other Queen Anne examples in the district. The house is set with its gable end to the street and features a pedimented entrance porch with turned and chamfered porch posts and a simple railing.

198 Merriam Street from side

In 1905, the Weston Land Association began developing the west side of Merriam Street. Silver Hill and Westland Roads were laid out with 89 lots ranging in size from about 1/2 acre to over one acre, some of which were set up to sell as double lots. One of the first houses, built for Winslow and Alice Washburn at 198 Merriam Street (1905, MHC #598, Map #27, Photo #4) stands at a prominent corner at the entrance into the subdivision. The shingled “Four Square” has a hip roof and generous wraparound porch across the front and north side. The house sits on a high fieldstone foundation with arched openings at the basement level enclosed with semicircular lattice panels. The fieldstone is built up above the level of the first floor, forming a porch enclosure that substitutes for a railing. Simple porch columns are grouped in pairs. The house has bay windows and also large central hip-roofed dormers with paired windows, facing to the front and north side.

Four years later, almost the exact same house–also designed by George Strout– was built for Edmund and Cora McKenney, at 40 Silver Hill Road on the corner of Westland Road (1909, MHC #594, Map #20, Photo #1). The Washburn house also bears a distinct stylistic similarity to the 11/2 story Frank & Margaret Whelpley House at 4 Silver Hill Road (1912, MHC #591, Map #14), also thought to have been designed by Strout. Like the Washburn and McKenney houses, 4 Silver Hill Road has a high fieldstone foundation with arched openings filled with semicircular lattice. The fieldstone foundation here accommodates a change in grade, as the house is set on a rise. The front porch is supported with simple wooden columns on stone posts, with railings between the posts. Like the Washburn and McKenney houses, 4 Silver Hill Road features bay windows as well as hip-roofed dormers on the front and side facades.

Another of the substantial early houses in the Silver Hill neighborhood is 44 Silver Hill Road (1906, MHC #595, Map #21, Photo #1), a prominently located corner house. The house was built as a two-family, with the second living unit on the second floor. It is clapboard, with 3 x 5 bays, a cross gable roof, and an irregular fenestration pattern. The front facade facing Silver Hill Road features a two-story bay at left, a one-story, flat-roofed entrance porch, wide overhanging eaves with show rafters, a pent eve between the second and attic stories, and a sunburst pattern at the peak of the gable.

37 Silver Hill Road

Grouped around this corner and along the south end of Silver Hill Road is a collection of early 20th century houses that together give the neighborhood its special sense of place. Like those mentioned above, all were built within the first decade after the land was subdivided. On the east side of the road, the Walter Reed House at 31 Silver Hill Road (1910, MHC #590, Map #8, Photo # 5) is a 2 x 2 bay gambrel-roofed Colonial Revival, which features a front-facing gambrel wall gable and a wraparound porch with square posts and simple curved brackets. The Frank and Grace Carr House at 37 Silver Hill Road (1909, MHC #589, Map #7, Photo # 6) is a 11/2 story, 2 x 3 bay early 20th century example with a front-facing gable and screened-in porch across the front. The Henry and Amy Lawrence House at 49 Silver Hill Road (1911, MHC #587, Map #5, Photo # 7) is another of the neighborhood’s gable-front houses, this one with Colonial Revival detailing. The front facade has a hip-roofed entrance porch and bay window. There are lintels over the windows on the second and third floors and dentils at the roofline. The garage, which appears contemporary with the house, is 11/2 stories with a large vehicle opening, elliptical fanlight window above, jerkinhead gable, and horse weathervane (MHC #588).

14 Silver Hill Rd (2010 photo)

On the west side of the street, the Almon and Arabella Wright House at 24 Silver Hill Road (1906, MHC #230, Map #17) is a late Queen Anne cottage with porch. The William Frank Tucker House at 28 Silver Hill Road (1906, MHC #593, Map #18) is a straightforward 3-bay Colonial Revival sited on a hill. The Edward Parkhurst House at 14 Silver Hill Road (1907, Map #15, MHC #592), now being restored, features a notable shingle-style porch. The Percy and Ethel Rand House at 12 Westland Road (1911, MHC #597, Map #26) is a solidly built Colonial Revival with central entrance porch, paired columns, and a turned railing and balustrade.

Of the early 20th century houses, the only brick example is the Ruby Howard House at 204 Merriam Street (1911, MHC #607, Map #54). This brick Colonial Revival on a corner site atop a wooded hill features an enclosed, brick-pedimented entrance vestibule, side sunporch, and shingled dormers.

54 Silver Hill Road

Also notable within the district are two handsome Colonial Revival examples built across from each other in 1917 and 1920. Both are traditional 5 x 2 bay, 21/2 story examples with the gable end to the side. The Howard and Flora Stone House at 55 Silver Hill Road (1917, MHC # 586, Map #4) is notable for its doorway with elliptical fanlight, pedimented portico with paired columns, and side sunporch with high fieldstone foundation. The charming fieldstone garage, designed with the gambrel roof facing the street, was added about 1922. Across the street, the Henry and Mabel Grimwood House at 54 Silver Hill Road (1920, MHC #596, Map #22) is also a traditional five-bay Colonial Revival house with a one-story porch on each gable end, one screened and one with glass windows.

A discussion of the architecture in the Silver Hill district would not be complete without noting the prevalence of small, 11/2 story houses located both on Merriam Street and occasionally within the subdivision. Of these the most architecturally detailed is the Dutch Colonial cottage at 230 Merriam Street (ca.1926, MHC #605, Map #51), with its hood over the center entrance door, supported on heavy brackets. The shingled cottage built for Frederick and Martha Kenyon at 254 Merriam Street (1911, MHC #604, Map 47) is set on the high promontory reached by fieldstone steps and features wide overhanging eaves with braces, a front screened porch, and 15/1 sash. Other 11/2 story cottages include 185, 217, 230, 235, 242, 246, 268, 269, and 271 Merriam Street and 37, 56 and 67 Silver Hill Road.

In recent years, many houses within the district have been renovated and expanded, generally in ways sensitive to the original. Attractive new Shingle Style houses have been built at 43 Silver Hill Road (Map #6) in 1996 and 22 Silver Hill Road (Map #16) in 1999. Both these houses occupy the unused part of what were formerly double lots, eliminating some open space but not replacing original structures. A well-proportioned gable-front Queen Anne Revival was constructed at 213 Merriam Street (Map #34) in 2001, replacing a late 19th century house that had not been well maintained. Preservation efforts and the use of historical styles for new construction have helped to keep the integrity of the district strong overall.

(Significance section below map)

 

Significance

The Silver Hill Historic District, Weston, retains its integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association; and fulfills Criteria A and C of the National Register at the local level.Under Criterion A, the Silver Hill Historic District is important to Weston history as the location of the town’s first large-scale subdivision. The Weston Land Association was organized in 1905 to meet a growing need for middle class housing. To raise the money to purchase land, the association sold shares. Two curvilinear streets were laid out with regularly-spaced house lots.

Silver Hill was only the second, and by far the largest, Weston example of this relatively-new type of “suburban” planned development, sometimes referred to as a “garden suburb.” The fact that the Weston Land Association was a joint stock association funded by middle class entrepreneurs differs from other Weston subdivisions laid out by large estate owners. Early owners included skilled tradesmen and white collar workers.

Under Criterion C, the Silver Hill Historic District contains a diverse collection of architecturally notable houses set along one of Weston’s early scenic roads and within the early-20th century subdivision. The district is exclusively residential and includes Queen Anne and ColonialRevival houses ranging in date from 1892 to 1941, as well as 10 houses built after World War II.

Because houses have continued to be built within the Silver Hill Historic District up to the present day, the period of significance spans from 1892 (the date of the earliest house) to 1954 (the 50-year cut-off date).

 

Criterion A: Importance to Weston history

Silver Hill Railroad Station

Weston was predominantly a farming community from its incorporation in 1713 through much of the 19th century. It was sparsely settled except along the well-traveled Boston Post Road (US Route 20) in what is now the town center and along another major thoroughfare, North Avenue (MA Route 117), in the area now known as Kendal Green. The construction of the Fitchburg Railroad in the 1840s stimulated additional development around the Kendal Green railroad station but not at the railroad’s other stop on Merriam Street at the edge of the proposed Silver Hill Historic District.

The history of the Silver Hill Historic District can be separated into two phases reflective of differences in Weston’s growth patterns in the 19th and 20th centuries. Because of its relatively remote location, the northern end of Merriam Street developed slowly in the town’s first two centuries. Until the 1890s, the section of Merriam Street that lies within the district had only two houses, one on each side of the street, while the land nearby was used for farming. This part of Merriam Street began to develop in the late 19th century following a pattern common within the town as a whole until well into the 20th century. Frontage lots of widely varying shapes and sizes were created along existing roads in response to the desires of individual purchasers. The Fitchburg Railroad was constructed in the 1840s and had a stop at Silver Hill by 1875 if not earlier. Even with proximity to rail transportation, there was minimal demand for middle class “suburban” housing in what still a rural, agricultural community. By the 1890s, the presence of the railroad was clearly an attraction. One of the earliest residents, Roland Rand, built his house at 227 Merriam Street (MHC #226, Map #37, barn: MHC #227) in 1892. Rand was a metal pipe maker who worked at the Hook & Hastings organ factory. The company, which employed 70 workers, had moved to Weston from Boston in 1889 and was only one stop away by railroad.

231 Merriam Street

Rand purchased his original 15 acres of land from Adaliza Parsons, daughter of farmer Eli Bemis. A few years later, Rand sold four acres to Waldo C. Hill, a watchmaker described in census records as a “job master.” Hill built 231 Merriam Street (1896, MHC #601, Map #38) and probably used the railroad to commute to the watch factories in Waltham. 222 Merriam Street (1900, MHC #606, Map #53) was built in 1900 for Albert E. Harding, who is listed in directories as a carpenter.

In 1895, Edward C. Cabot of Brookline sold 10.5 acres on Merriam Street to Frank H. Brooks of Waltham, a salesman and later one of the owners of an Oriental carpet company on Canal Street in Boston. On the 1896 Weston tax records, Brooks is taxed for a small dwelling, valued at $700, and also for a horse, cow, 90 hens, and a barn. In 1900, Brooks sold off seven acres–largely to family members–and built himself a substantial Colonial Revival house at 245 Merriam St.(1901, MHC #602, Map #40), valued in tax records at $3,500. According to Brooks’ nephew, Raymond Washburn, Brooks had a large chicken and duck farm on this property, with three or four long poultry houses behind the house. The birds produced 15-20 bushels of eggs a day, which Raymond packed in boxes after school, wrapping each egg separately in brown paper. His father, Winslow Washburn, would carry the eggs, in two large suitcases, on the train to his job at the Waltham Watch Company, where he sold them to fellow workers.

Brooks sold three acres to his widowed mother, Arvilla Stickney, who built the distinctive Queen Anne house at 261 Merriam St. (1901, MHC #603, Map #42, Photo # 3). Brooks also sold two acres to his brother-in-law, Charles E. Peakes, a bookkeeper listed in the 1906-7 directory as treasurer of F.E. Atteaux & Co of Boston, manufacturer and importer of dyes and chemicals.

Peakes built the handsome Colonial Revival house at 255 Merriam Street (1901, MHC #228, Map #41, barn MHC #229, Photo # 3). Some years later, in 1921, he built a house for his daughter, Mabel Brooks, at 251 Merriam Street (MHC #678, Map #58) directly behind his own house.

Family relationships are important to the history of the area. Carrie Brooks (Mrs. Frank) and Mabel Peakes (Mrs. Charles) were sisters. Another sister, Mrs. Fannie Thompson, owned the farmhouse across Merriam Street (on the site of the present 240 Merriam Street) which later burned down. A fourth sister, Cora McKenney (Mrs. Edmund) and the only brother, Winslow A. Washburn, built two of the earliest houses in the new subdivision, as described in the next paragraphs.

In April, 1905, Peakes and Brooks organized the Weston Land Association. Winslow A. Washburn served as clerk and two years later replaced Peakes as a trustee. In the Articles of Association, the venture is described as a “voluntary unincorporated joint stock association.” The association sold 500 shares of stock, each with a par value of $100, giving the venture an initial capital of $50,000. As trustees, Brooks and Peakes were given full power and authority to buy, sell, or lease property; survey, plot, and improve the lands; and erect houses.

The Trustees purchased two tracts of land on the west side of Merriam Street across from their homes. A 30-acre-parcel bought from George Flint of Lincoln was bordered to the north by the railroad tracks. The second piece, directly south of Flint’s land, was purchased from Mary J. Sherman. The trustees immediately created a subdivision plan drawn up by Joseph R. Worcester, a civil engineer who lived in Waltham and had his office at 53 State Street in Boston. Two curvilinear streets–Silver Hill and Westland Roads–were laid out with a total of 89 lots of varying sizes. Both Silver Hill and Westland were loop roads that did not carry through traffic.

Many of the lots were approximately 30,000 square feet, but buyers were apparently encouraged to purchase two adjoining lots. Many buyers were allowed to change the configuration of lots or buy portions of lots. At this time there were no zoning regulations in Weston, so the effort to achieve a minimum lot size of at least 30,000 square feet and to have common setback lines reflects the vision of the developers.

While Silver Hill was only the second “suburban” development in Weston, this type of development, often referred to as the “garden suburb,” dates back to the mid-19th century. Historians looking for its origins often point to picturesque Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, designed by Alexander Jackson Davis in the 1850s, and to Riverside, Illinois, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1869. Both avoided the formal grid plan by using systems of curving roadways to create a restful domestic atmosphere.

The only other subdivision of this kind in Weston during this turn-of-the-century period was begun in 1897 on Pigeon Hill, near a station on the Central Massachusetts Railroad line. There were several important differences between Pigeon Hill and Silver Hill. The land on Pigeon Hill was conveniently located near the town center. Estate owner Horace Sears subdivided the hilltop parcel into two- and three-acre lots, which were sold to well-to-do businessmen and professionals, many of them part of Sears’ inner circle. The Pigeon Hill development had only 17 lots. Silver Hill, on the other hand, was located in the more remote northwest corner of Weston. Money for the Silver Hill development came not from a single wealthy individual, but rather from a stock association consisting of multiple small investors. The investors were hoping to capitalize on the increasing–but still limited–demand for smaller, more affordable house lots in a type of “garden suburb” that was new to the town. Although many of the 89 lots shown on the plan were sold as doubles, the resulting development was still considerably larger than Pigeon Hill. The original owners were not as well-educated or affluent as those on Pigeon Hill and included skilled employees of the organ and watch factories, salesmen, bookkeepers, and an interior decorator.

No one knows, for sure, the origin of the name Silver Hill. Two stories have been handed down from generation to generation, one that Captain Kidd came out from Boston with his “chest of silver” and buried it at the top of the hill, and the other that the name referred to a stand of silver birches. Several “diggings” atop the hill have failed to uncover any treasure. The name appears on the 1875 Atlas of Middlesex County, which shows the Silver Hill stop on the Fitchburg Railroad.

Some information on the new development is provided in brief notes in weekly Weston-oriented columns in the Waltham Daily Free Press Tribune. On April 7, 1905, the newspaper reported on progress:

The Weston Land Co’s holdings at Silver Hill are being surveyed and the streets laid out by J. R. Worcester. Grading the streets will begin at an early date and be completed by May. Mother Nature has done more for this charming spot than money could accomplish, the rolling surface, partly wooded and partly cultivated, with curved streets winding through the trees, making it resemble a natural park.

The April 28, 1905 issue added “The Weston Land Association are setting out some fine sugar maple trees on Silver Hill Rd.”

Lots sold briskly in the first year. According to newspaper reports, the Weston Land Association sold 380,000 square feet in ten days during the month of May, 1905. By the end of the year, nine individual owners had purchased a total of fifteen lots and Peakes’s company, F.E.Atteaux, had bought six lots on Westland Road. Three of the first nine individual owners were members of the Washburn family. They bought three prominent corner parcels, at 198 Merriam Street and 40 and 44 Silver Hill Road, and built substantial, well-designed homes that set the character for the new neighborhood. The Winslow Washburn House at 198 Merriam Street (1905, MHC #598, Map #27, Photo #4), one of the first to be completed in the new subdivision, was located at the corner of Westland Road at the entrance into the subdivision from Merriam Street. Washburn was a watchmaker at Waltham Watch Company, where his wife, Alice, also worked. In later years, Washburn worked as a time lock inspector for banks, traveling throughout Canada to repair the time pieces that regulated bank safes. Washburn also served as clerk and later trustee of the Weston Land Association. The house at No. 198 remained in the Washburn family until the late 20th century, owned by one of the Washburn’s two sons, Raymond, who was born in 1899 and lived in the house for almost a century.

44 Silver Hill Road

No. 44 Silver Hill Road (1906, MHC #595, Map #21, Photo #1), the only two-family house in the neighborhood, was built by Weston Land Association trustee and Washburn brother-in-law, Charles Peakes. Peakes, who lived at 255 Merriam Street, is thought to have built this house as a rental property and as an example of the size of houses he wanted to see in the new subdivision.

New houses built within the first few years varied significantly in size. The largest, including those built by Washburn and Peakes, were valued for tax purposes at $3,000 to $4,500. Others were less substantial structures valued as low as $1,000. In 1906, William Frank Tucker, an “organ finisher” probably employed at the Hook & Hastings Company, built the house at 28 Silver Hill Road (1906, MHC #593, Map #18). Tucker died only a few years later, leaving his wife Loretta, son Gardner, who was a music teacher, and daughter Alice, a teacher. Another of the houses completed by 1906 was 24 Silver Hill Road (MHC #230, Map #17), built for Almon and Arabella Wright. Edward Parkhurst built two houses, one on Westland and the other at 14 Silver Hill Road (1907, MHC #592, Map #15). Lyman Wright built 268 Merriam Street (1908, Map #45, MHC #657), which was part of the subdivision. A house nearly identical to 198 Merriam Street was erected in 1909 at 40 Silver Hill Road (1909, MHC #594, Map #20, Photo #1) for Edmund K. and Cora McKenney. Cora was another of the five Washburn siblings. McKenney worked for the J. M. Mossman Company of New York, manufacturers of safes and bank vaults. Also in 1909, Frank and Grace Carr were first taxed for the house at 37 Silver Hill Road (MHC #589, Map #7, Photo #6).

Building continued at a steady pace in the 1910s. Walter Reed, listed in the 1909 directory as a bookkeeper in Boston, built 31 Silver Hill Road in 1910 (MHC #590, Map #8, Photo #5). Four houses were built in 1911-12. No. 49 Silver Hill Road (MHC #587, Map #5) was built by Henry Lawrence, also a bookkeeper in Boston, and his wife, Amy. No. 254 Merriam Street (MHC# 604, Map #47) was built by Frederick L. and Martha Kenyon. Frederick is listed in the 1921 Weston directory as an interior decorator on Canal Street in Boston. 12 Westland Road (1911, MHC #597, Map #26), valued at $3,500 in 1912, was owned by Ethel and Percy Rand, who worked at a sporting goods store. No. 204 Merriam Street (1911, MHC #607, Map #54) was built by Philip Howard, who died before the house was completed. His widow, Ruby Howard, lived there for many years with their four children.

4 Silver Hill Road (2010 photo)

Another prominent corner lot was bought by Margaret Whelpley of Waltham, who built 4 Silver Hill Road (MHC #591, Map #14). Although it is only 11/2 stories, this house bears a strong stylistic similarity to those at 198 Merriam Street and 40 Silver Hill Road and was probably designed by George Strout or inspired by the house at 198 Merriam Street. Henry and Flora Stone built a traditional Colonial Revival house at 55 Silver Hill Road (1917, MHC #586, Map #4) in 1917. Henry Stone is listed in directories as a salesman. In 1920, Mabel and Henry Grimwood built a Colonial Revival house at 54 Silver Hill Road (MHC #596, Map #22) that was similar to No. 55 across the street. Henry Grimwood worked for a store in Lincoln, and made deliveries with a horse and wagon. Subsequent houses built in the 1920s to early 1940s filled in many of the remaining lots. Lots on Westland Road sold more slowly than those on Silver Hill Road, and many purchasers built small 11/2 story cottages that were not as substantial or distinctive as their Silver Hill Road counterparts. Behind the Charles Peakes House at 44 Silver Hill Road was a well with a full-size pumphouse.

Water was pumped from the well into a tank on the top of the hill opposite the railroad station at the corner of Merriam and Silver Hill Road. According to Raymond Washburn, his aunt, Carrie Brooks, walked over here from her house on Merriam Street every day to turn on the pump. This water system served the neighborhood until the town took over the water supply in the 1920s.

In recent years, the combination of distinctive architecture, quiet streets, and a neighborly atmosphere has made Silver Hill and Westland Roads popular with young families. On Westland Road, many of the original houses have been considerably altered or torn down and replaced by new residences less compatible in size, style, setback, and massing. It is for this reason that the historic district does not include all of the original Silver Hill subdivision.

 

Criterion C: Architectural significance

55 Silver Hill Road (2007 photo)

The architecture of houses within the district ranges from vernacular examples to solid, well constructed examples representing typical early 20th century styles. The earliest houses are Queen Anne in style and are generally simple, gable-front structures with one-story porches across the front. The most detailed examples are the Roland Rand House at 227 Merriam Street (1892, MHC #226, Map #37; barn: MHC #227) and 181 Merriam Street (ca.1902, MHC #600, Map #30, Photo #8). Both of these houses have been enlarged and remodeled. They have typical Queen Anne porch posts and patterned shingles in the gable, although some of these details may date from recent renovations. Three adjacent houses on the east side of Merriam Street, built for three family members in 1901, were larger and more elaborate than their earlier counterparts and form a notable ensemble. These three houses are the Frank Brooks House at 245 Merriam Street (1901, MHC #602, Map #40), Charles Peakes House at 255 Merriam Street (1901, MHC #228, Map #41, barn MHC #229, Photo # 3) and Arvilla Stickney House at 261 Merriam Street (1901, MHC #603, Map #42, Photo #3).

One of the first and most important of the houses in the 1905 Weston Land Association subdivision was the shingled “Four Square” house built for Winslow and Alice Washburn at 198 Merriam Street (1905, MHC #598, Map #27, Photo #4). Because it was built by one of the principals involved in the development and stands at the Westland Road entrance into the subdivision, the Washburn House was probably intended to demonstrate the size and type of house that investors hoped would be built in the new neighborhood. The Washburn house was designed by Waltham architect George Strout and constructed by H.D. Beardsley, also of Waltham. Because the house is still occupied by the son of the original owners, it is remarkably intact. The shingles retain their original dark brown stain and yellow trim color. The brown stain, commonly used on late 19th and early 20th century shingled houses in Weston, is now relatively rare. Interiors at 198 Merriam Street have also remained unchanged.

40 Silver Hill Road

Four years later, almost the exact same house–also designed by George Strout– was built for Washburn’s brother-in-law and sister, Edmund and Cora McKenney, at 40 Silver Hill Road on the corner of Westland Road (1909, MHC #594, Map #20, Photo #1). The Washburn house also bears a distinct stylistic similarity to the 11/2 story Frank & Margaret Whelpley House at 4 Silver Hill Road (1912, MHC #591, Map #14), also designed by Strout or inspired by his earlier works.

Like the Washburn and McKenney houses, No. 4 Silver Hill Road has the same hipped roof, hip roofed dormers, front porch, and high fieldstone foundation with arched openings filled with semi-circular lattice.

Architect George Strout, who practiced in Waltham in the late 19th and early 20th century, was not well-known in the Greater Boston area but is credited with a number of notable buildings on the north side of Weston. He designed two houses for the Thurston family, both within the Kendal Green Historic District. The Thurston Cottage at 153 North Avenue (1902) is a fine Shingle Style example notable for design, siting and quality of the fieldstone foundation and retaining walls—a quality seen also in the Silver Hill examples. The Thurston Bungalow at 147 North Avenue (1904) is an unusual rustic log bungalow with Craftsman influences. Strout also designed the 1900 Colonial Revival-style Methodist Church, which is no longer extant. In Cambridge, he designed duplexes at 119, 121, 127 and 133 Appleton Street and 258 and 264 Huron Avenue, all dating to about 1917.

Another of the important early houses in the Silver Hill neighborhood is 44 Silver Hill Road (1906, MHC #595, Map #21, Photo #1), a prominently located corner house built within the first year of the new subdivision by one of the trustees, Charles Peakes. The house is notable for details like the wide overhanging eaves with show rafters, pent eve, and sunburst pattern in the gable. 44 Silver Hill Road is the only house in the district that was not constructed as a single family unit. By developing a two-family rental property with apartments on each floor, Peakes could afford to build a substantial house to anchor an important corner in the heart of the neighborhood.

Most of the houses within the Silver Hill Historic District were constructed before World War II, but development has continued through the present day. Nine houses date after 1954. Some of the post-World War II house designs, particularly the ca. 1955 ranch house at 5 Silver Hill Road (Map #13), do not take neighborhood characteristics into account. More recent examples of infill construction have been more successful. In the late 1990s, as the price of land increased, owners of two double lots sold off their extra lot, and compatible new Shingle Style houses were added at 22 and 43 Silver Hill Roads (Map #16 and #6). In 2001, a small 1890s house at 213 Merriam Street (Map #34) with little remaining architectural detailing was replaced with a larger house in a late19th century Queen Anne farmhouse mode. In 2002, a NeoVictorian house was built on an undeveloped lot at 226 Merriam Street (Map #52). The successful preservation of a house at 14 Silver Hill Road (1907, MHC #592, Map #15) in 2003 is an indication that the historic character of the neighborhood is recognized and valued. Because real estate prices in Weston are high and many houses within the district are not as large or up-to-date as new buyers would like, expansions will continue and tear downs will remain a threat. The Weston Historical Commission has worked to increase architectural awareness and encourage preservation efforts.

The sense of cohesiveness and overall integrity is not present in the portions of Westland Road outside the Silver Hill Historic District. Westland Road developed more slowly than Silver Hill Road and many of the lots were developed with modest frame cottages with little architectural interest. Over the past two decades, these have been replaced with new houses, many of which are considerably larger in square footage than any of the pre-World War II examples. Because of major inconsistencies of size, scale, style and age of houses, most of Westland Road has not been included within the district boundaries.

Major Bibliographic References

Fox, Pamela, Farm Town to Suburb: The History and Architecture of Weston, Massachusetts, 1830-1980 (NH, Peter Randall Publisher, 2002), 278-283.

Middlesex County Registry of Deeds, So. District, Cambridge, MA, 3156/107, Articles of Association, Weston Land Association, April 2, 1905.

Middlesex Country Registry of Deeds, plan of Weston Land Association, Silver Hill, May 2, 1905, Plan Book 154/34.

Deeds, directories and tax records

Interview with Raymond Washburn, May, 1998