Wellington Farm Historic District


Wellington Farm “Gateways” Barn, 487 Wellesley St (2011 photo)

Wellington Farm Historic District (also known as Gateways Farm) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 14, 1988, and includes the following properties: 487 and 500 Wellesley Street.

Map

1899 Plan of Farmstead

 

 

The following information is excerpted from the 1988 nomination form:

Summary of Description

The Wellington Farm is an irregular parcel of 35 acres located in southern Weston. Bisected by Wellesley Street, it includes a main house (ca 1760, with remodeling ca. 1800 and ca. 1900) with fields on the east side of the street, as well as a farmhouse (ca. 1917), a large barn complex (ca. 18th to 20th centuries), pigsties (early 20th century), a greenhouse (modern), and additional fields to the west. Stone walls, visible on historic maps, continue to subdivide the fields and to define the farmstead along Wellesley Street. Like most farmsteads, the Wellington Farm does not represent a single historic period. Rather, it has evolved over time, and now represents Weston’s 18th and 19th century agrarian period, as well as its turn-of-the-century vogue as a summer retreat for wealthy Bostonians. It has remained largely untouched by recent suburban development, despite its proximity to the Massachusetts Turnpike (directly north), and is significant as one of only a few working farms remaining in the community. At present, three fields on each side of Wellesley Street are rotated to produce hay for the horses that are boarded at the farm, and innovative hydroponic gardening takes place in a modern greenhouse. . . .

Evolution of the Main House

500 Wellesley Street (2011 photo)

The main house, located on the east side of Wellesley Street, is the oldest structure on the property. It has evolved through numerous enlargements and remodeling reflective of its continuous agrarian/residential history, to reach its current configuration  Research indicates that the original portion of the house was constructed in the mid-18th century, ca. 1760. Preliminary physical investigation reveals that this was probably a typical 2 1/2 story, gable-roofed, five-bay, center entry, center-chimney dwelling that may have faced south. Extant clues to its 18th-century construction date include the presence of a large fireplace with a bake over in the present north (front) room, and the remnants of riven lath (generally phased out by the time of the Revolution) in the cellarway. Physical investigation also indicates that the house was substantially enlarged and updated in the early 19th century, ca. 1800-1820 At that time it appears that the original house may have been turned ninety degrees to face west onto Wellesley Street, and that a south-facing, 2 1/2 story, five-bay, center-hall house with twin interior chimneys was added to the rear with a stairhall separating it from the old house. . . The abundance of Federal-period interior finish work throughout the house adds further testimony to its substantial enlargement and rebuilding in the early-19th century. . . .

By 1899, when a plan was drawn of the farm and its buildings, other changes to the main house had occurred. A wing, projecting westward toward Wellesley Street from the northwest corner of the old house, had been added, as well as a bay window at the east end of the south facade of the 19th century house and a bowed verandah uniting the entire southern elevation The wing may have been added during the early 19th century remodeling, but the bay window and veranda are characteristic of late 29th century architecture, and could not have occurred until after the Civil War. At the turn of the century, about 1899 – 1910, the houses underwent another major transformation. The front wing was removed and replaced by another one extending northward on the axis of the old house. Parts of the earlier wing may have been used here and parts of it may have been used to create the kitchen ell now extending west off the northwest corner of the 19th century house. In addition, the roof was removed from the entire structure, the chimneys were built up, and a third story with a gambrel roof was added over all. A final major change occurred in the mid-20th century when the servants’ quarters in the upper stories of the northwest wing were removed, and the wing was cut down to one-story gable-roofed height. . . .

Other Buildings on the Farm

Wellington Farm

The Barn Complex, painted red, includes both gable-and gambred-roof sections with distinctive cupolas, as well as a silo, which is one of the most prominent and picturesque features of the farm. . . The barn complex is composed of three sections, one behind the other, and angling slightly off to the north. The entire structure is clapboarded-clad, trimmed with cornerboards and fascia, and sits on a fieldstone foundation. The front part is gable-roofed and faces a gable end, with double door and transom, to the street. This form is typical of the mid-19th century, a date further reflected in its interior paneled doors. Visible framing members reveal empty joist pockets and mortises, pointing to reuse and an earlier (possibly 18th century) construction date. Directly behind the front gable-roof secction is a gambrel-roof section with its own double entry approached by a granite-sided uphill slope. Fenestration of all three sections is irregular, but generally consists of either 6/6 double hung sash or fixed six-pane lights.

Wellington Farm “Gateways” caretaker’s cottage (2011 photo)

The Farmer’s Cottage . . .was constructed in 1917 to the designs of noted Colonial Revival architect Joseph Everett Chandler. Physical investigation and oral history indicate that is was assembled from existing outbuidings on the farm. While the front portion may have been newy constructed in 19917, the portions extending behind it were probably a smokehouse and a carriagehouse. Both show evidence of used framing members, including shouldered posts. . .

Summary of Significance

The Wellington Farm possesses integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship, feeling, and association. It is significant as a well-developed 18th century farmstead with continuous association with Weston’s agricultural history. It is also significant for its associations with Weston’s late-19th century vogue as a summer retreat. Finally, the Wellington Farm including main house, farmhouse, barn complex, pigsties, greenhouse, and stone wall-lined fields, is a fine representation of a New England farmstead that has evolved over several hundred years. The farm thus meets Criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places and is significant on the local level.

History of Ownership and Use

The farm’s earliest owner was Thomas Pierce (1705 – 1789), son of Francis and Hannah Pierce of Weston. He married Mary Hayes (d. 1778) in 1728). It is believed that the present front portion of the main house was built by Thomas about 1760 as a typical 2 1/2 story, five-bay, center-entry, center-cimney, gable-roofed dwelling. Thomas and Mary had several children, as least one of whom served in the Weston Company in the Revolutionary War. According to town records, Thomas Pierce held the office of field driver in 1763 and 1766. He was one of the town sureyors and collectors in 1761. . . .It appears that Thomas and Mary fell upon hard times at about the time of the Revolution and may have been forced to sell the farm in 1770, when it passed to John Brown of Cambridge for one hundred pounds. At that time the farm was described as a homestead of about seventy acres “with all the buildings thereon.”

Following the sale of the farm to John Brown in 1770, the homestead remained in the Brown family for over one hundred years, being owned successively by Thomas Brown, Marshal Brown, and finally by Samuel F.  Clarke, a son-in-law. Durng the Brown family ownership, the main house was more than doubled in size, and perhaps converted to use as a two-family dwelling. Samuel F. Clarke was born in Orange, Vermont to David and Lydia Clarke in 1820. He married Louisa Brown (1823-1842) of Weston in 1847. When Samuel F. Clarke sold the farmstead in 1899, the Waltham Daily Free Press-Tribune reported that

Mr. Samuel F. Clarke of Wellesley St, Weston, has sold his estate to a well-known Boston merchant, who intends to improve the property and occupy the same as a summer residence. It contains about 140 acres, the greater portion of which is grassland. The buildings consist of a large, old-fashioned house and barn, which have always been kept in excellent repair. Among the principal attractions of the place are the grand old maple and elm trees which were planted by Mr. Clarke over fifty years ago. This has been a favorite resort for persons seeking rest and recreation during the summer season. The estate has been in the family since 1795, being owned by Mr.Brown, the grandfather of Mrs. Clarke, who was one of the early settlers and active in town affairs. Mr. Clarke has owned and occupied it since 1847.  [February 10, 1899]

The Boston merchant to whom Clarke sold the house was Robert B. Blodgett, who owned the property until 1905-07 and may have been responsible for some of the many turn-of-the-century changes. In 1906, the farm passed to William E. Barrett of Boston through Samuel Hudson, who may hae been Blodgett’s executor. In 1907, the farm passed from the estate of William Barrett to Evelyn L. and Arthur Wight Wellington of Medford. Arthur W. Wellington made his career at the U.S. Leather Company in Boston, starting out as a messenger boy, and retiring at age 65 as president. The Wellingtons moved to Weston because their family homestead in the Wellington section of Medford was taken by the city and is now the Wellington Circle traffic area. When the Wellingtons moved to Weston, they continued to raise horses and cattle, switching from the Brown Swiss to the Guernsey breed. The farm remains in the Wellington family ownership through Arthur and Evelyn’s daughter, Nancy Wellington Danforth, and her descendants, who continue the farming operations.

Historical and Architectural Significance

Fields just south of the Gateways barn (2011 photo)

The Wellington Farm is an extremely unusual survivor, reflective of Weston’s 1th, 18t, and 19th-century agricultural period. Throughout the 20th century, Weston has developed as a very wealthy suburban community and most of its former farms have been, or are being, subdivided for residential development. The Wellington Farm remains in the hands of descendants of its early 20th century owners, all of whom are committeed to retaining its agrarian character. While many houses from the earlier centuries remain, only a scant half dozen retain any of their agricultural characteristics beyond possible retention of a barn used for storage or other non-agricultural purposes. The Wellington Farm retains about 35 acres of open, stone wall-lined fields that are still used to produce hay for the horses that are boarded in its large barn complex; it also retains a farmer’s cottage and pigsties dating from the early 20th century, when horses and Guernsey cattle were raised by the Wellington family. . . .

The Wellington Farm remains as a uniquely well-documented farmstead whose current bounds, based on current Wellington family ownership, retain the core of the farm as developed in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. The family remains committed to retaining its agricultural character despite substantial development pressure and the threat of the Massachusetts Turnpike widening. The acreage to the west, deeded to the town for conservation purposes, will continue to reinforce the rural qualities of the farm. National Register listing should provide a significant boost to recogition and preservation of this significant component of Weston’s agricutural history.

 

1899 plan of Wellington farm showing land use

Plan of 1899

The above plan of the farm, prepared in 1899 when the farm was sold out of the Brown family, is a rare and informative document. It not only depicts the bounds of the farm and the footprints of existing building, but also shows the loation of stone walls and uses to which various fields were put. Most of the property still owned by Wellington family descendants was used as grassland or plowed fields, a use that continues today.

 

 

 

 

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