Thomas Mott Shaw Estate

June 23, 1988.

Renee Garrelick
Concord Oral History Program.

In April 1988 the Town of Concord received notification through the Massachusetts Historical Commission that the Thomas Mott Shaw estate on Garfield Road had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior. Neither the Concord Free Public Library nor the Concord Historical Commission had any information relating to this property, considered historically significant for the architect Thomas Mott Shaw who designed and built the house and the upper class lifestyle of the early 20th century represented in its environs.

By locating and interviewing current and past owners of the property information has been compiled with transcript copies available for archival and public reading at the Concord Free Public Library and the Archives Committee.

Thomas Mott Shaw and Andrew Hepburn of Concord were partners and architects for the restoration of colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. (Hepburn lived in the brick colonial at the corner of Lowell Road and Barretts Mill Road known locally as the Hildreth House after the generations of the Hildreth family who lived there.)

Shaw's career with the firm he established in 1919 which became known as Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, includes the design of such important institutional buildings as the Harvard Coop, the Houghton Rare Book Library at Harvard, Kresge Hall and the Aldrich Building at the Harvard Business School, Brown's University Hall at Brown University in Providence, which is a National Landmark.

The 20 years of preservation work in the Rockefeller restoration of Williamsburg brought the architectural firm of Perry, Shaw, and Hepburn, national attention and from 1928 the company had an office there. At Williamsburg, Shaw is considered directly responsible for the restoration of the Wren Building and Governor's Palace and the design of the Williamsburg Inn. Shaw's final project in 1959, was the design for the State Archives Building in Boston, a one million dollar addition to the State House.

Thomas Mott Shaw (1878-1965) in 1908-1909 designed and built twin houses for himself and his parents on property owned by his father George Russell Shaw (1848-1937). The house that remains was built for his father and used by Shaw after his own house was destroyed by fire in 1931. The foundation of the other house still remains. The homes which were built as mirror images of each other, differed only in the shape of the projecting three-story tower. The round tower is gone and the octagonal tower remains.

The style of the stucco exterior walled house with the high pitched slate roof adopted by Shaw is reminiscent of English manor houses of the Cotswold region, a favorite area of England for him. It is also part of the Arts and Crafts Movement exemplified by pride in hand craftsmanship in reaction to the standardized machinery of the Industrial Revolution. The two and one-half story, L-shaped building with an octagonal tower is similar to English Tudor Revival structures with steeply pitched gables.

Once part of a 108 acre tract of land, subdivided among the descendents of George Shaw, the parcel today is -under 10 acres. Another dwelling of similar style was built in 1910 by Shaw on an adjacent land parcel for his sister Isabel who married Frederick Eldridge Lowell in 1903.

The estate is reflective of the late 19th and early 20th century development of Concord as a wealthy Boston suburb. The southern end of Concord, abutting Lincoln and Sudbury, was largely undeveloped at the time and large parcels of land were owned by heirs of the Garfield and Conant families. Large tracts of land were purchased by affluent Bostonians to become country estates. The tract of land purchased by George Russell Shaw, the father of Thomas Mott Shaw, was part of the Garfield farm, after whom the road is named.

George Russell Shaw and Emily Mott Shaw of Weston in 1908 purchased 108 acres from Charles Francis Adams and Mary Ogden Adams of Lincoln. Educated at Harvard and L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Thomas Mott Shaw in 1908 had opened his own office as an architect in Boston. Both father and son were both designers and architects and Thomas was influenced by his father's interest and involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement in which George Shaw exhibited leather crafts at the 1897 "Exhibition of Arts and Crafts" 4n Copley Hall. This was reflected in the interior embellishments of the house.

The original plan was for the young Shaw to design and build twin houses and and a garage/carriage house for his parents and himself, and a similar dwelling to the southwest for his sister, Isabel Shaw Lowell. In 1916 George Shaw deeded the entire property to Thomas and Isabel. Over time the property has been subdivided among the family descendants to the present 10 acres.

Current owners Joyce Meschan and Michael Robinson have restored the property which they purchased from Doris Kearns and Richard Goodwin in 1985, retaining may features of the materials and craftsmanship of the original design. An example is the replacement of the home's original doors from the sliding glass doors of the 1960s, which helped restore the original design of the entrance to the center hall. The curved wide wooden staircase was refinished while the removal of stucco and plaster to expose the windows at the top of the staircase revealed the original design intent.

The large reception rooms on the first floor emanating from the spacious entrance hall include decorative features of both of the Arts and Crafts Movement and English Tudor Revival motifs. This includes roping on the ceiling which has been restored, extensive wood paneling-"ninety-nine percent of which is now in its original location," multi-light interior doors, and brick fireplaces elaborated with terra cotta inserts.

"Despite its spaciousness, the house is not ostentatious and does not overpower. It sits on the brow of the hill well away from the road with tremendous repose, which gives a good background for high quality landscaping in the English tradition.

Its been a top to bottom restoration involving an enormous amount of research through 34 sheets of architectural drawings. We had to know what was there, what was intrinsic about the design that we could pick up in the restoration.

The restoration project was a challenge because of the deteriorated condition and the extensive living space of 9500 square feet, impractical for the contemporary life of one family. The exterior walls had deteriorated behind the stucco. The porches were held up by the stucco shell not the wood structure." (Michael Robinson, architect)

"Quarters occupied in Shaw's day by servants, have now been converted to a separate residence. A garage/carriage house once lived in by the chauffeur is now a four bedroom house which features a round tower room on the second floor." (Source: Joyce Meschan and Michael Robinson, owners since 1985. Assisted in their research by preservation consultant Gretchen Schuler of Wayland.)

"I remember Thomas Mott Shaw as a handsome man with a long white beard trimmed in a Van Dyke style. Thomas Mott Shaw's daughter Sarah Quinlan was my second wife and we lived in the house built shortly after her birth in 1908, from 1965 to 1977. It was the young architect's first major project, designed in the Cotswald style that he admired of steeply pitched roofs and tall chimneys." (Source: Franklin Johnson, owner 1965-1977)

"As a historian I found the house interesting as a reflection of a whole style of living no longer with us. This includes the living quarters of the mistress of the house, the captain's desk for letter writing, the hall entry way rugless till the living room, the area for ballroom dancing lessons, the old scrub tubs, the six bedroom servants wing for maids, seamstresses, and cooks, and the carriage house. The house reflects the daily life of the family and the texture of a wealthy lifestyle." (Source: Doris Kearns Goodwin, owner 1977-1985.)

Text mounted 8 June 2013. RCWH.