Skip to content

Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Fall 2002 > News New England and Beyond

News New England and Beyond


ABOVE Eugene Kirchner returned to the Otis House after an absence of more than fifty-four years.

BELOW This year's winner of the SPNEA Book Prize.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

ABOVE One of the newest additions to SPNEA's Stewardship Program is the Mordecai Leadbetter House (c. 1860) in Weston, Massachusetts.

BELOW Volunteers at Gropius House, Lincoln, Mass., install wire cages to protect newly planted apple trees from deer.

Historic Recollections
( *see first image of left column )
One afternoon last winter, eighty-six-year-old Eugene Kirchner returned to the Otis House after an absence of more than fifty-four years. He came to tell several members of the staff about his experiences working for SPNEA's founder, William Sumner Appleton, in the 1930s and 40s. Around 1936, SPNEA carpenter E. L. Shores hired Kirchner to work with him, and for about ten years the two men traveled throughout New England in an old Ford station wagon doing whatever needed to be done at the various properties-carpentry, stone masonry, roofing, brickwork, plastering, painting, and more. Kirchner described Appleton visiting the properties, often in the company of noted architect Frank Chouteau Brown, to oversee the work under way or to investigate original building fabric, or clipping hundreds of articles from newspapers for the SPNEA library files. Still active as a carpenter today, Kirchner was working at the home of Appleton Circle Patrons John and Kerry Bastow, who figured out the connection and reintroduced him to SPNEA. Thanks to this happy coincidence, Eugene Kirchner's wonderful stories and anecdotes about a long-ago SPNEA have been preserved for the future.

Bostonians at Home
SPNEA is participating in a joint exhibition called Bostonians at Home: Five Boston Families, 1680-1960 on view at Suffolk University Law School in downtown Boston. Images, artifacts, and stories explore the experiences of five Boston families, the homes in which they lived, and their contributions to the culture of the city as patriots, mothers, craftsmen, poets, intellectuals, and businessmen. The historic sites featured, all members of the Alliance of Downtown Boston's House Museums, are SPNEA's Harrison Gray Otis House, the Paul Revere House, the Prescott House, the Gibson House, and the Nichols House. The exhibition is on view through September 23 at the Adams Gallery, David J. Sargent Hall, Suffolk University Law School at 120 Tremont Street. The gallery is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and admission is free. For more information, please call (617) 573-8508.

SPNEA Book Prize
( *see second image down of left column )
A Building History of Northern New England by James L. Garvin has been awarded the SPNEA Book Prize, given each year to the publication that "advances our understanding of architecture, landscape, and material culture of New England and the United States from the seventeenth century to the present." Please watch for an announcement of a talk by Mr. Garvin to be scheduled later this season. Order the book online at

New By-laws
At Annual Meeting on June 1, the general SPNEA membership voted overwhelmingly to approve the amended and restated by-laws proposed by the Board of Trustees. This new document allows more flexibility in managing SPNEA and fulfills another goal of the strategic plan. In person and by proxy, the votes totaled 1,244 in favor, 51 opposed, and 18 abstentions.

Replanting an Orchard
( *see fourth image down of left column )
In 1937-38, Walter Gropius built his house in a field that had once been a commercial orchard. The orchard was a notable feature of the property during the Gropius years, but gradually the trees began to die off, and by 1999, few remained. That year, cuttings were taken from the survivors and grafted to root stock at an orchard in Maine. This past Arbor Day, community volunteers and orchardist John Bunker planted fifty of these heirloom Baldwin saplings to reestablish the orchard as the last phase of the Save America's Treasures grant project.

New Stewardship Property
( *see third image down of left column )
SPNEA's Stewardship Program continues to add historic properties to its portfolio of privately-owned New England properties protected through perpetual preservation restrictions. One of the newest additions is the Mordecai Leadbetter House (c. 1860) in Weston, Massachusetts. Located on approximately one acre of land in a neighborhood undergoing the pressures of subdivision and new development, the Leadbetter House is an exemplary vernacular Greek Revival structure. The property also includes a well-preserved timber-framed barn, constructed around the same time as the house, with a gable roof and access through large doors on the gable end wall. Both interior and exterior portions of the house and barn, as well as the surrounding land with stone walls, will be preserved against alteration, neglect, and demolition, thanks to the current owner's generous donation of preservation restrictions to SPNEA.

Visiting Scholar
For ten weeks last spring, SPNEA served as the host organization for Quinque Scholar Lauren Murdoch, an architectural finishes conservator with Historic Scotland. The Quinque Foundation, which promotes exchange of preservation expertise between the United States and Scotland, sponsored a visit to Scotland by SPNEA's Paint Supervisor Fred O'Connor in the summer of 2001. During her visit, Murdoch worked with SPNEA staff as well as outside consultants on a variety of projects involving architectural and decorative finishes. Her visit provided a substantive and rewarding two-way exchange of information. The cultural exchange was not limited to conservation, as she took time to attend several professional conferences, visit house museums, and enjoy a baseball game at Fenway Park.

News New England and Beyond