29 May 2013

Stately Mansions - Robert Treat Paine house

Exterior, Stonehurst.
A family member is recently engaged to be married, so yours truly has made the rounds of popular Boston-area wedding venues. When given a choice between a root canal - and I have had a root canal - and wedding planning, I'll choose the planning, but it's a close call. Some folks love poring over Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, or visiting the online site The Knot, or designing a signature cocktail for the reception - I am not one of them.

However, there are some redeeming features, such as becoming reacquainted with one of the many Boston landmarks that one knows one should visit more often but somehow never does. Our venue search took us to Stonehurst, the Waltham summer home of Robert Treat Paine, Boston attorney and philanthropist. The mansion, completed in 1886, was a collaboration between architect Henry Hobson Richardson, designer of Boston's Trinity Church, and landscape Frederick Law Olmsted, whose best-known work is probably New York's Central Park.

Hilltop site, Stonehurst.

The home sites at the top of a hill on 109 acres in Waltham, and is a good example of Richardson's use of contrasting textures in his work. Here, the wood shingles form a weathered dark skin above the boulder stone walls; the Palladian arched window looks a bit delicate for all this masculine material surrounding it. The massive red sandstone lintels above the windows, however, fit right in.  Historic images show ivy climbing up the stonework. With a covering of creeping greenery, the house must have looked like a moss-covered boulder rising out of the hilltop.

Stone, shingle and clapboard.

Stone arch.

Hall and grand stairway.

The interior is a unique Richardsonian mash-up of Western and Oriental influences including lots of wood paneling, coffered ceilings, and Japanese-inspired art tile. The open plan and hilltop location meant the house was quite breezy in the summer while the heavy stone walls would have helped keep things cool. It was probably a good deal more comfortable than Mark Twain's rather airless home in Hartford, Connecticut, built around the same time.

Beautiful fireplaces and mantels.

Carved wood details.

Victorian beds and bureaus.

Servant's room.

The bride-to-be decided Stonehurst was not right for her wedding. However, the home, still undergoing study and restoration, is partially furnished, and if you like late Victorian furniture, it's worth the trip for that alone.