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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Richardson and Olmsted's "Stonehurst"

The most famous American architect of the 19th century was H. H. Richardson (think Trinity Church in Boston).  The most famous American landscape artist was Frederick Law Olmsted (think Central Park).  They both worked out of Boston and last week I visited Stonehurst, originally a private residence (now owned by the town of Waltham) designed and built by Richardson and Olmsted for the Paine family in 1883.

(these first two pics are from the Stonehurst guidebook)

The house is a bit of an architectural oddity as the Paines insisted on moving to the site and incorporating into the new structure their twenty-year-old Victorian mansard-roof house.  You can see it on the left side of the house in picture above.  Richardson wrapped the stone towers right around the old house and Olmstead trained wisteria up every side of the old house in an effort to disguise it.

The setting on top of a hill is incredibly naturalistic (Olmsted's hallmark) but, while it looks natural, the landscape was in fact sculpted extensively by Olmsted including scraping bare the large glacially-striated bedrock seen at left.  Here are a few more pictures of the landscape and Olmsted's graceful curving walls that almost remind one of an Andrew Goldsworthy sculpture......

All the stone for the house and walls was collected on the estate, partly by deconstructing the older colonial stone walls.

The sundial you can see on the second floor of the tower in the first pic.

A side entrance with a characteristic Richardson "eyebrow" roof line.

The front entrance.

Detail of carving on front entrance.....look at lion carved out of sandstone.  And when the porch starts to sag you prop it up with 2x10s painted to match the house!  Sadly, this place seems like it is barely surviving financially; lots of obvious water damage in house, holes in ceilings, broken windows, leaking chimneys, etc. 

Tomorrow, the interior......