Mid-Century Modernism in Lexington

Mid-Century Modernism in Lexington

Jeanine Brennan
Oct 27, 2008

When you think of Boston home architecture, federal-style homes and saltboxes come to mind before modern ranch-style houses. But if you've ever driven through the back roads of Lexington you'll have caught glimpses of many of these modern homes in woody, tucked-away neighborhoods. The weekend before last, Lexington's Historical Society sponsored a tour of mid-century built houses in three modern 1950's Lexington neighborhoods: Moon Hill, Peacock Farms and Five Fields. We tagged along with our friend Karen and were able to see the grounds and insides of some amazing homes. Click after the jump to see some more things we discovered about these neighborhoods.

According to the booklet handed out in the tour, Lexington has nine distinct neighborhoods of modern architecture, more than any town in the country. A group of architects called the Architects Collaborative, which included Walter Gropius (whose home Wes and Kayle blogged about here), were among the architects for these 'hoods in the late 1940's to early 1950's. The idea for designing these neighborhoods was not only to build inexpensive houses (then in the $20,000 range), but also to create more social neighborhoods and a strong community.

The architects fostered community spirit by including commonly-owned areas such as neighborhood swimming pools, and by prohibiting fences along property lines (which also contributes to the sense of openness). The neighborhoods were and still are very close-knit. In Peacock Hill an amazing 23% of the original homeowners still live in their houses.

The houses aren't huge, they're actually fairly modest (even though most have been expanded from the original). They're designed oriented toward the sun, with large areas of glass, very minimal trim and sided with thin vertical boards. Most have flat roofs; they all have strong horizontal lines and open floor plans.

We found out after we took this photo that we weren't really allowed to take pictures inside, but many of the homes have modern furniture either original to the houses or in the same period. We saw some low platform beds, day beds, eames and knoll furniture and lamps with beautiful ceramic bases. But we also saw an equal amount of simple, well-designed furniture that looked especially designed for the spaces. What stood out was beautiful quality furnishings that have withstood the years and didn't look like they had been updated every few years because of a trend.

While we went in expected to be impressed by these well-designed mid-century modern houses (which we were!), we left equally impressed with the homeowners devotion to their neighborhoods and the strong community created by these well-planned and respectfully designed homes.

>>>Lexington Historical Society's website

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