Friday, April 16, 2010

42 Peacock Farm Road -- New Listing

John Tse and I have listed another Peacock Farm classic. (SOLD, closing end of June 2010)

Sunny mid-century modern classic: 5 bedroom, 3 full bath original Peacock Farm house designed by noted architects Walter Pierce and Danforth Compton, updated & well-maintained by the original owners, now offered for the first time in over 50 years. Nestled gently into the 1/3-acre lot with Zen-like moss gardens and bluestone patio. This progressive style won the AIA/Homes for Better Living award in 1957. Recent updates include 1990s kitchen; 2000s boiler/H2O heater; 2-pane windows and storms; and bathrooms. Hardwood floors. Master w/full en suite bath. Corner lot w/cul-de-sac street.

Some features and Notes:

*Updated (1990s) kitchen with ample storage, recessed lighting, and 2009 kitchen floor
*Efficient and comfortable hot water baseboard heat, with recently upgraded Burnham boiler. Three programmable zones.
*2 wall air conditioning units cool house if needed
*Double-pane glass and/or storm windows on each of the 50 windows. Screens.
*Storage shed
*Bluestone patio surrounded by Zen-like moss gardens with a lit bluestone walkway. Lights controllable from both house and *road-side entrance
*Bluestone path around perimeter of house
*Outdoor spaces designed by noted Concord Landscape architect Elizabeth Carlhian shortly after the construction
*Underground water line from house to garden terminal. Separate water meter.
*Wired for FIOS
*Hardwood floors on main living level (under carpet) and bedroom level.
*Newer window blinds
*Utility room/workshop with expanded storage cabinetry
*Crawl space storage with interior access
*Directly across street from egress into Sutherland Woods Conservation area
*Pool membership/fragmentary ownership incluuded in small homeowner association fee.

Price: $699,000

Original layout of Peacock Farm:

From our web site,

One of three important planned modernist developments, “Peacock Farm” was just a stone's throw across Pleasant Street from the swimming pool of Six Moon Hill. This community was founded not by an architect associated with Harvard, as TAC was, but by Walter Pierce, from Harvard’s Cambridge rival, MIT. As Laurie Atwater began her article in Lexington’s Colonial Times newspaper,

The cover of the Sunday edition of the New York Times for September 13, 1959 announced: Russians Fire Rocket to the Moon, Expected to Hit Target Today….

Inside the pages, a story from Lexington, Massachusetts: Colony of Contemporary Homes Will Be Repeated Near Boston.

Pierce started his own architecture firm with Danforth Compton after studying at MIT with (amongst others) Carl Koch, a former student of Walter Gropius and a founding father of modern prefab housing in America as the founder of Techbuilt and Acorn Homes (we will recall the House by Mail Craftsman homes from Sears and Roebuck in the early-1900s). Compton and Pierce noticed a "for sale" sign off of Route 2, Peacock Farm Road, a turn off of Watertown Street in Lexington. There was a 45-acre farm filled with wetlands, ledge, and woods. The two architects set out to become the developers of the site, with a plan they referred to as the “Program.” The concept was to build modern, aesthetically progressive homes that would be from a stock design yet looked as if they were custom built for the land.

After initially designing one-floor houses and building a handful of them, Compton suddenly and unexpectedly passed away and Pierce went on to design what is now known as the Peacock Farm House, a modern split-level home that, as Atwater notes in her article, “allowed the home to be ‘of the hill,’ as Frank Lloyd Wright” espoused. The shape of this house style was flexible enough that it could adapt to flat or sloping lots. With some subtle variations, the typical Peacock Farm House had an entrance in the center of the broad side of the structure, a few steps up to a second floor consisting of three bedrooms and a bath or a bath and a half. There is the main floor with a kitchen, dining area and living room with a fireplace and exposed brick chimney. The structure was a basic post-and-beam system with few if any interior load-bearing walls, allowing for great flexibility in the floor plans, and many large windows unobstructed by sashes, mullions, or any unnecessary architectural features. A few steps to a lower level set in various depths of the grading of the site and sometimes a second lower level basement, depending on how much of a slope was present.

The Compton-Pierce team challenged the traditional notion of a house needing to be facing more or less square to the street. Free from this principal, they oriented the homes to be complimentary to the sites, taking advantage of the views and offering the sites the appearance of more space in between the houses. This was also counter to the trends of most modern developments, which seemed to operate from a scorched earth policy, clearing the land and plopping down cookie-cutter houses one after another and then possibly going back to plant saplings after the fact.

Many of these homes have been renovated and expanded over the years, much like those on Moon Hill and Five Fields. They seem very adaptable to such modifications. And most homeowners in these communities have adhered to the mild covenants that the original developers put into place to keep the communities aesthetically consistent. Note that I did not write, “homogeneous.” Modern, that is to say “present day” builders and developers should take note that a mish-mash neighborhood of new neo-colonial-Georgian-Victorians gussied up with various frills and flourishes is a less effective way of distinguishing a group of new houses from each other than the simple approach demonstrated by these forward-looking architects of the mid-century, using one or two plans and adapting them to the contours of the existing land with as little disturbance as possible to the existing conditions of the environment. Though these houses were not, as originally built, the most energy efficient by today’s standards, due to outdated heating systems, relatively little insulation, and large single-paned windows, they are easily retrofitted with updates for all of those components. They were, however, “green” from the get-go in their approach to land use, both in the conserving of the existing flora, with few having traditional lawns even today, minimizing impermeable surfaces (gravel driveways, e.g.), and reasonable lot sizes with larger amounts of common land for all to enjoy.

Which brings us to the socio-political philosophy that underlies these communities’ origins. Not only were these houses extraordinarily “new” in their styles, standing in stark contrast to the traditional New England vernacular via a contemporary European artistic aesthetic, but the founders of these developments also brought an egalitarian approach with attention to developing a community ideal that contrasted the largely politically and socially conservative post-war suburbs. Levittown was about conforming to the new neat and largely homogeneous suburban idea of the American Dream, trimmed lawns hemmed in by squared fences. These Lexington modernist developments tended to encourage responsibility and cooperation in the neighborhood as a whole, with partnerships in the non-profit corporations formed to watch over the common areas and the upholding of the benign covenants.

The layout of the communities has allowed for a natural sort of privacy yet a community spirit was fostered and has continued to flourish in all of them. Peacock Farm celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. (See more about this and other modernist communities at


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