Sold: Historic Techbuilt in Lexington

Photos by Lara Kimmerer (interior) and John Tse (exterior). Click any photo to enlarge:

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An original flyer for Techbuilt advertising their potential as a vacation cottage.

4 Turning Mill Road, Lexington: $449,000 (Sold)

The first model home for the Lexington-based Techbuilt Corp. in the Middle Ridge neighborhood, this 1956 Techbuilt home has lived up to its original forward-looking vision. The house was one of a dozen featured on the Lexington Historical Society’s Modernism Tour. Designed by revered early modernist innovator, Carl Koch, the design offers an abundance of natural light and a deceiving economy of scale. No space is wasted with this open floor plan that encompasses an open living room/dining room, with a fireplace, a kitchen with newer appliances, three generous bedrooms, one full and one-half baths, and a utility room with laundry (washer/dryer included in sale).

Where else in Lexington could one own a three bedroom, one-and-a-half bath home with a garage, on a 32,178 square foot (3/4 acre!) private wooded lot, in a top-notch school district, with bonded membership in a neighborhood pool, for $449,000? And this house is turn-key, with recent paint, appliance updates, and landscaping.

As the house is post-and-beam construction, it offers the ultimate flexibility in its floor plan. Interior walls can be added and removed (one should verify specific such changes with an architect or engineer). In fact, an interior wall was just added to re-create one of the bedrooms. The house originally had four bedrooms.  As your needs change, your space can be adapted.

The house has a total of 1354 s.f. of living area, can easily be added to and modified — with no neighborhood covenants — only typical Lexington permitting rules. The heating is hot water baseboard. The oversized one-car garage has a propane heater and was once used as a studio.

Greet the morning with tree-top views from your bed via high-peaked walls of glass. Enjoy swimming with your neighbors and friends during the summer months, (and swimming lessons included in membership) without the hassle and upkeep of owning a pool. And in autumn and winter, cozy up to the fireplace as the snow falls on the pines just outside your sliding glass doors, your car covered in the garage.

Offered at $449,000. Showings begin Friday, June 29. There will be a public open house on Sunday, July 1, 1:00-3:00 pm. Use the contact button up top to arrange a private showing.

The architecture and the neighborhood

Residents love the area due to its proximity to the highly desirable soon-to-be brand new Estabrook School (adjacent — many kids walk or bike, and in the process of having a new facility built on the grounds) and because it offers membership in the country-club-like Paint Rock swimming pool, which is has received some improvements and updates just in time for the 2012 season. It also borders the vast Paint Mine conservation area, with beautiful walking trails. The Lexpress bus runs through. And a quick zip takes you down backroads to Whole Foods, Staples, Super Stop & Shop, Marshall’s, and so on in Bedford, or back the other way into the center of Lexington. And it is not far from Route 128. Lexpress stops at the driveway of 4 Turning Mill.

Here is the swimming pool from last summer:


The land for the Turning Mill neighborhood was purchased by the Techbuilt Corporation. There were three model homes.  The first one built was 4 Turning Mill. Most people in Lexington know the area as Turning Mill, but it started out being referred to as Middle Ridge. Though it is now a large area of eight or nine streets, it started around Turning Mill Road and Demar Road, with Techbuilt houses designed by Carl Koch, before growing further north and west and incorporating other modern designs, most notably, the Peacock Farm-style house plan designed by Walter Pierce, who along with Danforth Compton founded Lexington’s Peacock Farm neighborhood on the other side of town. This design was licensed out to other developers, as was the case here in Turning Mill. There have also been some Deck Houses built. The expanded part of the area is now referred to as “Upper Turning Mill.

Research in part via Lexington Historic Survey, which notes:

Of the 95 homes in Middle Ridge, thirty-five are prefabricated “Techbuilt” homes.

Middle Ridge was originally conceived and designed in 1955 by architect Carl Koch as a neighborhood of “Techbuilt” homes. After receiving his architectural training at Harvard under Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius, Koch taught architecture at MIT and created the first planned community of modern houses in the region at Snake Hill Road in Belmont in 1941. Prior to building in Lexington, he also designed and constructed Conantum, Concord’s first residential housing development (1951) and Kendal Common in Weston (1950). First introduced in 1953, the Techbuilt house was a low-cost, semi-factory-built modern style house which used modular construction.

TechBuilt Home Diagram
Source: Carl Koch, At Home with Tomorrow, 1958
The Techbuilt house was based on a consistent four foot wide module for all major building components such as wall, floor, and roof panels. The pieces were delivered by truck and could be erected in a few days. The Techbuilt homes, which include both one and two-story models, are characterized by simplicity of shape, pitched roofs and overhanging eaves and the extensive use of glass, especially on the wide glazed gabled ends. The exteriors of the houses are typically clad in vertical cedar siding with panels between the stories. The Techbuilt houses incorporated various structural innovations including the use of modular prefabricated stressed skin panels rather than conventional framing and the use of steel posts and wooden beams for support rather than load bearing walls. In keeping with Techbuilt philosophy, the houses are typically set into a natural and wooded landscape. In some cases the owners also purchased carports or garages.
The Techbuilt House was featured in various national publications including Better Homes and Gardens and Parents Magazine and was awarded the American Institute of Architects “Best Development House” Award. By the end of 1957, Techbuilt homes had been constructed in thirty-two states.

Ultimately, due to financial difficulties, the Techbuilt Corporation was only involved in the construction of the first two phases of Middle Ridge and these houses are found on Demar Road and the southern end of Turning Mill Road. Although many of the buildings have seen additions, collectively they are significant as one of the largest groups of this award-winning and innovative semi-prefabricated house in the Boston area.


An original flyer for Techbuilt advertising their potential as a vacation cottage.