56 Meriam St, Lexington, MA 02420, USA
Coming Soon, For Sale
Coming Friday, April 12. Open houses Saturday and Sunday, 13 & 14, 1:00-3:00 each. Video and floor plans coming soon!
This striking Modernist home on Meriam Hill was designed by noted architect Bissell Alderman. The house was renovated over 2016-2018 with a comprehensive remodel, adding more living area to the first level, a renovation of the kitchen, bathrooms, the entry and more. Discerning aficionados of Modernism will find the open concept floor plan, walls of glass, and soaring voluminous ceilings they expect in the well-designed contemporary homes. While Lexington has a rich history of Modernism, it is rare to find such an exceptional property so close to the center of town and rarer still with a location in the prestigious Meriam Hill neighborhood. Add to that the 260 feet of frontage and 1.23 acres and it becomes clear that this is a unique gem of an offering. Imagine a lifestyle less dependent on a car, heading down the Minuteman Bikeway to dinner at one of the many restaurants in the center, followed by a show at Cary Hall, or grabbing a latte before picking up a book at the library.
The house was built on the former grounds of Oakmount Castle (razed) and part of the old stone wall for the castle runs into the property, with the former carriage house of the castle remaining at 60 Meriam Street. With a central location on a hill just behind Lexington’s historic center, steps from the Battle Green, Minuteman Bike Path, shops, and restaurants, Merriam Hill’s siting alone would make it a desirable neighborhood in which to live. However, couple that with any of the finest homes in town, and you understand why this beloved area is so coveted. Willard Brown (who designed the Cary Memorial Library), E.A.P. Newcomb, Allen & Kenway, and Walter Paine are just a few of the noted Boston and Lexington-area architects whose work is represented here. Indeed, a few of them lived here themselves.
The bike path used to be the train track, and the old Lexington Depot is located just at the bottom of the hill. Restored and used by the Lexington Historical Society today, the proximity of the Depot was a main selling point in the early days. As noted at the Lexington Historic Survey, Merriam Hill was developed in the late 19th century:
[The neighborhood] was home to many of the influential citizens who helped to transform the town from a rural town to a prosperous suburb. Proximity to the depot made Merriam Hill a desirable place to settle for many Lexington professionals who worked in Boston. Most of the neighborhood residents knew each other from financial clubs and many had first come to Lexington as summer residents. A number of the buildings in the neighborhood are architect-designed. This area includes one property, the former Merriam Factory at 7-9 Oakland Street, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places….
Francis B. Hayes, a railroad official, lawyer, state senator, and U.S. congressman, was Lexington’s most prosperous resident in the late 19th century. When he first came to Lexington as a summer resident in 1861, he lived in an imposing house with a French roof and a cupola at 45 Hancock Street (later razed). Over time, he acquired additional property extending over Merriam Hill and to the east of Grant Street, encompassing nearly 400 acres. In 1883-4, Hayes built a five-story 32-room fieldstone mansion known as “The Castle” or “Oakmount” on what is now Castle Road. The Castle was demolished by dynamite in 1941, but two outbuildings from the estate were converted into dwellings, the former carriage house at 60 Meriam Street (MHC #388) and a large barn at 13-15 Somerset Street (MHC #1121). The house at 136 Grant Street may also have been part of the Hayes estate. Henry C. Pfaff, a German brewer, bought the estate in 1895 from Hayes’s heirs. The owners of the above-described estates had a significant interest in horticulture. In some cases their plantings survive.
The names Meriam and Merriam are often confused. As the Survey goes on to explain:
The area takes its name from the pre-Revolutionary Meriam family who owned much of area in the 19th century. The hill was first divided into thirty-three house lots in the 1870s although construction did not take place until the 1880s. One of the first to buy was Matthew P. Merriam (no relation to the earlier Meriams) who purchased eight lots and established a shoe findings factory at 7-9 Oakland Street in 1882. The factory employed approximately thirty workers at a time, most of whom were women. In the late 19th century this was the largest manufacturing facility in Lexington. The building was later home to the Adams Press and later, the Lexington Press. In recent years the former factory was renovated for housing for victims of brain injury. At the age of 60 Matthew Merriam had a new house built across the street from the factory at 2 Oakland Street, designed by Boston architect Walter Paine who also designed the Hancock Church.
The neighborhood is roughly contained within Adams Street, Hancock Street, Grant Street, Colony Road, and Massachusetts Avenue.
Bissell Alderman was a graduate of M.I.T. receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 1935 and his Master’s in 1937. In 1950 he formed a partnership with engineer, Archibald S. MacNeish and specialized in the design of public buildings through out Western Massachusetts. From 1978, in semi retirement, he did the same through out Southern New Hampshire. [Taken from the Hartford Courant.]
Alderman won an honorable mention in the Williamsburg Competition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1939, which also featured such internationally famous architects as Richard Neutra, Ralph Rapson, Eero Saarinen, Edward Durell Stone, and Hugh Stubbins Jr. While he mostly designed institutional buildings — including a few the striking Hampshire and Berkshire dining commons at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (where I myself dined from 1984-1986) — there is at least one other modern residence in the area, this home in Belmont, which was rented by Joan Baez’s family and where she lived when she got her start as a folk singer at the legendary Club 47.
Alderman served two terms as president of the Western Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He was the son of another renowned architect, George P.B. Alderman.