Fifth in our special series on mid century historic house museums…

Visit-an-historic-house2.2Located in Lincoln, Mass. the Gropius House is viewed as one of the most influential homes in modern American architectural design. Built by Walter Gropius in 1938, the home today a National Historic Landmark owned by Historic New England. Walter Gropius was one of the most renowned architects of his time — founder the the famed Bauhaus school of design. In 1938 he moved from Bauhaus, to Lincoln so he could teach architecture at Harvard.

When it came to designing his family’s new home, Gropius created a modern masterpiece — but one that, cleverly, also incorporated many different elements from New England’s classic architecture. He used the traditional wood, brick, and fieldstone, and the exterior is clad in white tongue-and-groove siding, which makes the house clearly definable atop the hill, but not out of place. He added glass blocks, chrome banisters, acoustic plaster, an exterior spiral staircase and the newest light fixtures to spice up the exterior. At the time, these were all innovative materials that were rarely used during home construction. The house is sited atop a beautiful hillside estate complete with surrounding apple orchards. So, the terrace and large screened-in porch, which acted as outdoor rooms, were designed to be used joyously by the family all year ’round.

Inside the house,  Gropius embraced the modern style of his home with cork flooring and industrial colors like white, gray and black. He hung white clapboard vertically inside the foyer, and although seen as unconventional, it ended up providing texture and an excellent backdrop his collection of art. Every room has large windows that frame the apple orchard and maximize the sun’s heat during the harsh Massachusetts winters. To get better ventilation, the house has very few doors, curtains were installed instead. This allows for open coat closets, which in turn provide bright colors and texture to Walter’s otherwise neutral theme. The Gropius’ encouraged their 12-year-old daughter, Ati, to develop her own style. She chose warm earth tones, much unlike her father. The rooftop deck was made so she could spend her nights laying under the stars.

In the kitchen, Gropius installed a solid stainless steel sink and countertop that sit on top of white steel cabinets. (Hmmm, what kind? Pam asks Matt!) The kitchen features two garbage disposals (that’s right, two) and a dishwasher — innovative for the time.

Gropius was not only a great structural architect but a talented landscaper, as well. The exterior and the grounds around the home may have looked simple, but everything was designed with maximum efficiency in mind. With his home finally complete, the cost was at $18,000 — not nearly as high as some of the mansions in the region, but only few are comparable.

Walter lived happily in the home he created until 1969. His family took care of it until it was bought by Historic New England and opened as a museum. With the families décor and furniture — which was designed by Marcel Breuer and made in the Bauhaus workshops — still in its place, the house hasn’t lost its lived-in feel — and is an amazing treasure.

Click here for more information or to visit the Gropius House. And, visit the Historic New England website for information on all the home and events they have. And many thanks to Susanna, in Communications, for providing the images and additional information for this post.

Read all our stories about historic mid century homes you can visit here.

  1. Jackie says:

    Just compare this house to all those you see in magazines, supposedly inspired by the great Gropius–so much more human in scale, warmer and friendlier in materials. It looks like people could actually live there, and a child could actually walk through the house without breaking something.

    When and where did “modern” go wrong? What passes for modern now is so cold and cheerless–nothing like the best MCM homes!

  2. MbS says:

    I love Gropius as a name for a house. So much punchie and fab than the MacGillicuddy House or Gilloughley House or some other name that is jaunty and silly.

    Gropius. Just right.

    And, apologies about the other names, if I upset. I kid because one of those names, with a variant spelling is in the family tree.

  3. Lynn-O-Matic says:

    I love a lot of different house styles, but my absolute favorite is streamline moderne. That would be my dream house. I think I could be happy in this house, too!

  4. Gavin Hastings says:

    $18,000. comes out to roughly $271,000 in today’s dollars. Higher building costs vs more readily available materials.

    The biggest expense would be: STYLE and IMAGINATION.

      1. Zoe says:

        The land was donated to Gropius by a “patron of the arts” who very much wanted Gropius to be Harvard’s new Dean of Architecture.

  5. Adam Richards says:

    To me, it looks like the kitchen was updated sometime after WWII, that stove is definitely not a 30’s model. The cabinets may be original, but look more like they’re from the late 40’s to sometime in the mid 50’s. Very cool house though, I remember seeing it somewhere online before.

    1. Janet in CT says:

      That stove is definitely an early sixties GE. As for the cabinets, they sure look like the Whitehead ones featured just recently – same hardware and maybe a “Monel” stainless steel countertop. They started production in 1934 so the time line is right. I love this one the best!

  6. jkaye says:

    I really love the big window in the kitchen. Pam, didn’t you enlarge your kitchen window? We could do this in our kitchen and really bring in some light. Thanks for these great posts on historic MCM homes. Good job, Matthew!

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