Gore Place

52 Gore Street, Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts

Completed in 1806, for Christopher Gore (1758-1827), Senator and Governor of Massachusetts, and his wife Rebecca Amory Payne (1759-1834). Situated outside Waltham on the Charles River, in its time "Gore Place" was considered the most elegant mansion in New England, earning itself the sobriquet, "the Monticello of the north". In the 1840s, Andrew Jackson Downing described Gore Place and The Woodlands as, "the oldest and finest places as regards Landscape Gardening (in America)". Today, it is recognized as the most significant Federal-period mansion in New England. It is open to the public on an immaculately restored estate of 45-acres run by the Gore Place Society....

This house is best associated with...

Christopher Gore

Christopher Gore, U.S. Senator & 8th Governor of Massachusetts

1758-1827

Rebecca Amory Payne

Mrs Rebecca Amory (Payne) Gore

1759-1834

Charles Jackson

Judge Charles Jackson LL.D., of Boston, Massachusetts

1775-1855

Frances (Cabot) Jackson

Mrs "Fanny" (Cabot) Jackson

1780-1868

Theodore Lyman

Theodore Lyman II, of Brookline; Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts

1792-1849

Mary Elizabeth Henderson

Mrs Mary Elizabeth (Henderson) Lyman

1799-1836

John Singleton Copley Greene

John Singleton Copley Greene, of Boston & "Gore Place" Massachusetts

1810-1872

Mary Anne Appleton

Mrs Mary Anne (Appleton) Greene

1820-1852

Theophilus Wheeler Walker

Theophilus Wheeler Walker, of Boston, Massachusetts; died unmarried

1813-1890

Harriet Sarah Walker

Harriet Sarah Walker, of Gore Place, Massachusetts; died unmarried

1844-1898

Mary Sophia Walker

Mary Sophia Walker, of Gore Place, Massachusetts; died unmarried

1839-1904

Charles Herman Metz

Charles H. Metz, Inventor & Car Manufacturer, of Waltham, Massachusetts

1863-1937

According to John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), Christopher Gore was the wealthiest lawyer in America with an estimated personal fortune in excess of $200,000, mostly made through savvy business speculations. He was the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts and sat on the Jay Treaty Commission in England before returning to America where he was appointed a Senator and the 8th Governor of Massachusetts. He was President of the Massachusetts Historical Society and donated $100,000 to his alma mater, Harvard University, who named their first library in his honor. His wife's family were prominent in Boston as well as Charleston. Her father, Edward Payne, was one of Boston's wealthiest merchants and her mother was a first cousin of Henry Middleton of Middleton Place.  

The Gores were married in 1785 and using Rebecca's dowry they purchased a "mansion house lot" on 50-acres of land at Waltham from Christopher's friend and Rebecca's uncle by marriage, Dr Aaron Dexter, Harvard's first Professor of Medicine. They rejuvenated the old mansion that consisted of a central block with two wings and made it their summer home. By 1793, they had built the carriage house (the work of Samuel McIntire who was then building the neighboring Lyman Estate) that survives today at the west end of the entrance drive and increased their land holdings to 400-acres.

While in England (1796-1804), the Gores entrusted the estate to Rebecca's brother, William Payne (1762-1827). According to him, he laid out many of the original paths around the grounds. In 1799, a fire broke out in the greenhouse attached to the east wing and the house was destroyed, though William managed to save much of their furniture.

The Mansion...

In 1805, work began on their new mansion, "Gore Place," that was built upon the same site as their old house and designed to fit in around the existing grapery and flower garden. Sometimes attributed to America's first native-born architect, Charles Bulfinch of Boston, it was in fact Mrs Gore who conceived the plans for her new mansion.

Heavily influenced by her exposure at London and Bath to the new style of English Regency architecture, her ideas were put to paper by the eminent French architect, Jacques Guillaume Legrand (1743-1808). In 1806, their new summer mansion was completed at a total cost of $23,608, earning itself the sobriquet, "the Monticello of the north". Both the house and parkland were distinctively English by design, and many materials arrived from there, making the final journey by raft along the Charles River.

Their 22-room mansion measures 190 feet in length with two wings and stands two-and-a-half stories high, punctuated with tall, elegant chimneys. The entrance drive terminated with a carriage-turn on the north front of the house: Hemlocks with drooping boughs, umbrella magnolias, lindens and tall white pines crowded its edges. Except for the period between 1816 and 1822, the Gores were only able to make use of their home during the summer months, spending winters at their townhouse on Cambridge Street in Boston.

... and Gardens

Both the Gores were keen horticulturalists, building two new greenhouses and a vegetable garden behind the previously constructed carriage house. Close to the main house was the classically English, geometrically-styled flower garden with borders of perennials and shrubs. From the facade stretches a 200-foot lawn, adjoining which was an enclosure for the deer park. Fields also lay in close proximity, but all this and the house was concealed from the village of Waltham by a ring of dense forest.

In 1830, "Black Horse Harry" Lee IV (1787-1837), of Stratford Hall, came to visit and noted that his host had, "acquired a knowledge of the prevalent style of building and landscape gardening... Shady walks radiated from the house from east to west, joining the walk that skirted the grounds secluding it upon all sides, except an opening opposite the house where a ha-ha concealed the river road and permitted a view of the river".

America's pre-eminent landscape designer, Andrew Jackson Downing (1815–1852), described the Gore estate as, "one of the oldest and finest places as regards Landscape Gardening... This and The Woodlands were the two best specimens of the modern style... in the earliest period of Landscape Gardening among us."

Layout & Interior

The first immediately noticeable feature of the mansion is the presence of two entrance doors on the north front - one for those wishing to address business-matters (greeted by a vestibule), the other for guests of leisure, who entered into the hall with the 15-foot spiral staircase. Dividing these two spaces is the magnificent Pennsylvania marble floor-tiled, semi-oval dining room that measures twenty by thirty feet and has fireplaces at either end. The chandelier in this room came from Gore's legal offices in Boston where Daniel Webster (1782-1852), who frequently visited Gore Place, started his eminent career.

The Dining Room leads on to the oval Drawing-Room of the same size that takes in the large bay evident on the south front of the house and the ceiling which is trimmed with a Romanesque frieze. To one side of the drawing room is a parlor and to the other a breakfast room. The music room (formerly the library) and oval billiard rooms with their 15-foot ceilings are contained within the east wing while the west wing contains the kitchens, servants quarters and offices. A pair of crystal and brass chandeliers still seen in the music room were made in 1792 for the Pavlovsk Palace near St. Petersburg in Russia. For its time, Gore Place was extremely technologically advanced: there was hot and cold running water, an air circulating system, an ice house, and even toilets that flushed!

Upstairs, Downstairs

In keeping with the magnificence of its surroundings, the Gores entertained in equal style at Gore Place, waited upon by fourteen liveried servants. On Sundays, Gore promised dinner and a game of billiards to any student at Harvard who was inclined to walk the 7-miles from Cambridge. The Gores frequently entertained upwards of 30-people around their table over the weekends and notable guests included President James Monroe and the Marquis de Lafayette. However, the more puritanical-minded New Englanders looked with disdain towards the Gore's lavish goings-on and this played a large part in his defeat when he ran for a second term as Governor of Massachusetts in 1810.

Pivotal to the smooth running of the house was of course their butler, Robert Roberts (1780-1860), who had previously been in the employ of Nathan Appleton (1779-1861). In 1827, with Gore's permission, support, and financial aid, Roberts became the first African-American to commercially publish a book in the United States: The House Servant's Directory: A Monitor for Private Families. Reprinted on two further occasions, his book became the standard on household management for decades to come.

Jacksons & Lymans (1827-1838)

Christopher Gore died in 1827 and afterwards Rebecca rented the house to Judge Charles Jackson and his wife, Frances Cabot - the maternal grandparents of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. On Rebecca's death in 1834, in accordance with both their wills, the contents of the house was sold at auction and the estate was put up for sale, advertised as: "In a high state of cultivation, and tastefully laid out, with an excellent fruit and kitchen garden, a large orchard, a thriving nursery of grafted apple trees, a very large and choice collection of pear trees, and an excellent grapery".

In 1834, Gore Place was purchased by Theodore Lyman II (1792-1849), the well-travelled Mayor of Boston who'd spent his childhood summers at the neighboring Lyman Estate. He lived here with his "beautiful and accomplished" wife, Mary Elizabeth Henderson, and their young family. Like the Gores, the Lymans took a deep interest in scientific agriculture and almost immediately began to enlarge the estate - employing a manager to oversee the property, for whom they bought a farmhouse. The Lymans also painted the mansion white, redesigned the flower garden with curvaceous borders, and built the pond near the entrance. But, just two years later Mrs Lyman was dead and, heartbroken, Theodore put the estate up for sale and shortly afterwards moved into Singletree.

Mr Greene's "Diamond" (1838-1856)

After two years on the market, Gore Place was purchased in 1838 by John Singleton Copley Greene, an independently wealthy young man from a notable American family who prior to his marriage had acquired quite a reputation as a playboy. But, that changed after his marriage in 1844 to Mary Anne Appleton, to whom he was devoted and lovingly referred to as his "Diamond". The Greenes continued to employ the Lyman's farm manager who maintained the estate for them and they led a happy life of leisure here, making few changes other than planting some trees. In 1852, Mrs Greene died and so distraught was her husband, the former playboy turned to the church and became a minister!

The Walkers & their A-spire-ations (1856-1911)

In 1856, Greene sold the estate to Theophilus Wheeler Walker, an entrepreneurial businessman who was at the forefront of Boston's emerging textiles industry. It is more than likely that he knew about Gore Place several years before buying it as his sister-in-law was the daughter of Mrs Mary (Gore) Grant, a first cousin of Christopher Gore.

Walker never married and for the first ten years he lived here alone, making only a few changes to the grounds that included the removal of the greenhouse to the east of the mansion and the vegetable garden by the carriage house. After their mother's death in 1866, Walker was joined at Gore Place by his two nieces, Mary Sophia Walker (1839-1904) and Harriet Sarah Walker (1844-1898). At his death, he bequeathed the estate to them and in his honor they established the Bowdoin College Museum of Art at Boston.

Mary Walker had long dreamed of erecting a cathedral on the grounds of Gore Place and when she died in 1904, she willed the estate along with her fortune of $1 million to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. By 1907, her will was settled and the Church leased the estate to a company based in Colorado who disposed of much of the original furnishings and set up a sawmill on the grounds, destroying many of the trees. Four years later, the Church put the estate on the market and it was bought up by a local inventor and motor car manufacturer, Charles Herman Metz (1863-1937), who made Gore Place his home and corporate headquarters.

Charles Metz, Decline & the Waltham Country Club (1911-1935)

During Metz's tenure, the estate began to shrink: urban development spread out from Waltham and he built factories, an airfield and paved over fields on which to store cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes. But, being German, on the outbreak of World War One his company - and with it Gore Place - was seized by the Government. 

Following the war, the Metz Company struggled financially and in 1921 he sold Gore Place to a group of trustees led by the Mayor of Waltham, Henry F. Beal, who transformed it into the Waltham Country Club. Most of the remaining grounds were redesigned to incorporate a nine-hole golf course and tennis courts.

When the Crash of 1929 happened there was no money left for luxuries and the club closed. While it continued to accrue significant debt, Gore Place was home to various sports teams including the Boston Redskins - later the Washington Redskins. But by the early 1930s, it had degenerated into a speakeasy and by 1935 it was empty, vandalised and facing demolition, as the banks licked their lips at the prospect of development.

Mrs Patterson & The Gore Place Society

The demise of Gore Place was saved almost single-handedly by Mrs Helen Bowditch (Long) Patterson, daughter of Harry Vinton Long (1857-1949), Director of Museums for the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities which is better known today as Historic New England. Her family was noted for its association with architecture. 

Gathering the interest of her friends and using her own money, Mrs Patterson created the Gore Place Society and purchased the old mansion at an auction held in 1935. Since that time it has been refurnished with period antiques and is open to the public today as a house-museum, retaining 45-acres of the original estate. In 1970, Gore Place was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 25/10/2018 and last updated on 17/01/2021.
Image Courtesy of Bill Damon, CC, Flickr; Saved by the Golf Course, the late great John Foreman

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