Saturday, June 30, 2012

"The Pines"

"The Pines" The House of Philip S. Sears, Esq., Prides Crossing, Massachusetts
by Barr Ferree - 1908

'LONG drive in the woods, through a forest, if not exactly impenetrable, at least dense enough seemingly to swallow one up; beautiful woods, such as the soil of Massachusetts seems to produce in a special abundance; woods soft and quiet, with scarce a house to indicate man's presence, and only the hard dry roads to show he has been here and at least visits here, if he does not permanently remain within these leafy shadows - all this is but a foretaste, and a most delightful one, to the pleasure that awaits one who visits Mr. Sears in his charming pine-land home.
"The Pines" - dense woods embower the house in rich greens on all side, save where space has been cleared for the house and garden. 
Apparently there is no reason why his home should stand exactly where it does. There is not much traveled roadway leading to it; there is no other house close beside it; its site, surely, is not more beautiful - for here is so much beauty -than a hundred others near at hand. It is more to the point, beside these unnecessary academic speculations, that the house stands just where it ought to stand - in a clearing in the pine woods, an opening only sufficient to give it space and room for its attendant garden and terrace. As for its entrance, the forest comes almost to its front door, a dear untidy forest, with disheveled ground, gentle hillocks of moss and piles of pine needles, and all the wild delights of the wildland.

Surely if one knew nothing of the house, had not seen it pictured in photograph or roughly described in words, one would pause instinctively at first sight of it. It gives one - and it certainly gave me - the same delight as the discovery of some rare flower, blooming alone in the dense dark woods. 

Like a rare orchid it raises its soft yellowed walls in the center of a great tree wreath, standing all around it like sentinels to guard its simple beauty. It is a house to be seen to be appreciated to the full, seen with the odor of the pine needles in one's nostrils, and with the soft green of the trees decking it in the near-by distance.

Let me say at once that this is a lovely and exquisite house. It is a house of absolute simplicity and perfect directness. Take, if you will, the entrance front, the front by which it may be judged, although the house is so sequestered that each front belongs to the owner alone. There is not a single bit of ornament on this whole front. 
The entrance doorway, with its glazed and curved Tympanum, is the most striking feature of the exterior.  
There is the doorway, it is true, but its detail is of the simplest possible description, so simple that its very severity but enhances the importance of its curved summit, with its glazed tympanum and its lantern that projects without and within. The curves above the doorway have, therefore, an intensely decorative character because they offer a beautiful contrast with the severity of the remainder of the front.
The studied simplicity of the entrance front is apparent in the quiet refinement of the detail.
So also the great triple window above it has a special significance and a decorative value it would not have were its neighbors of the same shape and form. It is not actually a triple window, but a doorway to the balcony with a narrow window on each side. The balcony is of wrought its iron, very simple in design, and identical with the other uppermost balconies in the end pavilions. The door has a gently curved top, its uppermost molding being continued as the crowning molding on either side. Then comes the little semicircular window above, and finally the curved gable.

Everything else is plain, simple and severe. Everything else is solid walls, straight lines, plain rectangular windows. The lines are wholly structural, and are formed by the changes in the surface of the walls; by projecting the central bay somewhat forward, and bringing the end portions still further forward, swelling out their inner walls at the base, and building a seat within the recess thus formed. And over all is the roof, sloping down from the ridge over the center and end wings in a continuous slope, without other crown to the walls than its eaves, which are projected still further forward over the uppermost window toward each end.

Structurally this is all. Of  horizontal lines there are none at all; of breaks of any sort, of imaginary ornamental detail, of unnecessary features, of the thousand and one details with which architecture  is so often supposed to be concerned - of these, none. It is all so simple and quiet that the very leaders act as decorative features, as it is quite right they should. 

There is nothing else save the color. And this is so supremely important that more than a passing word must be given to it. The house is built of stucco, colored an exquisite buff. The wood trim is painted white; the shutters are green, the door French gray, the iron work black, the roof shingles left to weather finish. The dominant color is, of course, that of the walls. One need not wonder if any other color would have answered as well; it is sufficient that it is exactly the right color to have used.

Hence there is no somberness to this house. It is alive with light and brightness, with gentle soft color that, after all, is the crowning beauty of the house. A word as to the shutters. In a design which bears so much testimony to the exceeding care its architect - Mr. H. F. Bigelow, of Boston - has given it, no ordinary shutter would suffice. These have been carefully designed for the house, and are of two general types. The small shutters of both lower stories have solid panels, marked within by a narrow band swelled to a curve at the top. In the larger windows these panels have been confined to the lower parts of the shutters, the upper sections having blinds of the usual type. The point is of interest as evidence of the intense individuality of the design.

So striking is the exterior of this house that one enters the entrance doorway with many pleasurable anticipations of what it has to show within. And one is not disappointed. The door opens immediately into a vestibule-hall, covered with a groined vault. The walls are covered with light buff plaster, and have a low wainscot of wood, painted white. The door frames are simply molded and are also painted white. This entrance passageway—for it is scarce more than that—adjoins a longer passage to the right, where the stairs rise against the entrance wall. The stairs have white risers and oak treads, covered with a green carpet, and have a wrought iron hand rail. The window on the stairs has green curtains with white sash curtains.
The library fireplace is built of Caen stone.

The library is lined with shelves and plain rectangle panels of wood.
A doorway at the end of the passage admits to the library. It is paneled throughout to the ceiling in black cypress, with built-in bookcases. These are stopped somewhat below the ceiling, with the upper panels brought out flush with the shelf supports, thus giving a frieze-like finish, which is completed with a narrow molding below the white ceiling. There are curtains of gold and yellow at the doors and windows, and a green rug on the hardwood floor. The furniture is green tapestry and black leather.
The mantel of the billiard room is brick : the walls and curtains are green.
The center of the house is occupied by two rooms which face the entrance door. That nearest the library is the billiard-room. The walls are covered with a dark green cloth, and have a small molding at the summit below the white ceiling. The fireplace on one side is of brick, with a double curved opening that approximates the form of the leading curves of the house front. The bricks are arranged in pattern form and support a small wooden shelf. There is a very shallow base mold, and the doors and trim are black cypress. One window has a built-in seat, and all of them have green curtains lined with white silk. An Oriental rug is laid before the fireplace.
The dining room is papered in soft grays; the rug is deep blue; the window curtains are pale blue silk.
The dining-room adjoins. The woodwork is white. The base mold is extremely narrow, and a second band of wood is carried around the room just above the chair tops. The white and gray paper which cover the walls has a boldly conventional design. The side of the room containing the mantel has a high paneled wainscot, which forms part of the mantel design. The fireplace is sandstone with double curved opening, which, however, is strictly individual in form. The wainscot adjoining is continued on one side to a closet with glazed doors. The color of the room is given by the rug and the window curtains. The former is deep blue; the latter of light blue watered silk, lined with white, with white sash curtains. 
The porch on the terrace is furnished as an outdoor living space.
From these rooms one may reach the porch situated on the terrace or inner front of the house. It is rectangular in form, supported by stucco columns, yellow like the walls, with narrow rim-like white capitals. It is furnished as an outdoor living-room, the edges being projected by awnings. It stands in the midst of a grassed terrace, and contained within a low stone retaining wall, below which is a cleared space, and then the forest, growing beyond lofty rocks.
The terrace front has three-stories, with simple dormers in the sloping roof.
The inner porch overlooks a terrace supported by walls of stone.
The terrace front of the house is designed with even greater simplicity than the entrance front. The center projects quite far forward, while the ends are apparently as much recessed. The porch is the chief feature here, and a very necessary one for a house built in the woods. A third story is added, by means of three dormers, in the central building.
The side portal stands a-top a semicircle pyramid of steps leading to the garden. 
Below the library door is a flower garden, a garden too irregular to be termed formal, yet arranged in a formal manner. That is to say, the flower beds are given definite shape and form, bordered with brick. Its limits are defined by a huge rock and by a rustic fence beyond which stand great pine trees of the primeval forest.

But one does not need a flower garden to give beauty to the house, albeit so charming an addition detracts nothing from it. It is a house well able to stand alone, although designed for this precise spot, and of a form and coloring nowhere else yielding such delightful results. This, in truth, is its exceeding merit: that every aspect of it is interesting. Every part of it counts in the final result, because such a result was anticipated from the beginning. Yet, after all, its loveliness is the greater because hidden in the midst of these Massachusetts woods, watched perpetually by the pine trees that have given their name to it.

The quiet gentleness of the woods has been well matched by the simple repose of the dwelling. It fits into its surroundings and belongs with them.'

***Click HERE to see "The Pines" at wikimapia.  HERE for a post on his  home in Brookline.***  


  1. I love all the shaped head openings, from doorways to fireplaces.

  2. The details of the exterior remind me of structures you would see from Dutch Colonial Africa.

  3. Philip Sears was a lawyer, member of one of Boston's most prominent families. Tennis champion, member of Harvard class of 1889, and married to a major Boston heiress of the day. Apparently this house was built on a corner of her father's summer estate.

  4. After his 1898 marriage, he gave up the law, and became a sculptor

    (!Harvard univ directory 1910 [c1885-9 A.B.; LLB] 53 State St, Boston !Who Was Who, LLB 1892, Practiced law til 1898 then sculptor - statue of Sen Lodge in the statehouse

  5. Thanks DED - using the Higginson name I found thru a social register the Sears lived at "The Pines" located at Branch and Common Lanes in Prides Crossing with their Boston home at Haddon Hall. No luck finding if it still stands. Nothing on the Brookline property yet.

  6. But, HPHS, didn't you look on Bing? For indeed it still stands, right there on the aforementioned corner:

    I know Brookline fairly well---and don't recall a house resembling the Sears place, either in private or institutional ownership===which doesn't mean it isn't there, just that I've never seen it.