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Fiske Law Office
Tenure under Fiske ownership
Isaac Fiske (1778-1861) was a descendant of Watertown farmer Nathan Fiske, one of
Weston’s earliest settlers. He was born on the Fiske homestead on North Avenue and graduated from Harvard
College in 1798. In 1802, his marriage to Sukey Hobbs, daughter of tannery owner Ebenezer Hobbs, united these
two prominent north-side families. The couple lived in one of the Hobbs family houses on North Avenue until
about 1805, when they built a fine house in the Federal style, which still stands at 639 Boston Post Road.
Isaac trained in the law under Artemas Ward Jr. and practiced in the small free-standing office across the
street from his home. He practiced law, traded in real estate, and held several local and state offices.
Although Isaac Fiske was the first of many generations of Fiske lawyers, he was the only one to conduct business from the quaint two-room office. An article in the Boston Globe of 1916 shows a picture of the “little old law office” then being used as a playhouse where Fiske children could give parties, play games, and dress their dolls. In 1920, when Fiske heirs divided their Weston property, Charles H. Fiske Jr. got the law office. He enlarged it by adding a rear ell. In 1928, Charles Jr. gave the building to the Town of Weston with the stipulation that if the town ever wanted to tear it down, Fiske heirs would have the right to purchase and move it.
Tenure under Town ownership
The building was used as the cemetery office until 1936, when it was turned over to
the five-year-old Weston Historical Committee as a repository
for its growing collection of historical records and relics. Miss Gertrude Fiske was chair of the original committee,
which also included Alice Jones and Edward P. Ripley. When the Jones sisters died and left the former
Josiah Smith Tavern to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities,(now Historic New England)
the town's collection was moved to the tavern. The Fiske Law Office was pressed into service for rental
to World War II veterans. Plumbing was simple and adequate, but “insulation was conspicuous by its absence”
and tenants had trouble keeping warm.
When the last tenant died in 1965, the newly formed Weston Historical Society offered to restore and maintain the building as its headquarters. Headed by President Harold Travis and Restoration Chairman F. Leslie Ford, the society leased the building in 1966. Members put in hundreds of volunteer hours restoring it over the next four years. Beginning in the 1970s, the society moved parts of its collection to the Josiah Smith Tavern. In the early 1990s, the Society returned responsibility for the Fiske Law Office to the Town.
The exterior was repaired and painted in 1996 under the auspices of the Weston Historical Commission. However, because the interior was in disrepair, the building could not be rented. The Commission decided that the best way to preserve the building was to have it occupied. Toward that end, voters at the May 1997 Town Meeting passed a zoning amendment allowing certain types of uses by Special Permit in municipally owned buildings that are less than 1500 square feet and located in a single family residence district. However, funding was not available to renovate the interior of the building until after the passage of the Community Preservation Act. Town Meeting voted to approve a total of $258,000 in CPA funds ($230,000 in FY06 and $28,000 in FY08) to restore the law office and adapt it for use by a commercial tenant. Work commenced in November 2008 and has involved rebuilding the rear ell. The tenant will be chosen through an RFP (Request for Proposal) process.
(Information on the law office from Farm Town to Suburb: The History and Architecture of Weston, Massachusetts, 1830-1980 by Pamela W. Fox)