Society Open House at the Jones House

Pictured at a Historical Society open house at the Josiah Smith Tavern (then known as the Jones House) in 1964 are, from left, Mrs. Edmund U. Ritter, archivist; Mrs. Henry W. Patterson; Mrs. James E. Fraser, curator; Harold G. Travis, president of the Society; and Mrs. F. Leslie Ford. (Photo courtesy of WHS)

Fiske Law Office and Burgoyne Elm

Artist Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a distant relative of the poet, was a charter member of the Weston Historical Society. The Society focused its initial efforts on the two subjects of his painting: the Burgoyne Elm and Fiske Law Office. The Society leased the law office in 1966, and members spent the next four years restoring it. Longfellow's painting occupied a place of honor in the waiting room. Responsibility for the law office was returned to the town in 1990. The society tried to save the centuries-old Burgoyne Elm, a patriotic symbol venerated for its age and link to the War of Independence.

Weston Historical Society Office

The Historical Society has occupied rooms in the Josiah Smith Tavern since its founding. This photograph was taken about 1987. (Photo courtesy of WHS)

Committee, Society, Commission: What's the Difference?

Weston Historical Committee
(1932 - 1968)

The Weston Historical Committee was established by a vote of Town Meeting in 1931. The Bicentennial of George Washington's birth was just one year away. Statewide plans called for the dedication of the Massachusetts section of the George Washington Memorial Highway, which passed through Weston on Boston Post Road. The three-person committee arranged for festivities under the Burgoyne Elm in 1932 and noted in the Town Report that “The Historical Committee will be glad to take charge of any articles or papers of historic interest that may be sent to them, and are hoping eventually to have a permanent place for exhibiting such things.”

By 1937, the Fiske Law Office had become the committee's headquarters, serving as a place to keep and exhibit a small but growing collection. In 1953 the Weston Historical Committee moved to the Josiah Smith Tavern, then known as the Jones House, which had been willed to the Society for Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA, now Historic New England) by the Jones sisters and subsequently leased to the town. The Weston Historical Committee represented the town's historical interests until 1968.

Weston Historical Society

The Weston Historical Society was incorporated as a private, non-profit organization in December 1963, at the end of Weston's 250th year. The three members of the existing Weston Historical Committee served on the larger board of the Weston Historical Society. In 1966 the society petitioned the Board of Selectmen for care and informal custody of the Fiske Law Office, which was restored by volunteers. In 1990, the Town resumed responsibility for the law office. All remaining historical materials were moved to the Josiah Smith Tavern. From the 1960s to the present, the collections of both the Historical Committee and Historical Society continued to be housed at the Josiah Smith Tavern. In 1983, ownership of the tavern was transferred to the Town, with preservation restrictions.

Weston Historical Commission

In 1968 the town voted to form the Weston Historical Commission to replace the Weston Historical Committee and serve as the town's official body for administration of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The Special Town Meeting vote of 1968 included a provision to “transfer to the custody of the historical commission . . . all property of the Town now in the custody of the historical committee.”

From its inception, the commission focused on preserving the town's historic buildings rather than collecting and managing historical materials. The commission administers the town's Demolition Delay by-law and historic marker program.

Weston Town Seal