Pam Fox to speak at Case House Open House
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Weston School Committee is hosting an open house at Case House on
Saturday, March 28 from 10 am to 2 pm (update: postponed, see notice above), to give residents a chance to see the newly restored school administration offices. Pam Fox, president of the Weston Historical Society, will give a short illustrated presentation at 11 am and again at 1 pm about the history of the Case family and Case House.
The landmark 1889 Victorian building is now code compliant and energy efficient while retaining the architectural elements that make it a spectacular example of its type. The original porte-cochere was replicated and original sash restored. Almost all the handsome detailing in public spaces has been repaired, restored, or in some cases replicated to return the rooms to their original form. This is especially true of the main entrance hall and beautiful oak flying staircase that rises three stories.
Originally known as “Rocklawn,” Case House was built as a summer home for Boston businessman James Brown Case, his wife Laura, and their daughters Caroline, Louisa, and Marion (a fourth daughter, Mabel, died in an accident in 1883). It was designed by Boston architect Ernest N. Boyden and at the time was one of the three most expensive houses in Weston. The Town of Weston acquired it in 1946 along with the 46 acres where Field School was built. The kindergarten wing was added in 1951. In later years, the town acquired additional parcels of former Case land for a total of some 200 acres.
The 1777 Battle of Saratoga is the focus of the Weston Historical Society spring meeting featuring Robert E. Lewis, a local speaker on the American Revolution. The American victory is considered a turning point in the war. The battle has a Weston connection: General John Burgoyne’s defeated troops camped in Weston as they were escorted to Cambridge as prisoners of war. As part of the program, historical society president Pam Fox will speak about the venerable “Burgoyne Elm” that once stood just east of the Fiske Law Office and was said to mark the camp site. The lecture is open to all, and refreshments will be served.
The British strategy after Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston was to mount a three-pronged attack to cut off New England — considered the hotbed of rebellion — from the rest of the colonies. To some extent, the grand strategy was based on the belief that loyalists would join the British effort in significant numbers. They never did.
British General Burgoyne was expecting reinforcements from British generals in New York and Canada, but the additional troops never arrived. He surrendered to American General Horatio Gates in October 1777.
The Saratoga campaign was one of the most important military operations of the American Revolution and is considered a turning point because the American victory convinced France to enter the conflict in February 1778. In addition to financial and material support, France contributed thousands of troops under the command of Rochambeau and a naval fleet under Comte de Grasse. This ultimately led to the American victory at Yorktown and secured American independence.
Robert Lewis is a former Aircraft Carrier-based Patrol Plane Commander and a retired Navy Captain and MITRE engineer. He graduated from Colorado College and Boston University and lived in Germany for 13 years while working as an engineer at HQ US Army Europe. He has lived in Weston since 1980 and is a member of the Weston Historical Society board. Lewis researches and lectures on the American Revolution and is currently preparing a talk on the Siege of Yorktown, the last major land battle of the American Revolution.
The Burgoyne Elm
The battle and its aftermath are part of Weston’s history as well. The defeated General Burgoyne and his troops were escorted to Cambridge along what is now Boston Post Road. Officers from both armies stayed at local taverns, while enlisted Continental Army soldiers and British enlisted prisoners — an estimated two thousand men — camped somewhere near the juncture of Concord Road in Weston. In later years, an elm growing next to the Fiske Law Office was designated as “The Burgoyne Elm.”
As part of the April 2 program, Weston Historical Society president Pam Fox will talk about the massive elm, which became a patriotic symbol venerated by local history enthusiasts for its age and link to the War of Independence. In the mid-1960s, despite strenuous efforts by Historical Society president Harold “Red” Travis, the tree succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and was taken down in sections over several years. Fox’s remarks will focus on efforts to save the tree and later to preserve the bole and distribute the wood to students and local craftsmen who created a wide variety of commemorative artifacts.
For additional information, see the Weston Historical Society Bulletin, Spring 2009 page 25, and the 2013 video at left.
Member Evening Enjoyed by All
On Friday, January 10, 125 members and friends of the Weston Historical Society enjoyed a festive “Members’ Evening” celebrating the December vote to approve construction funds for the JST restoration and honoring the Friends of the Josiah Smith Tavern.
Historical society board members Molly Varnau, Syamala Swaminathan, Pam Riffin, and Liz Hochberger served as co-chairs of the event. The parish hall at First Parish Church was decorated for the occasion, and party goers enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and desserts made by members of the WHS board, along with wine and beer.
The historical society presented a brass bucket with a seasonal arrangement to Friends President Adrienne Giske, who for years has been the driving force behind the Friends proposal that is on its way to fruition. WHS will be leasing four rooms in the restored tavern as its headquarters.
Other Friends board members are Con Chapman, first president; Leslie Vensel; Pam Swain; Al Aydelott; Henry Stone; Terry Eastman; and Kristin Vallila. Aydelott was a member of the first Josiah Smith Tavern Committee, appointed in 2004.