Join us for a cross-country trek where we’ll peek into a few neighborhoods where rooflines sweep and preservation prevails. Would you like to see your neighborhood featured? Do you have a story to share about one of the featured neighborhoods? Email Sarah Jane Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Massachusetts may be better known for its stunning examples of Colonial architecture, but it also happens to be home to some of America’s first modernist neighborhoods. Snake Hill, a 1940 development overseen by architect Carl Koch, transformed a rocky hillside into a cluster of innovate and modern homes. A 1945 article in Progressive Architecture magazine described the neighborhood as “one of the best known and most significant groups of contemporary houses in the world.”
According to David Fixler, an author and architect who has written about Midcentury Modern design on the East Coast, the Snake Hill neighborhood boasts impressive use of modern materials and construction techniques—so much so that it influenced the design of other local neighborhoods. One such innovation is that the steep access road was fitted with radiant hot-water pipes, keeping the hillside neighborhood easily accessible despite winter’s ice and snow.
Belmont’s Mid Mod Haven
So where exactly did this mid mod haven of innovation sprout? Belmont, Massachusetts. Nicknamed “the town of homes,” a quick glance down the 2017 list of Belmont’s Significant Historic Buildings Subject to Demolition Delay Bylaw shows that the town appreciates the architectural significance of its wide array of dwelling places.
Listed just between a 1922 Colonial Revival and a 1877 Queen Anne Colonial is the 1940 “international style” Carl Koch House from Snake Hill Road. As the only modern structure on the list, its inclusion is a beacon of hope for the entire Snake Hill development.
According to the home’s statement of significance written by Lisa Mausolf, “the Snake Hill Development is considered one of the best known and most significant groups of contemporary houses in the country–notable in terms of planning and architecture as well as its success in creating a strong sense of community.”
For more on Snake Hill, visit Belmont online.