Stonehurst, the Robert Treat Paine Estate

Created by architect Henry Hobson Richardson and landscape artist Frederick Law Olmstead in 1885, Stonehurst is an icon of American design made for wealthy clients, Robert Treat Paine and Lydia Lyman Paine.

The Paines “were social reformers open to the progressive ideas of Richardson and Olmsted,” says the website. “At work, the Paines strove to bridge the great divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in post-Civil War America. At home, they opted for an open plan which removed barriers between rooms and between indoors and outdoors, and naturally fostered a less formal, more modern and healthy way of living.”

The massive mansion is located on a hilltop site in Waltham, Mass., originally purchased by Lydia’s grandfather, Theodore Lyman, who was owner of the Lyman Estate across the street. Stonehurst replaced a smaller 1793 estate that was deemed too small for Robert, Lydia and their seven children.

The Paines treated their servants like family, constructing a large, light-filled servants wing. Each of seven female workers had their own bedrooms on the second and third floors, and the wing had its own private entrance. In comparison, other servant areas in large homes were relegated to the basement at that time.

Male workers lived in downtown Waltham with their families, or in outbuildings on the property.

The Paines owned the home for more than 100 years, but only lived here seasonally, finding a welcome respite from urban life.

The home is surrounded by rolling meadows and beautiful natural features.

While Paine’s brothers were in the military, “Paine opted out of military service, but was called to action of a different sort, namely improving the lot of the working poor and promoting international peace,” says the website.

He placed a high value on ethics, choosing investments that would, in turn, help others less fortunate than him.

Says the website, “Paine devoted himself “often to the point of utter weariness, to good works,” serving on sixty charitable committees, writing voluminously, and founding the first fellowship at Harvard to study social science. He pioneered affordable housing, cooperative building and loan associations, and community institutions for the working class.”

A sun dial rests on the facade of the house.

Paine died in 1910, and the Paines’ oldest son, Robert Treat Paine (1866-1961) lived here with his wife and children during the 20th century, occupying the home until his death at 96 years old.

The property abuts the Storer Conservation Lands, which feature 100 acres of meandering trails of varying difficulty. Labeled maps are placed throughout the woods, and we still weren’t ready to leave after a lovely two-mile stroll.

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