Renowned German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969) built this house in 1938 in Lincoln, Mass., when he moved to America to teach architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
Gropius founded the German design school known as Bauhaus, which focused on incorporating the building, the community and the surroundings into one idea.
“Training required students to study the fine arts, to learn the skills of a craft, to understand the properties of materials, and to be familiar with technology and factory production,” Historic New England website, which now oversees this house museum. “The Bauhaus embraced new materials and technology and sought to create a new aesthetic, unencumbered by historical tradition.”
Gropius and his family fled Nazi Germany for London in 1934, which meant their assets remained behind. The family began renting in Lincoln, until philanthropist Helen Osborne Storrow provided land and financed the building of the Gropius house.
Gropius traveled around New England, taking in its styles before creating his own interpretation for his family home. He used traditional area items like wood, brick and fieldstone, adding glass block, acoustical plaster, chrome banisters and innovative fixtures for the time.
“The design of Gropius House is consistent with Bauhaus philosophies of simplicity, functionality, economy, geometry, and aesthetic beauty determined by materials rather than applied ornamentation,” says the website.
He also let his 12-year-old daughter, Ati, have a say in the matter: She requested her own private entrance. “Dad obliged with an outdoor spiral staircase, a curvy counterpoint to the clean-lined exterior that, he later wrote, “proved to be very practical because children could enter there directly without carrying dirt through the house,'” according to a 2019 story about the house in Boston Magazine.
When Gropius died in 1969, he left his wife, Ise, a two-sentence will, saying he loved her and trusted her with his legacy.
She created the Walter Gropius archives at Harvard, donating his materials, and also donated pieces of art to museums in Berlin.
In order to preserve the home and use it as a teaching tool for the future, Ise donated the house to Historic New England (then the Preservation of New England Antiquities) in 1979. However, she continued to live in the house until her death in 1983.