ON THE BROW OF ONE OF THE HIGHEST HILLS
in Lincoln, Massachusetts, a town known for an exceptional collection of
avant-garde midcentury houses, stands a handsome, lovingly restored modern residence with a most remarkable story.
Karen Clarke, co-program director of interior design at the New
England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University in Boston, is the
force behind the rescue of the 1948 Heck House, designed by Henry
Hoover. The Harvard-trained architect built scores of modernist houses
in the area (including the first in Lincoln), many of which have been lost
to the wrecker’s ball. In 2006, when Clarke purchased the property, which
included 6 acres of rolling hills and trees, the house was unlived in and
unloved, its previous owner having slated it for demolition. But Clarke had
other ideas. She wanted to save the structure and attain LEED certification from the US Green Building Council in the process.
“I was determined that I would create a healthy, efficient, and environmentally sound home, and one that was beautiful,” says Clarke.
Accomplishing that in conjunction with a LEED (Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design) rating added to the challenge, as the certification is more common for commercial buildings than single-family
residences, and, says Clarke, the program is geared to new construction,
not renovation and preservation, and the process is time-consuming, discouragingly bureaucratic, and costly.
Nevertheless, Clarke forged ahead. It took her and her team three
years to reach their goal; Clarke, her husband, and two children took up
residence in 2009.
The house occupied the footprint of a tall, rambling Victorian built in
1861 that was replaced by Hoover’s design. Clarke and architect Brooks A.
Mostue, co-founder of Davis Square Architects in Somerville, Massachusetts,
restored Hoover’s front facade, and by seamlessly adding a garage and office
at the north end, reinforced the home’s modern horizontal lines.
“I have a real affection for Hoover, and I admire the way he integrated
indoors and outside,” says Mostue. He should know — he lives nearby in a
Hoover house. When he first encountered Clarke at a meeting of the Lincoln
Historical Commission, “I offered to do what I could for a neighbor and
for the house.” A Hoover connection also led to builder David Brookes of
Brookes + Hill Custom Builders Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts, who was
restoring yet another house by the architect. Brookes says the Clarke project
was both “challenging and fun. . . . We didn’t know what we would find.”
What they could determine was that the rear of the water-damaged
and oft-vandalized house looked like a motel. Yet, with an assuredness that
surpasses Hoover, the mass of the 10,000-square-foot house was masterfully
mitigated by setbacks, while strips of windows and pronounced eaves now
serve as unifying elements. A new stair tower anchors the composition, and
an exterior spiral staircase, relocated from inside, climbs to a roof terrace
outlined by a Clarke-designed iron railing, complete with an abstract Arts-
and-Crafts-style rose motif. A parapet hides the roof’s solar panels.