Astor Revival

The importance of preserving the early architectural heritage of our country is said to begin with the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Yet during the Civil War an unsuccessful fight was launched to save the 1737 home of John Hancock on Beacon Hill. Just before its 1863 demolition, architect John Hubbard Sturgis documented the home with measured drawings, the first effort ever made toward preserving the history of our early American architecture.

The accumulating memories of our ancestral homes increasingly gave rise to the Colonial Revival style. But well before McKim, Mead & White popularized the movement in the late 19th-early 20th century, Arthur Astor Carey commissioned the firm of Sturgis & Brigham to build a home inspired by the John Hancock drawings. While a student at Harvard he learned these drawings were in the possession of his classmate, Richard Clipston Sturgis', uncle. The home was built while both were undergraduates in the class of 1881. The career of John Hubbard Sturgis was already well-distinguished by innovative enlargements for a series of eighteenth century American colonial houses to accommodate the larger scale of the late nineteenth century.

Arthur Astor Carey was a sophisticated client who decided to lavishly intertwine Queen Anne and Georgian architectural styles creating perhaps the earliest Colonial Revival home. Symbols of his upbringing in Rome and classical education are woven throughout and include the Four Seasons, the Four Elements, along with mythological references to Janus, Jupiter, Neptune, Juno, Daphne, Flora, Cupid and Medusa. In fact, the entire home is devoted to Vesta, the virgin goddess of hearth & home who perpetually keeps the altar fire burning, and is credited with giving birth to the city of Rome.

Throughout this extensive three-year renovation, it has been my great honor helping the new owners balance preserving the authenticity of this historic home while bringing its amenities into the 21st century. One of my greatest pleasures is having discovered the charming details considered by Arthur Astor Carey, the grandson of John Jacob Astor. After learning he later founded both the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts and Dedham Pottery, I am delighted realizing that creating this home was the first of many efforts he made in bringing meaningful refinement to home interiors.
  • Project Style: Eclectic