The mid 20th century brought unprecedented population growth to Lexington. In 1940 the town's population was 13,113. It grew to 17,335 in 1950; 27,691 by 1960 and reached 31,388 in 1970. As across the country, the end of World War II resulted in a tremendous demand for new housing - general population growth combined with returning veterans eager to start families. Nationally, this culminated in the largest building boom in the country's history and most of it was concentrated in suburbs like Lexington.
Courtesy Massachusetts Highway Department
An improved transportation network and access to a major highway also made Lexington extremely accessible. Old Route 128 had existed in some form since the early 20th century and in Lexington included parts of Waltham Street, Massachusetts Avenue and Woburn Street. As early as the 1930s work began in Peabody to replace the old route with a highway. Lexington's section of Route 128 opened on August 23, 1951 and the entire highway was completed to Gloucester in 1958. Later improvements including the reconstruction of Route 2 and the widening of Route 128 to eight lanes took place in the 1960s.
Lots for veterans housing were set aside on Hill and Cedar Streets, land that was originally part of the town's Poor Farm. Woodhaven in the School/Spring Streets area was developed with seventy small houses built as a result of the GI Bill after World War II to provide inexpensive housing to returning veterans. Between the end of the war and December 31, 1949 a total of 947 permits were issued for single-family dwellings. The following year, 1950, saw 421 additional single-family homes, the largest home building boom ever. In 1951, 379 homes were built including 200 in Sun Valley, the area near the Winchester border and comprised of the streets in the vicinity of Winchester Drive from Lowell Street to the Whipple Hill conservation area.
Some of the housing demand was met by a new type of multi-family construction - the garden-style apartment complex. Examples included Emerson Gardens on Maple Street and Emerson Road and the Captain Parker complex on Worthen Road.
Some of the new housing construction occurred on large 19th century estates which were divided into house lots. Francis B. Hayes' Oakmount Castle, later owned by Hallie Blake, was torn down in 1941. The property, which included parts of what are now Meriam Street, Franklin and Somerset Roads and Hayes Avenue, was sold in 1946 and gradually subdivided for homes. The Whipple Estate on Lowell Street was divided into 200 lots in 1950. Other large estates also found new uses. In 1953 the Sisters of Charity of Montreal (Grey Nuns) purchased parts of the Tower and Engstrom properties in vicinity of Massachusetts Avenue and Pelham Road. A religious school was constructed on part of the property in 1955.
Many of the houses constructed in Lexington in the 1940s and 1950s continued to be designed in the Colonial Revival modes. Boston architect Royal Barry Wills designed Cape Cod and Colonial Revival homes throughout town including those at "Wellington Estates", off Massachusetts Avenue in the vicinity of Constitution Road.
During this period Lexington also became the site for several innovative contemporary housing developments which offered an alternative to the Cape Cod and Ranch style houses which were prevalent during the period. The first of the developments, Six Moon Hill, began construction in 1948 and was the brainchild of The Architects Collaborative (TAC), a Cambridge architectural group initially formed in 1945 by two husband and wife teams with renowned Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius. TAC's goal at Moon Hill was to create a cooperative living community to house themselves and their friends. Natural features were retained and incorporated into the site designs and all of the owners shared access to common land. The house designs were all consciously modern and most were architect-designed. Future additions were to be reviewed by a board composed of residents.
Construction of 516 Concord Ave. in progress
Source: Five Field-Five Decades
Lexington's later "modern" neighborhoods were established according to similar philosophies. Five Fields was begun by TAC in 1951 on what was once the Cutler Farm off Concord Avenue. Here, a community of well-designed and economical houses was envisioned and houses were initially built according to three standard plans. The Peacock Farm development was begun in 1952 by architects Walter Pierce and Danforth Compton, recent graduates of the MIT School of Architecture. In 1955 Carl Koch, who was trained at Harvard and later taught architecture at MIT, designed Middle Ridge, a development of prefabricated Techbuilt houses. Later, additional neighborhoods of Peacock Farm-type houses were built by developers Green and White, who purchased the rights to Walter Pierce's design. Isolated dwellings in the modern vocabulary were also built in town. The residents of these modern dwellings shared a number of similarities. Many were academics, scientists or other professionals who worked at nearby universities and research institutions. Most of the original residents were young families consisting of a male breadwinner and a wife who stayed home to tend to the children and enjoyed the spirit of community offered by these developments of similar families.
Population growth naturally resulted in a heightened need for infrastructure improvements throughout town. New fire stations were constructed at the Center (1947) and East Lexington (1951) and a Police Station was constructed at 1575 Massachusetts Avenue in 1958, adjacent to Cary Memorial Hall. Construction on the first phase of a new high school on Waltham Street began in 1951 and the second phase was dedicated in 1957. William Diamond Junior High School was completed in 1959. In 1954 the Harrington School was opened and a large addition was completed at the Fiske Elementary School. Maria Hastings Elementary School was opened in 1955, the Franklin School addition was completed in 1957, the Estabrook School on Grove Street in 1961 and the Bridge School in 1966.
During this period new religious congregations were established and existing facilities were expanded or rebuilt to accommodate population growth. Hancock Church renovated its building in 1959. New edifices included the Methodist Church on Massachusetts Avenue at School Street (1956), St. Brigid's Church (1957), the Episcopal Church of Our Redeemer at 6 Meriam Street (1957), Pilgrim Congregational Church on Coolidge Avenue (1962), Temple Isaiah on Lincoln Street (1962); Temple Emunah on Waltham Street and Route 2 (1963), Trinity Covenant Church on Clematis Road (1965); the new Grace Chapel on Worthen Road (1965) and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 1386 Massachusetts Avenue (1966).
The Hayden Recreation Center on Lincoln Street was dedicated in 1958 and a National Guard armory was constructed on Bedford Street in 1963. Supermarkets and motor inns were built at several locations in town and office parks and light industrial uses developed near Route 2, Hanscom Field/Bedford Airport and on Hartwell Avenue.
Battle Green Monument
Interest in Lexington's historic heritage remained strong. In 1949, a bronze relief by sculptress Bashka Paeff was erected opposite the Battle Green honoring those who fought on April 19, 1775. The Barnes Building at 1557 Massachusetts Avenue was purchased by the town in 1937 and underwent restoration in 1950. Three local historic districts - Battle Green, Hancock-Clarke and Munroe Tavern - were established in 1956. A fourth district was later established in East Lexington. In 1959 President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill creating the Minute Man National Historic Park.
6 Patriots Drive
Throughout town Cape Cod and Ranch-type dwellings are indicative of the post-World War II building boom and the need for low-cost suburban housing immediately following the war. In recent years, many of these modest homes have been demolished to be replaced by larger "McMansions".
Like many communities in eastern Massachusetts, Lexington has a number of houses designed by preeminent Boston architect and master of the Cape Cod style house, Royal Barry Wills (1895-1962). Concentrations of Wills designs are found on Revolutionary Road, Constitution Road and Paul Revere Road as well as adjacent portions of Massachusetts Avenue (see Area AS). In addition to Cape Cods, Wills also designed traditional two-story colonials, garrisons, Tudors and even contemporaries. Documented Wills designs include 39 Meriam Street, 43 Woodland Road and several houses in the Follen Heights section of town.
1 Revolutionary Road
Lexington is fairly unique in the quality and quantity of its contemporary housing stock. Lexington's first "modern" house is generally considered to be the house architect Hugh Stubbins built for himself and his family at 6 Dover Lane (originally 93 Pleasant Street) in 1946. (It is interesting to note that Stubbins began his career in the office of Royal Barry Wills). It was published in the prominent journal, Architectural Review in 1948. Stubbins also designed the houses at 3 Dover Lane (formerly 91 Pleasant Street) and 87 Pleasant Street a few years later.
3 Dover Lane
Lexington's first "modern" neighborhood, Six Moon Hill, is significant for its number of architect-designed modern houses, its associations with The Architectural Collaborative (TAC) and the vision of community it represents. The unique neighborhood includes 26 TAC-designed residences most of which were built between 1947 and 1953 (for more information see Area R).
Dating to 2006, the house at 8 Bird Hill Road occupies the last lot of the original Six Moon Hill subdivision. The so-called "Big Dig House" was constructed for Paul Pedini, who worked for many years at Modern Continental Construction, a contractor for Boston's Big Dig highway project. Designed by Jinhee Park and John Wong of SINGLE speed DESIGN, the house incorporates over 600,000 pounds of material including steel and concrete. It won the American Institute of Architects/Boston Society of Architects Housing Design Award in 2006.
Big Dig House, 8 Bird Hill Road
The Five Fields development off Concord Avenue was developed by TAC beginning in 1951 and was envisioned as a planned community of well-designed, well-sited, and moderately-priced houses. Houses were initially built according to three standard plans but the area also includes houses custom designed by TAC architects. Today, almost all of the houses have been modified or added onto over the years, obscuring what was originally a neighborhood of houses built as variations on a few standard plans. (For more detailed information, see Area U.)
A Five Fields House, 23 Barberry Road
In North Lexington, the Techbuilt homes on Demar Road and the southern end of Turning Mill Road are a unique resource. Although many of the buildings have seen additions, collectively they are significant as one of the largest groups of this award-winning and innovative semi-prefabricated house in the Boston area (see Area I).
A Techbuilt House, Demar Road
The "Peacock Farm House" is a split-level design that was first built in Lexington. It went on to receive numerous awards and was copied in communities across the country but nowhere is it found in as great numbers as Lexington. Designed by Lexington resident Walter Pierce, the three bedroom, one-and-one-half bath house was characterized by an open plan and a logical division functions on three levels. Character-defining features include a low-slope asymmetrical gable roof with broadly overhanging eaves, stained vertical siding and horizontal bands of windows. The original Peacock Farm neighborhood was constructed in 1957 (see Area S). Pierce conveyed the rights to reproduce the Peacock Farm House to developers Green and White who subsequently built them in five other locations in Lexington - Shaker Glen/Glen Estates (Area AK), Rumford Road (Area AM), The Grove (Area AL), Upper Turning Mill (Area AN) and Pleasant Brook (adjacent to the original Peacock Farm development - White Pine Lane and Mason Street).
A "Peacock Farm"-type house, 6 Rogers Road
Example Pacock Farm Home Drawing
In recent years, architectural designs have continued to favor the Colonial Revival and Shingle styles.
Among the nationally-prominent architects who have designed local residences is Robert A.M. Stern who designed several Shingle Style houses on Hampton Road about 1986.
6 Hampton Road
Non-residential construction in town is typically designed in a Colonial Revival mode. The brick Colonial Revival Fire Department building at 45 Bedford Street was constructed in 1947 and was designed by architects Leland & Larsen. It was demolished in 2018 to make room for a larger fire station and fire department headquarters.
Fire Station, 45 Bedford Street
A new fire station in East Lexington was dedicated in 1951, on the site of the former Village Hall/Fire Station.
East Lexington Fire Station, 1006 Massachusetts Avenue
The Police Station was constructed in 1957 adjacent to the Cary Memorial Hall and the Town Office Building and completed the municipal complex. It was designed by the successor firm of the firm that originally designed the earlier two buildings (Kilham Hopkins Greeley and Brodie).
Police Station, 1575 Massachusetts Avenue
Among the schools dating to this period are the Maria Hasting School (1955), designed by Charles H. Cole who also designed the William Diamond Junior High School in 1958. The Estabrook Elementary School dates to 1960 and was designed by Clinch, Crimp, Brown & Fisher as were the Bowman and Bridge Elementary Schools which were built according to the same plan in 1965. The firm of Perry, Shaw, Hepburn & Dean designed a new high school in the 1950s. Drummey, Ronane and Anderson of Newton were the architects for Lexington Junior High School in 1970.
A number of churches and religious structures have been altered and constructed in Lexington since 1940. Leland & Larsen and Kilham, Hopkins, Greeley & Brodie served as architects for additions/alterations to the First Parish Church in 1948 and 1952 respectively. Additions were made to the Hancock Congregational Church in 1949 according to designs by Collens, Willis & Beckonert while The Architectural Collaborative (TAC) was responsible for additions and alterations to the Follen Church in 1955.
St. Brigid's Church, 1985 Massachusetts Avenue, 1957
Chester F. Wright, architect
New church buildings erected in Lexington since 1940 include:
Methodist Church on Mass. Ave. at School Street 1956 (Francis D. Johnson, Belmont, architect)
Episcopal Church of Our Redeemer, 6 Meriam Street, 1957 (Edward Bridge, architect)
St. Brigid's Church, 1985 Massachusetts Avenue, 1957 (Edward Bridge, architect)
Countryside Bible Chapel, Middlesex Turnpike, 1958 (Rich & Tucker, architects)
Grace Chapel, Worthen Road, 1958 (Brainerd & Maclaren, architects)
Pilgrim Congegational Church, Coolidge Avenue, 1962 (Royal Barry Wills, Merton Barrows & Robert Minot, Boston, architects)
Grace Chapel, Worthen Road, 1962 (A.D. Maclaren, Andover, architect)
Temple Isaiah, Lincoln St., 1962 (Perley F. Gilbert, Lowell, architect)
Temple Emunah,Waltham St. and Route 2, 1963 (A.B. Sziklas, Newton, architect)
Trinity Covenant Church, Clematis Road, 1965 (Johnson & Haynes, Pawtucket, RI, architects)
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1386 Massachusetts Avenue, 1966 (Edward Bridge, architect)
Episcopal Church of Our Redeemer, 6 Meriam Street, 1957
Edward Bridge, architect
In the Central Business District a number of historic structures have been lost to fire since 1940. The large, three-story 19th century commercial blocks that anchored the north side of Massachusetts Avenue have been replaced by single-story, modern structures. On the other side of the street, the former Lexington Savings Bank lost its third floor in the 1960s. A new Arts and Crafts Society Building was constructed at 130 Waltham Street in 1954.
In the late 1950s Office park complexes were constructed in the Routes 2 and 128 area including a large facility for Raytheon near Spring Street/Patriots Way. The last vestiges of this complex have only recently been swept away. Hayden Avenue and Hartwell Avenue were also developed with research/office uses.
Lexington's farms have all but disappeared since 1940. Today, Wilson's Farm, a 33-acre farm and farm stand on Pleasant Street is the only one of its size in the area.