History Corner: Where is it Wednesday

It’s time for the popular game, Where Is It Wednesday! Posted from away….answer will be posted Thursday. Thanks to Weston Historic Society!

Hint (with a little extra meat):

Famed architect Samuel Mead was hired by Grant Walker to create this 18-room brick mansion, which sat on Walker’s 120-acre estate named Fairview. The house was finished in 1912 and Walker spared no expense. The foyer was described as “virile simplicity of design worked out in the richest and most tasteful materials.” Fine woods such as Brazilian satinwood, mahogany, oak, birdseye maple and cypress were used for floor to ceiling paneling and the house boasted 10 bathrooms. There was a glass sun parlor on the 2nd floor and a red-tiled piazza framed by white Doric columns. On a clear day, the tower of Boston College could be seen. The grounds had flowering shrubs and an apple orchard, along with a carriage house, greenhouse, cattle and hay barns, and a henhouse. Walker passed away in 1920 and the estate was sold in 1921. Major changes were made to the property in 1927, to the tune of $2 million.

The new property owner added recreational activities such as a golf course, swimming pool, a skating pond, and a baseball diamond.

The Answer:

In 1921, Grant Walker’s wife sold the 120-acre Fairview Estate to the Society for Jesus, which was seeking a site for a “house of studies.” A high priority was placed on education and Jesuit students were required three years of study in philosophy and four in theology. A House of Philosophy was desired for New England and Fairview was chosen. The first cohort of 40 first-year philosophy students and faculty arrived in the winter of 1921 and quickly adapted the estate to their needs. With scholastics entering the order in increasing numbers, the society needed to expand its facility and a new building at Fairview was completed in 1925; however, a last minute decision was made to build a scholasticate – a combined house of philosophy and theology; one wing for philosophers, another for the theologians, and a third for the library that held 100,000 volumes and faculty housing. A rotunda formed a divide between the two levels of students who were not permitted to commingle. The grand scholasticate was completed in 1927 and was called Weston College. It was made a Collegium Maximum and was formally titled the Collegium Maximum Westonionse Sancti Spiritus. In 1928, the college purchased the abutting Merriam Estate to create outdoor recreational facilities such as a golf course, swimming pool, baseball diamond and skating pond, which residents were allowed to use. By the late ‘60s, philosophy students moved to Boston College and theology students to the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge. The Society of Jesus renovated Weston College in ‘75 to create a retirement home for Jesuit priests and it was renamed Campion Center.

But what about the Walker mansion? After the completion of Weston College, the basement of the house became the school’s Seismological Laboratory, which registered its first earthquake in 1931. A 15-room observatory was added in ‘49 and the facility became the Graduate Department of Geophysics at Boston College. The building was renamed the Weston Observatory and it is an internationally known facility for earthquake detection and geological studies. Past directors of the department have been leaders and pioneers in this field of science.


The early days at Fairview, the dining room for students and faculty was in the mansion’s basement and held as many as 137 people who ate their meals in the dark.
The expanded House of Philosophy, the north wing, completed in 1925. The Walker mansion is on the left.
The completed scholasticate with its philosophy wing, theology wing, library and chapel, was completed in 1927 and cost a little over $2 million to complete.
The chapel, which extended upward for three floors, has been praised as the most distinguished example of 20th century Classicism in Greater Boston.

One comment

  • In the last photo, Weston College is in the background. It looks like the golfer is trying to take out one of the windows. There estate must have been across the street, just north of Dickson Riding Ring.

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