Drive or walk through Lincoln and one can see a rich architectural history spanning (and even pre-dating) Lincoln's 250 years as a town. It's a pleasure to see the center of town's early New England homes lovingly cared for. It's wonderful to visit the nonprofit organizations that preserve Lincoln's 19th century estates (the Codman House, DeCordova Museum, and Thoreau Institute). But don't bypass those simple modern houses of the 1930s-1960s nestled into Lincoln's landscape.  Time, scholarship, and renewed aesthetic appreciation are revealing this type of house's importance to architectural history and to Lincoln's sense of place.

FoMA/Lincoln (Friends of Modern Architecture/Lincoln) is a new grassroots organization that hopes to raise awareness of Lincoln's collection of mid-century modern houses built between 1930 and 1970, and to provide architectural and/or historical information and advice to individual homeowners and neighborhoods interested in preserving them. These houses are integral to the Town's historically-built environment, natural beauty, and distinctive character.

FoMA recognizes that time is of the essence in identifying and preserving some of these often-modest houses and their histories. The organization wants to alert homeowners and neighborhoods to the informational and preservation support that is available.

During the 1930s and 1940s, politics and war led many European modern architects to move to America, notably Bauhaus-founder Walter Gropius, who left Germany and eventually settled here in Lincoln. These architects and their innovative design ideas were welcomed by academic institutions and by a new generation of American-born architects who were concerned with providing low-to-moderately-priced quality housing.

“The 1930s and 1940s represent an important era in architectural history in America, and we should be conscious of Lincoln's role in this history,” explains Dana Robbat, one of the founding members of FoMA. “There were at least ten modern architects working in Lincoln during those decades and beyond. The houses they designed are the legacy of this first generation of modern American architecture.”

FoMA members have discussed the group's objectives with various Town boards, organizations, and neighborhoods and have been well received.  There are many shared objectives with the Rural Land Foundation and the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust, which recognize the built environment's impact on conservation land. FoMA members have also met with preservationist organizations, such as the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) and the Cambridge Historical Commission, to gain a broader perspective on preservation issues.

Founding members Lucretia Giese, Harry Hoover, Kathy McHugh, David Ries, and Dana and Joe Robbat, began meeting over a year ago to begin assembling a “tool box” of information to help owners of modern houses in the task of preservation. FoMA is concerned that without active promotion to help townspeople understand and preserve these 20th century houses, Lincoln's 300th anniversary in 2054 may no longer enjoy a generation's artistic, environmental, and social contributions to what makes Lincoln “Lincoln.”


The Modern House Next Door

Barbara Rhines, Guest Columnist

Lincoln Journal, 3/4/04