History

Three Centuries and Counting: A Brief History of Gore Place

1776: America declares its independence from Britain and 18-year-old Christopher Gore graduates from Harvard College. The Gores, a respected Boston family, are divided between independence and loyalty to England. Young Christopher sides with the Revolutionaries. He serves in the Continental Army as a clerk with an artillery regiment.

1780s: Christopher Gore chooses the law as his profession. He apprentices himself to John Lowell then opens his own practice on State Street in Boston. Smart and ambitious, Gore becomes a sought-after lawyer. He also makes savvy investments in mills, toll roads, and war debt, which the new government eventually pays in full.

1785: Rebecca Amory Payne, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and maritime insurer, marries Christopher Gore. Rebecca is bright, sophisticated, and passionate about horticulture and architecture. She and Christopher soon become prominent members of Boston society.

1789: President George Washington appoints Christopher Gore the first United States Attorney for Massachusetts.

1793: With the help of Rebecca’s dowry, the Gores purchase a beautiful tract of land in the Waltham countryside. They will gradually expand their holdings to 400 acres. They build a house, as well as the Carriage House that still stands today.

1796: The Gores move to England. There, Christopher negotiates mercantile claims on behalf of American ship-owners whose boats were seized or destroyed during the war.

1799: While in England, the Gores receive bad news: Their house in Waltham has burned down. Rebecca quickly gets to work designing a new mansion. She loves the grand country houses of Europe, and they inspire her. Rebecca works with a Parisian architect to draw up the final plans.

1804: Christopher and Rebecca Gore return across the Atlantic to Massachusetts. Work on their new mansion commences. The cost of construction will total $24,000, a very large sum for the time.

1806: The Gore Mansion is completed. The brick exterior features an interplay of geometrical shapes and neoclassical ornamentation. Inside are airy parlors, tall windows, spiral stairs, French wallpaper, English fixtures, and Pennsylvania marble floors. The Gores decorate the house with fine art and furniture.

1809: After running twice unsuccessfully, Christopher Gore is elected governor of Massachusetts.

1813: Gore is appointed to the United States Senate; he will win reelection the following year.

1816: Having had his fill of Washington politics, Christopher Gore retires from the Senate. He and Rebecca enjoy retirement in Waltham. They make improvements to the mansion and landscape. They grow fruits, vegetables, and grain on their farm. They throw elegant parties and host guests like James Monroe and Daniel Webster.

1827: Robert Roberts, Gore Place’s excellent butler, publishes The House Servant’s Directory: A Monitor for Private Families. It is the first commercially published book written by an African American in the United States. Roberts is also active in the abolitionist movement.

1827: Death of Christopher Gore.

1834: Death of Rebecca Gore. The Gores have no children, so after Rebecca passes away, their home and property are sold at auction. The Gore Mansion becomes home to several other families.

1921: The Gore Mansion and property is purchased by Waltham Country Club. They build a golf course and tennis courts on the grounds and use the mansion as a clubhouse.

1935: During the Great Depression, the country club goes out of business. The property falls into disrepair. Plans are made to demolish the Gore buildings and build new housing. Then, a group of preservation-minded Bostonians recognizes the value in the property as a historic site and a beautiful country estate. They rally their friends; they raise the money to buy the land and buildings, saving them from destruction. They form the Gore Place Society to preserve this resource for future generations.

1964: The Farmer’s cottage is moved to its current location after the widening of Waltham/Grove Street.

1968: The Carriage House is moved 200 feet north to make room for the widening of Gore Street.

1970: The National Park Service designates Gore Place a National Historic Landmark.

1987: Gore Place holds its first-ever Sheepshearing Festival. It will become a beloved spring tradition.

2003: The American Alliance of Museums awards Gore Place with accreditation, the museum field’s highest mark of distinction.

2014: The Carriage House, built in 1793, is fully restored and relocated to the site near where it stood in the Gores’ time.

2017: Gore Place will celebrate its 30th annual Sheepshearing Festival!