The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 15, 2000


Art of Living: 20th Century Heralds Growth and Creativity in Carlisle

This is the sixth in a series of articles featuring the sites that will be part of the Art of Living in Carlisle Tour on September 23.

People have changed Carlisle more in the last 100 years than anything since the glaciers first shaped its face thousands of years ago. First of all, there are a lot more folk living here. In the year 1900, 480 people lived in Carlisle. In the year 2000, 4,923 people called it home. In 1900, there were just over 100 houses. Today, there are 1,546 one-family homes, and 30 more used for business as well as living.

It's reflective of the century that only one of the four houses from the era featured in the Carlisle Art of Living tour was built in the first half of the century. The houses, with the year each was constructed, include:

· 750 Curve Street (1905)

· 262 South Street (1969)

· 97 Old Quarry Drive (1986)

· 268 Fiske Street (1997)

Each of the dwellings is very distinct, yet they are each representative of a particular way of life in Carlisle. Demonstrations at each of the sites on the tour will include fiddling, metal working and contemporary music.

Making a living at the bog

The Nickles brothers, James W. and W. Clifford, purchased 400 acres of land and water rights on Curve Street to develop a cranberry bog in 1903. The next year they enjoyed their first harvest, and by 1905 had invested $9,000 to build a four-story barn house. The building had areas for sorting and packing cranberries, storing equipment, and living space for seasonal workers.

The business became the Lowell Cranberry Company in 1922. Workers, on their hands and knees, dry-harvested the berries using hand scoops. Town residents did most of the work on the cranberry bog, but in 1940s some supplementary help came from prisoners of war at Fort Devens.

Today Carlisle retains 151 acres of the property, and leases 40 of them to brothers Mark and Peter Duffy of Carlisle Cranberries, Inc. Tours are periodically offered at the cranberry bog to demonstrate the wet harvesting technique. The farmers flood the fields, and use a harvester machine to loosen the berries and push them onto a conveyor belt to load. Most plants date back to the original stock of the Nickles brothers, and some of the original old equipment is still in use today. The house itself stores materials, and does have one small apartment used for the business.

Bill Brown, of the Minor Chord in Acton, will give a demonstration of New England fiddling at the site.

Deck House style popular from ground up

When built in 1969, the dwelling at 262 South Street was an original but today it represents one of the town's most popular styles. Deck House, Inc. names its structures after the three-inch decking timbers that form the ceiling and are connected with a tongue-and-groove system. Trademark features include vaulted ceilings, open rooms, and sheets of windows.

Other attributes have made Deck House designs very appealing to Carlisle residents. The house does not have a conventional basement, but instead offers a sunken first-floor accessed from a split-level foyer. The feature maximizes usable space for the homeowner, while addressing the high-ground water levels on town lots that could not support more than a slab foundation. Coupled with a thin roofline profile, the design of the house maximizes its harmony with it natural surroundings.

While Deck House structures are built from a catalog of similar floor plans, utilize the same high-quality material base, and share very visible trademark features, they all have unique characteristics. By design, a Deck House dwelling and the land around it combine to make it an original.

Joan Parker will give a metalworking demonstration here on making jewelry.

Maximizing the right to freedom

Carlisle housed some of the nation's earliest freedom fighters, and today that right is often displayed architecturally. When you hear a structure called a "spec house" or a "contemporary," it's impossible to picture what it will look like. The footprint could be any shape; the roof could be any color.

Carlisle builder Chris Hart constructed the house at 97 Old Quarry Drive in 1986. The expansive dwelling combines a variety of angled shapes topped by a standing-seam copper roof of weathered bronze in a beautifully landscaped environment. Thematically, the house stretches over the grounds, and "opens" on the outdoors with a garden terrace, rock garden, and the woods themselves. A large external sculpture, with wire cables connecting metal tubes, decorates one part of the yard.

Built in the post energy-crisis years, the dwelling features lots of glass on the south side to realize passive solar gain. The windows help maximize the light and space in a building closely surrounded by nature. On a five-acre lot, the house is situated at the end of a long and unmarked private drive off of West Street.

Local musicians Malcolm Walsh and Mark Caddell will be on hand to perform a variety of contemporary selections.

Updating an archetype

Log cabins are not a thing of the past in Carlisle; in fact, based on the dwelling on 268 Fiske Street, they may be experiencing a comeback. In the early

'90s, Ann and John Ballantine purchased a wooded 10-acre lot upon which to build a house. They began by researching their dream to build a log cabin. After reviewing several log homebuilders, the Ballantines decided on Pioneer Log Homes in Montana.

Building a log dwelling involved some unusual challenges. The work began in 1996. In Montana, the pine logs were selected, peeled, hand-hewn, notched, and assembled into the two-story building. Then, the structure was taken apart, shipped to the Carlisle lot, and reassembled. Local workers had to cut windows in the logs using a chain saw and then reinforce them with steel. They couldn't run electrical and plumbing materials through the solid walls. They couldn't use scaffolding when installing the great room's pine ceiling -- 28 feet above the floor. The job finished in 1997.

Today, the magnificent dwelling resembles a log mansion more than a log cabin. Due to the wooden logs, however, the huge building seems much more appropriate and comfortable with its neighboring trees than many smaller structures in town.

The individuality and diversity of the houses on the Art of Living tour make September 23 a day well worth setting aside in your calendar.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito