By ABBY GOODNOUGH
December 3, 2011
LINCOLN, Mass. — In a region that prizes center-chimney Colonials, shingled Capes, saltboxes and other homes that have helped shapeNew England’s unmistakable sense of place, Polly Flansburgh’s boxy, low-slung house does not leap out as historic.
Built in 1963 in the modern style, Ms. Flansburgh’s home seems a better fit for Los Angeles or Palm Springs than for this town, not far from where Henry David Thoreau built his cabin in the woods.
But one of the nation’s oldest preservation groups recently helped Ms. Flansburgh protect the house with an easement — a legal agreement ensuring that it cannot be torn down or significantly altered, even if it gets new owners.
The group, Historic New England, is now seeking to protect certain modern houses along with the more traditional New England homes it has helped preserve for generations. It started doing so in 2008, after some notable modern homes in the region were torn down to make way for the McMansions of the real estate boom.
“There was just no appreciation for the value of them,” said Jess Phelps, the team leader for historic preservation at the group, which has 81 easements on properties around the region, mostly houses in the Federal and Georgian styles. Modern homes, most of which date from the 1940s through the ’60s, were often built on large lots and with less sturdy materials than older housing stock, Mr. Phelps said, making them all the more tempting targets for demolition.