Breaking Ground: Henry B. Hoover, New England Modern Architect

Lucretia Hoover Giese and Henry B. Hoover Jr.: Breaking Ground: Henry B. Hoover, New England Modern Architect

(Lebanon, NH: University of New England Press, 2015), 176pp, 83 illustrations (46 color), Appendices, Index and a Foreword by David Fixler.

The more than 100 houses designed by Henry B. Hoover (1902-1989) are largely located in and around Lincoln, MA, a town well-known for its modern residential heritage. In the past much of that recognition has been based on the work of Walter Gropius, who in the 1930s built his own house in the community and subsequently the houses of his partners at the architectural firm The Architectural Collaborative (TAG). With this book the work in the same community by Henry B. Hoover is finally getting the attention it deserves.

Henry Hoover’s education in the 1920s followed the customary Beaux Arts format, first at the University of Washington and later at Harvard. Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of his career is his collaboration with the landscape designer Fletcher Steele, who is perhaps best known for his iconic landscape at Naumkeag, the Choate estate in Stockbridge, MA, and on which Hoover worked. His freehand drawings whether travel sketches or design presentations are evocative and testimony to his Beaux Arts type education. Undoubtedly his treatment of sites, views and settings in his subsequent residential work was influenced by this early association with landscape design.

The large portfolio of single family houses is remarkable in its consistency not so much stylistically as in their thoughtful treatment and development of the residential program. The resulting plans treat the site carefully and take advantage of views and vistas. As for many houses of this period the sites are one of the prime assets. This makes the original house on such sites vulnerable to replacement by a new and larger one. It is to be hoped that by bringing greater attention to the oeuvre of architects like Henry Hoover a greater appreciation for the significance of these houses develops as well as an understanding of their inherent quality.

The book, an effort of two of Hoover’s children, which lists the collaboration with the Friends of Modern Architecture Lincoln (FoMA) and the Lincoln historical Society, is a welcome step towards the well-deserved recognition of the residential architecture of Henry Hoover.

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