"Build Thee More Stately Mansions, O My Soul"

Like the profoundly beautiful shell that inspired the poem "The Chambered Nautilus," the Paine family's living spaces expanded and evolved with the household. Their "stately mansion" suggests the beauty, variety and adventure of life it once contained.

Robert and Lydia Paine were from old families with deep New England roots, but they mingled with some of the great artists, progressive thinkers and free spirits of their time. They furnished their unconventional and highly personalized country retreat in Waltham with an eclectic mix of furnishings, both old and new, native and exotic, accumulated during their decades together between the 1860s and 1890s. They filled Stonehurst with myths and memories, consciously choosing furnishings that evoked country houses of a distant, medieval past.

The freeflowing Richardson-designed living spaces were once a foil for the Paines' collections of objets d'arts acquired on tours of Europe and North Africa with Phillips Brooks. Exotic pieces mixed with contemporary works by English and American artists of the Aesthetic and early Arts and Crafts Movements. Robert and Lydia Paine furnished the earlier, west end of their house with traditional family heirlooms and objects purchased shortly after their marriage in 1864. Servant chambers contain furniture twice handed down. Together, house and furnishings mirror the evolution of its occupants through seasons, life cycles, generations and changing financial resources and aspirations.

Inventories and photographs of the interiors record how Robert, Lydia and their children made surprisingly few changes to the arrangement of furnishings in the main rooms for nearly an entire century. These original collections remain on site and consist of about 125 works of art, 175 pieces of furniture, 100 decorative items, 24 linear feet of archives and 60 linear feet of books.

Today, the large spaces within Stonehurst are sparsely furnished with original artwork and built-in seating in order to highlight the architecture and accommodate large gatherings of people. Explore highlights of the collection on site where furnishings are displayed in period rooms and rooms devoted to special exhibits. Stay tuned for collection highlights on-line as we continue to build our website....