The New England Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians

News and events

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  • 18 Mar 2024 11:02 AM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    The Fellowship Committee of the New England chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (NESAH) is pleased to announce Olivia Wynne Houck as the recipient of the 2024 John Coolidge Research Fellowship.

    Olivia Wynne Houck is a PHD candidate in the History of Architecture program at MIT, where she focuses on the intersection of the built environment, diplomacy, and geopolitics during the Cold War. She is particularly interested in the interplay between NATO, American and Nordic foreign policies, technology, and infrastructure in the European and North American Arctics. Entitled “Concrete Security: NATO as a Territorial Project, 1940-1960,” she employs the methodologies and considerations of the built environment to interrogate diplomatic exchanges between the United States and other NATO member nations, particularly Iceland, Norway, and Denmark, within the venue of NATO. She considers how structures related to militarization, especially the military base, caused friction between NATO members, and how this necessitated the alliance’s interrogation of larger questions about policy, politics, sovereignty, and territory.She also explores how a historical focus on the built environment can be used to contribute to current policy analysis, especially with regards to national security. She holds a B.A. in Art History from the College of William and Mary, a M.A. in Architectural History from the University of Virginia. The John Coolidge Research Fellowship will allow her to consult the NATO Archives in Brussels. 

    Olivia will give a lecture for NESAH upon completion of her research.

    Congratulations Olivia!

  • 18 Mar 2024 9:10 AM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    The Fellowship Committee of the New England chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (NESAH) is pleased to announce Phoebe Springstubb as the recipient of the 2024 Robert Rettig Student Annual Meeting Fellowship.

    Phoebe Springstubb is a PhD candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture at MIT. Her dissertation examines the role of ephemeral architecture, infrastructure-building, and politics of time in conceptualizing the North American Arctic’s deep past. More broadly, she researches the built and natural environments of the nineteenth and twentieth-century Circumpolar North, with a particular interest in connections between Alaska and Siberia. Before beginning her studies at MIT, she was a curatorial assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Her writing has appeared in Architectural Theory Review, Journal of Architectural Education, a Canadian Centre for Architecture web issue, and elsewhere.

    At the SAH Conference, Phoebe will present one of her dissertation chapters on a panel called “Institutions of Life: Architecture and the Life Sciences.” Phoebe's paper, “‘They builde with whale bones’: Whaling and the Construction of a Useable Past in the North American Arctic,” will contribute research on a geography that is still little studied by architectural history—Alaska and the Arctic.

    Congratulations Phoebe!

  • 7 Feb 2024 7:00 AM | Anonymous

    Saturday, March 9, 2024
    1:00 - 4:00 pm

    First Church in Roxbury
    10 Putnam Street, Boston, MA 02119

    Keynote Speakers:


    Historian Byron Rushing will discuss the rich history and ongoing preservation of Roxbury, one of Boston's most historic neighborhoods. Byron served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for over thirty years, and was also the president of the Museum of African-American History in Boston.

    Researcher Aabid Allibhai will discuss his report "Race & Slavery at the First Church in Roxbury (The Colonial Period 1631-1775)," released in early 2023. This report tells the story of at least fifty-eight human beings—Black and Indigenous men, women, and children— who were enslaved by First Church’s white parishioners. Aabid is currently a PhD candidate at Harvard. 




    Attendees will also have the opportunity to tour the 1804 Meetinghouse with Andrea Gilmore, the preservationist in charge of its restoration. The meetinghouse (pictured below) is the oldest wood-framed church still standing in Boston and its historic building fabric has been remarkably well preserved on both the exterior and the interior.

    Additional details:

    The program will also include a brief business meeting for elections and chapter updates. Light refreshments will be served.  

    NESAH membership and event registration is required to attend the annual meeting. To become a member, or to renew your membership, please visit our membership page. (Please note that anyone with an interest in architecture history is welcome to become a member!)

    To register for the meeting, click here:


  • 17 Jan 2024 6:39 PM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    Please save the date of Saturday, March 9, 2024, for the 2024 Annual Meeting! We have some very exciting plans in the works and will be announcing the details shortly.

    Please note: If you are not a current member but are interested in joining or renewing your membership with NESAH, please visit our Membership tab!

  • 15 Dec 2023 12:54 PM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    NE/SAH is pleased to host a lecture from our 2022 John Coolidge Fellowship recipient, Chelsea Spencer of MIT. 

    Tuesday, January 16
    7:00 pm

    Presented via Zoom. Pre-registration for this free event is required. Please register here!

    The 2022 John Coolidge Research Fellowship supported Chelsea’s archival fieldwork, sending her to Pittsburgh to study the construction records of the Frick Building, a twenty-story office building still standing in Downtown Pittsburgh.

    Managed by the George A. Fuller Company, construction of the Frick Building began in 1901 and was completed by 1903, leaving behind an unusually voluminous archive and an acrid dispute between the Fuller Company and its client, the wealthy industrialist Henry Clay Frick. Chelsea used this archive as a window onto the operations of what was then the largest, most well-capitalized construction company in the United States at a pivotal moment in the firm’s history. On January 16th, Chelsea will give a virtual talk to share more about what she found in the archive and how it will contribute to her dissertation project.

    Chelsea Spencer is a PhD candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art at MIT. Her dissertation, titled “The Contract, the Contractor, and the Capitalization of American Building, 1873–1930,” traces the rise of general contracting in the United States. Her research more generally concerns the histories of information, capitalism, and the built environment. Chelsea received an MDes in History and Philosophy of Design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she cofounded the zine Open Letters, and a BA in art and architectural history from Emory University. Before beginning her studies at MIT, she was the managing editor of Log.
  • 13 Mar 2023 3:27 PM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    The New England Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians is pleased to share information on the 44th Annual Student Symposium, which will be a hybrid conference taking place on April 8, 2023. Attendees can choose to join in person at Yale University or on Zoom. Please see the poster below for more details.

    To register to attend the symposium, please click here: registration.

    For any questions about the symposium, please email

  • 8 Feb 2023 7:57 PM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    Monday, February 27

    A brief business meeting will precede the presentation of papers.
    Presented via Zoom; Pre-registration required.


    Dennis De Witt
    Brookline's Mount Vernon Portico Houses

    Three tall columned houses in Brookline’s Green Hill neighborhood, dating from 1794 to 1806, have been identified with the label “Jamaica Planter.”  Two are associated with well known later occupants — architect Henry Hobson Richardson and Boston Grand Dame, Isabella Stewart Gardner. Exploring the  genesis of “Jamaica Planter” revealed only a casually generated term that offered a convenient explanation for some unusual houses.  However, it did not comport with the first of these houses, Senator George Cabot’s “Old Green Hill.”  Its inspiration may have been George Washington’s Mount Vernon portico.

    Dennis De Witt holds Masters degrees in architecture from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Past-President of S.A.H./New England, a former Vice-Chair of the Brookline Preservation Commission, a Director and Past-President of Boston’s Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, and a Commissioner of the Massachusetts Historical Commission. He has been involved with historic preservation for over 50 years. His book-length publications include Modern Architecture in Europe: A Guide to Buildings Since the Industrial Revolution and various studies related to Boston’s 19th century water system, its architects and technology.

    Diana Martinez
    The Olmsteds and the Imperial Prospect

    In March of 1901 the U.S. Secretary of War wrote to the Olmsted firm requesting advice on improvements to Manila. Though Olmsted Jr. declined the job, he deeply influenced Daniel Burnham’s eventual plans. This paper will consider the legibility of U.S. Empire insofar as it is expressed in Olmsted’s work and influence.   

    Diana Martinez is an assistant professor of architectural history and the director of architectural studies at Tufts University. She is completing a book manuscript, Concrete Colonialism: Architecture, Infrastructure, Urbanism and the American Colonial Project in the Philippines.

    Robert Cowherd
    Doing History in the Anthropocene

    Teaching history to undergraduates as they inherit the multiple intertwined crises of the 21st century compels a critical reexamination of what we teach and how. Facing a torrent of information, how do they construct a dependable foundation for collective action? The challenge is to replace conventional teaching and learning mindsets to mobilize a more confident generation of history practitioners. Instead of studying history, college students can get a jump on a lifetime of doing history.

    Robert Cowherd, PhD, is a Professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology. His research and publications focus on the history and theory of architecture and urbanism in Southeast Asia and Latin America. He is the author most recently of "Batavian Apartheid: Mapping Bodies, Constructing Identities" in Southeast of Now and "Decolonizing Bamboo" in Dialectic IX. He is former President of the New England Society of Architectural Historians.

  • 19 Jan 2023 10:48 AM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    The New England Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians is pleased to announce its upcoming 44th Annual Student Symposium.

    The Student Symposium features presentations by outstanding students from programs across New England in the history, theory, and criticism of architecture, art history, urban studies, historic preservation, and related fields. This year's event will take place on Saturday, April 8, 2023. The event will be held in a hybrid format, and student presenters can choose to present in-person or virtually. The in-person component of the event will take place at Loria Hall in the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut.

    Student symposium presenters are typically engaged in producing a thesis or dissertation, or are interested in developing work done in connection with a seminar or lecture course. Symposium paper topics may concern the architecture of any era or place; however, presenters should be current students at an academic institution in the New England region. Paper presentations should be 20 minutes in length and accompanied by slides; presentations will be followed by a brief Q&A.

    If you are interested in presenting your work at the symposium, please submit an abstract and short biographical note by February 15, 2023. Update: The deadline has been extended to February 20, 2023. Student abstracts should include the student’s name, the name of their faculty advisor, their field of study, and their institutional affiliation. Abstracts should be less than 300 words in length and should be followed by a short biography of less than 100 words. Please submit as a single pdf document to:

    We will notify students of acceptance decisions by February 24, 2023.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us at with any questions that you may have!

  • 14 Sep 2022 7:12 AM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    On October 8th, the Preservation Society of Newport County invites members and guests of NESAH to tour areas of The Breakers never before seen by the public.

    Image credit: Sebastien Dutton / The Preservation Society of Newport County


    Saturday, October 8, 2022
    1:00 - 4:00 PM
    The Breakers, 44 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport RI 02840

    History of the Breakers:

    The Breakers is the legendary Newport residence of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his family. Constructed in 1893-1895, the house contains 70 rooms including some 23 family bedrooms and guest rooms as well as 33 servant bedrooms. After World War II, houses like The Breakers were seen as obsolete, windows to a fading lifestyle and era. With the foresight of the late Countess Laszlo Szechenyi (born Gladys Vanderbilt), she loaned her childhood home to be used as a house museum. Following the opening of The Breakers to the curious public in 1948, the Vanderbilt family decamped to the third floor of the house – originally designed for the Vanderbilt boys, guests, and staff – and lived there seasonally when in Newport. The residency of the Vanderbilt family and their descendants continued on for the next 70 years, while hundreds of thousands of visitors toured the floors below every year.

    Tour details:

    To provide an introduction to the history of the house, all attendees will take a tour of areas of the house already opened to the public: the grand rooms on the first floor, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and the Parisian decorator Jules Allard and Sons, as well as the principle bedrooms on the second floor, designed by Boston interior designer Ogden Codman, Jr. Attendees will then choose one of two additional tours that will provide the rare and unique behind-the-scenes opportunity to view the third floor family bedrooms or the servants quarters. All tours will be led by knowledgeable guides from the Preservation Society.

    When the last Vanderbilt descendants moved out of The Breakers in 2018, the PSNC was left to decide what the future will hold for the third floor. Following the tours, attendees will be invited to a discussion on the future of the third floor bedrooms and the servants quarters. The discussion will be moderated by Leslie Jones, Curator and Director of Museum Affairs for the Preservation Society of Newport County. Light refreshments will be served during the discussion.

    Ticket price:

    $25 to register

    $15 for up to one additional guest


  • 21 Aug 2022 6:24 PM | Jennifer Gaugler (Administrator)

    NESAH invites you to join a special talk and tour offered by our friends at the Center for Painted Wall Preservation (CPWP)!

    The event will take place on Saturday, September 24 and features an introductory talk about the history of painted walls followed by tours of four private homes, two in Vermont and two in New Hampshire, that feature outstanding examples of painted walls from the late-18th and early-19th centuries. These private homes are not typically open to the public, so this is a rare opportunity to see these historic houses and their amazing painted walls. 

    Read about the tour here for more information. Registration for the tour is through the CPWP, and you can sign up online here.

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