Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



A landscape restoration plan for the 45-acre historic estate of Massachusetts governor and United States senator, Christopher Gore and his wife Rebecca, recommended archaeological investigations to identify the location, character, and integrity of Gore-period features that could potentially be included in restoration efforts. Investigations began in 2004, focusing on better known landscape elements including the carriage drive, carriage house foundation, greenhouse, vegetable and flower gardens, and the site of the grapery/fruitwall (Smith and Dubell 2006). The 2008 investigations focused on the new site of the carriage house (reported under separate cover) and on lesser known elements of the estate that functioned in the daily running of Gore’s farm. Transects of staggered shovel test pits at 5, 10 and 20 meter intervals, along with 1×1 m excavation units and trenches, were employed in the archaeological site examination. Investigation of the drive circle north of the mansion showed the centrally-located well to have a wide builder’s trench of large cobblestones covered at the ground surface by a hard-packed layer of silty sand with gravel and clay, potentially to prevent contaminants in the immediate vicinity from entering the water. Identified by subsurface testing and ground penetrating radar was a well access walk that joined a straight-edged carriage drive south of the well. Also revealed was a possible square fieldstone feature that surrounds the well. The bedding of Gore’s historically documented straight walk east of the library was also found. A possible landscape feature of unknown form or function was found at the east terminus of the walk, and the walk’s eastern extension was determined to have been removed in the 1930s during mining of topsoil. Testing of the field east of the grapery identified additional boundaries of the 1930s soil removal and an area measuring approximately 60 × 100 m that is not archaeologically sensitive that is suitable for planting crops to interpret Gore’s agricultural use of the property. Examination of the south lawn revealed much of the area to have been plowed in the past and to have been subjected to fertilizing during the Gore period. A number of Gore-period and non Gore-period features were identified, including two dry wells, drainage pipes, post holes, buried fieldstones of unknown association, a deposit of reddened soil and stones of unknown function, golfing features associated with the use of the property by the Waltham Country Club during the 1920s, and a possible cellar or cesspool filled with Gore-period masonry from late 19th-century cellar and chimney alterations. Investigation of a known cistern revealed similar surface treatment to the drive circle well. Results of the south lawn work also identified an area on the flat, central section of the lawn that is not archaeologically sensitive and can be used for interpretative crop cultivation. An EM-31 conductivity meter survey identified a zone of the south lawn that appears to be the site of numerous anomalies, possibly related to the house’s heating, cooling, or water systems. Recommendations specific to each area consist of examining the square feature surrounding the well in the drive circle and determining the nature of drive bedding that adjoins the well access walk, exploring the east end of the straight walk to determine the nature of the feature at that location, further investigating the south lawn cellar or cesspool feature to determine its function and age, and testing several other south lawn features to determine age and function.


Prepared for Gore Place Society by the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Cultural Resources Management Study No 36.