After spending several summers at The Howard House, one of the many hotels and inns that catered to the Boston elite who came to Princeton each summer to escape the heat, Thomas Allen Jr. decided to build his own summer residence. He called it The Pines. Between 1890 and 1893 he purchased several parcels of land on the back of Little Wachusett Mountain totalling 84 acres. Ultimately he owned 143 acres. Between 1894 and 1895 he built a 19 room house that was a variant of the modernist style. He sited it on top of a granite outcropping that afforded magificant views and took full advantage of the cooling breezes that had been bringing tourists to Princeton for decades. The Allens stayed at The Pines from mid May until Mid October.
In addition to the main house there was a large stable and a lean-to greenhouse. He built houses and retained existing farmhouses and barns where the full time farmer, Jacob Yonkers lived as well as the staff that cared for Thomas and his family during the summer - gardners, chauffeurs, grooms, maids. Probably 26 people in all. There was also the charming "Cliff Cottage" where Allen's daughter, Eleanor, practiced the piano and all the children put on plays and skits for the entertainment of the adults. Next to a small pond, created around 1900, there was another field stone structure used for changing and for storing the boats used on the pond. Every structure, including an ice house and pump houses were built from the unending supply of field stone on the Estate. There were two gravel pits that provided material for the driveways and paths.
At its peak, the Estate was on both sides of Allen Hill Road. A livestock pass through was built under the road to get sheep from one pasture to another. Originally called Mountain Road and used as a shortcut from the train depot to the the hotels on Mt Wachusett, it was diverted by Mr. Allen to give better views of The Pines to passersby. One of Mr. Allen's sons did not enjoy the formal lifestyle in "the big house". He purchased and built the first Sears Roebuck prefab house in the country, across the road from the main gate.
This was a fairly self sufficient operation. There were fruit orchards, a terraced vegetable garden, sheep, cows, and the pastures needed to sustain them, working and riding horses, 400 chickens. The family took full advantage of the wild blueberries and strawberries that grew in the area. "People used to drive up from Worcester with baskets and pails and spend the day picking". ( E. Allen Recollections of 70 Summers in Princeton") All of this was supported by an extensive irrigation system based on 3 artesian wells and miles of pipe and pumps that were powered by coal and wind. The house was heated by 12 fireplaces but was not electrified until 1916. Later on central heating was added.
The Allen Estate was considered noteworthy enough that there were at least 2 postcards published that featured colorized photos of the house and front gate. There was also mention of it as a "must see" spot in Princeton in an early automobile guide book. ( source Princeton Historical Society)
After Mr. Allen's sudden death in 1924, his wife Alice, and his surviving children - Eleanor, Tom and Dorothy and their families - continued to use and enjoy the fairyland he created well into the 20th century.
Blasting the foundation
Construction just completed
View of the back of the house from the west
View from the front of the lawn