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TPAC History

In the mid-nineteenth century Reverend Nathaniel E. Thayer’s wealthy sons constructed a palatial Victorian manse complete with mansard roofs and the largest formal hall and staircase in New England.  In the 1880’s the mansion was again redone and extended. In 1902 architect Ogden Codman, the leading American Designer in the Beaux Arts Style, completed the present house. The house is one of the high points of the American architectural style known as the Georgian Revival.  Its interiors, especially the Louis XVI elements, are some of the finest of its age found anywhere in the world.  It is impressive to note that local artisans did the work. Atlantic Union College acquired the building in 1942.  Over the years it served as an administration building, library, and men’s dormitory.

 In its new life as the Thayer Performing Arts Center, much of the charm of its past is reappearing.  Since 1972, thousands of students have found this historic site an inspiring place to study the music of the masters. Our former TPAC students hold faculty and performing positions in prestigious conservatories, chamber ensembles, and orchestras, including New England Conservatory of Music, Longy School of Music, Mount Royal University, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, to name a few.TPAC’s multi-cultural faculty are committed to providing expert instruction and outstanding performance opportunities in a Christian environment. Our mission extends beyond this place as we seek to enrich our community through music, onestudent at a time. The Thayer Performing Arts Center is indeed a community music school in the truest sense, offering music of many genres to musicians of all ages, right here in our own backyard.

 

Take exit 35 (Lunenburg/Lancaster) and go south on SR 70 toward Lancaster. When you reach SR 117, you will turn left, then immediately right on the continuation of SR 70.

Continue approximately 1/2 mile, passing the Lancaster town common on the left, to a fork in the road. You will take the right fork continuing on SR 70 (Main Street.)
 

Thayer Performing Arts Center is on the right side of the road 0.3 miles from the fork. You will cross the Nashua River, pass a field on the right, and see an old cemetery on the left. Thayer is right around the corner on the right.  It is a large yellow building set back from the road. 

Take exit 7 (Lancaster/Leominster) and go east on SR 117 toward Lancaster/Bolton. Turn right on SR 70 (Main Street).

Continue approximately 1/2 mile, passing the Lancaster town common on the left, to a fork in the road. You will take the right fork continuing on SR 70 (Main Street.) 
 

Thayer Performing Arts Center is on the right side of the road 0.3 miles from the fork. You will cross the Nashua River, pass a field on the right, and see an old cemetery on the left. Thayer is right around the corner on the right.  It is a large yellow building set back from the road. 

Take exit 27 (Bolton/Stow) and go west on SR 117 through Bolton (watch the speed limit!) to Lancaster. Turn left on SR 70 (Main Street).

Continue approximately 1/2 mile, passing the Lancaster town common on the left, to a fork in the road. You will take the right fork continuing on SR 70 (Main Street.) 
 
Thayer Performing Arts Center is on the right side of the road 0.3 miles from the fork. You will cross the Nashua River, pass a field on the right, and see an old cemetery on the left. Thayer is right around the corner on the right.  It is a large yellow building set back from the road.
 

Make your way to either route 2, Interstate 190 or Interstate 495 and then proceed from there as the directions are shown above.

To view Mapquest map, click here.


Thayer Performing Arts Center is listed as The Nathaniel Thayer Estate ("The Homestead") on the National Register of Historic Places for the State of Massachusetts. Three generations of Nathaniel Thayers called this beautiful spot home: Nathaniel Thayer, the pastor; his son Nathaniel Thayer, the banker and railroad man; and his grandson Nathaniel Thayer, Boston businessman.  

Reverend Nathaniel Thayer arrived in Lancaster in 1793 and was the pastor in Lancaster for 47 years. During that time he became one of the leading lights of the New Theology resulting in the Unitarian movement.

In the mid-nineteenth century, his son Nathaniel Thayer took down his father's small parsonage and constructed a spacious Victorian manse complete with mansard roofs and the largest formal hall and staircase in New England. Mr. Thayer retired from J. E. Thayer & Brother, one of Boston's leading private banking and brokerage houses, in 1865. The company was reorganized as Kidder, Peabody & Co. in April 1865.  Henry P. Kidder, Francis H. Peabody, and Oliver W. Peabody had served for many years as clerks in Thayer & Brother.

In his retirement Nathaniel Thayer continued his investments, increasing his wealth. At the time of his death in 1883, he was one of the richest men in the nation with his estate calculated at $16 million.
 
His son Nathaniel and his wife Pauline Revere Thayer contracted with Ogden Codman, a leading American designer in the Beaux Arts Style, to renovate and expand the original home. That work was completed in 1902. Its interiors, especially the Louis XVI elements, are some of the finest of the age found anywhere in the world.
 
When Mrs. Thayer died in 1934, niece Ruth Thayer Green and her husband Elbridge Gerry Green assumed ownership of The Homestead. The great hurricane of 1938 destroyed its formal gardens and landscaped setting. The massive old home became a burden to its owners. After his wife's death, Mr. Green sold the building privately.
 
The house with acres of land, was purchased by the college in 1944. The old manse quickly became known as Thayer Hall, and housed the college administration building and library. When Haskell Hall was completed, it was turned into a men's dormitory for the college. When Lenheim Hall was completed most of the college men moved out of the building. South Lancaster Academy used it for a boys' dormitory for some years until Pioneer Valley Academy became the boarding academy for the conference.  
 
Under the leadership of Dr. Jon Robertson, chair of the music department during the 1970's, it became the music conservatory of the college.
 
Our staff is pleased to give informal narrated tours through the Homestead on Monday-Friday. Please make reservations by calling 978-368-2100. We also have a self-guided tour brochure available. There is no admission charge, but donations are accepted.

 
The adjoining field to the north of the Nathaniel Thayer Estate is the site where the garrison of minister Joseph Rowlandson once stood. It was there on February 10, 1676, that Lancaster fell victim to King Philip's War with the massacre of the townspeople and burning of the Rowlandson garrison by the Indians. Here the minister's wife, Mary Rowlandson, was taken captive and held by the Indians until she was redeemed on May 2, 1676. As the first woman author in this country, she wrote the "Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson," a classic, first-hand account of Indian life. The book was reprinted 39 times and is still studied today for knowledge of early Indian life in this area.

 



Approximately across the street from the entrance to the Nathaniel Thayer Estate is the Old Settlers Burial Ground. This is located on Main Street behind the Middle Cemetery and became a public cemetery around 1643.  It contains graves of the earliest pioneers.


Less than a mile north of the Nathaniel Thayer Estate, is the First Church of Christ, completed in 1816.  This is the church where the Reverend Dr. Nathaniel Thayer served for more than half of his 47 years as the pastor of Lancaster. This neoclassical building designed by Charles Bulfinch as the Fifth Meeting House for Lancaster is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.  



Museum of Russian Icons
, Clinton, MA. "The Museum of Russian Icons was founded as a non-profit educational museum by Gordon Lankton. The collection includes about 260 Russian icons, the largest collection of its kind in North America. It is one of the largest private collections outside of Russia. The collection spans six centuries, and includes important historical icons dating from the earliest periods of icon painting up to the present." http://www.museumofrussianicons.org/

Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA. "Over ninety years ago, Clara Endicott Sears bought a gentleman’s farm on land that had once sheltered Bronson Alcott’s Utopian experiment in communal living known as Fruitlands." http://www.fruitlands.org