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.