A Tour of Nieman Foundation Homes 1938-2013Click to view larger

Kenneth Freed, NF ’78, remembers the refurbishment of Lippmann House

When the Class of  ’78 arrived in Cambridge, the conversion of what had been a decade-long derelict faux Greek Revival pile into Lippmann House was several months behind schedule. As the refurbishment staggered toward completion, a tiny, two-floor space remained untouched. Originally a servant’s backdoor entry, the first floor was a Pullman kitchen. Two tiny rooms and the bath were up a very steep stairway. The space was to be incorporated into the whole house, but bad planning and cost overruns had put that off, so there was a place for me, who had arrived at Harvard alone and close to broke. Tenney Lehman, deputy to curator James C. Thomson Jr., said that if I would paint the place, find some furniture, and sort of provide a hint of security I could stay there for $75 a month.

“Space for seminars, lunches, one or two special dinners”

So, for a while in the fall of 1977, I personified the Nieman house at 1 Francis Ave. At least, I was its only occupant, the only one of the 15 Fellows with a key, a bed, and free run of the place. When everyone else, including the staff, had to wear hardhats to even be there, I nightly (and sometimes in the day) lighted a smuggled Romeo y Julieta Churchill, poured a generous Glenlivet, cranked up Pavarotti and Callas on the stereo, and took to my life as a lord in a manse, an often naked one at that. A door on the second floor opened on to what was to become the library, so, in effect, the whole house was mine—ladders, paint, construction debris and the basement liquor cabinet included. It was my self-indulgent paradise, no pajamas necessary.

Life began changing just before the Christmas break when the curator’s office was completed and Jim moved in. The house opened fully in January of 1978. There was space for seminars, lunches, one or two special dinners and room just to hang out. All in all, a Halls of Ivy experience that brought the class a lot closer, although I had to start wearing pajamas.

The house at 1 Francis Ave. was built in 1836 on what was then known as Professors’ Row

The house at 1 Francis Ave. was built in 1836 on what was then known as Professors’ Row

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