History seems to seep from the very soil around this region. So as firefighters battled a fast-moving fire at a 6,500-square-foot home in Concord last week, the notable backstory of the mansion — which was later declared a loss — quickly surfaced.
The home was built in 1899 for Charles Francis Adams III (photo above) and his wife, Frances (Lovering). They called the property Mount Vernon. Charles F. Adams was the scion of the Adams family that produced two US presidents: he was the great-grandson of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, and great-great-grandson of the second, John Adams.
He was born in Quincy in 1866 and graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law School. He entered the family business — politics — by serving on the Quincy City Council from 1893-95 and later as the city’s fourth mayor for two years.
Adams was a well known yachtsman. In 1914, he won the America’s Cup as skipper of the boat Resolute; he repeated that victory in 1920.
For more than three decades, he served as treasurer of Harvard. During his tenure, the university’s endowment rose from $15 million to $120 million, leaving Harvard on sound financial footing at the onset of the Great Depression.
In 1929, President Herbert Hoover appointed Adams as secretary of the Navy. Adams introduced a construction program to elevate the US Navy to that of other naval powers, especially Britain, and he asked for budget increases to expand the fleet’s resources.
The Depression worsened during the years he served, however, and Congress balked at allocating the money he requested. Hoover did not support many of Adams’s plans for naval expansion, and this reportedly caused a rift between the two men.
Charles Adams III died in 1954 in Boston at 87. Adams and his wife had two children: Charles Francis Adams IV, who was the first president of the Raytheon Company; and a daughter, Catherine, who married the son of financier J.P. Morgan Jr.
The Adams home in Concord, which occupies a 13-acre lot on Fairhaven Hill Road, is about a mile from the Sudbury River. The estate is highly significant as one of the first two large country estates in the town that were not associated with farming.
The five-bedroom home was last valued at $2.91 million, according to the town’s assessment database. The latest owners, Kathleen and Andrew Meyer, could not be reached for comment.
Authorities said Monday that the blaze was an accidental chimney fire. Firefighters said they were hampered by a lack of water, as the house is in a private residential neighborhood that does not have fire hydrants. Water tankers were required to bring water for firefighters to battle the blaze.
Neighbors told the Globe they had asked the town to improve access to the public water supply.Sources: News reports, Naval History and Heritage Command, and UVA’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.