Tall, skinny glass structures were a goal of modernist architecture since Mies Van Der Rohe proposed a glass skyscraper for Berlin. Such buildings as Gordon Bunshaft’s Lever House, Mies’ Seagram Building in New York City, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Headquarters attempted this goal, but many of these designs retained structural artifacts that prevented a consistent, monolithic look.
In 1972, Cobb’s design of the 200 Clarendon Tower took the glass monolith skyscraper concept to new heights. The tower is an achievement in minimalist, modernistskyscraper design.
Minimalism was the design principle behind the tower. The largest possible panes of glass were used. There are no spandrel panels, and the mullions are minimal. Cobb added a geometric modernist twist by using a parallelogram shape for the tower floor plan. From the most common views, this design makes the corners of the tower appear very sharp. The highly reflective window glass is tinted slightly blue, which results in the tower having only a slight contrast with the sky on a clear day. As a final modernist touch, the short sides of the parallelogram are marked with a deep vertical notch, breaking up the tower’s mass and emphasizing its verticality. In late evening, the vertical notch to the northwest catches the last light of the sky, while the larger portions of glass reflect the darkening sky.
A major concern of the architects while designing the tower was its proximity to Boston’s Trinity Church, a prominent National Historic Landmark. Their concern led them to redesign the tower’s plans, as there was a public outcry when it was revealed that the Hancock Tower would cast its shadow on the church.
The fort was decommissioned after WW2 and the property was sold to the town and to private owners beginning in about 1947. The fire control tower indicated on the map was used as part of the Army/Lincoln Labs Nike program-related radar research and development during the late 1940s and early 1950s and at one point had a large radar antenna on its roof. A Nike target tracking radar was also erected on Bayley’s Hill (the eastern edge of the fort) during the 1950s.
The first church, called the Nahant Church, was built in 1832 as a “Summer Church” for those from Boston who spent their summers in Nahant. Services were held from the first Sunday in July through Labor Day. Minister from the Boston area came to preach, including Rev. Phillips Brooks, rector of Trinity Church in Boston and author of a favorite Christmas Carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
The Nahant Church was badly damaged in a storm in the 1850s and was replaced in 1868 by the granite and wood main sanctuary that is in use today. Worship services were held in the newly built Village Church during construction.
In 1851, the year-round Protestant families built the Village Church under the name of the Independent Methodist Society; and in 1905 it became a Congregational Church affiliated with the Essex South Association of the Massachusetts Congregational Conference.
The Nahant Church and the Village Church merged in 1959 as The Nahant Village Church. and in the same year the church affiliated with the United Church of Christ.
The “new” church continued to use both buildings until the mid 1960s when the old Nahant Church building was renovated and enlarged to include new Christian Education rooms, a fellowship hall (Swansburg Hall, named after beloved pastor Rev. Ed. Swansburg), a kitchen, pastor’s study and a chapel that includes much of the furniture and the stained glass memorial windows from the old Village Church building. As Stanley Paterson put it in his book “Nahant On The Rocks,” “This was a suitable grafting of a Nahant limb onto a Boston tree.”
Today, the Nahant Village Church is an Open and Affirming congregation, and continues to be a vital congregation open to people of all faith backgrounds, offering worship, Christian Education for all ages, vocal and bell choirs, and mission and outreach programs to the community and the world.