The Oaks ~ Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter House

Colonel Timothy Bigelow DAR

Worcester, Massachusetts

The Oaks


In 1914, the chapter members purchased our chapter house, “The Oaks.”

It was named for the expanse of oak trees on the property. 

The Oaks is one of the oldest surviving homes in Worcester remaining on its original foundation. 


History of the Building


Construction began on this historic landmark in 1774, by Judge Timothy Paine, a wealthy and influential Tory, loyal at that time to King George of England. His entire estate encompassed over 300 acres of land on Lincoln Street. When the war broke out he ceased construction on the estate.


Despite his being a Loyalist, he survived the Revolution and completed the building of The Oaks. He then went on to become prominent and active in the city, retaining the respect of Worcester’s citizens and in 1787, he petitioned to become a U.S. citizen.

His family continued to occupy the house for several generations.



 The Oaks

By Mildred Carver Carpenter

To William Sumner Appleton, of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, is due the credit for first interesting Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter in buying the old Paine mansion for its chapter house. 

To Mrs. Frank B. Hall is due the immeasurable credit for perseverance in carrying out the idea.

A chapter house had been the dream and wish of our members for many years. However, many of the members feared the Society would be unable to carry the burden and the vote to buy the property was rescinded.

Mrs. Hall, however, felt that the chapter should have a chapter house. Through her untiring efforts, it was voted in February, 1914, to buy "The Oaks," which became the home of Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter. While beautiful old mansions and early homes of the city are being given up and taken down one by one, this artistic and historic house will be kept for future generations. Decay has been arrested by thorough and careful repairs, and the house is preserved as an example of early New England architecture. It is beautifully furnished as a home of Revolutionary days and a caretaker is in constant attendance.

"The Oaks" was originally the home of Judge Timothy Paine, who was born in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1730, and came to Worcester when nine years of age. In 1751, he became a real estate owner and in 1767, he purchased about 300 acres of land on the "great road to Boston," now known as Lincoln Street.

This tract later became known as the "North End," and extended from what is now Frederick Street to Harlow Street and included what is now Rural Cemetery. The land ran from the Salisbury estate on the west to the Green estate on the east. Many of the streets adjacent to Lincoln Street bear names found in the Paine family tree.

Judge Paine married a daughter of Judge Chandler, and just before the Revolutionary War, began the building of "The Oaks." Mr. Paine was loyal to England and during the Revolutionary War was unable to complete the building on account of the hostility shown him. The original part of the house was begun in 1774, but was not completed until 1778. Timothy Paine had served as town clerk, selectman, and representative to the General Court, but when he received a commission as Mandamus Councilor, it was more than his fellow citizens who knew him as "Paine the Tory" could overlook. An unarmed Army of 3,000 marched to his house and persuaded him to resign and to read his resignation on the "Green" (Worcester's old common). Dr. William Paine, his eldest son, was in England at that time, but returned to serve in the British army as an apothecary in Rhode Island and New York until 1781. He then returned to England. He was later commissioned "Physician" to his Majesty's Hospital, within the district of North America and located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1782. Early in 1787, he made application for leave to visit and reside in New England and a permit was issued in May of that year. He settled in Salem, where he stayed until the death of his father in 1793, when he returned to Worcester and for the remaining years of his life occupied "The Oaks." In 1836 the house was enlarged to its present size. Revolutionary soldiers are said to have been quartered there and proof of this statement was said to have been a soldier's hat found in the partitions when the house was remodeled at that time. Dr. William Paine was second in his class at Harvard and is said to have owned the first apothecary shop in Worcester. He occupied the family homestead until his death in 1833.

Frederick William Paine, youngest son of Dr. William and a prominent resident of Worcester, was the next owner until his death in 1869. "The Oaks" became his permanent home in 1826. He was a member of the General Court of Massachusetts in 1829, selectman of Worcester from 1827 to 1831 and from 1838 to 1849, or until the town chartered as a city. His garden on Lincoln Street was noted for its fruits and flowers.

The next owner was Rev. George Sturgis Paine who died in England in 1900, leaving his property to his three nieces and a nephew, from whom the chapter purchased the property in 1914.

The house is well adapted for chapter use and the ample grounds afford many plans for out-of-doors enjoyment. This property with its 57,156 square feet of land is situated on Lincoln Street and extends through to Paine Street. It has 180 feet frontage on Lincoln Street and 240 feet on Paine Street. When the chapter took it over it had been unoccupied for twenty years, family sentiment for this beautiful old place having prevented its sale for tenement houses or other commercial purposes.

Today the home retains the beauty of its early days. The floors, woodwork, and fireplaces are well preserved. Sometime in the past all of the fireplaces had been painted black. When the Daughters "took over" in 1914, they found that underneath the paint were beautiful fireplaces of slate and marble. These have all been properly restored to their original elegance.

Flagstones leading to the house came from two of Worcester's old homes, the Ethan Allen estate on Murray Avenue and the Isaiah Thomas estate on Court Hill. The garden, flagged walk, and planting were well reproduced several years ago. Even the hurricane of 1938, failed to warp or distort the beauty of the house and grounds, which look even more intriguing from the street, as they can be seen more easily.

The house was purchased with some furnishings and more have been presented in the thirty-five years since that time. These items have a congenial and lovely setting in the ancient house with a heritage it is easy enough to construct, for there are many descriptions of the Paine homestead in old books, manuscripts, and papers of Worcester as a town and city.

The members of the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter are justly proud of "The Oaks" as it is one of the finest chapter houses in Massachusetts.

The gardens, which for years were noted for their beauty, have been restored as nearly as possible to their original design.

Our chapter house has been a meeting place for all types of cultural and social groups. It is famous for its colonial teas, garden parties, dessert bridges, lobster luncheons, open houses, harvest suppers, Christmas fairs, guest days, gentlemen's nights, silver teas, receptions, and entertainments. Thousands of persons in all walks of life have been received here and it is indeed a chapter house worthy of all the work and worry that owning such a home involves.

The Oaks is set back from the street and down a little slope. This adds much to its setting as do the old oak trees surrounding it. It is reached by an attractive flagged walk or by an elliptical drive in the center of which is an interesting old Indian mortar.

An old door with a brass knocker leads into an attractive hall from which opens a library and drawing room. A hall runs through the first floor. The drawing room with its fireplaces, fascinating old pictures, and attractive furniture is indeed dignified. One of the pictures was copied in petit point and contains some 5,000 stitches.

Beyond the breakfast room is the dining room, which was probably originally the kitchen, it having a large fireplace with brick oven. In this room was a table at which Whigs and Loyalists are said to have sat, not the least of the former being John Adams, Worcester's celebrated school teacher, who taught Timothy Bigelow, and later became President of the United States.

Source: Carpenter, Mildred Carver. “The Oaks,” The Fifty Year Review   (1948)

The Timothy Paine House was accepted on April 30, 1976, for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.