Historic Preservation of Cambridge’s Oldest House

Cooper-Frost-Austin House


Cambridge, MA

Project type

Historic Preservation



Completion Date

Q4 2020

Project Overview

DREAM was hired by Historic New England to perform a feasibility study for the Cooper Frost Austin House Museum. The house is the oldest dwelling standing in the City of Cambridge.

Built by Samuel Cooper in 1681, the house is one of the earliest examples of an integral lean-to “half-house.” Shortly after Samuel Cooper’s death in 1718, his son Walter extended the house to the west, thus completing the main block of the house and presenting the current symmetrical façade. Succeeding generations undertook various alterations to both the interior and exterior.

After being used primarily as a residence for over four decades and rarely being open to the public, DREAM is working alongside museum staff to discuss preservation, innovation, and community-focused programming. The study includes an evaluation of the evaluation of the existing conditions, an evaluation use of the site use and accessibility a space layout to achieve the goal of a 1st floor public programmatic space and 2nd floor apartment rental, and a review of local zoning and building codes.

Key Features

  • Reprogramming of a historic space to allow for public space
  • Recommendations for low-impact, historically sensitive solutions to accessibility and code issues


Existing Conditions Documentation

Comprehensive observation and documentation of a building or space through building plans and elevations.

Programming / Space Planning

Identifying and developing all the uses needed within a project, determining space requirements for each use, and best arrangement of uses within a space.

Feasibility & Test Fit Studies

Understanding a site’s capacity for building in order to inform program components, project size, and development of a budget.