In the Beginning
In 1950, MIT Professor Rupert Maclaurin had a vision. He wanted to build low cost housing for young families, particularly for faculty members at MIT and Harvard, who were finding affordable housing hard to locate in the post-World War II boom.
He enlisted MIT architect Carl Koch to design the houses, and they settled on a 190-acre parcel in Concord, costing $52,000, as the perfect location.
After sending out postcards to announce the establishment of New Towns, Inc., they held a meeting in December 1950 to introduce the project, consisting of 102 house lots (later expanded to 104) and almost 60 acres of common land. For a $13 fee, people could join the Concord Cooperative. By late January, there were 47 applicants.
The project was approved by the Concord Planning Board on March 12, 1951 as the first planned development in Concord. Less than two weeks later, a price list went out to the applicants: lot prices ranged from $2,300 to $4,300 and house prices ranged from $8,645 to $18,320.
During the initial phase, Conantum faced many hurdles. Eighteen of the original sixty-six applicants dropped out when the time came to commit substantial cash to ownership. Both the FHA and Veteran’s Administration increased the amount of cash required for down payments; building roads and water mains proved costlier than anticipated; and the principle contractor, the Kelly Corporation, became overextended with Conantum and other projects and declared bankruptcy.
Overcoming all the roadblocks, founding members, with Rupert Maclaurin’s financial assistance, officially established the Kalmia Woods Corporation in May 1951 “to promote the civic and educational betterment and welfare of the community…, to improve the physical aspects and development of the said community and to further the recreation and enjoyment of the inhabitants thereof.”
The vision for Conantum (officially “Kalmia Woods”) became a reality and Conantum remains true to its roots to this day.
Young Families Moved In
As young families moved into Conantum in the early 1950’s an amazing number of them had babies within a year. Ten years later there were 297 children under the age of 18 in Conantum. Willard Elementary School, in the southwest corner of Concord, was built partly to accommodate this influx.
Now, more than 65 years since its founding, the community represents a far wider range of ages: young families (85 children under 18 in 2017), families with grown children, retirees, several second-generation householders and several of the original settlers. Community bonds remain strong.
In 2005 a granite bench at the ball field was dedicated with grateful appreciation to “Rupert Maclaurin, Founder of Conantum.” A new sign “Conantum, est. 1952” was designed and installed at the ballfield in 2016.
Until 1982, when water supply was taken over by the Town of Concord, Conantum had its own water district, the smallest in Massachusetts, complete with Water Commissioner and water tower.
Additional historical information can be found in the Concord Public Library archives.