Sparks House Undergoes a Color Change

Sparks House—historic landmark and former private residence to the late Reverend Peter J. Gomes—has undergone a color change. Recently a bright shade of canary yellow, the House has now been painted a taupe tone, restoring the house to its original color that dates back over 150 years.

Officially labeled the Treadwell-Sparks House, the House was built in 1838 to serve as the residence for Harvard Professor Daniel Treadwell and later for former University President Jared Sparks, a member of the Class of 1815.

The New Church Theological School purchased the House from Harvard in the late nineteenth century to serve as a training center for Swedenborgian ministers—a religious sect that follows the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg.

In the 1960s, Harvard re-acquired the property and moved the House from its former location at 48 Quincy Street to its current site at 21 Kirkland Street in order to make room for the building of the Graduate School of Design.

Added to the National Historic Register in 1986, the House served for more than 35 years as the home of the late Pusey Minister and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes who began the tradition of serving Wednesday tea in the House. After moving into the house in the early 1970s, Gomes chose the canary yellow that had marked the house since that time, according to Cambridge Historical Commission Survey Director Susan E. Maycock.

Harvard officials consulted the Cambridge Historical Commission after deciding to repaint the House in its original color scheme.

Maycock provided the paint consultation to the University, advising that a test be performed to determine exactly which shade first adorned Sparks House.

“We recommended that Harvard do a paint analysis—which was done several years ago—to determine what the original paint color was,” she said. “We’re obviously very pleased that they were interested in repainting close to its original scheme.”

Madeline C. McMahon ’14, a student who passes the building often on her way to class, noted that the new shade of the building better matches the buildings that flank it.

“Although I can’t say I paid particularly close attention to its color beforehand, I find the new shade to be much more relevant to its current surroundings,” she said.

—Staff writer Matthew M. Beck can be reached at


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