McDonnell House

Eduardo Faxas



The McDonnell House, designed by architect Eduardo Faxas, is a two-story, gable-roofed house clad with wood weatherboards and reddish-brown brickwork. Gable-roofed dormers and projecting balconies break up the lines of the steeply pitched roofs, which extend far beyond the planes of the walls to form dramatic eaves. The house has an irregular rectangular footprint and asymmetrical massing.

Faxas designed the house using a 4' square module with wood-frame construction, a poured concrete foundation, and a masonry core. Exterior cladding was 1"x10" rough square cedar boards resembling weatherboards, which were finished with two coats of Cabot's bleaching oil and then intended to weather naturally. The window and door glass was single-pane, solar grey, 1/4" polished plate glass. The ground floors were poured concrete with integral copper-tubing radiant heat; the floors at the upper levels were wood. The brick masonry core contained three fireplaces. A small basement contained a boiler room. Finishes included 5/8" painted gypsum board, varnished clear Douglas fir wood trim, and ceramic tile for bathroom walls and floors. Faxas custom-built all of the windows, glazed doors, screens, and kitchen cabinets in his shop (Faxas, "House for Mr. & Mrs. Donal McDonnell," 1).


The McDonnell House was completed in 1969 for owners Donal and Marge McDonnell. The house was designed by architect Eduardo Faxas in 1968 and constructed by builder Paul J. Murphy. The house cost approximately $283,000. Faxas began designing the house while working for architect Eliot Noyes's firm, which he had joined in 1966. During the design phase, the owner's investment firm, McDonnell & Co., had a financial crisis, requiring the house budget to be cut by $30,000. Brick was substituted for the original fieldstone, and asphalt shingles were used on the roof instead of wood shingles (Schweitzer, 51).

In 1976, the house was sold to John B. Ford (ownership was conveyed to John B. and Jill H. Ford in 1982). That same year, the tennis court was built. In 1977, the original three-car carport was converted into a garage. In 1979-80, a gazebo and deck were completed. Faxas designed all of these additions and alterations. The swimming pool was also likely added at this time. In 1987, the house was sold to Gerald L. Cohen. The Cohens made changes to the interiors of the house: a new kitchen was constructed, the master bedroom was expanded, the radiant heating system was replaced using plastic tubing instead of the original copper, which had deteriorated, and new tile floors were installed. Faxas consulted on the alterations but owner Gerald Cohen acted as designer and builder.

National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.