CAROLINE SCHWIRIAN–HARDLY A STILL LIFE!
Caroline and her husband Larry met in architecture school and still maintain a firm together. They joined BOLLI in the fall of 2015 because, Caroline says, “Larry and I tend to focus too much on work. I realized we needed an outlet that we could both enjoy. After some research, we decided on BOLLI where we could have both a learning and social experience.”
Since joining BOLLI, both have enjoyed the wide range of classes the program provides, “giving each of us opportunities to learn things that we hadn’t had time to study over the years.” In addition to the courses, though, Caroline says she has especially enjoyed the summer/winter lecture series on history and music. She has also joined the Membership Committee and assisted in organizing this spring’s Back-to-School Brunch.
Outside BOLLI, Caroline has a variety of “extra-curricular” interests that keep her busy. “I have always loved plants and flowers,” she says. “I never had much time while working, but after retirement, I took a cue from the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and decided to start a small vegetable garden. It’s difficult to battle the rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels, but I am persistent.”
“One thing that led me to architecture was my love of drawing,” Caroline muses. “Unfortunately, after you reach a certain stage, you don’t get to use those skills that much in an office. Last summer, I took the drawing course offered by BOLLI, and it helped me get back into sketching. In her recent course on 18th and 19th Century French Painting, Suzanne Art encouraged us to try our hands at still life.” On Suzanne’s cue, Caroline went, quite literally, back to the drawing board and created the following piece of work.
Perhaps her most encompassing interest, though, has been the Schwirian house and the preservation of the Auburndale Local History District. “Our home has been a labor of love for 42 years,” she said. “It was kind of run-down when we bought it, so we have a lot of ‘sweat equity’ in it.” She goes on to say that a small part of the house dates from 1810 when it was the gatehouse for a long-gone estate. Most of it dates from 1849, when it was one of the first houses in Auburndale, a Newton village. The house was designed by architect Charles Edward Parker who also designed the United Parish Church of Auburndale (1857) located nearby. United Parish is one of the few remaining wooden Romanesque churches in the area and is noted as a Newton landmark as well as being on the National Historic Register. The composer Horatio Parker was born in the house in 1863. Parker, who wrote primarily church music, went on to be the Dean of the School Music at Yale where he taught Charles Ives.
“Many of the homes in our area date from the 1840’s to the early 1900’s,” Caroline says. “Many in our neighborhood feel that we are only the temporary stewards of these houses. When a number of our neighbors realized that the character of the area was changing, a concerted effort was begun to protect the houses and their history by creating a local historic district.” Caroline co-chaired the Historic District Committee for the Lasell Neighborhood Association, and, following state guidelines, she, with others, researched the history and styles of many homes in the area and then presented the findings to the City of Newton. “Of course, politics were involved, so it took five years of work,” she says. “But the Auburndale Local Historic District finally became law in 2005.” Her interest in preservation has influenced her work and led her to move on to another office that focused on preservation projects. In private practice, renovations and/or home additions are designed to be compatible with the original structures.
Caroline, was born in Cleveland and attended Western Reserve’s School of Architecture (now Case Western Reserve University). She was one of only two women in her Freshman class of thirty plus classmates and was one of only twelve to graduate five years later—this during a time when only 1% of all licenses architects in the U.S. were women.
In the fall, Caroline and Larry will be sharing their love of architecture when they will serve as BOLLI SGLs. Their five-week course will focus on learning to look at architecture. “When we can, we enjoy traveling to see the art, the architecture, and the culture of other places,” she says. “My favorite journeys, though, are the ones that take me to see my grandchildren in Ohio and DC.”
There’s nothing I like more than getting to know the people around me even better! I hope you’ll leave a comment for Caroline in the box below. It means a lot to each of our profiled members! And I’d love to hear from you about you!