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Getting to Know the Town of Newton: Featuring Architect Peter Sachs and Photographer Sharon Schindler

By Kristen Bosse

Settled in 1630, Newton, Massachusetts is a vibrant community comprised of 13 distinctive villages. Located just outside of Boston, the town is well respected for the quality of education, community life, exceptional homes, and beautiful open spaces. Newton's proximity to Boston along with its historic homes, good public schools, and safe and quiet neighborhoods make it a desirable community for those who commute to Boston. Time and time again, Newton has been voted as one of the best communities in the U.S. to live in. It is no doubt that part of its charm has to do with the beautiful and lush parks and scenery, and the unique style of the homes. One of Newton's premier architects (Peter Sachs) and successful photographers (Sharon Schindler) elaborated on their beloved town, and how they have seen it grow in recent years.

Peter Sachs

Peter Sachs has worked as a Principal for his architectural firm for the past thirty years (and counting). The firm focuses on custom residential renovation, historic restoration, additions and new homes. He discovered his love for architecture while working as a carpenter during his summers at the University of Pennsylvania. "I found something I loved in carpentry and the building trades and realized that Architecture was a career worth exploring." He took this on with him when pursuing his Masters in Architecture at the same University.

Nowadays, he continues to explore his passion of architecture through his work in Newton and the surrounding towns. As the Owner of an 1860's style home in Newton, Sachs began to explore how he could integrate seamless looking additions into older homes. This work has lead him to designing "new old" homes with the same charm and detail as their ancestors. Considering Newton is filled with older colonial style homes, Sachs' philosophy was a match made in heaven.

"There is definitely more interest in recent years for the eclectic or transitional style that blends traditional exterior detailing with more contemporary floors plans that respond to modern living. It is best described as a "new" old house that has the charm and character of older homes on the outside, while providing a more contemporary interior. The Historic Commission and many residents have preferred more revival types of styles in the last fifteen years."
Look below to see some examples of Peter's "new" old home projects.

If someone were to drive through the town of Newton, they might feel as though they were passing through a time capsule. "There are mid 1800's farmhouse's, Victorian belles, stoic stick-style or shingle-style mansions of begone wealth, 30's and 40's pre-war suburban gems and many post war 50's and 60's ranches ready for the rat pack. If you've seen it, we have it in some form or another." In Peter's opinion, it is the diverse style of homes that speak to Newton's true character. Although residents may want a more modern interior with a Jacuzzi tub and marble countertops, they still appreciate the Village-like appearance that the houses on their street uphold. Thanks to the innovative vision of architects like Peter Sachs, residents in a way are able to have their cake and eat it too!

Sharon Schindler

Over the past twenty years, Sharon Schindler has been known as been known as one of Newton's premier photographers, specializing in fine art photography and in documenting architectural design, landscapes, and nature. Her images, displayed in galleries across Greater Boston, have become a popular choice to fill offices, business, and homes. Her passion for design, nature, and architecture has led her to photograph the U.S. (especially Newton) and abroad to capture just the moment at just the right perspective.

Perhaps one of Sharon's largest projects surrounded the old Newton North High School. In 2007, it was decided that the old high school would be torn down and replaced with a more environmentally conscious, energy efficient building. Although nearly all the residents of Newton were in agreement that a new building was needed, it was still hard to see a high school that had been standing tall for thirty years be torn down completely into shambles. For this reason, Sharon was called upon to document the school, giving longtime residents something special to remember this landmark.

"Shooting photos of the old Newton North High School was a great experience for me. I was originally asked if I would document the more than 125 senior murals on the cement walls of the school. As I explored the building, I realized that it was important to document the whole building. I returned to the building frequently taking photos trying to capture the feelings of the many years spent in the old school. As the new school was being built, I shot photos of it as well. For months as the old school was being torn down, I shot photos looking down on it from the roof of the new school until there was nothing but rubble left to shoot."

For Sharon, her love affair with Newton began with its rich culture, nature, and history. Her inspiration stems from the idea of shooting a photo with a twist. When she looks at a subject, she is thinking of how she can capture the essence of the subject from just the right angle and composition. A great example of this is featured below in a snapshot of various colored kayaks on the Charles River in Newton. Although the picture is of something quite simple in nature, the angle and the way the sunlight hits the water makes it looks as if it were painted.

One of her greatest memories is when she gets to shoot the Boston Marathon runners going through Heartbreak Hill. "Shooting photos in April on Commonwealth Avenue as the Boston Marathon runners fill the street, is fantastic! The street is lined with spectators, volunteers and medical teams. It's a true community event."

To see more of Sharon's work, or to purchase one of her pieces, visit her website here:

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