The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
The J. Erik Jonsson Conference Center
J. Erik Jonsson Center

History of the Center



In 1884, James Marshall, a stockbroker who lived and worked in New York City, and who had summered at the Quissett Harbor Hotel in Woods Hole Massachusetts, purchased property on the harbor on which to build a summer cottage for his family. After completing the estate which included the Carriage House and a sizable dwelling (now the Wheeler House) and enjoying 8 summers in that house, the family desired a larger, more formal residence. The original house was moved at the end of the summer season in 1906 by workers using wench horses and an earthen ramp to a location on a hill opposite Quissett Avenue slightly to the right of the drive as you exit the Center. This was a challenging feat for the day and made more exacting by the fact that it was moved with the furniture, family belongings and stone chimneys intact.

The new house was a replica of the earlier one, with enlarged rooms, the addition of the rear porch and rooms above, formalized fireplaces, added servant's quarters and pantries, and many decorative and ornamental features. Completed in just 11 months, the residence was ready when the family arrived the following July. A remarkable accomplishment, but made possible by the availability of the ships carpenters in surplus as a result of the fading whaling industry and the resulting reduced ship building.

The Marshall's had three children, two girls and a boy. In time the ownership of the house passed to one of the Marshall's daughters, who sold it in 1934 to Mr. Hobart Ames of Boston. Again it passed to the heirs, who in turn sold it to Mr. Howard Houston. In 1975, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine purchased the house from Mr. Houston to use as a site for holding meetings of the Academy and the National Research Council during the late spring, summer, and early fall months.

Preservation and restoration efforts have been accomplished gradually and are ongoing. As projects of any magnitude have been identified, great authentic reproduction, and identical or superior quality materials are specified in order to ensure the architectural integrity of the structures.


Jonsson Center : 314 Quissett Avenue : Woods Hole, MA 02543 : 508-548-3760