The Machon

The Machon Elementary School, a large masonry building originally built in 1921, with a subsequent addition built in the 1960s, provided education to local children in grades kindergarten through fifth for 87 years in Swampscott, Massachusetts. The school, named after a longtime teacher Emma Machon who taught at the nearby Essex Street School in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, had fallen into disrepair, and was shuttered in 2007 due to budgetary issues. The school sat empty for almost ten years. In 2015, the town of Swampscott recognized a growing demand for affordable senior housing and considered the derelict building as an appropriate opportunity for redevelopment. Prior to its renovation and restoration, the town enlisted help from the Essex County Department of Corrections to assist in the school’s interior clean-up, requiring inmates in the prerelease program at The Farm, an Essex County minimum security correctional facility in Lawrence, to participate.

The preservation and adaptive reuse of the Machon Elementary School involved converting the original historic school building into new use and replacing its obsolete 1963 gymnasium addition with a contemporary structure. The result is a 40,199 square foot independent living community featuring 38 affordable one-bedroom units for active individuals aged 55+. Exacting rehabilitation of the historic exterior involved repairing the copper cornice and rebuilding sections of the deteriorated façade. The main entrance of the existing school was preserved, although its position at several feet above grade was not accessible. The design team artfully reconfigured the main entry on a lower level, providing a new focal point and accessible entry for all residents.

The modern 17,383 square foot addition complements the original school by rhythmically echoing its cornice and window groupings, while the new façade utilizes cement fiber panels and brick veneer to provide a powerful visual connection to the historic structure. Shallow bay windows were employed as a design element to delineate residential use. Reimagining the existing two-story auditorium, the team designed and inserted a third structural floor to create needed volume for the community’s library and screening room. The exterior architectural program emphasizes the contextual relationship between the landscaped site, the neighborhood, and the open public space.

The redevelopment team recognized the unique opportunity to bring new life to this rare building that occupies a beautiful vista overlooking the neighboring Swampscott High School, Senior Center, and park, with Jackson Park Woods on the hilltop at its back door.

Swampscott, MA
Date of Completion:
Project Size (Sq. ft)
40,199 SF
B’nai B’rith Housing
Peabody Properties
The Architectural Team
Interior Design Firm:
Wellesley Design
Keith Construction

The renovation of the 1920s historic school, coupled with the replacement of the 1963 gymnasium with a new structure, results in 38 affordable units for seniors. The addition complements the school, echoing its cornice and window groupings, and providing visual connection via cement fiber panels.

The exterior architectural program emphasizes the contextual relationship between the landscaped site, the neighborhood, and public space, bringing to life a landmark building with vistas and delineated pathways to Swampscott High School, the Senior Center, and Jackson Park Woods.

The Machon features a community room with a grand fireplace, library and screening room, laundry facilities, and fitness center. A full-time, service coordinator is available to connect residents to resources in the community and coordinate wellness activities that promote healthy lifestyles.