Buildings of New England travels! Welcome to Schenectady, a great city in upstate New York, with an hard to spell and pronounce name! The name “Schenectady” is derived from the Mohawk word skahnéhtati, meaning “beyond the pines”. Schenectady was founded on the south side of the Mohawk River by Dutch colonists in the 17th century, many of whom were from the Albany area. In 1664 the English seized the Dutch New Netherland colony and renamed it New York. They established a monopoly on the fur trade around Albany, and issued orders to prohibit Schenectady from the trade through 1670 and later. The town grew mostly as an inland agricultural town until the Erie Canal was built in 1825, creating a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, cutting through Schenectady. The town grew and became an industrial center, attracting a very diverse population of immigrants in the 19th century and African Americans as part of the Great Migration out of the rural South to northern cities for work. The community struggled (like many) in the mid 19th century but has seen a large resurgence as of late!
This building is the Schenectady City Hall, a massive architectural landmark which made my jaw drop when I saw it! The City of Schenectedy outgrew their old City Hall, and in the late 1920s, held a nationwide contest to select designs for a new City Hall. The contest was won by the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White. It appears that the designs were furnished by James Kellum Smith of the firm, the often overlooked genius of the MMW practice. The exorbitant cost of the project, which was undertaken during the Great Depression, caused the building to be dubbed “Fagal’s Folly” after Mayor Henry C. Fagal, who allowed all the cost increases while the city’s future was uncertain. He was not re-elected after this building was completed. The building is a pleasing mixture of Colonial and Classical Revival styles and features bold pilasters and a towering cupola
Located on Arlington Street between St. James and Stuart streets in Boston’s Back Bay, this gorgeous masonry commercial block stands as a testament to the amazing architecture built in Boston in the early 20th century. The Paine Furniture Building was constructed in 1914 to house the extensive showroom, offices, and manufacturing operations of the Paine Furniture Company. Founded in 1835, the company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company, a name which stuck until the company closed in 2000. The architects for the building, Densmore & LeClear, were very busy in the early decades of the 20th century and designed many iconic buildings nearby and in towns surrounding Boston through the 1940s.
The buildings which make up the majority of the “Great White Quad” of Harvard Medical School in Boston, are the four laboratory buildings which frame two sides of the lawn. The four lab buildings add to the composition of the campus which historically terminated at the Administration Building (last post). All five buildings of the Longwood campus’ initial building campaign were built between 1903-05 and were designed by the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, who continued the architectural practice of the famed H.H. Richardson. The four lab buildings were designed U-shaped with two disciplines in each building, one on each wing, with a central auditorium space in the central wing upstairs. Large grassy courtyards were located in the enclosed sections to provide natural light and fresh air into the laboratories. Many of the Classical Revival lab buildings have been enclosed and added onto in the 20th century as the campus grew exponentially, a testament to its success.
The Boston Gas Light Company was incorporated in 1823 and for thirty years was the sole company producing coal gas in the City of Boston. In the second half of the 19th century, several additional gas light companies were formed in and around Boston to make loads of money with the booming industrial growth seen there. They continued until it was determined that with the proximity of competing pipelines and the overlap of service areas it would be more efficient to consolidate into a single company. The Boston Consolidated Gas Company was chartered in 1903 to to combine numerous smaller corporations operating in the City of Boston under one conglomerate. The organization had a small building in Downtown, which was outgrown decades later. The company hired the local firm of Parker, Thomas & Rice, to design the new mid-rise office building on the outskirts of the fashionable Back Bay neighborhood. The base of the Classical Revival building follows the base, shaft and capital form. The base is traditional with three stories of rustication, ornamental capitals, carved detail at the arches and the elegant bronze window frames. The central stories are clad in dressed limestone, streamlined with punched openings, emphasizing verticality. Stories 12 and 13 are framed by colossal engaged columns with arched windows and bas reliefs. The ground floor today is home to a recently opened restaurant, Nusr-Et Boston, which was created by the famous chef, Salt Bae.
Montgomery Ward was founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872. Ward had conceived of the idea of a dry goods mail-order business in Chicago. The fledgling company often created catalogs of their items for sale, distributing the booklets in the streets of the city. In 1883, the company’s catalog, which became popularly known as the “Wish Book”, had grown to 240 pages and 10,000 items. In 1896, Wards encountered its first serious competition in the mail order business, when Richard Warren Sears introduced his first general catalog. In 1900, Wards had total sales of $8.7 million, compared to $10 million for Sears, beginning a rivalry that lasted decades. In 1926, the company broke with its mail-order-only tradition when it opened its first retail outlet store in Indiana. It continued to operate its catalog business while pursuing an aggressive campaign to build retail outlets in the late 1920s. In 1928, two years after opening its first outlet, it had opened 244 stores. By 1929, it had more than doubled its number of outlets to 531. This smaller retail expansion was in contrast to rival, Sears Roebuck Company, which was opening a chain of large retail stores on the outskirts of larger cities. The 515th Montgomery Ward store was this one in Burlington. The building is constructed of brick and faced with concrete with “Chicago-style” three-part windows with the three bays capped by concrete pilasters topped by urns. The Burlington Montgomery Ward store closed in 1961, and the building is now home to Homeport, a home goods store.
One of the largest, most grand buildings in Downtown Burlington, Vermont is its City Hall building, constructed in 1928, just before the Great Depression. The brick facade with extensive carved marble trim is Neo-classical in style, with virtually all the finish materials – brick, marble, roofing slate, and granite produced in Vermont. The building replaced the 1850s City Hall, which was poorly constructed and suffered from deterioration, exacerbated by an earthquake in 1925. Architect William M. Kendall was hired to complete the designs of the large, bold Classical building. Kendall spent his career with the New York firm of McKim, Mead & White, the leading American architectural practice at the turn of the century, and showcased the best of that firm with the design of this building.
The Beverly Public Library was established in 1855 as one of the earliest public libraries in Massachusetts, succeeding a private subscription library that was organized in town in 1802. Between 1855 and 1913, the town’s library was housed in the Town Hall building. When it was determined the cramped library space was insufficient, a new site was acquired nearby and funding was received for a new impressive structure. Cass Gilbert of New York, one of the premier architects of the time was hired to complete designs, he was paid a total of $651.81 for his work. Charles Greeley Loring (1881-1966) of Gilbert’s office (and a Beverly native) apparently worked out much of the details on the project and likely had a large part in the designs, probably because Cass Gilbert was working on designs for his iconic Woolworth Building in Manhattan at that same time. The walls of the library are clad in brick with a Flemish bond pattern and are trimmed with marble. At the main entry, double doors are framed by a classical surround, which is set within a concave curved recess/apse with a half-dome ceiling. The dome is embellished with terracotta moldings in a diamond pattern in which are centered small bas-reliefs in classical motifs. I can’t get over how gorgeous this library is!
Located on Cabot Street in Downtown Beverly, Mass, the aptly named Cabot Theater stands as one of the most iconic landmarks in the town and North Shore. The building was constructed in 1920 by Glover Ware and Harris Ware of Marblehead and named the Ware Theatre, at a cost of over $250,000 a century ago. The structure was designed by the architectural firm of Funk and Wilcox, who are credited for dozens of theaters in the Boston area. The lobby of the building was faced with pink marble with a gold-leaf embellished, vaulted ceiling. The auditorium, was furnished with a forty-three foot dome, chandeliers, and a $50,000 pipe organ. During the 1960s, the theater was sold to Loews who renamed it after its location on Cabot Street. In 1976, the building was purchased by Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company, restoring the interior spaces, stage rigging, and dressing rooms. For 37 years, The Cabot hosted Le Grand David’s long-running magic show that entertained local audiences, made seven White House appearances and won recognition in the Guinness Book of Records and national magazines. The future of the theater was uncertain until it was purchased and a new board of directors was instituted who provide funding streams, new live acts and maintain the historic structure to this day.
This stunning townhouse on Beacon Street in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston was constructed in 1913 for George Eddy Warren and his wife Frances Knowles Warren. The home, designed by Parker, Thomas & Rice, is one of the more elegant Classical Revival townhomes in the city, with its symmetrical, prominent bowfront, piano nobile with full-height windows, classical lintels, and thoughtful use of brick and stone construction. George E. Warren was a coal dealer, who was selected to head the U.S. Army’s Raw Materials Division during WWI for his expertise. During the war he was in charge of the fuel and forage division, overseeing an important aspect of 20th century warfare, petroleum manufacturing and distribution. His wife Frances was the daughter of Francis B. Knowles, a co-founder of Rollins College in Florida, the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Florida. Frances volunteered her time in Boston as President of the YWCA, progressing women’s empowerment and social justice in the city. After successive ownership, the townhome was acquired by Emerson College and combined with its neighbor on the interior. In 2000, the home was reverted back to a residence and houses two condominium units.
Norman Rockwell‘s ‘Home for Christmas’ painting in 1967 depicts the Main Street scene in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and epitomizes the essence of Christmas in small towns across the country. In the iconic painting, you can find many landmarks (including the Town Offices building) that make up the quaint main street, that typifies many small New England towns. At the center of his painting, the Guerrieri Block can be seen with a Christmas tree lit up in the window on the second floor. The Guerrieri Block was built in 1921 by Antonio Guerrieri, a skilled woodworker who sold and repaired antiques in one of three street level shops in the block. He and his family lived in an apartment on the second floor. The next year he completed construction of a shop behind the block where he worked out of. In 1953, Norman Rockwell moved to Stockbridge and spoke with Antonio about using the second floor of his building as a studio. Antonio constructed a large central bay window with plate glass to flood the space with light and allow Rockwell to work while observing the street below. Rockwell used the space as his studio until 1957. The building has since been occupied as a general store.