At the peak of Nantucket’s whaling industry wealth, the island began to see new brick buildings and whaling mansions that symbolized the stability and success of the town. In 1821, Frederick W. Mitchell (1784-1867), acquired this property on Main Street, demolishing the previous wood-frame house on the site, in preparation for his own mansion. Frederick Mitchell was a successful whaling merchant and one-time president of the Pacific National Bank. Mitchell was married twice but left no children from either marriage. The house remained in the Mitchell family until 1889 when it sold it to Caroline Louisa Williams French (1833-1914) of Boston, who summered on Nantucket until her death in 1914. A devout Episcopalian, French gifted this house to St. Paul’s Church in Nantucket for use as a Parish House. The church deaccessioned the house, and it eventually sold in 1962 to Walter Beinecke (1918-2004) acquired the house for his home. A central figure in the preservation and revival of Nantucket in the second half of the 20th century, Beinecke sought to preserve the island and reduce the damage done by tourism by creating a higher-priced resort that would reduce the number of day tourist and aim at increasing the number of wealthy tourists who would come as summer residents or for extended visits. Working towards this goal, Beinecke acquired large numbers of buildings (more than 150) in the commercial core of the town as personal investments through his private company Sherburne Associates, restoring many. The house is one of the finest examples of late-Federal residential architecture on the island with its recessed entry and fanlight transom, symmetrical five bay facade, decorative parapet and belvedere at the roof.
This Colonialized Federal period house sits just down Vestal Street from the Maria Mitchell Association campus on the ever-charming island of Nantucket. The home was built around 1820 for Gorham Hussey (1797-1879), who would have been around 23 at the time. He married Lydia Macy in 1820 and the couple had twin daughters that same year, likely right after this house was completed (talk about a busy year)! The home was later owned by photographer John W. McCalley, who photographed this and other houses in the area. The home retains a high-style Colonial Revival fanlight over the door, likely added in the first three decades of the 20th century as colonial homes were romanticized.
Although Hezekiah Swain built this house in 1790, the property is better known as the home of Maria Mitchell and is to this day, preserved to interpret her amazing legacy. Maria Mitchell’s father William bought the house in 1818, and Maria was born there later that year. Maria grew up on Nantucket and she became the first female astronomer in America. After she discovered a comet in 1847 (which was named Miss Mitchell’s Comet), her international recognition led to many awards and that acclaim enabled her to continue her work. She accepted a position as professor of astronomy at Vassar College by its founder, Matthew Vassar, in 1865 and became the first female professor of astronomy She established the Association for the Advancement of Women and became the first female member of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. She was also very involved in the anti-slavery movement in New England. After Maria Mitchell died in 1889, the Maria Mitchell Association, was established in Nantucket to preserve the sciences on the island and Mitchell’s work. On July 15, 1908, the Observatory on Vestal Street near the Science Library and Mitchell House was dedicated. The Observatory, built by the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association, stimulated local interest in science. The success of the Observatory’s programs prompted the construction of an astronomical study in 1922, joining the existing facility with the Maria Mitchell Birthplace. The museum operates in Summers to this day, and continues Maria’s rich legacy in the sciences.
This late Federal style house on Nantucket was built in the early nineteenth century for Thomas Coffin, who himself acquired the land in 1818, which would date the home to around 1819. The Federal house exhibits a raised basement with a five bay facade with central entrance. The door is surrounded by sidelights and transom with Classical enframement. Like many houses on Nantucket, the house is clad with cedar shingles. After ownership by Thomas Coffin, the property passed through numerous hands until 1929, when the house was purchased by Lydia S. Hinchman (1845-1938). Lydia deeded the property to her son requesting that it go to the Maria Mitchell Association upon his death (Lydia was a first cousin of Maria Mitchell). He died in 1944, and the property transferred soon after to the Maria Mitchell Association which was founded in 1902 to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell.
There is so much to love about this house! The lot here was purchased by Paul Macy and Gideon Folger in 1807, and they had this house built on the site that year. Paul Macy and, Gideon Folger were two major shareholders in the ill fated whaling schooner “Essex”. In 1820, while at sea in the southern Pacific Ocean under the command of Captain George Pollard Jr., the ship was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale. Thousands of miles from the coast of South America with little food and water, the 20-man crew was forced to make for land in the ship’s surviving whaleboats. The men suffered severe dehydration, starvation, and exposure on the open ocean, and the survivors eventually resorted to eating the bodies of the crewmen who had died. When that proved insufficient, members of the crew drew lots to determine whom they would sacrifice so that the others could live. Seven crew members were cannibalized before the last of the eight survivors were rescued, more than three months after the sinking of the Essex. This ordeal was inspired Herman Melville to write his famous 1851 novel Moby-Dick. The Folger House was owned for some time by Walter Folger, a lawyer who served in the state senate.
In around 1800, Baker Turner built this beautiful Federal period home on Nantucket. It typifies the best parts of Nantucket architecture: gray weathered shingles, charm and simplicity. Over 100 years after the house was built, the property became significant as a facility for saving lives. The Nantucket Cottage Hospital was founded in 1911, conceived by the visions of Dr. John S. Grouard (who lived nearby) and Dr. Benjamin Sharp, to provide centralized high-quality medical services to the residents on the island. There had been no hospital on the island beforehand. The duo bought the former Turner homestead in 1912 and moved in. The hospital was eventually outgrown, and the hospital relocated to a modern building on available land in the 1950s. This building was sold and now appears to be a home, full circle.
The last (but certainly not least) building in Dorset, Vermont I’ll be featuring is the Manley-Lefevre House aka. Marble House! This stunning Federal period home was built around 1820 by Martin Manley (1783-1856) on land originally owned by his father George. The house is constructed of ashlar marble that was quarried with hand tools from the lower quarry located approximately 200′ behind the site of the house with dressed marble finished in town and brought back for installation at the lintels, sills, and door surround. In 1907, Edwin Lefevre, Sr. (1871-1943) traveled by train from Bronxville, New York to Dorset at the suggestion of the artist Lorenzo Hatch, with the intention of locating a summer residence for his family. They purchased this home, which became known as “The Old Stone House” and hired Eugene J. Lang, a New York architect, to remodel the house, design a kitchen wing and remodel the barn into a garage (1909). While in Italy, Lefevre fell in love with the formal gardens there, and wanted something like this for his country estate. Upon his return, he retained garden designer Charles Downing Lay to design the gardens that surround the house. The country estate is now home to The Marble House Project, a multi-disciplinary artist residency program.
Located at the principal intersection in the Kent Hill area of Dorset, this home is the visual anchor for its surroundings. The property is a typical early 19th century Federal style house in Vermont, sheathed in clapboards, a central entrance, with a slate gabled roof and two exterior end chimneys. The house was probably remodeled not long before the Civil War, which would account for the classical entry porch, with square piers, entablature, and paneled parapet. Together with the peaked lintels, these are the only classical details on the exterior of the building. This was the home to Martin Kent (1769-1857), a son of Cephas Kent, an original settler to the area of the prominent Kent family of Suffield, Connecticut. Cephas built a house and tavern on the southwest corner of this home, which hosted four meeting of delegates from various southern Vermont towns in 1775 and 1776 to determine how to act together against New York claims to their lands, a catalyst to the establishment of the state of Vermont. Other owners of the Martin Kent House have included historian and novelist Zephine Humphrey, her artist husband Wallace Fahnestock, and Lincoln Isham, Abraham Lincoln’s great-grandson! Lot of history here!
One of the oldest continually operating inns in America, the Dorset Inn remains a visual and historical anchor to the charming little village of Dorset, Vermont. The Federal period building was historically known as the Hodges Hotel before becoming The Washington Hotel in about 1858 (the porch was added at that time to make it resemble George Washington’s Mt. Vernon home). The name became the Dorset Inn in 1904. As constructed in 1796, the main block possessed a five-bay facade arranged symmetrically around a central entrance; an 1858 extension added two bays on the west, when it was modernized. Though the inn has seen changes and modernizations over time, the building has such a historic character that brings in people from all over the country to experience the best of Dorset every year.
One of the oldest extant houses in Dorset, Vermont, this gorgeous Federal Cape house adds so much charm to the village. The house is possibly the homestead of James Abel Hodge (1756-1826) who settled in Dorset from Connecticut after serving in the Revolutionary War. Hodge settled in the town when it was but wilderness, opening up a store in the village and helping the infant township grow into a thriving marble manufactory. This house was later owned by stonecutter I. W. Dunton and after, by “Grandma” Annette Weeks (1841-1925). Like many Cape houses, it probably evolved, adding wings to the right and left as the family inside grew.