Reverend Adin Ballou, the founder of the Hopedale Community, created a Christian anarcho-socialist utopia that peacefully resisted government coercion and provided refuge for other white Christian anarchists but especially for freed enslaved people. In 1841, he and other Christian anarchists purchased a farm west of Milford, Massachusetts and named it Hopedale. The community was settled in 1842. The early commune regularly hosted progressive seminars on the topics like free love and proto-feminism and had black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass give talks on the plight of enslaved people. As per the request of Douglass, the Hopedale Community harbored and protected a runaway slave for some time. The practical end of the Community came in 1856 when two of Ballou’s closest supporters, Ebenezer and George Draper, withdrew their 75% share of the community’s stock to form the successful Hopedale Manufacturing Company. George claimed the community was not using sound business practices. The community, however, continued on as a religious group until 1867, when it became the Hopedale Parish and rejoined mainstream Unitarianism. After the brothers left the community, they funded a church building for the congregation. In the 1890s, Eben and George Draper funded this newer, large church building designed by Edwin J. Lewis.
Schenectady’s oldest extant religious building, St. George’s Church, sits in the center of the Stockade Historic District in Schenectady, New York. As Schenectady was settled and dominated by Dutch settlers, English settlers began moving to the riverfront town, due to its rich fur trade and opportunity. With the growth of English residents, a church where the services were conducted in the English language became necessary. The blossoming congregation hired architect Samuel Fuller, who arrived to Schenectady from Boston in 1758, at the height of the French and Indian War. Ground was broken on the stunning Gothic church in 1759 and it was finally completed in 1763, delayed due to fighting nearby. The church was originally more modest for the smaller congregation, but underwent a large building campaign in the mid 1800s thanks to Reverend William Payne. He oversaw the construction of a new parish house, a new rectory, as well as two successive expansions of the church and the addition of a stone tower and spire to the west front of the church, giving it the appearance we see today. The congregation is still highly active and maintains the building beautifully to this day.
This home in Schenectady’s Stockade Historic District appears to have been built in the mid-19th century, and is an excellent example of a modestly sized Gothic Revival cottage. The house was occupied around 1860 by David P. Forrest, who served one term as Mayor of Schenectady in 1859, later becoming an Inspector of State Prisons from 1860 to 1862. The amazing Gothic bargeboard and other trimmings have remained and add so much intrigue to the home’s design. And that lancet window in the gable end! Swoon.
Off the beaten path (like much of the town of Wilmot, NH, you can find this stunning old New England meeting house. Erected in 1829, the North Wilmot Church stands as the oldest extant church in the small town. Five denominations—Congregational, Christian Baptist, Freewill Baptist, Universalist, and Methodist, together collaborated to build this structure then known as the North Union Meeting House. Each denomination held services at the church, as they were all too small separately to warrant their own buildings. Decades after it was built, it was determined that the church should be moved down the hill. In 1846, the church was lifted and placed on rollers (logs), and with the help of oxen, rolled down the hill. It is said that the builder of the church, Josiah Stearns, rode in the belfry. The Different congregations later built churches elsewhere and the building was under-utilized, and it was converted to a meeting space, but allowed a congregation to use the structure. In 1983, with the agreement of remaining North Wilmot Congregational Church members, the North Wilmot Union Meeting House Society was established to maintain the structure and arrange for services in July and August.
Historically significant as the third home of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookfield, Connecticut, this building is also architecturally important as an exceptional Gothic Revival place of worship. The second church of St. Paul’s burned on Valentine’s Day 1936, and the church soon after sought to rebuilt, but with fireproof construction. Members of the church were said to have gathered stones from stone walls nearby, as the town developed, with farmland making way for suburban housing. Bridgeport architect Frederick H. Beckwith furnished plans for the Gothic Revival edifice, which apparently took inspiration from a church in Dorset, England.
While I love the quintessential white, wood-frame New England churches that proliferate the region, the stone, Gothic churches always make me stop in my tracks; and this example in Bristol is no exception! St. Michael’s parish was founded in 1718 as one of the Rhode Island’s four colonial churches, funded and overseen from London. The first church, built in 1720, was ironically later burned during a British raid in 1778. It was replaced in 1785 by a plain wooden meetinghouse with funds from local residents and partitioners. In 1833, it was replaced by a wood-frame Gothic church which burned in 1858. Undeterred, the church hired New York City architects Alexander Saeltzer and Lawrence B. Valk, who designed the present brownstone Gothic Revival church. Just over a decade later, the church hired Worcester architect Stephen C. Earle, to design a chapel and parish house, across the street. The chapel building follows the Gothic Revival style, but with more Victorian flair, and is also constructed of brownstone to compliment the church. Together, the two structures transport you to the English countryside with their design and presence on the main street in town. What do you think of them?
This 2-story Neo-Gothic Revival church constructed of buff brick and limestone, is dominated by an off-center, 4-level tower and showcases how even smaller towns in New England have some of the finest 20th century churches. In 1849 St. Mary’s parish, in nearby Warren, Rhode Island, was founded to serve residents there as well as Irish and French Canadian immigrants in Bristol, which began arriving en masse. Just years later, in 1855, the first St. Mary’s Church in Bristol, was constructed as a plain wooden structure, and operated as a mission of the Warren church. In 1874 the Bristol church became an independent parish and saw large increases to membership with more Irish families settling here. Over the next decades, the space became more cramped and a building campaign was started to get a new place of worship. The present St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in 1911, from plans by the Providence-based architectural firm of Murphy, Hindle & Wright, who together (and separately) designed many ecclesiastical buildings, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The interior is even more stunning than the exterior detailing, and remains very well-preserved.
“Longfield”, aka the Abby DeWolf House was built in 1848 and is one of the finest homes in Bristol, Rhode Island. The home was completed from designs by Providence architect Russell Warren, who also designed other mansions in town (I’ll post those later on in this series), the Westminster Arcade in Providence, and “Hey Bonnie Hall” a since demolished Federal style home I featured a couple days ago. Longfield’s name derives from the 60-acre meadow, part of the 300-acre Henry DeWolf farm, given to Abby DeWolf when she married Charles Dana Gibson at just 21 years of age. The DeWolf Family paid for the home as a gift to Abby. The DeWolf Family is infamous for being highly active in the slave trade, and was believed to have transported over 11,000 enslaved people from Africa to the Americas before congress abolished the African Slave Trade in 1808, which “prohibited the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.” This policy did little as many owners of slaves just kept children born into slavery and also opened plantations in the Caribbean and South America. After Abby died in 1901, the home went to her granddaughter who maintained the home. By the 1970s, the home was sold out of the family and began a period of decades of deterioration to its current state. The interior is effectively gutted, but some original woodwork and fireplaces remain. Recent calls for a townhouse development with ample parking was proposed and approved by the town a couple years ago, but would greatly diminish its siting and architectural integrity. Nothing has happened on the site, but here’s to an appropriate restoration!
On a rise above the Cape Elizabeth’s rocky shore stands Beckett’s Castle, a picturesque Gothic cottage of a century ago. Designed and built by the Portland literary figure Sylvester Beckett for his summer residence, the Castle was begun in 1871 and finished in 1874. It is said that Beckett constructed the cottage from local gray fieldstone largely with his own hands, though he must have had help, or fabricated this fiction as he would have in his own books. The home was patterned after a typical English castle, but on a much smaller scale, and is tucked away from the street. Sylvester Blackmore Beckett was born in Portland, Maine in 1812, as the son of English parents. Although never attending college, he acquired a modest education and became a prominent journalist and articulate writer. He was admitted to the bar in 1859 and spent much of his time administering and settling estates becoming well-connected in town. Beckett held massive parties in the home, and invitations to the social gatherings held there were highly prized; guests were served expansive dinners cooked in primitive fashion in a large fireplace. Sylvester Beckett died in 1882, and went to his only child, Lizzie. The home fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but was restored by the most recent owner. It was sold in 2018, and the listing photos show some great interior spaces.
At the southern tip of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, two lighthouses have long provided a beacon to ships that sailed the rocky coast where the town protrudes into the ocean. The story of Cape Elizabeth’s Two Lights begins in 1614, when Captain John Smith, who sailed along New England’s shores, gave the appellation to the cape in honor of Princess Elizabeth, King Charles’ sister. After the American Revolution, Portland Harbor became an important trading port, and ships from all over the world would dock there. In 1827, the decision was made to use two lights at this location, a fixed light in the east tower and a revolving light in the west one, so the station would not be confused with the lights at nearby Portland Head Light or Wood Island Light in nearby Biddeford. After land was purchased for a mere $50, the towers were built, spaced by 895 feet and topped by octagonal wrought-iron lanterns housing lamps and reflectors, first shone their lights in October 1828. The stone towers were poorly constructed and keepers would consistently complain about poor working and living conditions. A $30,000 appropriation was made in 1873 to fund the erection of two matching sixty-seven-foot, brick-lined, cast-iron towers set 923 feet apart and featuring elegant Italianate details. In 1878, a new wood-frame, one-and-a-half-story dwelling was built for the principal keeper near the east tower, designed in the Gothic Revival style. During World War II, the west tower became an observation tower after a cylindrical turret was installed atop, which had had its lantern room removed after being discontinued. It was auctioned to the highest bidder in 1959. In 1971, actor Gary Merrill, ex-husband of Bette Davis, purchased the west tower for $28,000. Merrill sold it in 1983, and a new house was built next to it. The keeper’s cottage at the east tower is also privately owned, but the tower is retained by the Coast Guard, and is automated today.