Litchfield, New Hampshire remained a rural agricultural town on the eastern banks of the Merrimack River from its founding by white settlers until after WWII when it rapidly became a bedroom community for nearby NH cities and Boston. The area’s Presbyterian residents needed a place to worship, separate from the more common congregationalists, and they built this Gothic and Greek Revival style church near the geographic center of town, a stone’s throw from the Merrimack River. The building features lancet windows, tracery, and a two-tiered belfry with classical pilasters and Gothic finials at the tower.
Horatio Harris Villa // 1857
Not much remains of one of Roxbury’s once grand rural estates, but as there is some left, I want to feature it before it’s all gone, possibly any day now! Horatio Harris was born in Dorchester (present-day South Boston) in 1821 and ran a prominent auction house in Boston. He built his country estate in Roxbury beginning in 1857 in the Gothic Revival style, adding on and updating numerous times. During the Civil War, the firm of Horatio Harris & Co. obtained the contract to sell at auction all goods which were confiscated by the United States’ land or naval forces and brought to Boston. He made a lot of money and added to his land holdings and estate house in Roxbury. The mansion’s construction was timely as Roxbury was transitioning from a rural town, with farms and country estates of wealthy Boston merchants, to a streetcar suburb, increasing the land value of his holdings. The estate included nearly 30 acres of meandering paths, a lake with an island, outbuildings, and an observation tower – one of which remain today besides the ruin of the former mansion. Horatio died in 1876, in the decades following his death, his heirs began subdividing the estate, developing some and selling other plots off for houselots. By the early 1900s, Jewish people began moving into Roxbury, mixing with the predominantly Yankee population. By 1915, the Harris manor house was owned by the Hebrew Alliance of Roxbury, Inc. By the 1920s, they expanded facilities, adding a school building to the front of the former Harris Mansion, completely obscuring the facade of the old estate. In the 1940s, the upper stories were removed. Seemingly the death knell of the old Harris Villa was a fire in 2019, which gutted much of the remaining original fabric of the estate. All that remains is a bay window, some window trim details and a Gothic porte-cochere at the rear of the estate. See it before it’s too late!
First Congregational Church of Nantucket // 1834
The First Congregational Church is one of Nantucket’s most prominent historic landmarks and is prominently located on a hilltop, being one of the first buildings you’ll see when arriving to the island by ferry. Constructed from a design by Samuel Waldron, a Boston housewright, the present church blends the Greek and Gothic Revival styles elegantly into a single composition. The interior of the church was painted with architectural trompe l’oeil paintings by E.H. Whitaker of Boston in 1852. The steeple was removed in 1849, likely from engineering concerns and high winds on the island. In 1968, the steeple was reconstructed from historic drawings by Philip Graves of Ames & Graves.
Dorset Congregational Church // 1909
Arguably the most high-style building in the quaint village of Dorset, Vermont is the Congregational Church, which appropriately sits on Church Street. The original congregational church in Dorset was located in nearby Maple Hill Cemetery. When the wood structure burned in 1832, an new wooden church was built on this site. The second wooden building burned in 1907, and then this church was built, but of fireproof construction. Jordan Greene, an architect from New York, designed this Neo Gothic Revival style in the historic district. The church was constructed by the contracting firm of O. W. Norcross, partner in the Norcross-West Marble Company, which donated the building stone from its South Dorset quarry. The design is dominated by a massive square central tower that ascends its facade and is capped by pinnacles. Behind the tower, the gable-roofed church is built of rough-faced Dorset marble laid in patterned coursed ashlar and trimmed with dressed stone. How many other marble churches can you think of?
Doane-Foster House // 1807
In 1807 Hezekiah Doane (1768-1834), a shipwright, purchased land on Main Street in Barnstable Village, building a family home. The house was built in the Federal period, likely with a side gable or hipped roof. Hezekiah and his small family lived here until his death in 1834. After successive ownership, the property was purchased in 1846 by sea captain Heman Foster (1812-1867). Foster renovated the house, raising the roof and adding the Greek Revival detailing with the pedimented roof and pilasters, and the gothic lancet window in the gable for some Gothic Revival flair.
Crehore Mill Worker’s Cottage // c.1848
Toward the middle of the 19th-century, the Newton Lower Falls Village developed into a premier paper-manufacturing center of eastern Massachusetts, largely due water power supplied by the Charles River. One of the most successful paper mills in the area was owned by Lemuel Crehore (1791-1868), who with his success, built workers cottages for his employees and their families (imagine if businesses did that today)! This Greek Revival workers cottage was occupied by employees of the mill, and was sold off after the mill shut down. The house features a deep piazza with three Tuscan columns across the front and scroll-sawn bargeboards at the porch and hanging along the roof, giving it a slight Gothic Revival element.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church // 1813
Lower Falls Village in Newton, Massachusetts was first settled in the early 18th century by colonists due to the area’s natural waterfalls and rapids which was perfect for early industry. By the early 19th century, up to four paper mills lined the Charles River here at a dam which provided power and steady water supply for their facilities. The village saw a large population increase from that point until the end of the 19th century when larger mills in the state were built. One of the major community spaces for the growing village was it’s main church, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, which is the oldest extant church in Newton and the first Episcopal church built immediately west of Boston. The cornerstone for the building was laid in September 1813 containing a package of coins and a silver plate. Previously services had been held in the Lower Falls schoolhouse, with the first Episcopal service held in 1811. The land for the church was donated by Samuel Brown a wealthy Boston merchant who invested in the paper mills in Lower Falls. Many of the founding members and parishioners were in the paper making business in Lower Falls and buried in the adjacent cemetery. The Federal style church was altered in 1838 and given Gothic detailing, including lancet windows and finials at the steeple. In 1954, the bell tower was altered with the gothic finials replaced with the current urns on the balustrade, the gothic arched openings were changed to the current arched shape, and entablature, pilasters, and a cross were added.
Howard Athenaeum // 1846-1962
One of the more iconic theater buildings to ever stand in Boston was the Howard Athenaeum, later the Old Howard, which stood on the former Howard Street in Downtown Boston. The origins of the building begin in 1843, when a flimsy, tent was built to serve as a church for the small Millerite sect. The small but loyal congregation eventually abandoned the site following disappointment with the minister’s promise that the world would end in 1844. After Armageddon failed to materialize, the founder of the sect, William Miller, an ex-Deputy Sheriff from Poultney, Vermont, was discredited and the Millerites moved on. After running their former minister out of town, several church members (who had given up all their worldly possessions in preparation for their trip to heaven,) decided to recoup some of their losses by selling the property to Messers Boyd and Beard, who opened a theater here in 1845. A fire destroyed the structure, and it was replaced by a larger, fireproof building that same year. The new building was constructed in 1845 and was designed by architect Isaiah Rogers in the Gothic Revival style with massive granite blocks from Quincy.
The Howard Athenaeum saw many iconic performers and historical events in its 100 years. A young John Wilkes Booth, played Hamlet at the Howard before becoming famous for a more nefarious deed in Washington in 1865. Also, Sarah Parker Remond, a Black anti-slavery activist and lecturer with the American Anti-Slavery Society (and later a medical doctor), had bought a ticket through the mail for the Donizetti opera, Don Pasquale, but, upon arriving, refused to sit in a segregated section for the show. She was forcibly removed and pushed down a flight of stairs. She eventually won a desegregation lawsuit against the managers of the Howard Athenaeum and received $500 in a settlement.
The theater was quickly deemed obsolete and second-tier compared to more modern theatres built nearby. By the mid-20th century, the Old Howard was largely featuring burlesque shows. To keep bringing in audiences, the burlesque performances got more risqué with each year. As a result, the Boston vice squad made the Old Howard the object of their attention. The Boston Vice squad made a 16 mm film during one of their raids in 1953 and captured on film the performance by “Irma the Body”. This film footage resulted in an indecency hearing which eventually led to the closing of the Old Howard in 1953. A fire a few years later along with Urban Renewal led to the demolition of the Old Howard by 1962. Like the former Suffolk Savings Bank (featured previously), the present Center Plaza Building is on the site.
First Unitarian Church of Wilton // 1860
Wilton, New Hampshire’s original land grant included 240 acres for a church and stipulated that a building must be erected by 1752. From this, settlers built a log church. For the first ten years traveling preachers supplied the pulpit. In 1763, Rev. Jonathan Livermore became the first settled minister. In April 1773, the town voted to provide six barrels of rum, a barrel of brown sugar, half a box of lemons and two loaves of loaf sugar for framing and raising a new meetinghouse. In 1859, a fire destroyed the Revolutionary-era church/meetinghouse, and members immediately began the construction of a new, modern building. The present building blends Greek and Gothic revival styles in a later, vernacular form.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church // 1896
The Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Everett, Massachusetts, is an imposing Gothic Revival building, that shows how the church spared no expense to build imposing and awe-inspiring edifices all over New England. Constructed of red brick with Longmeadow brownstone trim, the church was designed by preeminent Catholic Church architect Patrick W. Ford and the cornerstone was laid in 1896. Ford was born in Ireland and in 1872, he moved to Boston and opened his own practice. He was widely recognized as an authority on church architecture and his practice focused primarily on designing churches and institutional buildings for the Roman Catholic Church in New England. Ford died suddenly at age 52 in August 1900. Due to a lack of funds, the church was not completed until 1908, so Ford did not see this church completed in his lifetime. The work was completed by architects Reid & McAlpine and is stunning with its square corner tower topped by a pyramidal spire with smaller pinnacles marking the corners of the tower. The projecting entry porch has three, pointed arch openings and is topped by crenellation. The congregation appears pretty active to this day.