The most iconic house in Norway, Maine has to be the Evans-Cummings House (also known locally as the Gingerbread House) on Main Street. The ornate Victorian era home was originally built in 1855 for Richard Evans, who was born in Portland in 1805 and after training as a carpenter, moved to Norway in 1833 for work. He and his wife, Mary Warren Hill, had eight children and they resided in the home until their death. In 1890, Charles B. Cummings bought the house in 1890 and hired local architect John B. Hazen to remodel the house. Hazen added the gingerbread adornments for which the house is now known colloquially. The home attracted a lot of attention in the region, and the later heirs continued that whimsical appeal. When the home was willed to Fred and Cora Cummings, they were said to have kept a stuffed peacock at the top of the stairs, which delighted children when they toured the home. The house eventually became used as storage by the owners of the local Advertiser Democrat newspaper, and its future was threatened. Since 2012, a local group, Friends of the Gingerbread House, have poured tens of thousands of dollars and an equal amount of time restoring the iconic home to her former glory! Preservation is important!
This two-and-a-half-story building sits on Main Street in the small town of Denmark, Maine, and has contributed to the town’s cultural life since it was built in 1884. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a non-political and non-sectarian international fraternal group that promotes the ethic of reciprocity and charity. It was founded in 1819 by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland, evolving from the Order of Odd Fellows founded in England during the 1700s. New buildings sprouted up all over the United States in the 19th century, in cities as large as New York City and towns as small as Denmark. This IOOF Hall is Italianate in style, with brackets at the cornice and hoods and round arched windows in the gable end; it also shows some Greek Revival details with corner pilasters and the pediment. When Raymond Hale, the last member of the IOOF Lodge passed away, the town purchased the old Odd Fellows Hall. The city could not maintain the property and had no good use for it. Residents in town voted in 1991 to sell the building rather than demolish it. Local residents bid on and won the building with the aim to convert it to a local arts center. In August 1994 the owners signed over the deed of the Odd Fellows Hall to the Denmark Arts Center, a non profit organization. From that time until present, the old building, now the Denmark Arts Center, has again served as a community focal point, providing cultural activities for the people of Denmark and surrounding towns.
In western Millbury, the Grass Hill school was constructed to provide a place of learning for children in the agricultural section of town. The district school, a remnant of the system of autonomous school districts that characterized the educational system of Massachusetts in the 19th century, this is a larger example of many of them. West Millbury had many wealthy farmers and they financed a district school here as far back as 1814. After two earlier, smaller school buildings, this two-story school was erected and was one of the most substantial. At one time, students in eight grades taught there, all at the same time, with grades 1-4 downstairs and 5-8 upstairs. As there weren’t many students, each grade only took up one or two rows. The building remained as a school for the town until 1968, and the building was leased to the Millbury Historical Society long term. They just completed a massive restoration project for the building, it looks great!
“Seaweed” is a spectacular oceanfront estate situated on Newport’s famed Cliff Walk and overlooking Bailey’s Beach. This home is three-stories with an enormous enclosed porch that offers sweeping views of the Atlantic from all windows. The house consists of 16 rooms including an inviting foyer, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms, dining room, and living room, all with original fireplaces, flooring, and detail throughout. Views of the sea are from nearly every room. “Seaweed” was originally built and owned by Mr. Henry Howard in 1860-61. It was altered in 1867 by renowned architect George Champlin Mason. Within a decade it was sold to Mr. C. Davis who passed it on to George T. M. Davis. In the 1880’s the property became a rental property owned by Alfred Smith, a real estate agent who lived near the center of town. In the early 1900’s it was purchased by Thomas Dolan of Philadelphia who re-baptized the home “Seaweed” after having architect Horace Trumbauer bring it to its present Colonial Revival style. The name is one of my favorites! What do you think of the name Seaweed for a home?
On a little stretch of Kay Street in Newport, you can find four strikingly similar Italianate style houses, all neighbors. Upon further research, it turns out they were designed by the same man, Job Peckham. Job Almy Peckham (1807-1885) was a descendant of one of nearby Middletown’s “founding” families. He ran a lumberyard and began working as a housewright, building homes. He was a believer of the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so he built many of his houses in a sort of cookie-cutter way, but each showcasing slight design changes. One of the most impressive features of these homes is the massive overhanging eaves with scrolled brackets. Peckham’s own house (bottom right) is included in the bunch. What do you think of these homes?
These two Italianate-style stores sit on Collinsville’s Main Street, a walkable main street village along the banks of the Farmington River. Each structure has a central, recessed entry with storefront windows meeting the sidewalk. One structure is two stories with a very shallow gable roof and the other is 1 1/2 stories with a false front. These false front facades remind me of old frontier towns in western movies, they are great!
When the Collins Company built its mill buildings in South Canton Village (later renamed Collinsville), workers housing, schools, businesses, and churches popped up to service the growing immigrant community here. The Company also built an office building for the executives, where they could oversee the business’ growth and balance the books. The original office building from 1830 was eventually outgrown, and after the Civil War, this larger building was constructed. The new building held offices, a post office, library, a third-floor meeting hall for local groups. The masonry building has decorative cornice and a gorgeous raised entry.
Built in 1840 for Titus Case, this old house looks very different than it would have been when first constructed. The house was originally Greek Revival in style, probably with a gabled roof, common of the region and style. Case died in 1845, and the home was later purchased by Jeremiah Crowley who ran the Canton Creamery nearby. After the Civil War, he “modernized” the house in the then fashionable Italianate style, with a low-sloped roof with overhanging eaves, large brackets, a cupola, and a wrap-around porch.
Built in 1872, the old North Canton Schoolhouse really brings us back to how life was like in the 19th century. The saying “when I was a kid, we would have to walk to and from school in the snow, uphill both ways” comes to mind when I think of how students would have to walk long distances to attend rural schools. The school was originally built at a nearby fork in the road, but moved in the 1920s when the street was widened. The building was used as a school until 1942, when a newer, central school was built in the center of town.
Canton, Connecticut, the only town in the state named after a city in China! The land which we now know as Canton had long been inhabited, specifically by the Wappingers, a group in the larger Algonquin speaking tribes. Canton was incorporated out of Simsbury in 1806, and named after the City of Canton in China (now known as Guangzhou), though I am not sure why. The town quickly developed two main villages. Collinsville sits on the Farmington River and its power was harvested for industry; while the center village grew differently as an agricultural village of farms. At the center of town sat a green for civic and town functions and gatherings. The town constructed a school here as far back as 1759, when the rural village was still a part of Simsbury. This is the fourth building on the green and it was built in 1872, and can be classified as Italianate in style. The building was occupied as a school until 1949, and it was used for other city uses until 1971, when the building was rented to the Canton Artist’s Guild and the building was renamed Gallery on the Green. The building remains community-focused and holds exhibits of local artists! Much of the rest of Canton Center lost all of its bucolic charm when the main road became commercialized, prioritizing speeding cars over a walkable village.