The area which became the town of Boxborough, Massachusetts, was first inhabited by the Native Americans of the Nipmuc and Pennacook tribes. Land in Boxborough was not settled by colonists until the beginning of the eighteenth century by farmers looking for fertile land to establish farms, who branched out from nearby Acton. Boxborough was formed from Harvard, Littleton, and Stow in 1783 and was incorporated as its own town. With the exception of small local industries including gristmills, sawmills, and cooperages as well as some minor boot and shoemaking, comb-making, and a lime quarry and kiln, Boxborough’s economy remained almost entirely agricultural through the 19th century. The town grew steadily and a Town Hall building was funded by the turn of the 20th century. This Queen Anne/Colonial Revival Town Hall building was constructed in 1901, atop the foundation which was constructed of locally gathered cobblestone by local volunteer farmers. Today, the town retains much of its agricultural heritage, but it is definitely under threat by subdivisions and Neo-Colonial mansions further contributing to Bostons suburban sprawl.
Located on “Millionaires Row” in Hopedale, MA, a street of homes formerly owned by factory owners and managers, sits “Urncrest” a stunning Queen Anne mansion. The home was built around 1875 for William Lapworth (1844-1937) an English-born weaving expert, who worked at Hopedale Elastics Co. and patented certain weaving processes for suspenders, boot webbing, and garters. Hopedale Elastics was absorbed by the Draper Corporation in 1890, and Lapworth was given a large pay increase. With his new salary, he “modernized” his home to what we see today, adding a corner tower, wrap-around porch, and many Colonial Revival details. Additionally, he had the detached 1870s carriage house updated with a full basement, heating, four horse stalls, and a coachman’s apartment with a bedroom and bathroom. The owners today maintain the home and carriage house beautifully! I can’t even imagine how gorgeous the interior is!
This Queen Anne/Shingle Style home in Hopedale was built in the mid-1880s for Frederick E. Smith, who (like everyone else in town) was employed by the Draper Corporation. Frederick Smith worked as the manager of the livery stable for the Draper Corporation, and later as the foreman of the trucking department of the Draper plant when automobiles took over. It is clear that the wealthiest Draper men encouraged their employees to live close to them in their mansions as this home is nearby the Draper mansion. Could you imagine Jeff Bezos living next-door to his employees? Me neither!
The Tewksbury State Hospital was established in 1852 as one of three Massachusetts State almshouses (along with Bridgewater and Monson). The almshouses were needed due to the unprecedented influx of Irish immigrants at that time, many of which found difficulty locating work. These almshouses represented the state’s first venture into care of the poor, a role previously filled by the cities and towns up to that time. In 1866, when Tewksbury began accepting the “pauper insane”, it became the state’s first facility to accept cases of chronic insanity specifically. Decades later, Massachusetts Governor Benjamin Butler accused the almshouse in Tewksbury in, “trading in bodies of dead paupers and transporting them for a profit to medical schools,” and “tanning human flesh to convert to shoes or other objects”. The facility was later investigated, and no conclusive evidence was found. In the late 19th century, a major rebuilding (and re-branding) campaign to upgrade the old almshouse by replacing its early wood-frame buildings with more durable and fireproof masonry ones was undertaken. One of the earliest “new” buildings was this Queen Anne-style Administration Building, standing at the head of the former entrance drive, which creates a fairly foreboding presence. This building was designed by Boston architect John A. Fox, and showcases the epitome of Queen Anne institutional design. The hospital runs today much like a traditional campus, with some of the older buildings unused, providing a strange composition. The former Administration Building is now home to the Massachusetts Public Health Museum.
In 1894, Hiram P. Dinsmore, a clerk at the nearby Tewksbury Almshouse, purchased land not too far from his work to build a home for his family. The well-designed late-Victorian home features a wrap-around porch, a corner tower, twin sunburst or flower motifs, and the use of shingle and clapboard siding, all hallmarks of the Queen Anne style. After Hiram’s death, his wife and children lived in the home, and it was later willed to his daughter Beatrice and her husband, both of whom worked at the Tewksbury Almshouse (since renamed Tewksbury Hospital). The home has seen some deterioration with large sections of siding completely open to the elements unobscured by paint and a sagging porch roof. Hope to see this beauty restored.
This funky house in Beacon Hill was built in 1802 actually as a stable, for United States Senator Jonathan Mason (who lived on the next street). Set out around 1800, Pinckney Street was originally a glorified service alley lined with the stables for the larger homes on the South Slope of Beacon Hill, and served as a buffer street between the mansions of the Brahmins who lived closer to the Boston Common, and the working-class neighborhood of the North Slope. From the 1880s until 1920s, Thomas Bailey Aldrich and his heirs owned the old Mason stable. Aldrich was an author and the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and rented this stable building. He eventually hired noted architect William Ralph Emerson to redesign the main facade of the old stable in the manner of a picturesque Queen Anne cottage. The house has windows of varying sizes and forms and creates a complex composition which surprisingly works. The deeply recessed panel doors and some inset windows give the house depth. It has been known locally as the “House of the Odd Windows”, a name that perfectly fits.
This stunning Queen Anne house in Brookline showcases everything that is synonymous with the term “Victorian” in architecture. This home was built in 1890 for William Boynton, a flour merchant who had offices in downtown Boston. The home features an assortment of siding types, sunburst motifs, an asymmetrical facade, and a large corner tower with an onion dome. The home is painted to showcase all the fine details and intricacies seen in the design.
One of the lesser-known historic hotels in Boston can be found at the corner of Exeter and Blagden Streets in the Back Bay neighborhood, tucked behind the Boston Public Library’s Johnson addition. Exeter Chambers (now Courtyard by Marriott Boston Copley Square), was built between 1889 and 1890 from plans by architect Theodore Minot Clark. Clark was a professor at MIT and the understudy of Boston’s famed Trinity Church architect, H. H. Richardson. Clark oversaw much of the construction of Trinity Church and his name is even engraved on the building. Exeter Chambers was constructed by the Guastavino Company, a very prominent contractor during the period noted for style and quality, known for the Guastavino tile. Cutting edge techniques such as compression arches and terracotta accents were featured throughout the structure. The hotel was vacant for many years and a renovation in 2004, which added three stories to the building, restored the ornate exterior to its former glory.
The railroad line through Crawford Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire was completed and opened in 1875 by the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad, and had a transformative effect on the local economy. Soon after completion, tourists arrived in droves during the summer months to take in the area’s scenic beauty and clean air. From this, wealthy investors built large resort hotels, like the Mount Washington Hotel, to satisfy the demand of the affluent visitors. The Portland and Ogdensburg was taken over by the Maine Central Railroad in 1888, and this depot was built in 1891. It was one of the most elaborate stations built by that railroad’s Mountain Division, because of its prominent location in the mountains. The Crawford Depot presently serves as a visitor center and shop operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Nearby is the trailhead to Mount Willard, which has some of the best views for a modest hike.
One of the most unique houses in Bristol (and the State of Rhode Island for that matter) is Ferncliffe, a colonial farmhouse that morphed into this beauty in the late 19th century. In 1749, the 200-acre farm of Benjamin Church, containing land where this home sits, was divided among his four daughters. Thomas Peck, a farmer, purchased one share in 1761; his deed refers to a house already on the property. The home was likely a five-bay Georgian home with little details. However, in 1882, James L. Tobin an undertaker, bought the property which then extended west to Narragansett Bay. He “modernized” the home with brackets, front porch, oh and a massive three-story tower with pyramidal roof! Tobin’s daughter Mary named the house for the fern plants lining the waterside cliffs at the far extent of the property, giving it the name “Ferncliffe”. Since then, the farmland was subdivided and sold off and now contains many house lots, with many of the streets laid out named after his children and wife. After Tobin’s death in 1925, he willed the home to his two living daughters, Helen and Annie.