When the Draper Corporation’s building boom of its factories and workers housing transformed the formerly sleepy industrial village into a bustling town, the mill owners realized that the inadequate fire station nearby would do little to prevent a fire that could wipe it all away. In 1915, the Drapers hired architect Robert Allen Cooke – who had already designed numerous buildings for the factory owners in the village – to furnish plans for a substantial new fire station. The Renaissance Revival station is larger than many firehouses built in cities nearby with populations two- or three times more citizens. The station features four arches equipment bays, a tall hose-drying tower, and fine terra cotta trimming. The fire department in Hopedale, thanks to funding by Draper, was always one of the finest in New England, and is credited as one of the first to have a vehicular fire truck in 1906.
Located across the street from the soon-to-be-demolished Draper Factory in Hopedale, MA., the company’s former office building stands as an excellent example of how adaptive reuse of old buildings can meet current needs of a town, while preserving the past. In 1910, the Draper’s hired architect Robert A. Cooke, a local architect who had previously designed many workers’ housing projects for the company nearby. The new office building replaced an older 1880 building which held a staff of 6 men, the new building would have a staff of 90! With the unfathomable success of the Draper Corporation, the new office building, resembles a school building for a large town, showing how rich the company had become. The renaissance revival building was abandoned around the time Draper closed in 1980, but this building was adaptively reused as a senior living facility in the 1990s, saving this piece of local history!
When Harvard Medical School opened its doors in 1906 at its new Longwood campus in Boston, students were forced to live in private dormitories or travel long distances to the sparsely developed neighborhood near the Fens. Hospitals at the time had private dormitories for nurses and other employees, but Harvard did not fill this need until 1928 when Vanderbilt Hall opened. The building is Renaissance Revival in style, which mimics the style of the Boston Lying-In Hospital which was built in 1922 across from Vanderbilt, and the famous Gardner Museum. Vanderbilt Hall is unique in the neighborhood as a dormitory, recreation, and athletic center built to house 250 students of the Medical School. As part of its funding campaign, subscriptions from 1,519 doctors and 618 “non-medical friends” were obtained, along with a gift of $100,000 from New York Central Railroad President Harold S. Vanderbilt, for whom the building was named. The stunning building has a curved concave corner which mimics the Boston Lying-In Hospital and elegantly frames the small circular park in the street.
All Aboard!! The Kneeland Street Station was built at the southern edge of Downtown Boston in 1847 for the newly established Old Colony Railroad Company. By the early 1840s, the city of Boston had six major rail lines connecting it with other places including Lowell, Maine, Fitchburg, and Salem to the north, Worcester to the west and Providence to the southwest. The southeastern part of Massachusetts had yet to be served by a rail link to Boston. On March 16, 1844 the Old Colony Railroad Corporation was formed to provide a rail connection between Boston and Plymouth. Construction of the line began in South Boston in 1844 and the line opened to Plymouth in 1845. The company needed a more accessible station to the residents and businessmen of Downtown Boston, so they acquired a large parcel of land on Kneeland Street to extend the line. The corporation hired architect Gridley James Fox Bryant, who designed this stunning railroad station constructed of brick with strong stone trimmings. As was common, a large clock was affixed to the building to allow waiting passengers to know how long they would be waiting. From 1845 to 1893, the Old Colony railroad network grew extensively through a series of mergers and acquisitions with other established railroads, serving lines to Providence, Newport, Fall River, New Bedford and down the Cape. The railroad was acquired in 1893 by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, and sought to consolidate the many local stations into a larger building. They soon after began construction on Boston’s South Station, re-routing lines to that new building. They sold off the excess stations, including this one on Kneeland Street, and it was eventually demolished in 1918.
The Omni Mount Washington (originally the Mount Washington Hotel), surrounded by the great White Mountains of New Hampshire, was completed in 1902, at the end of the Gilded Age and the grand hotel era of America. The grand hotel was financed by Joseph Stickney, a native of New Hampshire, who made a fortune before the age of 30 investing in the coal business in Pennsylvania. In 1881, Stickney purchased the Mount Pleasant Hotel, a nearby summer resort and enlarged it, and acquiring a taste for hospitality development in the White Mountains (it was later demolished in the 1930s). He hired architect Charles Alling Gifford to design a new, larger resort across the street which in total, cost him over $50,000,000 in today’s dollars! Ironically, Joseph Stickney, had famously told the press on the opening day: “Look at me, for I am the poor fool who built all this,” as the economy was starting to turn right as the hotel opened. He died one year later in 1903. Nevertheless, up to fifty trains a day unloaded the families of the country’s wealthiest people, mostly from New York City, who stayed here for Summers at a time, leaving behind “the yellow fever and cholera in the cities” for fresh air and open space. The hotel’s design incorporated some of the most cutting-edge innovations of its age, including a steel-frame superstructure, an electrical power plant, and a sophisticated internal heating system. Roughly 250 Italian artisans were brought in to provide artistic touches to the structure by working on its exterior granite and stucco masonry including the two massive octagonal towers, and installing Tiffany stained glass windows.
After Joseph Stickney’s death in 1903, Carolyn his widow, became extremely rich (the couple never had children). Carolyn spent her summers at the hotel for the next decade, a nearby chapel honoring her late husband. The hotel did well in the subsequent decades until the advent of income tax, Prohibition, and the Great Depression, which harmed many large resorts’ profits. In 1936, Mrs. Stickney’s nephew, Foster Reynolds, inherited the hotel, but it closed in 1942 because of World War II. A Boston syndicate bought the extensive property for about $450,000 In 1944. The Bretton Woods monetary conference took place that year, establishing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. After subsequent owners, in 2015, the hotel and the Bretton Woods Mountain Resort were purchased by Omni Hotels & Resorts, who have been advocates to the history and preservation of the building and surrounding area, also overseeing the hotel’s inclusion to the illustrious Historic Hotels of America list.
There is so much more I could write about the Omni Mount Washington Resort, from the incredible interior spaces, to Carolyn’s marriage to a French prince, to the supposedly haunted sites… So much history to uncover, so little time!
Similar to Burnside Memorial Hall nearby, this school building in Bristol was also constructed as a memorial, in the form of an architectural statement-piece. The school building was gifted to the town of Bristol by Samuel P. Colt, who resided in a mansion nearby, Linden Place, and also owned a massive country estate in town, where his prized cows were cultivated. The school building was funded as a gift in memory of his mother Theodora DeWolf Colt and showcases his everlasting love for her. Designed by Cooper & Bailey of Boston, this monumental, 2-story, hip-roof Renaissance Revival structure was built of white marble with 2-story, cast-bronze window bays. The symmetrical facade has a central Corinthian portico with fluted columns and a pediment containing cherubs around the Colt family crest. The school was used as the town high school until the 1960s when it was outgrown, the building has since been used as an elementary school, the nicest one I have ever seen!
Designed in 1893 by the Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, Wheatleigh is an early example of Renaissance Revival architecture which became popular for country estates in the early 20th century. The estate was constructed for Henry Harvey Cook, who purchased over 250-acres of forest and lawns overlooking Lake Maheenac for his summer “cottage”. Cook was a New York-based businessman who made his fortune in the railroad and banking businesses, and he wanted a summer house to escape to every year. He named his home “Wheatleigh” as an homage to his family’s ancestral home, Wheatley, Oxfordshire. The mansion is approached by a circular drive that terminates in a formal entrance court partially enclosed by a buff brick wall and evergreen trees, centered on an octagonal marble fountain decorated with a shell and leaf motif. Upon Cook’s death in 1905 Wheatleigh passed to his daughter, Georgie, the Countess de Heredia. Under her ownership the formal garden was opened for evening worshipping services and musical events. Following de Heredia’s death in 1946 the property was divided and changed hands numerous times. In 1976 the mansion and 22 acres were opened as a resort hotel, known as the estates historic name. The Wheatleigh remains one of the most esteemed luxury hotels in the country.
Located at the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, the Bachelor Apartments showcase the luxurious housing available to single Bostonians and young couples. The seven-story apartment house was designed by Charles Follen McKim in the Renaissance Revival style and is one of a limited number of McKim, Mead & White buildings in Boston. The building was likely geared towards young bachelors (due to its name) who were not yet established in their professions. The building featured commercial space on the ground floor, which originally housed a grocer. By the 1940s, the residents of the 13 apartments were mostly represented as widows with a few single bachelors there. The stunning building stands today as a prominent southern anchor of the Beacon Hill neighborhood and an entry to the Charles Street commercial district.
Thanksgiving in the days of Covid-19 will be different in more ways than one. A notable loss will be the absence of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, which has been a national pastime broadcast on televisions for millions of Americans every year. The six-mile route through the city, giant balloons and all, would end at Macy’s Herald Square, the flagship store of the department store chain. The building (one of the largest stores in the world) was completed in 1902 and its 2.5 million square feet of space, occupy an entire city block. The building was designed by Interestingly, in 1900, a small five-story building on the corner of 35th and Seventh was purchased by Robert H. Smith in 1900 for $375,000 ($11.5 million today). The idea had been to obstruct Macy’s from becoming the largest store in the world. It is largely supposed that Smith, was acting on behalf of Siegel-Cooper, which had built what they thought was the world’s largest store nearby in 1896. Macy’s ignored the tactic and built around the building, which now carries Macy’s “shopping bag” sign by lease arrangement! Oh, and Macy’s even hired the same architect for their department store that Siegel-Cooper used for their building, Theodore de Lemos, adding insult to injury. A great example of a spite building!
The 22-story Flatiron Building in New York is easily one of the most recognizable and iconic buildings in the world. Built in 1902, the building replaced a collection of smaller commercial buildings on one of the most visible lots in this section of the city, thanks to the convergence of 5th Avenue and Broadway at Madison Square Park. The lot was developed by Harry S. Black, President of the Fuller Company, a general contracting company whose specialty was the construction of skyscrapers for their own offices. The company hired Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who was known throughout the world for his skyscraper designs. Upon completion after just 9 months of construction, the building was called the “Fuller Building”, which was quickly overtaken by the public who named the building the “Flatiron” thanks to its footprint resembling an old flat iron. The building was recently vacant and has been undergoing a complete update inside with sprinkler systems, new floorplans and HVAC.