The centerpiece of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) campus in Durham, is Thompson Hall, a stunning example of Romanesque Revival architecture. Thompson Hall was the first building to be built on the new campus of the New Hampshire College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, which had been founded in 1866 as a land grant college and was previously located near Dartmouth in Hanover. Benjamin Thompson, a Durham farmer, died 1890, leaving an estate worth $400,000, with 253 acres (102 ha) of land, to the state for use as an agricultural school. The state accepted his gift, and construction of Thompson Hall began in 1891, with a landscape plan for the campus developed by the great Charles Eliot. The bold Romanesque building was designed by Concord, NH architects Dow & Randlett, who were among the most prestigious architectural firms in the state at the end of the 19th century. The building remains as a significant piece of UNH’s ever-growing campus.
You know a town is fancy if it has its own music hall! The Marion Music Hall was (you guessed it) largely funded by none other than Elizabeth Taber the prestigious benefactor of Tabor Academy, the Library, and more in her hometown. This building was first envisioned after Ms. Taber was dismayed by the poor quality of “worldy theatricals” that were taking place in the only such venue at the time, the Congregational Chapel. Her last gift to the town via a provision in her will, allotted money for the construction of a “suitable building for a lecture and music hall”, costing a total of $23,000. Her go-to architect, William Gibbons Preston, was hired to design the Music Hall, which is a pleasing late-Victorian, Queen Anne-Romanesque Revival building constructed of brick. The Music Hall’s lawn was deemed worthy as the site of a handsome cast-iron Soldiers Monument which was dedicated during the summer of 1894 and remains on the site today.
Possibly my favorite building type, the local town library buildings of New England, always amaze me with their small scale, yet architectural variety and intrigue. The library in Gardiner, Maine is no exception! This library building was constructed in 1881 from plans by Henry Richards, who was actually born in town in 1848. Henry graduated from Harvard in 1869, and soon after, took a post-graduate course in architecture at MIT. After completing schooling, he was a draftsman with Ware and Van Brunt. Soon after, he was a draftsman with Peabody and Stearns from 1872 to 1876, and then practiced architecture briefly on his own in Boston. During this time he married Laura Elizabeth Howe, daughter of Samuel Gridley and Julia Ward Howe. They moved to Gardiner, Maine and settled in a Federal house (featured previously), to learn more about Laura Richards and their house, check out the last post. Henry lived to be 100 years old! The library building is Queen Anne and Romanesque in style with a round corner tower with conical roof, brownstone and brick construction, and a stained glass ocular window with ogee parapet at the gable end roof. The small local library was added onto numerous times to hold a growing collection which includes works from Laura E. Richards, and Edwin Arlington Robinson, both Pulitzer Prize winning authors who lived in town.
The first train arrived in Gardiner, Maine in 1851. Rail here introduced a new mode of transportation for passengers and freight, which previously relied on horse or ship up the Kennebec River. When the old station was deemed too small and outdated, the Maine Central Railroad Company decided to hire Portland architect, George Burnham to complete plans for a more fitting station. This building is a mix of styles, the two I would categorize it as are Romanesque Revival and Spanish Revival. The building incorporates a number of influences of the two along with a deep overhanging roof supported by large brackets, heavy rusticated granite blocks at the base, and quoining around the windows and corners. The station was in operation until about 1960 when rail service here halted. Since that time, the building has been adaptively reused as a retail store, today as a recreational cannabis dispensary. So you can get high and look at cool architecture!
Langdon Library in Newington, NH, was established through the generosity of Woodbury Langdon of New York City, a summer resident of Fox Point in town. In 1892 Langdon offered to donate 2,000 books to the Town of Newington, if suitable provisions could be made for their care and circulation. The Town voted to erect a library at town meeting in 1892 and accepted the offer. Portsmouth architect William Allyn Ashe furnished designs for the building which reads as a pleasing, symmetrical Romanesque Revival building. The structure was outgrown and needed repairs in 2013, and hired the firm of Lavallee Brensinger Architects to oversee the redesign, which restored the 1892 building. The resulting project tripled the usable square footage of the library, and the new wing allows the library to remain quaint and the main focus.
St. John the Evangelist Church in Schenectady, NY is probably the most imposing church I have ever seen (outside of European cathedrals). The church began in 1898 when Monsignor John L. Reilly purchased land across from Union College’s campus to erect a new church. He began collecting donations to fund a church suitable for Schenectady, and visited Europe to seek inspiration for the design. He worked with architect Edward Loth of nearby Troy, NY on the design which resulted in this massive 120’x130′ structure. The stone church has a small tower at each of its four corners with a central spire reaching 230′ high. The center spire was constructed of steel and glass to cast light onto the sanctuary below (sadly has been replaced with a metal roof). This is definitely one of the more memorable churches I have ever seen! What do you think of it?
Henry Schermerhorn DeForest (1847-1917) was born in Schenectady, New York and became a leading citizen of the bustling upstate city. He attended school in his hometown before leaving to study at Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie. He returned to Schenectady and married Lucie Van Epps, soon after gaining employment by her brother at his broom manufacturing company as a clerk and bookkeeper. He began using his earnings to buy and develop property in the city, eventually making him the city’s largest landlord. He was also a building contractor, with his company constructing more than 1,000 homes in the Schenectady area. He served as Mayor, in a role that he successfully advocated for General Electric to locate in Schenectady when it was formed from the mergers of several other companies, including Edison Machine Works, which had moved to Schenectady in 1886, creating a huge boom in development and growth for the city. After this, he has this large stone mansion constructed to showcase his wealth and success as a developer and Mayor. After his death in 1917, the home remained in the family for some time until it was acquired by the Schenectady Veterans Association not long after WWII, who maintain the building to this day.
The Male Asylum building at the Tewksbury State Hospital was built in 1901 from plans by architect John A. Fox, who designed the Administration Building and many other buildings in the hospital/asylum campus. The building was eventually renamed after Anne Sullivan, who is best known as the teacher and companion of Helen Keller. Anne Sullivan contracted a bacterial eye disease known as trachoma, which caused many painful infections and, over time, made her nearly blind. When she was eight, her mother died from tuberculosis, and her father abandoned the children two years later for fear he could not raise them on his own. She and her younger brother, James (Jimmie), were sent to the run-down and overcrowded Tewksbury Almshouse (later renamed the Tewksbury Hospital) as a result, where she endured multiple unsuccessful eye operations and poor, cramped conditions. The male asylum building held cramped dormitories with men and boys suffering from various ailments and mental conditions. The building sits atop a stunning rubblestone foundation and features prominent Romanesque arched windows.
The other day, I was walking in Boston Common along Tremont Street, when I noticed this oddly ornate building wedged between larger, modern buildings. I HAD to investigate! The building was actually constructed as an arcade/covered walkway which ran to Mason Street behind, with a tunnel running under that street into the B.F. Keith’s Theatre. In 1892, Benjamin F. Keith and his business partner E.F. Albee purchased land off Mason Street, a scarcely trafficked street between the busy Tremont and Washington Streets in Boston’s Theater District, with the goal of creating the city’s finest vaudville theatre. The duo hired J. B. McElfatrick & Son, architects who specialized in theatres, to design the new B.F. Keith’s. Due to the site being wedged between two main streets, entrances were built off both Tremont and Washington with flashing lights and marquees, guiding patrons inward. The Tremont facade was especially grand so that B. F. Keith’s New Theatre could be advertised on, and approached directly from, Boston Common, with lights flooding the park. The theater opened in 1894 and was over-the-top with intricate details and sculpture all over, appealing to the city’s wealthy as a place to see the arts. Although it was primarily a vaudeville house during Keith-Albee’s ownership, famed inventor Thomas Edison demonstrated his new Vitascope movie projector here on May 18, 1896. This was the first projection of a movie anywhere in Boston. As live shows made way for motion pictures, the theater adapted, but suffered around the Great Depression when would-be patrons decided to save their limited money. In 1939, the theater was converted to a movie theater named the Normandie. The theater was demolished in 1952 for a surface parking lot to provide better service to the Opera House (originally B.F. Keith’s Memorial Theatre, confusing I know) and Paramount Theater. Today, all we have left of the once beloved B.F. Keith’s Theater is the small annex, which is virtually unrecognizable from historic images as most of its decoration and the top two stories were removed.
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.