Boothby House // 1870

The Second Empire style did not take off in Maine as it did in other parts of New England (and the U.S. for that matter), so it’s always a treat to spot one driving the backroads of the Pine Tree State! This house in Denmark, Maine, was built around 1870 for E. A. Boothby, who worked as Assistant Engineer of the Maine Central Railroad. The Second Empire style is evident here from the mansard (French style) roof, bracketed eaves, and a hooded double-door entry.

Burke’s Hack and Livery Stable // c.1865

There is something so charming about old stable buildings in Boston! This stable (like the Garcelon-Sears Stable of the last post) is located on Byron Street in Beacon Hill Flat. This stable building is older, and originally was two stories, similar to the others on the street. The stable was constructed in the mid-1860s for Margaret Barker Sigourney, a wealthy widow who lived nearby in Back Bay. After other owners, by 1922, a coachman named James F. Burke owned and lived in the stable. The painted sign on the lintel over the vehicle door reading “Burke’s Hack & Livery Stable” apparently remains from this period. Burke also added the mansard roof at this time, evident from historic maps. The stable was eventually converted to a single-family home. Could you live in an old stable?

Train Villa – Beachholm // 1869-1973

Not to be confused with The Villa, an extant mansard-roofed cottage in Newport, this beautiful example of the Second Empire style sadly is no longer around for us to gawk at. “Train Villa” was built as a summer cottage for George Francis Train (1829-1904), a nutty, attention-seeking businessman, who in 1870-1, traveled around the world in 80 days. The feat caused a sensation, but only after a writer named Jules Verne fictionalized it, naming the main character Phileas Fogg. Train was already one of the most famous men in America, but he was not happy that Verne co-opted his story. “Remember Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days?” he told English reporters. “He stole my thunder. I’m Phileas Fogg.” Train undertook a total of three trips around the world, each time attempting to beat the record of 80 days, with his final trip clocked in at just sixty days. Ironically, Amazon Prime just released the story as a new series (literally airing days ago). Before his inaugural trip around the globe, Train had this summer cottage built in Newport, where he could relax after his globetrotting. After his death, the property was renamed “Beachholm” and owned by Woodbury Blair of Washington D.C..The home was one of the most eye-catching in town and was located in front of the Seaweed Cottage (featured previously), until a fire in the early 1970s led to its demolition.

The Villa – Sigourney House // 1864

Margaret Barker Sigourney was the wife of Boston lawyer Henry Sigourney (1783–1849). In 1864, just as the Civil War was coming to a close, Sigourney purchased a piece of land on Bellevue Avenue in Newport soon after the time that Newport had been rediscovered as a tourist destination for the elite class. Sigourney wanted to make a splash as a single woman summering in Newport, so she hired local architect George Champlin Mason to design her cottage in the fashionable Second Empire style. The refined facade is more academic, while the rear and side facades exhibit porches with delicate bargeboards and trim. Sigourney spent summers at her cottage with her only son until 1873 when he and his family perished and were lost at sea aboard the Ville du Havre, when it collided in the Atlantic with another ship, killing a total of 226 aboard the ships, many of which drowned and their bodies never recovered. Alone, Margaret Sigourney continued to spend her summers in Newport until her own death in 1885.

Land’s End // 1864

One of the more architecturally modest and refined Gilded Age summer cottages of Newport sits on one of the most picturesque pieces of land at the southeastern point of Aquidneck Island and is aptly named Land’s End. The cottage was built in 1864, Land’s End was designed by John Hubbard Sturgis for Boston banker, Samuel Gray Ward, his father’s business associate. The home features a refined Italianate style base with a roof comprised of a variation of the Second Empire mansard style called a “turtleback roof”. Land’s End is probably most famous as the residence of Edith Wharton (1862-1937) after she acquired the property in 1889. She worked with Boston designer Ogden Codman, Jr., to experiment with a style of subdued classical interiors and a remodel of the exterior, which was later featured in their book, “The Decoration of Houses”. Wharton was inspired to show what good taste is after the influx of Vanderbilts and other newly moneyed summer residents of Newport. The book focused on how to build and decorate houses with nobility, grace, and timelessness. It would, they hoped, lead its readers out of what Wharton called (pace the Vanderbilts) a “Thermopylae of bad taste” and into an aesthetic Promised Land. Wharton only lived at Land’s End for a decade, when the “stuffiness” of high-society there led her to move to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where she worked with architect Ogden Codman to design her new home, The Mount. It the monstrous Lippitt Mansion, Breakwater was built at the time, just next door! did not help that Sadly, many of the interiors have been altered since Wharton’s time there, but with more recent interventions, but the book did help shift some of Newports later homes to a more refined, classical taste.

Bird’s Nest Cottage // 1872

One of the more unique and relatively modest summer cottages in Newport, Rhode Island is Bird’s Nest Cottage on Bellevue Avenue. The cottage was built in 1871-2 for Samuel Freeman Pratt, who lived his early life in Boston. The son of a carpenter, Pratt was was working as a carver in Boston, where he saw success as an inventor with several patents to his credit. From the success of one of his inventions, a device for sewing machines, the invention gave him the financial freedom to explore other interests, namely architecture. In Boston, he likely learned his craft from partner John Stevens, before setting out on his own. He designed buildings in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, but decided to reside in Newport. While many state that this cottage for Pratt was designed by the Newport resident and star-chitect Richard Morris Hunt, the design and the fact that it was his own cottage lead me to believe it was designed by Pratt himself. The eclectic cottage features complex gable shapes, fancy stickwork under the eaves, projecting corner bays, and a wall covering of multicolored slate roof shingles. It is now a professional office.

James L. Hazard House // c.1855

This beautiful Victorian-era home in Newport was built c.1855 for James Lawrence Hazard, a furniture maker. He did well for himself, selling hand-crafted furniture to summer residents who needed to fill their Newport cottages with fine furnishings. By 1873, he hired local architect Dudley Newton to enlarge and modernize his outdated home. Newton added the wrap-around porch and installed one of his patented roofs. Newton’s roof design, which he called “a new and useful Improved Curb-Roof,” featured a distinctive break where the roof met the building, allowing for better water run-off and creating a fascia that, if ornamented, would provide “a second or additional complete line of finish above and independent of the cornice proper.” The home has long held a stately presence on the iconic Kay Street until the late 20th century when deferred maintenance saw the removal of the wrap-around porch and the covering of other details. In 2012, a fire broke out on the third floor and the interior – which had been carved into six apartments by that time – suffered extensive fire and water damage. Preservationists and residents feared the house would be razed, but fortunately, John Shea of Hammond Residential Real Estate saw an opportunity. He purchased the property in 2013, commissioned the Newport Historical Society to produce a report on its history, and, with plans by Neville Architecture, completed an extensive rehabilitation. The house was fully restored and looks like it did nearly 150 years ago!

Armington House // c.1863

This beautiful mansard-roofed home in Newport was long the residence of the Armington Family. The history is a little murky, but deed research shows the property was purchased in 1863 by Horace E. Armington, a Boston tailor. Horace likely purchased an earlier home and from it, built this larger, Second Empire style house to serve as a summer retreat. The family eventually settled in Newport full-time and their son, also Horace, took a job as Assistant Librarian at the Redwood Library in town. The family owned the property for generations until it was converted to professional office use, likely due to the commercialization in the 20th century of the main streets in Newport. The house retains much of its original detailing including the rooftop belvedere. The later-added shingle siding adds a rustic touch.

Valley House // 1868

This massive Second Empire structure on Main Street in Collinsville, CT, was built in 1868 by the Collins Company, the major industry in town as housing and stores. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, large industrial employers often provided affordable housing for workers in close proximity to factories to incentivize the long days and difficult working conditions. The Valley House was known as a hotel, but was essentially an apartment hotel, where workers and visitors could reside in a room without a set lease or contract. At the ground floor, retail shops would provide goods and services to residents of the building and the greater village. Today, the rooms have been converted to condominiums.

Polk-Haury House // c.1865

Collinsville, a village in Canton, Connecticut, sits along the Farmington River and is one of the most charming New England villages I’ve been to. The village sprung up around the Collins Axe Company, a manufacturer of edge tools, such as axes, machetes, picks and knives. With the company’s growth (more history on the company in a later post), immigrants moved to the town, and lived in workers cottages built by the factory owners. Churches, stores, schools, and parks came soon after, creating the dynamic village we see today. Nathan L. Polk moved to the village and built this charming Second Empire style cottage, walking distance to his apothecary shop. By 1872, Nathan died and the house was sold to Ulrich Haury. Haury was born and raised in Germany and settled in Collinsville by 1862, working at the Collins Axe Company. From his earnings, he opened up a grocery in the village, spending his earnings bringing his family for vacations to his homeland in Germany. The home remains in excellent condition.