Andrew Hunt House // 1878

When one thinks of architecture on Nantucket, many would think of old Colonial-era capes and stately Federal and Greek Revival whaling captains mansions. There are Victorian-era houses on Nantucket, but building on the island tapered off by the mid 1800s after the mid-1700s to the late 1830s when Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world. In December of 1877, Nantucket coal dealer Andrew Hunt purchased a vacant lot on Broad Street to erect a new home for his family. Mr. Hunt hired local builder Charles H. Robinson to design and construct the Second Empire cottage, which today, remains one of the best-preserved and high-style Mansard residences on the island.

Coney House // c.1870

Located on Church Street, the best architectural stretch of buildings in Ware, Massachusetts, you’ll find this absolutely charming mini-Mansard house. The property was built after the Civil War and historic maps show it was owned by a J. Coney. Upon further research, it seems J. Coney is John Coney (1809-1884), a farmer who retired in 1870 and was later referred to as a carpenter in census’. It is likely that Mr. Coney built this mansard cottage around his retirement and relocation to Ware’s industrial village, building it himself. The home features gabled dormers with round-headed sash projecting from the mansard roof. A two-story tower has paired, round-headed windows with oculus windows. Perfection.

Augustus Wiswall House // c.1870

Augustus Curtis Wiswall was born in Exeter, NH in 1823. At seventeen, he moved to Boston and sought to live life on the open seas. He saw a ship docked called the “Republic” which was about to set sail to Calcutta. He took several other jobs as he hoped for more adventure as a young man. His final voyage was with a general cargo ship to Brazil. On route, several lawless members of the crew rose up in open mutiny, murdering the captain and first-mate, seizing control of the vessel. Loyal to the captain, Augustus was stabbed but was allowed to live as he was the only man capable of navigating back to land. The small crew scuttled the larger ship and manned the small boat surviving on minimal food. They made it to Rio De Janeiro and managed to board a vessel back to Boston. Wiswall never shared his story but to his wife, who in turn shared his stories after his death. His life back home was more calm, after living in the south and midwest during the Civil War, he moved back to Massachusetts and he bought land in Newton’s Lower Falls village building this home. He operated a paper mill in the village and was active in the local church until his death in 1880.

Samuel Sparhawk House // c.1870

In 1870, Samuel Sparhawk built a large Second Empire style mansion on Mugford Street in Marblehead. Samuel and his brother Peter were among the first large shoe manufacturers in Marblehead, and did very well for themselves. Samuel also worked as Director of the Marblehead Savings Bank. In the early 20th century, the property was sold to Asa A. Schofield. In 1910, a fire at the Second Congregational Church destroyed the 1832 building and embers carried and burned the roof of the old Sparhawk House. The mansard roof was replaced with a simpler hipped roof with dormers.

Thayer Stable – Toy Theatre // 1865

Built in 1865, this gorgeous building in Beacon Hill shows how perfectly imperfect historic structures are. The stable building was first occupied by Samuel Neal, a carpenter, and Jonathan Dow, a blacksmith. Within a decade, the stable’s owner Nathaniel Thayer, appears to have kept his carriage in the building. By 1911, architect Harold S. Graves was hired to renovate the former stable which would soon become the Toy Theatre. The Toy Theatre was founded in 1911 by an amateur theatrical group to present plays that had not been presented professionally in Boston. That included both works written by members of the group itself and playwrights as far away as Europe. The founding group included many members of Boston’s high-society who were involved in the arts. The group desired a new, modern space and pooled together resources to build a more appropriate theatre in the Back Bay just a few years later (next post). This building was then converted to a residence.

Francis Carpenter House // c.1857

I love a good Second Empire style house with a mansard roof, and luckily, New England is full of amazing examples. This house in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood dates to about 1857 and appears to have been built for Francis W. Carpenter, a successful businessman who would later serve as President of the Congdon & Carpenter Company, an iron and steel company which was founded in 1792. Carpenter did very well for himself and would later move out of this house and into a stunning Beaux Arts mansion further up the street (featured previously), designed by the premier architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings. The house is today owned by RISD, and appears to be used for residences.

Butler Exchange // 1871-1925

This magnificent structure formerly in Downtown Providence would likely still exist today had a devastating fire not destroyed it in 1925. When construction on the Butler Exchange began 1871, the area we know today as Downtown was only a cluster of small wooden and brick residences with commercial operations on the ground floors; the key retail shopping districts were across the river around where Brown University is today. The first major commercial development in modern-day Downtown was the Providence Arcade (featured previously), built in 1828, by Cyrus Butler. The Arcade languished in tenants and shoppers earning it the name, “Butler’s Folly”. A half-century later, a new Butler project was about to take off. Cyrus’ heirs built the Butler Exchange, which upon completion in 1873, was the largest building in Providence and its splendid French-inspired two-story mansard roof was a nice pairing with the City Hall being built nearby. The Butler Exchange saw commercial use, offices, and a school before a fire destroyed much of the building, leading to its demolition. The building was later replaced by the Industrial National Bank Building aka the “Superman Building”.

Image Courtesy of Providence Public Library collections.

Owen Building // 1866

The Owen Building sits on the edge of Downtown Providence, near the Providence River which divides College Hill from Downtown. This mansard roofed commercial building is one of the finest in the city and was designed by architect Alfred Stone for George and Smith Owen (G. & S. Owen), whose sons operated a wholesale yarn business on the premises. In 1877 Stone, as Stone & Carpenter, returned to remodel the building, seemingly adding the mansard roof and much decorative trim on the new north facade. The building retains its cast-iron storefront and prominent siting as a lasting example of 19th century architectural heritage.

Earle Building // 1895

The Earle Building in Downtown Providence, Rhode Island is an architectural anomaly. The structure was built in 1895 and is a stunning example of the Second Empire style of architecture, best characterized by the iconic Mansard roof. The Second Empire style surged in popularity from the 1860s-1880s, but really fell off in popularity when historic revival styles took over (Renaissance, Colonial, and Classical). William H. Earle built this structure in 1895 to house his business, Earle & Prew, General Express Forwarders. Earle & Prew dealt exclusively with at least half a dozen local train and steamship lines, and held offices in this building well into the 20th century. The building today is one of the better-preserved structures downtown, which provides architectural intrigue and design that is of human scale.

Susanna Cary Rental Property // c.1884

Isaac Harris Cary’s land holdings adjacent to Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, saw a surge in value when the cemetery and Forest Hills Station were constructed, opening up the area for development. After Isaac’s death in 1881, his unmarried daughter Susanna, built this large Second Empire style building contributes to the varied 19th century architecture of the street. This double-house was constructed around 1884, seemingly as a rental property which provided Susanna income while residing nearby. The two units suffer from some deferred maintenance, but are excellent examples of the Second Empire style in a double-house form.