Inn Victoria // c.1850

Located right on Main Street in the beautiful village of Chester, Vermont, this historic inn has been a landmark in town since it was built in the mid 19th century. The house was constructed around 1850 for Dr. Abram Lowell (1794-1876), the village doctor. Dr. Lowell conducted his medical practice in a small building next to the main house and resided in the home, which originally had a side-gable roof. Tributes printed in regional newspapers at the time of his death called him an eminent physician, accomplished gardener, “eccentric in his ideas,” and “the wealthiest man in town.” After his death, the home was inherited by his daughter and her husband, George Hilton. They immediately “modernized” the home, adding the mansard roof, which provided an extra full story of living space. The home was converted to a bed & breakfast in 1998, and has been one of the most intact, Victorian era inns in the state since! It is known as Inn Victoria, so named after Queen Victoria and the Victorian period of architecture in the United States.

Riddell House // 1873

One of the most prominent homes in Jamaica Plain is the Riddell House, built in 1873. The Second Empire style house was built for Samuel S. Riddell, who is listed in directories as a merchant with offices in Downtown Boston. After the Civil War, it was common for those with money, to build larger mansions outside the city and commute in via horsecar or train. Boston at the time was an industrial powerhouse with coal stacks and horses spewing waste all over, so a respite from the urban conditions of Boston was a selling point for many to build homes farther out. Interestingly, Second Empire style homes by the 1870s were starting to wane in popularity, but the owner decided to have the home constructed in the style anyway. Besides the amazing siting on the hill with lush landscaping, the house features a large belvedere at the roof, which would allow Samuel the ability to see Boston in the distance, along with all the pollution at the time.

Curtis Hall // 1868

As previously mentioned, Jamaica Plain as we know it, was once a part of the Town of West Roxbury. West Roxbury was originally a part of the Town of Roxbury, but due to its farmland and differing goals and quality of life, the town seceded from Roxbury in 1851. After the Civil War, like many other adjacent towns to Boston, West Roxbury was annexed into Boston in 1874. In the 23 years West Roxbury was its own town, they constructed a Town Hall worthy of the new town’s stature and standing. In 1866, David S. Greenough owner of the Loring-Greenough Estate, sold a prominent plot of land on the town’s main street for $10,000, money furnished by Nelson Curtis, a wealthy mason, politician and banker. George Ropes was commissioned as architect, who may have been the town architect as he also constructed the District 13 Police Station for the town. The stately masonry building featured brick construction with granite trim and quoins, a large entry portico and a mansard roof. A fire in 1908 destroyed the roof, and it was replaced with a more contemporary, Colonial Revival finish. In recent history, the building was a community center, with a swimming pool in the basement. The building remains a Boston Centers for Youth & Families, but in not great preservation. This is a PRIME candidate for Community Preservation Act funds.

Webster-Jenkins Mansion // 1875

One of my favorite homes in Jamaica Plain is this gorgeous old Victorian-era home, perched high on Sumner Hill. The house was built in 1875 seemingly for John L Webster and his wife Henrietta with John as the architect/builder. John built other homes in the neighborhood, and clearly did well for himself as he acquired one of the most prominent sites in the area for his own home. After his death in 1890, the home was willed to his daughter and her husband, Augustus T. Jenkins, who worked as a Clerk in Downtown Boston. The house blends many mid-to-late 19th century styles including Second Empire, Stick, and Victorian Gothic, and is among one of the most architecturally pleasing I have seen. The central tower, obscured in my photos by trees, probably provides some amazing views of the growing city in the distance.

Otis Brewer House // 1864

Otis Brewer (1809-1888) worked as editor and owner of the Boston Cultivator, the nation’s second agricultural paper. The paper ran from 1838-1876 and included articles on livestock, labor-saving machines, and the best methods of cultivation. In addition, there were sections devoted to trade and commerce, moral and religious pieces, listing of marriages and deaths, proceedings of the Massachusetts legislature and Congress, and after 1843, a Young Men’s Department, and a Ladies’ Department, which featured tales and items on marriage. With the paper’s success in the mid 19th century, he had this large home built by housewright Stephen Heath, in the fashionable Second Empire style, known for its mansard roof. The home remained in the Brewer family under his son’s ownership at least until his death in 1934.

Beaumont House // 1867

One of the most striking homes in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, is this Second Empire house built in 1870. The home was constructed for Francis B. Beaumont, who served in the Civil War as Colonel and returned to Massachusetts, settling in Jamaica Plain, around other returning vets with deep pockets. He commuted into Boston, and worked downtown as a clerk. He and his wife Clarissa had three children, two girls and one boy. Their son William, worked as a doctor in town. In 1897, he caught Scarlet Fever and died soon after. When Francis and Clarissa died in 1903 and 1905 respectively, the home was willed to their eldest daughter, Ethel. The house itself is a high-style example of Second Empire residential architecture in Boston and features decorated window surrounds and flush-board siding at the ground floor to look like granite. The home was purchased by Craddock Builders who are undergoing a large restoration project and gave the home a striking paint scheme, highlighting the many architectural details. The project is not yet complete (the front porch/steps are still being installed), but I can’t wait to see the final project, inside and out!

Captain Nathaniel Stone House // 1872

The Captain Nathaniel Stone House in Farmingdale, Maine was constructed in 1872 on a small plot of land overlooking the Kennebec River. The charming home was constructed by Nathaniel Stone (1797-1884), a retired ship chandler,(a dealer in supplies or equipment for ships) who moved back to his hometown after making his fortune in Boston. He lived here with his wife, Martha, and his adopted son, Uriah, in this fashionable Second Empire style. Nathaniel died in 1884, outliving his wife by two years. The property was willed to his adopted son Uriah, who quickly sold the home on account of him seeing ghosts inside, he refused to live there because of it. The home was acquired by William Ring, a businessman who owned real estate in nearby Gardiner, Maine. Between 1886 and 1912 he and his family resided at the former Stone House, but by the turn of the Twentieth-century he grew increasingly in debt, and on several occasions he borrowed against his property to meet his obligations. Before the home went up for auction in 1912, a massive fire broke out in the home, destroying all the interior woodwork, and William perished inside. Although significantly damaged, it was largely rebuilt to its original appearance by its eventual buyer and has been an architectural landmark on the Kennebec River ever since. Now that I think of it, maybe Uriah Stone could see the future and saw William Ring as a ghost!

New London Ledge Lighthouse // 1909

Set way off the coast of Connecticut at the eastern end of Long Island Sound, sits this stunning lighthouse which appears more as a Second Empire style home than a lighthouse! By the early 1900s, New London, with its protected harbor at the mouth of the Thames River, had made the transition from whaling center to industrial city. New London Ledge Light was built because New London Harbor Light wasn’t sufficient to direct vessels around the dangerous ledges at the entrance to the harbor. The New London Ledge Lighthouse was completed in 1909, built by the Hamilton R. Douglas Company of New London and is an architectural antique as its Second Empire style is about 50 years past the time the style was popular in American architecture. The lighthouse reportedly owes its distinctive French Second Empire style to the influence of the wealthy home owners on the local coast, who wanted a structure in keeping with the elegance of their own homes. Sadly, many of the large homes near the shore in the area were destroyed in the Great Hurricane of September 21, 1938. Coast Guard crews lived at the light until it was fully automated in 1987. The lighthouse today is owned and operated as a museum by the New London Maritime Society.

Stanhope Stables // c.1868

Boston has many examples of adaptive reuse, likely none as frequent as converted horse stables and carriage houses from the 19th century. These one-story stables with a mansard roof on Stanhope Street in the Back Bay were constructed by 1868. The street once held other stable buildings, but those lots were either redeveloped or closed for the extension of Clarendon Street. The stables were used to store the horses and carriages of wealthy Back Bay residents including Jacob Pfaff, Dexter Follett, and Barney Corey. When automobiles replaced horses as a primary way of getting around, these buildings were converted to garages. As the land value raised here, they were adapted to commercial use eventually as restaurants. The building at the far left (now Red Lantern) was originally occupied by Gundlach’s Hofbrau German Restaurant, followed by the Red Coach Grill. A large fire occurred at the restaurant in 1955, likely destroying any historic fabric inside. The Stanhope Stables are threatened for redevelopment as the high-value land facilitates a higher and better use (presently proposed as a hotel). While the preservationist in me wants to see these stables remain intact, my stance is that the brick facades should be reconfigured into a new development in a lobby or restaurant.

What do you think?

Roberts Mansion // 1871

The Charles Roberts Mansion in Beacon Hill maintains its architectural integrity and is an extremely rare example of the Egyptian Revival and Second Empire styles in Boston. The mansion was constructed in 1871 for Charles and Mercy Roberts, likely as a boarding house for transient legislators working at the Massachusetts State House nearby and other middle-class citizens. The mansion was designed by William Washburn, a prolific architect who lived nearby and is credited with iconic early Boston buildings like the Revere and American Houses (early Boston hotels), the original Tremont Temple, and the old Charlestown City Hall, all since demolished. This mansion is the only extant building by Washburn to my knowledge. The brick and sandstone building features paired columns at the entrance with Egyptian Revival lotus leaf capitals, additionally, the triangular dormers at the mansard roof provide a slight Egyptian Revival note. The Egyptian Revival style was rarely used in American domestic architectural design. More frequently used in the design of cemetery entrance gates and memorials in the form of obelisks, the Egyptian Revival made sporadic appearances in the design of American buildings between the 1820s and the 1870s. Another period of the Egyptian Revival architectural style also occurred in the 1920s, with design of silent movie theaters, which coincided with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.