My favorite home in Marion, Massachusetts is this summer cottage on Water Street, overlooking Sippican Harbor. The home is said to have been built from a c.1840s house and enlarged by Reed as a summer home in the fashionable Shingle style. H. R. Reed, an agent for the Revere Sugar Refinery in Boston was well-connected in town and hosted President Grover Cleveland with Rev. Percy Browne ( a summer resident) at his cottage during the summer months. Evidently, Reed added the rubblestone elements, modified the porch, added a tower on the south elevation, the massive dormers at the roof, and is responsible for the exquisite Colonial Revival-style interior, from architect James Templeton Kelley. The home is arguably best known as the summer White House of Grover Cleveland, the only U.S. president to marry in the White House and the only two-time president to serve non consecutively – from 1885-89 and from 1893-97. The Cleveland’ Family summered in Marion between their time in the White House. In 1891, the President hoped to purchase the home, but could not settle upon a reasonable price, so he bought Grey Gables, a summer cottage in nearby Buzzards Bay (no longer extant).
Augustus Nickerson, a Boston-based businessman and secretary of the League of American Wheelmen (bicycling group) built this home as a summertime retreat from the stresses of city living. Nickerson was associated with F. Nickerson ad Company, sailing and steamship owners and general merchants, and rose to become treasurer of the Boston and Savannah Steamship Company in the 1880s. He built a home in Dorchester, MA for his family, and just two years later, built this absolutely perfect Shingle-style home in Marion. The home exhibits strong horizontal massing and weathered wood shingle sheathing, characteristic of the Shingle Style.
Benjamin E. Waters (1863-1962) was a local businessman and real estate developer in Marion by the end of the 19th century. He acquired a large property not far from the beach, in the middle of a high-class residential enclave and developed the property, running a small dirt path through the middle, known today as Pie Alley. He built three large Shingle style homes and appears to have rented them out to wealthy residents. The homes are all situated very well on their lots among large lawns framed by stone walls, just a short walk from the beach.
This “cottage” on Water Street in Marion, Massachusetts was designed by William Gibbons Preston and built for Judge James Austin in 1885. By 1919, the property had passed into the hands of Herbert Austin and his sister Miss Edith Austin, the latter, a benefactress of many local causes. In 1921, Edith Austin’s best friend June Butler married Parker Converse and honeymooned in China. Upon her return, June shared photographs of moon gates to her best friend Edith. Moon gates are circular opening in a garden wall that acts as a pedestrian passageway and is a traditional architectural element in Chinese gardens. Upon seeing these, Edith had one built as a formal entrance to her massive gardens. The stones were pulled from the grounds and shoreline, and the top piece was apparently purchased in China and shipped to Marion. The open cornice and ducks that adorn the top symbolize wealth and marital bliss. The infamous 1938 New England Hurricane heavily damaged the Austin cottage, but seemingly spared the moon gate. The property was later subdivided.
“Point Rock” is one of the smaller summer cottages built during the end of the 19th century for wealthy city-dwellers to escape for summers from the stress and pollution of city life. This home was built around 1890 for David W. Lewis, a concrete and stone dealer in Boston. The home is sited in the middle of a waterfront lot, overlooking Sippican Harbor and Buzzards Bay. The house is a great example of the Shingle style, popular in the late 19th century, and features a strong horizontal emphasis and continuous shingles from the roof to the foundation. The chippendale porch balustrade is a great added touch.
One of the most interesting houses in Marion, Massachusetts, is the Frederick Cutler Cottage, at the corner of Water and Lewis streets. The home was built in the 1890s for Frederick B. Cutler, partner in the firm of Stetson, Cutler & Company in Boston, a building materials company who sold everything from long lumber and shingles to lime. The Shingle style mansion was occupied by the Cutler Family between their time in Brookline and Marion for summers until the 1920s. In 1972, the owner separated the structure into two parts that now sit on adjacent lots as 4 and 8 Water Street.
After Charles Allerton Coolidge built his summer home in Marion, on an undeveloped peninsula, investors saw the potential for the waterfront sites nearby, plus they had a local renowned architect who could be hired to furnish designs of new homes. Boston physician Albert Edgar Angier worked with Charles A. Coolidge on his proposed summer house by the turn of the 20th century. The house is in a V-shape and exhibits late 19th century architectural elements of the Shingle style with a large polygonal section to provide sweeping views of the harbor.
Charles Allerton Coolidge (1858-1936) was born in Boston and grew up in the iconic Beacon Hill neighborhood, known for its stunning architecture. Inspired by his surroundings, he attended Harvard and MIT and studied architecture, graduating in 1883. He entered into Henry Hobson Richardson’s architectural practice as a draftsman until Richardson’s death in 1886. Upon his death, Coolidge continued Richardson’s commissions as a partner, as Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. Shepley married Richardson’s daughter; and Coolidge later married Shepley’s sister. It is likely that Coolidge became aware of Marion from Richardson’s earlier design of the Percy Browne Cottage in town. He must have liked the town so much, since he built this summer cottage in 1891 in a sparsely developed area across Sippican Harbor from the village. The Shingle style home was later rented to Isaac Henry Lionberger, a lawyer who served as assistant Attorney General of the United States by appointment of President Cleveland (who also summered in Marion). Lionberger, who spent most of his time at his home in St. Louis, married Coolidge’s wife’s sister, so the families often hung out at this home together. The summer cottage in Marion is still owned by Coolidge’s heirs to this day.
In 1881, Henry Hobson Richardson furnished plans for this modest, shingled cottage in the town of Marion, overlooking Sippican Harbor. At the same time, he was also completing designs for Austin Hall at Harvard and overseeing the construction of Albany City Hall in New York, both in his iconic Richardsonian Romanesque style. This Shingle style home in Marion was designed for Reverend William Percy Browne (1838-1901), who was educated at Kenyon College in Ohio alongside John Cotton Brooks, the youngest brother of Phillips Brooks, who would become the Rector of Boston’s Trinity Church and briefly Bishop of Massachusetts. Brooks would hire H.H. Richardson to design Trinity Church in Boston in the early 1870s. From this connection and being members of the St. Botolph Club of Boston, Reverend William Percy Browne and H.H. Richardson began a working relationship designing Browne’s summer cottage in Marion. The legend is that at the club, Browne bet Richardson that he could not design a small house for $2,500. Browne lost. This modest house was completed in 1882 and represented an early, significant example of a Shingle style home in Massachusetts. Browne died in 1901 and the house was sold to Sidney Hosmer, a Boston electrical engineer. Under his ownership, the home was expanded and altered, somewhat obscuring Richardson’s original design. The cottage was eventually purchased by Tabor Academy, who in 2019, pulled a demolition permit for the house. Architects and historians quickly rallied and advocated for the preservation of the cottage, saving it from the wrecking ball. The academy is undergoing alternative plans, which were stalled due to Covid-19.
Built in 1885, Marion’s Congregational Chapel represents one of Elizabeth Pitcher Taber’s last substantial gifts to her community. Born in Marion in 1791, Mrs. Taber taught grammar school in Marion as a young woman, marrying, Stephen Taber, clock maker and whaling ship-owner in 1823, subsequently living in Acushnet and New Bedford. She refocused her interest in Marion after the death of her husband in 1862. A wealthy, childless widow, Mrs.Taber funded a library/natural history museum, music hall, and during the mid-late 1870s, she set about the daunting task of founding a private academy in Marion which still thrives in the town as Tabor Academy. Three years before her death in 1885, Mrs. Taber, in one of her last acts of generosity to her church and town, purchased a vacant lot owned by her Tabor Academy’s principal and her downstairs neighbor in Tabor Hall, Clark P. Howland. She paid him $300.00 for his land and subsequently had the Congregational Chapel built in the up-to-date Shingle Style. Composed of rubble stone, the church features a south-facing wall with a trio of polygonal bays that add depth and provides the hallmark cedar shingle siding in the style. The church is one of the most rustic and beautiful in the state of Massachusetts. The church here also runs Penny Pinchers Exchange, a church-run thrift shop.