Old Willington Congregational Church // 1876

The Congregational or Town Church of Willington, Connecticut, has existed since the town’s incorporation in 1728, but originally met in a member’s small home on the Town Green. The Victorian Gothic style church we see today was built in 1876, after members gathered funds to construct the building. Land, materials, and labor were donated to offset costs for the small congregation. The church flourished until a split in the beliefs led to the formation of the Baptist Church of Willington. Eventually, the Congregational Church merged with the Willington Baptist Church in 1911 to form The Federated Church of Willington. The congregation then moved to the Baptist meeting house across the Green. In 1924, the Old Congregational meeting house, which was erected in 1877, was sold for $1 to the Town of Willington with certain restrictions, the most important of which was that, if it should cease to be used for public meetings under the control of the selectmen, possession would revert to the Congregational Ecclesiastical Society. From 1926-1974, the church was used as town hall (when the smaller building next door was outgrown. The church’s bell was removed during World War II to allow plane-spotters to use the tower. Instead of being placed back in the tower, it was mounted on a pedestal outside the building, where it remains today. The Willington Town Offices moved to a former industrial building a short distance away, but retain and maintain the building.

Bramanville Fire Station // 1883

A short distance to the Lapham Woolen Mill, this historic fire station can be found right on the street in Bramanville, an industrial village in Millbury, MA. The fire station was built in 1883 by the Lapham Woolen Mill owners as an insurance protection from fire and complete loss of their lucrative business. After Lapham’s death in 1893, the company sold the mill, worker’s housing, store and fire station to the Mayo Woolen Company which began production almost immediately. Sadly, like many former industrial buildings nearby, the future is unclear for this amazing old building. What would you repurpose the Bramanville Fire Station into?

Lapham Woolen Mill // 1879

I have gotten a lot of requests recently to feature an old New England mill town, and I wanted to highlight a lesser-known one, so here is Millbury, Massachusetts! This gorgeous mill building was constructed between 1879-1919, impacted by over forty years of growth and design. The Lapham Woolen Mill is the largest and most intact 19th century industrial building in Millbury and sits in the middle of Bramanville, an industrial village in the town, off Singletary Brook, a branch of the Blackstone River. The Lapham Woolen Mill was built on the location of the former Burbank paper mills, which were in operation in Bramanville between 1775-1836. The Lapham Woolen Mill was started in the mid-1870s by Mowry A. Lapham, who oversaw the company’s growth after the Civil War, manufacturing clothing and other woolen goods. After Mowry’s death, the company’s pollution into the brook got the best of them and they disbanded, selling it. The mill was then purchased by Josiah and Edward Mayo, and their business partner Thomas Curtis. The group renamed the existing business the Mayo Woolen Company. The complex was occupied by Steelcraft Inc., a manufacturer of medical supplies, until recently. The building’s future was threatened until 2020, when a proposal to restore the old mill, and add new housing on the site was proposed. Fingers and toes are crossed to see this gorgeous building restored!

Unity Church Parsonage // 1878

Architects William Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt designed this parsonage in Easton, Massachusetts for the Unity Church in town (featured previously). The Victorian Gothic house is constructed of polychromatic stone, wood trim, slate and copper roof surfaces, and terracotta finials. The architecture is very well-developed and stands toe-to-toe with the other architectural landmarks in town, just a short walk away.

Riverbend Cottage // c.1860

No, this is not Martha’s Vineyard, it is Collinsville, Connecticut! Perched on a hill near the banks of the Farmington River, this quaint little Victorian cottage is one of the better-preserved examples of worker’s cottages in the former industrial village. I could not locate much on the house’s history, beyond that it may have once been part of a larger home, and moved to this site in the 20th century.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church // 1871

Next door to the Inn Victoria, the beautiful St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Chester, VT, stands out as one of the only Gothic Revival buildings in the town. A small group of residents gathered in the 1860s to found a Episcopal church in the town, which already had a dominant Congregational church. They furnished money which was matched by the diocese, and Merrick Wentworth was named senior warden. Members of his family and that of Frederick Fullerton, his son-in-law, formed a large part of the congregation. Frederick and Philette Wentworth Fullerton donated a building site across the street from their home (featured previously), and Mr. Wentworth’s nephew, Boston architect, William P. Wentworth, contributed plans for a Gothic-style frame church, which includes a tall corner belltower.

Jamaica Plain District 13 Police Station // 1873

The District 13 Police Station was built in 1873 in response to the needs of a growing community. Located in what is now Jamaica Plain, it was originally intended to serve the town of West Roxbury, which was itself annexed into Boston within the year it took to construct this building! The town of West Roxbury appropriated funds for a larger police station in the dense core of their town, but only acquired land in Sumner Hill, which was a rapidly developing neighborhood with large, upper-class mansions on large lots. To appease the neighbors, the town hired architect George Ropes to design this brick Victorian Gothic building with slate roof, punctured by a number of dormers. The building is one of the best-designed civic buildings in the present city of Boston and appears much as it would have when built 150 years ago. After West Roxbury was annexed, the City of Boston constructed an addition at the rear, designed in 1892 by Edmund M. Wheelwright, architect for the City of Boston, to serve as a municipal court building. The ornate building continued its use as a police station until the early 1980s until it was deaccessioned by the City of Boston and sold, subsequently converted to condominiums. I wonder if they kept the jail cells!

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Jamaica Plain // 1882

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston, is a sprawling Victorian church dramatically sited on the crest of Sumner Hill, looking over the amazing neighborhood. The church was a local affair as it was designed by local architect Harris M. Stephenson and constructed in 1882 of rough-faced rubble Roxbury puddingstone (a locally harvested stone) with tan sandstone trim. Not all about the church is local though, some national players left their mark on the design. The church contains a collection of significant 19th century stained glass windows, including works by the studios of John LaFarge, MacDonald/McPerson, and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Additionally, there are two murals by nationally known artist George Willoughby Maynard. This church building is the second house of worship for the Episcopal congregation in Jamaica Plain. It was built on land bequeathed to the church by General William H. Sumner, lawyer, legislator, adjutant general, historian and developer of East Boston. The amazing Victorian Gothic building underwent a full restoration about a decade ago, thanks to preservation grants. The church remains an active congregation and advocates for both spirituality and social justice.

Kickemuit Cottage // 1869

Summer is here and I am missing my favorite place to explore, Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The town is sleepy most of the year, but in the Summer, the place explodes with summer residents and tourists, providing such a lively and diverse atmosphere. One of the most beautiful of the cottages in the Wesleyan Grove campground is the Kickemuit Cottage, built in 1869 for a family from Rhode Island. They so-named the cottage after the Kickemuit River which runs from Massachusetts through Warren, RI and spills out into the Mt. Hope Bay. The story goes that this double cottage was actually just a single peaked home until it was combined with another giving it the double-peaked appearance we see today. The cottage retains the turned posts, delicate gingerbread detailing, and the lancet windows and doors. Swoon!

Side note: If anyone has a cottage in Oak Bluffs that they’ll let me rent, I would love to be in touch!

First Reformed Church, Schenectady // 1863

The First Reformed Church of Schenectady is the oldest congregation in the city. Founded by Dutch settlers, Schenectady’s first colonists, the first church lasted over a decade until it burned in the Schenectady Massacre in 1690, when a party of more than 200 French and allied Mohawk warriors attacked the unguarded community of Schenectady, destroying most of the homes, and killing or capturing most of its inhabitants. Sixty residents were killed, including 11 enslaved Africans. An expanding congregation after, outgrew its second and third buildings, replacing them with larger structures. The fourth was lost in Schenectady’s Great Fire of 1861, causing yet another building campaign. The present church building, an architectural landmark in Gothic design, was completed by the highly regarded Victorian-gothic architect Edward Tuckerman Potter in 1863. Potter is also known for his designs of the Nott Memorial Building (previously featured), in Schenectady, and Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, CT. A fire in the church gutted it in 1948, but the community at large banded together to fund the restoration efforts of the amazing architectural landmark.