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.

Old Forest Hills Station // 1909-1987

Photo courtesy of Boston City Archives

When elevated train service from Boston extended to Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain in 1909, the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods and points south were ecstatic to realize the chance to enjoy quicker transit to the city. The station, which opened in 1909, was an architectural landmark and engineering feat, as the new terminal was the largest structure of its kind and the most costly in the country at the time. The large station was made of steel and reinforced concrete, finished in copper at the elevated section, and took nearly two years of construction. City architect Edmund M. Wheelwright designed the station, and upon its opening, it was called “the chef-d’œuvre of rapid transit development in Boston”. Like with many cities all over the country, shifting transportation planning and priorities and shrinking investment necessitated the once grand station to suffer the fate of the wreckingball. As part of the Southwest Corridor project, this station was to be demolished, with a modern station constructed to service the MBTA trains on the Orange Line. Also, plans were developed for a 12-lane highway along the railroad right-of-way between Boston through Cambridge. The residents of the affected areas, including Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, South End, Back Bay, and Cambridge, protested against the destruction of their neighborhoods by the planned highway, and won! The old Forest Hills Station was a casualty of the proposal, but a lasting reminder for neighborhood planning and advocacy, preserving character and people over cars.

Everett Schoolhouse // 1860-1965

c. 1910 image courtesy of Boston City Archives.

The Everett Schoolhouse opened in 1860 as Boston’s most modern school at the time, serving students in the South End and Roxbury. The school was located on Northampton Street, just off Tremont Street, and stood four stories with lawns surrounding it. The building was architecturally beautiful, with brick walls and stone trim and basement, large double-hung windows, and a slate roof capped by a bell tower. The building was so special, the opening ceremonies were documented in the New York Times in 1860. The school was named after Edward Everett (1794-1865), a Boston-native who served as a U.S. Senator, the 15th Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, and United States Secretary of State. He also taught at Harvard University and served as its president. My favorite tidbit of history on Edward Everett is that he was a great orator, and was the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in 1863, where he spoke for over two hours—immediately before President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous two-minute Gettysburg Address! The Everett Schoolhouse in Boston saw thousands of children graduate before a fire on the top floor of the building in 1965 and subsequent water damage from fire hoses necessitated its demolition.

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.

“Breakwater” – Charles W. Lippitt Mansion // 1899-1924

Photo courtesy of Providence Public Library

Rhode Island is home to some amazing old homes, but “Breakwater”, the Charles W. Lippitt Mansion was NOT one of them! Former Governor, Charles Warren Lippitt (1846-1924), the son of Governor Henry Lippitt, wanted to be a member of Gilded Age society in Newport, after spending his time in Providence all year, so he had this absolute fortress built. Poor taste did not run in the family, as his father’s Providence mansion was very tasteful (featured on here previously). Breakwater was built on the southern tip of Newport, ironically across the street from Edith Wharton’s tastefully designed cottage, Land’s End (also featured on here recently). Wharton used the term “White Elephants” to describe the influx of massive, masonry mansions that replaced the traditional wooden cottages, similar to what she observed with the Vanderbilt estate, The Breakers. It is understood now why Edith Wharton abruptly moved when this monster of a house was built right next door! Architect Robert H. Robinson designed the fortress – erh I mean house…- and it remained on the site only until Lippitts death in 1924, when the castle was demolished by his son to make the property more marketable for sale. The property was purchased in 1926 by John Russell Pope, an architect, designed his own Tudor style home, “The Waves” (featured on here previously) atop the ruins of the previous estate. MUCH better!

The Reefs Mansion – The Bells // 1885-1963

‘The Reef’ a fabulous Gilded Age estate in Newport was built in 1885 for Theodore M. Davis by the Boston architectural firm of Sturgis and Brigham. The elegant shingle and stone Queen Anne villa was erected as both a summer house and to house some of Davis’s vast collection of paintings and Egyptian artifacts, collected during his excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings between 1902 and 1913. Besides the architecture of the home, the Reef Estate was also famous for its walled gardens, greenhouses, and outbuildings, sitting upon eighteen acres. overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Following Mr. Davis’ death in 1915, Milton J. Budlong of Providence purchased the estate. Milton divorced from his wife Jessie in 1928, and it was MESSY. Their Newport summer estate was placed in contention. The house, never again lived in by the family. During World War II, anti-aircraft gun emplacements were set up around the grounds, with the mansion housing gunnery personnel. After the War, the estate was given back to the Budlong heirs, who did not reside there. Vandalized throughout the 1950’s, the villa was set on fire in 1961 and demolished two years later in 1963. In 1969, the waterfront property came under the control of the State of Rhode Island and in 1976, became a state park. The old carriage house/stable and a later observation tower (possibly converted from a former water tower) stand today.

The Old Breakers Mansion // 1878-1892

For my last post on this series on The Breakers in Newport, I wanted to highlight the original Breakers mansion. Built in 1878, the original Breakers was equally as significant, but a completely different style architecturally. The Breakers was constructed for Pierre Lorillard IV (1833-1901), a tobacco manufacturer and thoroughbred race horse owner from New York. In 1760, his great-grandfather, and namesake of the family company, founded P. Lorillard and Company in New York City to process tobacco, cigars, and snuff. The ‘cottage’ would serve as a summer retreat for Lorillard and his family for the summer months. The home was designed by one of the premier architectural firms in the country at the time, Peabody & Stearns, who specialized in high-style country estates. In 1885, Lorrilard used his family land in Orange County, New York, to lay out a new residential colony as a playground for New York’s wealthiest residents during the summer months. The colony is known as Tuxedo Park. He sold The Breakers to Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1885 and the family would summer in the massive Queen Anne style estate for just seven years until a fire destroyed the home. The detached children’s cottage (also designed in 1878 by Peabody & Stearns) survived the fire and remains on the site. The Vanderbilt’s decided to erect a fireproof house immediately, and the result is the massive limestone mansion we can tour today.

Burbank Homestead // c.1800

Do you like McDonalds french fries? If you do, you can thank Luther Burbank, who was born in this house!

Image courtesy of Lancaster Historical Society

This Federal style home formerly in Lancaster, MA, was built around 1800 by housewright Simon Willard. The brick farmhouse saw generations of the Burbank Family live, marry, and die here. In 1849, Luther Burbank was born in an upstairs bedroom, as the 13th of 15 children of Samuel Walton Burbank and his three wives (not at the same time). Growing up on the farm, Luther enjoyed the plants in his mother’s large garden. When his father died when he was 18 years old, Burbank used his inheritance to buy a 17-acre plot of land in nearby Lunenburg. There, he developed the Burbank potato. He soon after sold the rights to the Burbank potato for $150 and moved to California, where he spend the remainder of his life. Today, the Russet Burbank potato is the most widely cultivated potato in the United States. The potato is popular because it doesn’t expire as easily as other types of potatoes, and it is the most commonly used potato for McDonalds iconic fries. In his life, Burbank created hundreds of new varieties of fruits (plum, pear, prune, peach, blackberry, raspberry); potato, tomato; ornamental flowers and other plants. He did more than I could possibly list, I highly suggest reading about him online. He was even so inspiring that Frida Kahlo painted Burbank as a tree/human hybrid, sprouting out of his corpse underground (seriously). In the 1930s, Henry Ford came to Lancaster and negotiated with the Dexter family, who then owned the house, to move the wood-frame ell to his museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it remains to this day. The brick house was demolished by the Federal Government when the nearby U.S. Army Base at Fort Devens was expanded in the site.

St. Sylvia’s Catholic Church // 1881-1909

Photo in Detroit Publishing Co. Collection.

As wealthy citizens from cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York, began building summer cottages on Mount Desert Island in Maine, an influx of carpenters and tradespeople from Ireland followed to construct and work on them. Realizing this, cottager DeGrasse Fox along with Brooks White of Philadelphia, donated land for a new Catholic church building. Maine architect, William Ralph Emerson, donated plans for the church. A masterpiece of Shingle style design, the church, which seated 300 people, was deemed too small for the growing village’s summer congregation. A new, stone church was built closer to town (featured previously). The spire and belfry resemble another church Emerson designed in Beverly, MA, St. Margaret’s Catholic Church. Sadly, St. Sylvia’s burned down in 1909.

Doe’s Garrison // c.1690-1938

On Doe’s Neck (now Moody Point) in Newmarket, NH, a peninsula at the terminus of the Lamprey River where it meets the Great Bay, has long been a highly desired and contested piece of land. Towards the end of the 17th century, the land here was owned by the Doe Family, who built a Garrison House here. The house was used as a defensive structure to protect those living nearby from Native American attack. The Doe family resided here until after the Revolutionary War. The saltbox building was later altered with full-length porches by later owners, to take advantage of water views. By the Great Depression, the garrison house was suffering from severe neglect, but before it was demolished, it was documented as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).