Jechonias Thayer House // 1835

The Jechonias Thayer House is high-style temple-front Greek Revival home in the Doric order in Braintree, MA. The two-story columns support the colonnade and heavy pedimented gable. The home was built for Jechonias Thayer, a wholesale and retail grocery merchant in downtown Boston. Thayer died in Boston in 1876. He built this house on his ancestral homestead at Braintree about 1835, the year his father, Solomon Thayer, died. Solomon Thayer had lived here in an earlier dwelling. This house also served as a country home for the next owner, Edward Reed (d.1891), a Boston iron merchant. After this, the home was purchased by Leonard F. Norris (1831-1908), in 1893. Norris reportedly was one of the early settlers of North Bridgewater, and worked as a real estate broker in that city. His son, F. Edgar Norris, inherited the property and renovated it. The younger Norris, Lowell Ames Norris was an author who dubbed the property “Norcrest”, wrote about the renovated home which made it in many architectural publications.

1918 floorplans of “Norcrest” by Lowell Ames Norris, found in House Beautiful June 1918.

Gen. Sylvanus Thayer House // 1720

The General Sylvanus Thayer Birthplace and Museum, located at 786 Washington Street (commonly known locally as Thayer House), was built in 1720 by Nathaniel Thayer, a farmer in Braintree. General Sylvanus Thayer, known as the “Father of West Point,” was born in the house in 1785 and resided there until 1793. General Thayer early superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point and an early advocate of engineering education in the United States. Thayer’s time at West Point ended with his resignation in 1833, after a disagreement with President Andrew Jackson. Sylvanus then spent the great majority of the next 30 years as the chief engineer for the Boston area with the Army Corps of Engineers. During this time, he oversaw the construction of both Fort Warren and Fort Independence to defend Boston Harbor. In 1958, the parcel of land on which the house sat was purchased by the Walworth Steel Company; rather than tearing the old house down, it was dismantled and moved approximately one mile down Washington Street to its present location and given to the Braintree Historical Society. The saltbox home is a great example of Georgian architecture and has been very well maintained.

Dr. Almon Jones House and Office // 1888

These two Queen Anne structures of similar design actually sit on the same lot on Hollis Street in Braintree and served very different uses! Both were built for Dr. Almon H. Jones, a dentist who resided in the home and held his dental office next door in the smaller building. The house is richly decorated in characteristically Queen Anne features that include asymmetrical massing, textured sheathing, half timbering, and elaborate bracketing. The office, now a separate residence, is a small two bay wide structure and two rooms deep. Although small in size, the building is richly decorated with an array of elaborate Queen Anne features, many duplicating those found on the house. Similar paint schemes tie the buildings together, much as they would have been in the past!

Thayer Academy – Glover Building // 1893

The second building constructed for Thayer Academy (see here for the first) is the Glover Building, a handsome Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival gymnasium building. Sited to create a quadrangle for the new campus, the brick building respects the earlier building, yet is of its time and style to showcase how institutional design tastes change. In 1891, Mrs. Sarah White Glover, at the age of 87, inherited the White family wealth. She would pass away a year later. Prior to her death, she had consulted with Judge French, President of the Board of Trustees at Thayer Academy, about how best to spend her money for educational purposes. French suggested that she donate to Thayer Academy as the school was in need of a gymnasium. Glover obliged and willed the necessary funds to the school. Architects for the building were Hartwell and Richardson of Boston, the successor firm to the original Thayer Academy Building. The building had a boys’ gymnasium on one side and a girls’ on the other side. The middle of the building housed chemistry laboratories, as the original school building was already running out of lab space.

Thayer Academy – Main Building // 1876

In 1871, General Sylvanus Thayer, wrote a will which included a bequest to build “an academy in which young persons of the male sex (or both male and female if my trustees deem it expedient) be educated…to promote the cause of education in the Commonwealth and to benefit the town of Braintree, the place of my birth”. The year after, Thayer died and his money was utilized by his trustees to establish the new school.

The first building was completed in 1876, and the academy opened that next year with tuition free for students of Braintree and $75/year for all others. The Ruskinian Gothic building was designed by the architectural firm of Hartwell & Swasey, the precursor to Hartwell & Richardson. Gas lighting, steam heating, up to date plumbing and ventilation systems were included in the construction and concrete was poured between the walls and between the floors to prevent the passage of sound and the spreading of fire. Thayer Academy’s first class was comprised of 26 students.

Peregrine White House // 1663

This first-period saltbox house was built for (and likely by) Peregrine White (1620-1704), who is known as the first child Pilgrim born in America as his mother gave birth to him on the ship the Mayflower. William White and his wife Susanna are believed to have boarded the Mayflower as part of the London merchant group, and not as members of the Leiden Holland religious movement. The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England in September of 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was buffeted by strong winds, causing the ship’s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, lying wet and ill. This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to months of despair and uncertainty. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.

As an adult, Peregrine settled in what is today known as Marshfield, MA, and he was active in the local church and served as a deputy of the town. He and his family lived in this home which was later altered with larger windows and Georgian detailing. The remainder of the home’s history is somewhat unclear, but by 1947, the home was apparently moved by a Robert C. Leggett in three pieces to Tremont Street in Braintree, MA. The reason is not clear as well, but it likely was to save the structure from demolition. It is unclear how much of the original house from White is left and how much was added over the years.

James Stedman House // 1907

This early 20th century home in Braintree was built by 1907 for James H. Stedman (1877-1950), a businessman who started the Stedman Rubber Company out of Boston and Braintree MA. The company made many rubber-based products but advertised mostly rubber floor panels which were installed all over the nation. He had this Craftsman/Colonial Revival home built when he was just thirty years old and becoming more established financially. The home features prominent stone construction on the first floor with shingles on the second floor, joined by a thin row of scalloped shingles. In addition to the variety of wall materials mentioned above, the roof, with its wide overhang, exposed rafters, and steep pitch, becomes part of the decorative scheme.

All Souls Church // 1905

As many neighborhoods of Braintree, MA developed rapidly at the turn of the 20th century, demand for new neighborhood churches rose. Located at the edge of North Braintree, the All Souls Church is a well-preserved Gothic Revival church . All Souls Church in Braintree is designed in a Gothic Revival style, which had been popular in residential and especially ecclesiastical designs in America since the 1830s and 1840s. Over a half century later, American architects were proficient in Gothic design, and were able to faithfully reproduce the characteristics of Gothic designs from different countries and eras, or even to mix them in interesting ways. Late Gothic Revival elements at All Souls Church include the pointed arches, stone trim, buttresses, battlemented tower, and the large windows filled with stone tracery in lancet designs. The church was designed by Edwin James Lewis, Jr. (1859-1937), an accomplished Boston architect who concentrated on Gothic ecclesiastical designs.Relatively unknown, Lewis actually worked as a draftsman for the prominent Boston firm of Peabody and Stearns before establishing his own practice in 1887. Many of his architectural drawings are in the Historic New England Collections. The church building has been the subject of Community Preservation funds to restore some significant features of the space for the community at large to enjoy.

History from the church’s website:

On November 21, 1886, a group of Braintree residents interested in forming a liberal church met at the Town Hall. By-laws were adopted January 29, 1888. Among the signers were Daniel Cain and Henry Arnold. There was discussion as to whether it should be called Unitarian but as no Unitarians came forward, it was called First Universalist Parish of Braintree. United church services of the two societies began September 23, 1900. At this time All Souls Church requested affiliation with the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. The Universalists kept their parish organization until 1904 when all funds were turned over to the Building Committee of All Souls Church. Centered in religious faith, All Souls Church continues to have a strong and active presence in the community. We are the beneficiaries of a marvelous Unitarian Universalist tradition that has been cultivated and passed down through the generations.

Ibrahim Morrison House // 1887

This elegant 2 ½-story Queen Anne home was built for Ibrahim Morrison in 1887. Morrison was one of three brothers who in partnership with their father Alva operated the Morrison Brothers mill nearby at the corner of Elm and Middle streets, along the Monatiquot River. Over more than half a century the mill, established by Alva Morrison, manufactured a variety of textiles including hosiery and underwear including “gents Fashioned underwear” until its ceased operations in 1899. The large Victorian-era home is setback from the street and the front yard was infilled with housing lots after WWII, almost entirely obscuring the home from the street. The home features irregular massing, a corner tower, and textured cladding of clapboards and shingles. The shingled upper stories are decorated with alternating banks of fish scales. The home appears to have since been converted to a multi-family dwelling.

161 Cedar St, Braintree // 1910

This gorgeous house in Braintree is an amazing blending of both the Shingle style and Craftsman in a modest home. Built in about 1910, the home has a prominent full-width porch with shingled supports embraced under the flared eaves. The steeply pitched roof is punctuated by three gabled dormers with flared eaves and exposed rafters. Typical of the Shingle Style, ornamentation is limited, focusing attention on the shingled texture of the roof and wall surface. Even the foundation is not visible, for shingles extend to the ground. The form and minimal detailing evoke the Craftsman style with the full-length front porch, exposed rafter tails and pitched roof in this design. A ca.1980s one-story addition was added to the side. I couldn’t find anything on the original owners, but the home was too great not to share!