Robert Palmer Jr. (1856-1914) was born in Groton, Connecticut as the son of Robert Sr., a prominent businessman and Deacon in Noank’s seaside village (his house was featured previously). Robert Sr. established the Palmer shipyard, which became the largest business enterprise in Noank. Jr. would later join his father’s business and did well for himself financially, eventually marrying and building this Neo-Classical mansion on Church Street in town. The company, under Sr. and Jr.’s leadership, built many seafaring vessels that were internationally renowned until the company closed in 1914 after the death of Robert Jr. This house is unique in town for the monumental two-story portico, Palladian windows at the first floor, and a projecting entry vestibule.
Deacon Robert Palmer House // 1884
Perched on the highest hill in the coastal village of Noank, Connecticut, you will find this absolutely enchanting gingerbread Victorian mansion. The house was built in 1884 for Deacon Robert Palmer (1825-1913), a wealthy man who wasn’t only deacon of the village’s Baptist church, he was the owner of a flourishing shipyard, and it was his shipyard workers who built him, with loving care, a house he could be proud of! Robert ran the shipyard in town first with his brother, and then with his son. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the shipyard was the largest facility for building and repair of wooden vessels in southern New England, employing over 300 men. The yard specialized in building railroad car floats, schooner barges, and dump scows as well as fishing smacks. Robert Palmer and Son went out of business in 1914 with the passing of the Robert. The Stick style mansion with mansard roofed tower remained in the Palmer family until the early 2000s when it sold and was restored to her former glory. The residence features exposed rafters, a pagoda-like second story balcony, a frieze with geometric cut-outs, and a wrap-around porch which provides sweeping views of the ocean. I can only imagine how beautiful this old Victorian is on the inside!
Former Noank Methodist Church // 1902
Adaptive reuse of old buildings always makes me so happy to see! Besides the obvious benefit of preserving an old building which contributes to the history and character of an area, there are clear environmental benefits to renovating older buildings for new uses when older uses are no longer viable. In 1902, the village of Noank was bustling with workers in the shipyards, many of whom attended or hoped to attend religious services close to home rather than travelling to adjacent towns. As a result, the local Methodist church-goers had this building constructed. Architecturally, the building is a hodge-podge of styles with interesting lancet windows as a nod to the Gothic style, shingle and clapboard siding which reads Queen Anne. The Noank Methodist Church merged with the Groton Methodist Church to form Christ United Methodist Church, which moved to a new building in 1972. The former church was converted into a residence. Preservation wins!
Josephus Fitch House // 1809
Not far from the Pelatiah Fitch House is this charming Federal Cape house in Noank, CT, built for Pelatiah’s grandson, Josephus (there are a lot of great names in this family)! Pelatiah’s eldest son Josephus was born in 1745 and was equipped for service in the American Revolution by his father. He survived the war, but in 1778, he perished at sea aboard a whaling vessel. Josephus Fitch Jr., his mother and siblings remained in Noank and tried to re-establish a life after losing their father who was just 32 years old. He grew up and married, and eventually purchased land in town, building this cape house in 1809. The house is vernacular with modest trim surrounding the door, 12-over-12 windows, and two small dormers at the roof.
Pelatiah Fitch House // 1754
One of the oldest extant homes in the charming fishing village of Noank, CT, is the 1754 Pelatiah Fitch House which has survived nearly 300 years on the waterfront site. The home was built for a Pelatiah Fitch (1722-1803) upon the time when he relocated to Noank to work as a doctor. Dr. Pelatiah Fitch came from a long line of distinguished ancestors, and was born in Norwich, CT. After practicing medicine twenty-eight years in Noank, he removed to Vermont, later moving a to Salem, NY about 1780 where he lived out his final days. This Georgian seaside cottage was built by Dr. Fitch and his new wife Elizabeth when they were in their mid-twenties. After the Fitch Family moved out, the cottage was expanded a few times, notably with the addition of the oversized dormer at the roof.
Moses Latham House // c.1845
Noank is a charming seaside village within the town of Groton that is centered on a peninsula at the mouth of the Mystic River where it spills out into the Long Island Sound. Historically, the area was known as Nauyang (meaning “point of land”) and was a summer camping ground of the Pequot people, but they were driven out in 1655 following the Pequot War. White settlement was slow here until the mid-19th century, when the shipbuilding and fishing economy took off here. As a result, houses, stores, churches and industries were built, and an entire village was formed. Most extant homes here were constructed starting in the 1840s as the village (and nearby Mystic) saw economic growth from the maritime trades. This house, the Moses Latham House, was constructed for Mr. Latham in about 1845. The house is Greek Revival in style with flush-board siding, a fan light in the gable which reads as a pediment, and a simple portico supported by fluted Doric columns.
Woods-Gerry House // 1860
There are always those houses that just stop you in your tracks… For my last post (for the time being) on Providence, I wanted to share this significant property, known as the Woods-Gerry House, perched atop College Hill. Owner Marshall Woods, who married into the Brown family and was active in the affairs of Brown University. Locally he was also involved on the building committee for St. Stephen’s Church where he was a factor in selecting renowned architect Richard Upjohn to design the church. He must have liked Upjohn so much (or got a good deal) that he hired Richard Upjohn to design his new home on Prospect Street. The exterior of the three-story brick building stands out amongst the other Italianate mansions built in the same decade nearby, but is elevated design-wise with a bowed centerpiece on its east elevation with the handsome new front entrance renovated in 1931 by then-owner, Senator Peter Gerry, who was a great-grandson of Elbridge Gerry, the fifth Vice President of the United States (who had given his name to the term gerrymandering). Today, this significant building is owned by the Rhode Island School of Design and houses the Woods Gerry Gallery. The grounds are also very well designed.
Smith Owen Mansion // 1861
You honestly cannot beat Providence when it comes to brick Italianate mansions… The Smith Owen Mansion on College Hill was built in 1861 for jeweler and silversmith Smith Owen (1809-1889) and is one of the finest homes in a neighborhood full of historically and architecturally significant properties. Mr. Owen was in business with his brother George, and they manufactured and sold some of the best jewelery in the region, largely from their commercial block downtown (featured here previously). He hired Alpheus C. Morse and Alfred Stone, local architects who furnished the plans for the colossal home. Owen lived here until his death, which occurred less than a week after his wife’s passing. His daughter Lydia Dexter Owen Beckwith (1850-1947) inherited the property and lived here with her family until her death. It was under Lydia’s ownership that the Colonial Revival entrance details were added with projecting vestibule with columns and urns and central fan transom. It is really something special!
Rose and Howard K. Hilton House // 1900
Tudor Revivals may just be my favorite style of house. The interesting roof forms and gables, the use of stone, brick or stucco, and the presence of garrisoning and half-timbering in designs are always so charming. This enchanting Tudor Revival home in Providence, Rhode Island, was built in 1900 by local architect Howard K. Hilton (1867-1909) as his personal residence with wife Rose. He first worked in the office of H. W. Colwell and continued his training under Ellis Jackson joining him in partnership (Jackson & Hilton) and under the firm name was identified with the design of several churches, schools, hospitals and various other buildings in his native city before he retired in his final years. This home is very unique for its site on a narrow urban lot with the door at the side, brick first floor with jettying at the second floor of wood construction with half-timbering. While writing this, I noticed that there are also projecting gargoyles which serve as water spouts to send water away from the structure during rainfall events. Tudors are really the best!
William Binney House // 1859
Another of Providence’s stunning monumental Italianate mansions on College Hill is this, the William Binney House, which was built in 1859 from plans by local architect Alpheus C. Morse. In the mode of an Italian Renaissance palace, it features a strong, symmetrical facade, molded string course, classic trim detail at the windows and doors in brownstone, and a shallow hip roof. The original owner, William Binney (1825-1909) was born in Philadelphia and became a prominent attorney and became involved on various boards, building more wealth. Additionally, he was elected as member of the Rhode Island Assembly and the Providence City Council continuously 1857 to 1874. The house’s rear ell and wooden bay would provide sweeping views to Downtown Providence even today from the aptly named Prospect Street.