The Little River area of Waterbury, Vermont, was a very sparsely developed area of farms located on the slope of Ricker Mountain, which was difficult to traverse and farm. Almeron Goodell (1834-1910) and his wife Luthera bought farmland here in 1863 and built this farmhouse that year from rough-hewn timbers on the land. In 1870, the couple and their seven-year-old son, Bert, had four cows, one horse, and a flock of chickens on their property – enough to supply the family’s needs. Life on Ricker Mountain was hard. By the late 1800s, the loss of soil fertility on the land prompted some farmers to abandon the hillsides for more fertile land in the valleys nearby or the free land offered in the American West. Additionally, the Green Mountain Power Company began purchasing farmland to erect a hydroelectric dam and reservoir in 1920, effectively abandoning the area. The Little River area was left behind, with abandoned farms, family cemeteries, and carriage roads, slowly returning back to the earth. Luckily for us, the area is preserved as part of the Little River State Park, where you can hike and explore the area, learning about the past inhabitants of the now ghost village. The Goodell Farmhouse is the only extant farmhouse left from this early settlement and a lasting reminder of how hard life was for many who settled in undeveloped land in New England. The farmhouse was used as a hunting lodge in the 1940s, likely the only reason it still stands to this day.
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!
‘The Reef’ a fabulous Gilded Age estate in Newport was built in 1885 for Theodore M. Davis by the Boston architectural firm of Sturgisand 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 first ready-to-use axes produced in the United States came from the Connecticut-based Collins Company, which was founded in the early 1800s. Prior to the firm’s establishment, consumers either purchased unground axes imported from Europe or looked to a local blacksmith who, along with his other activities, might also make axe heads. The Collins Company factory opened in 1826 by Samuel W. and David C. Collins, with the purchase of an old gristmill and a few acres of land along the Farmington River in Canton. As the company grew, the village of South Canton grew around it, and was later renamed Collinsville after the company (imagine if we had Starbuckstown or Walmartville!) In the 1840s, the company expanded and sold internationally with their machete; it sold more than 150 varieties of machetes in 35 countries, supplying 80% of the world’s machetes at that time. In the 1860s, the company built several dams along the Farmington River to produce hydroelectric power to run its factory. It saw steady growth during World Wars I and II. However, after the Flood of 1955 wiped out the railroad line, the company could not match the foreign competition. Portions of the business were sold to the Stanley Works in New Britain and to other firms. In 1966, the Collins Company closed after 140 years in business. Some of the old buildings along the river have since been demolished, others left vacant. Some have been repurposed into other uses, thankfully.
The last stop we will see at the stunning Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut is the former Superintendent’s Residence. Built in 1936, the home is elegantly sited at the waterfront, which would have provided amazing views for the man in charge of running Seaside, the Tuberculosis hospital for children here. Like the Maher Building, Nurse’s Residence, and Duplex Residence previously featured, this building was designed in the Tudor Revival style and is also credited as a work of architect Cass Gilbert. The Superintendent’s Residence is interesting as it has two completely different facades. The campus-facing facade features an L-shape with a garage wing and projecting entry pavilion in stone. Above, a diamond-pane window would allow natural light into what may be the stairhall. At the waterfront, a large open porch (since boarded up) and large windows at the first floor, would provide natural light and air into the building, along with amazing views of Long Island Sound. Additionally, a catslide roof extends from the rightmost bay and covers a recessed porch with basketweave brickwork above. I would for sure live here, could you?
Another of the handful of original structures extant on the Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut, is this gorgeous Tudor Revival style duplex constructed for medical staff housing. Like the Main Building and Nurse’s Residence, this duplex is credited as a design by the great Cass Gilbert. While the building was constructed after Gilbert’s death in 1934, the plans were likely all drawn up at the time the Maher (main) building was in 1933. The duplex residences feature a symmetrical facade with two main entranceways, located in slightly projecting pavilions, and are set within basket-arched openings, detailed with alternating brick and granite voussoirs. There are three-part windows above the doors which project from the wall plane and have cross-braced faux balustrades of wood below. Identical sun porches are recessed at either end of the house. The small associated garage to the immediate northeast has a simple design, but one that reflects the style of the houses. Like the other buildings on the campus, this structure is vacant and is slowly rotting away. So sad to see.
Next to the Maher Building at Seaside Sanatorium, the Nurse’s Residence building (1935) sits in the same sad state but retains a lot of its architectural character and charm. The Nurse’s Residence was built for… you guessed it, housing for the nurses who worked at the Seaside Sanatorium and treated the young children with Tuberculosis. Like the main building, this structure was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert in the Tudor Revival style. In designing the buildings, Gilbert met the requirements of the sanatorium to have a self-contained hospital for the children and a large separate dormitory for the nursing staff, but adapted an essentially domestic architectural style to de-institutionalize their appearance through the use of applied, decorative detail and an extraordinary wealth of materials. The Nurse’s Residence is constructed of brick and is capped with a polychrome slate roof which is lined by 15 dormers on each slope, alternating in size. The end gables, which are similar to those of the main building and in surprisingly decent condition given the circumstances, are covered with decorative tile and add a punch of architectural intrigue. Oh too see these buildings restored one day…
One of the most entrancing and clearly haunted places in Connecticut is the Seaside Sanatorium on the coast of Waterford, CT. It’s founding dates back to the early 1900s, when tuberculosis killed 252 of every 100,000 people living in the state, making it the leading killer in the state early in the century. When Connecticut Tuberculosis Commission members, including Chairman Dr. Stephen J. Maher, a New Haven physician, began hearing of success in Europe with exposure not only to ocean air, but to strong sunlight, they began pushing for a new location in Connecticut to treat children with tuberculosis. The first Seaside was established in Niantic in 1918, which was outgrown, and a newer, modern facility on the coast was needed. The State found a site on the coast of Waterford and hired world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert to design the complex in the Tudor Revival style, a departure from the Colonial or Classic Revival styles favored at the time for such projects. When the facility opened, children would spend as much time as possible exposed to the sun’s rays as part of their treatment here. They played sports, took lessons, ate, read, and played music outside year-round, either on the beach, the lawns, or the three levels of south-facing porches. By the early to mid-1950s, tuberculosis became curable with antibiotics that required limited bed rest and could be given in a regular hospital setting. After its use as a TB facility ceased, the state re-opened Seaside as a hospital for people with mental illness, which too closed in the 1990s. The massive campus has sat vacant since, rotting away as a State Park. Apparently the State has been looking for a developer to revitalize the campus as a hotel or other use, but sadly, nothing has materialized.