Greater Light // c.1790

Located on the island of Nantucket, this barn, now known as Greater Light was built circa 1790. Although the exact date of construction is unknown, historic research indicates it was built sometime during the ownership of two early Macy family members who held the property between 1748 and 1814. The barn remained in the Macy family until 1866, when Zephaniah Macy (then in his eighties) sold the property with the barn to their neighbor David Folger. Folger most likely used the barn for his herd of milking cows. In the summer of 1929, Hanna and Gertrude Monaghan, two Quaker sisters, discovered the barn and saw it as a perfect structure to become their home and art studio when vacationing on the island. The sisters began working on the dilapidated building and set about transforming it into their own summer oasis, adorning it with cast-off architectural elements, decorative objects, and eclectic furniture. Hanna Monaghan, the surviving sister, bequeathed Greater Light and its contents to the Nantucket Historical Association in 1972. The building is open in the summers for visitors who can catch a glimpse at the spirit of Nantucket as an artist’s colony in the 1920s and beyond.

Old Dorset Post Office // 1845

Yet another of the buildings moved to Dorset Village by Charles A. Wade, this amazing classical building stopped me in my tracks when walking along the town’s marble sidewalks. It turns out this little structure was constructed in Enfield, Massachusetts, a town that was flooded in the 1930s for the filling of the Quabbin Reservoir. The building was likely built in the 1840s as a Congregational chapel, and upon hearing about the demise of the town, Wade drove to Enfield and brought back this charming little chapel for his hometown of Dorset. Upon its arrival to Vermont in 1938, the Greek Revival building was used as the town’s post office until a larger building was constructed in the 1960s. This building was converted to a real estate office and is now home to Flower Brook Pottery.

Barnstable Olde County Courthouse // 1763

This historic building was constructed in 1763 as the Barnstable County Courthouse replacing an even earlier courthouse building that was outgrown in the village. The building served primarily as a courtroom with jury deliberations carried out in one of the nearby taverns. Additionally, large town meetings were sometimes held in this building until it too was outgrown. This courthouse was the site of a mass protest on Sept. 27, 1774, after Britain revoked Massachusetts Bay’s 1691 charter — one of a series of Coercive Acts intended to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party the previous year. As a result of the protest, all Barnstable county officials agreed to ignore Parliament’s new rules, effectively freeing Cape Cod of British control. The significance of this building cannot be understated as the building is one of only two remaining Massachusetts colonial-era courthouses where such protests occurred. The county dedicated its new courthouse in the 1830s, consolidating all court functions in a large, granite structure closer to the present center of Barnstable Village (featured previously). This building was acquired by the Third Barnstable Baptist Church, who renovated the building at the time and again in 1905. After the church was disbanded in 1972, the building was purchased by Tales of Cape Cod, a nonprofit volunteer group committed to preserving the Cape’s history. What a building to be based out of!

Old Ogunquit Methodist Church // c.1880

Ogunquit, which means “beautiful place by the sea” in the indigenous Abenaki language, was first a village within Wells, which was settled in 1641. Ogunquit grew as a fishing village with shipbuilding on quiet tidal waters protected within smaller alcoves. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the village was discovered by artists, who flocked to the area for the natural scenery and bucolic coastal scenes perfect for painting. At this time, summer residents came to the sleepy village en masse, facilitating the construction of summer resort hotels and commercial buildings. Ogunquit seceded from Wells in 1980, and has been one of the most visited villages in Maine. Ogunquit has been a destination for LGBT tourists and businesses, adding to the rich culture there. This church building, shows the history of the town well. It was constructed as the village’s Methodist Church after 1872 in a vernacular Gothic style with lancet windows and entry. The church merged with the nearby Wells Methodist Church in the 1970s and later moved to a new church building between the two towns. The former Ogunquit Methodist church was purchased and converted to a gift shop, frequented by locals and tourists alike.

Thayer Stable – Toy Theatre // 1865

Built in 1865, this gorgeous building in Beacon Hill shows how perfectly imperfect historic structures are. The stable building was first occupied by Samuel Neal, a carpenter, and Jonathan Dow, a blacksmith. Within a decade, the stable’s owner Nathaniel Thayer, appears to have kept his carriage in the building. By 1911, architect Harold S. Graves was hired to renovate the former stable which would soon become the Toy Theatre. The Toy Theatre was founded in 1911 by an amateur theatrical group to present plays that had not been presented professionally in Boston. That included both works written by members of the group itself and playwrights as far away as Europe. The founding group included many members of Boston’s high-society who were involved in the arts. The group desired a new, modern space and pooled together resources to build a more appropriate theatre in the Back Bay just a few years later (next post). This building was then converted to a residence.

Chickering and Sons Piano Factory // 1853

Jonas Chickering (1798-1853) was born in New Hampshire and eventually moved to Boston to work as a cabinet-maker. In 1823, Chickering formed a partnership with piano maker James Stewart and they began production of high-quality pianos. The partnership dissolved and Jonas partnered with wealthy shipbuilder and merchant John Mackay, using his factory for piano and organ production. John Mackay was lost at sea in 1841, and Chickering mortgaged the factory and bought out the Mackay’s shares, taking full ownership of the operation. In 1852, the factory burned, and was a complete loss. Undeterred, Chickering rebuilt, but in the rapidly developing South End neighborhood of Boston, hiring Edwin Payson to design a massive new steam-powered factory of fireproof construction. Jonas Chickering died before he could see the completion of his new factory, which opened in 1853 to great fanfare. The Italianate style building was bustling with over 400 employees when Chickering & Co. was the largest piano manufacturer in the United States in the middle of the 19th century, but was later surpassed in the 1860s by Steinway. From 1860-1868 space in the building was the location of the Spencer Repeating Rifle Company, who made over 100,000 rifles for the U.S. Army around the time of the Civil War. The Chickering and Sons Company moved out of the building by 1928 and the structure was occupied until 1973-4; when the building was rehabilitated by Brunner/Cott and Associates and subdivided into apartments and work and exhibit spaces for musicians, artists, and craftsmen, making this one of the earliest examples of adaptive reuse of an industrial building in Boston.

Denmark Odd Fellows Hall – Denmark Arts Center // 1884

This two-and-a-half-story building sits on Main Street in the small town of Denmark, Maine, and has contributed to the town’s cultural life since it was built in 1884. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a non-political and non-sectarian international fraternal group that promotes the ethic of reciprocity and charity. It was founded in 1819 by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland, evolving from the Order of Odd Fellows founded in England during the 1700s. New buildings sprouted up all over the United States in the 19th century, in cities as large as New York City and towns as small as Denmark. This IOOF Hall is Italianate in style, with brackets at the cornice and hoods and round arched windows in the gable end; it also shows some Greek Revival details with corner pilasters and the pediment. When Raymond Hale, the last member of the IOOF Lodge passed away, the town purchased the old Odd Fellows Hall. The city could not maintain the property and had no good use for it. Residents in town voted in 1991 to sell the building rather than demolish it. Local residents bid on and won the building with the aim to convert it to a local arts center. In August 1994 the owners signed over the deed of the Odd Fellows Hall to the Denmark Arts Center, a non profit organization. From that time until present, the old building, now the Denmark Arts Center, has again served as a community focal point, providing cultural activities for the people of Denmark and surrounding towns.

Burke’s Hack and Livery Stable // c.1865

There is something so charming about old stable buildings in Boston! This stable (like the Garcelon-Sears Stable of the last post) is located on Byron Street in Beacon Hill Flat. This stable building is older, and originally was two stories, similar to the others on the street. The stable was constructed in the mid-1860s for Margaret Barker Sigourney, a wealthy widow who lived nearby in Back Bay. After other owners, by 1922, a coachman named James F. Burke owned and lived in the stable. The painted sign on the lintel over the vehicle door reading “Burke’s Hack & Livery Stable” apparently remains from this period. Burke also added the mansard roof at this time, evident from historic maps. The stable was eventually converted to a single-family home. Could you live in an old stable?

Garcelon-Sears Stable // c.1860

Located in what historian Samuel Eliot Morison dubbed the “horsey end of town”, this stable in the Flat of Beacon Hill is built on 19th century-made land along the Charles River. The sub-area of Beacon Hill is best-known for the prevalence of old stables and carriage houses, converted to residential use. This stable dates to around 1860, when many of the Boston Brahmins of Beacon Hill either built their own private stables or rented space in a livery stable. By 1870, Alsom Garcelon was listed in city directories as a stablekeeper here, and he managed a number of others in the vicinity. After Garcelon’s death, the stable was owned by the wealthy Sears Family, who boarded some of their horses here. By the 1920s, the building was converted to a clubhouse, known as the Byron Street House. The clubhouse was largely rebuilt by architects Putnam & Cox, who also re-designed the interior space to a more social atmosphere. The former stable was later occupied as the Bishop-Lee School of Theater, run by Paul and Emily (Perry) Bishop. By 1970, it was converted again, but to a single-family home, which it remains to this day.

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!