Located on the edge of the Chester Town Green, you can find this beautiful Federal style commercial building. The use of blind arches at the facade is a fairly common feature found in brick Federal style buildings in Vermont. The structure was built around 1830 and has served a variety of uses through its existence, the most notable being the tin shop owned by various members of the Miller and Hadley families that sold stoves and hardware during the latter half of the 19th century. The tin business in New England grew rapidly after 1820. Tin shop owners imported tinplated sheet iron from Great Britain, shaped it into a variety of forms, and distributed their finished goods through peddlers and country stores. They also sold tinware in their shops. Colanders, dippers, dish kettles, funnels, measures, and pans were in greatest demand. Other common items included lanterns, foot stoves, teapots, coffeepots, “tin kitchens”, skimmers, and sconces. After its use as a tin shop, the building was occupied as a telephone exchange and electric utility company office. It presently is home to an antique store.
One of the most interesting homes in Durham, NH, sits right on Main Street, and while lacks much of its original grandeur, the house still has a story to tell. When mining engineer, Hamilton Smith met and married Alice Congreve while working in London, the couple envisioned and planned for a sprawling gentleman’s farm in New England to retire to. In 1895, the couple purchased the 1780 Rev. Blydenburgh home on Main Street, a large Federal style mansion. When Alice and Hamilton retired to the Red Tower in 1895, they set about renovating the estate into a jewel of the Gilded Age. They added a three-story tower to the rear of the home, large additions and Colonial Revival alterations, and they purchased large land holdings behind the house for a working farm. On the farmland, they built a carriage house, creamery, and men’s and women’s accessory buildings (a billiards building and tea house, respectively). Hamilton could only enjoy the home for a couple years until his death in 1900. His widow created the family cemetery at the farthest extent of the property and built the stunning Smith Memorial Chapel (last post). In the 1940s, much of the property was sold off and developed for a residential neighborhood for UNH faculty, and the Red Tower mansion was converted to an apartment house for students.
This house was built in 1839 Dr. Walton Nye Ellis (1808-1867), who served as physician in Marion in the second quarter of the 19th century. Born in Wareham, Ellis moved to Marion, and married Susan Delano (1809-
1840) after her death, within the year, he married Lucy Clark Allen (1820-1885); he had a daughter with his first wife and four daughters and three sons with his second. By 1838, he purchased a lot in Sippican Village for the price was $225. In 1855, Dr. Ellis organized a meeting of prosperous Village men, mostly sea captains, with the purpose of planning a library for the town. They pooled resources and funded a library which was located in a large closet on the second floor of his home seen here. The library’s books could be borrowed for a few cents a week. Subsequent funding from Elizabeth Taber helped create the Taber Library just decades later. In the 1960s, the home was gifted to the Sippican Historical Society, who remain in the building to this day.
The “Old Parsonage” was built in 1813 by Capt. John Pitcher, brother of Elizabeth Pitcher Taber, benefactress of the town of Marion. The side of the building that faces the street (what we see) is actually the back of the original dwelling. The Federal period house sits on a raised stone foundation with a central door and shingle siding above. Behind his home, a large pasture was situated where his sheep and cows grazed on fields. Pitcher used to hang a ship’s bell from the branch of an oak tree and ring it every evening at 9 p.m. as a curfew bell for the town. The bell is now located in the Marion Natural History Museum. When Capt. Pitcher died, he left his house to the Congregational Church, which used it as a parsonage for many years. It was sold in May of 2021 and is likely a private home now.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Marion Town Hall and Elizabeth Taber Library (yes, pun intended), this beautiful 200 year old stone building oozes charm. The building was constructed around 1820 as a salt works storage facility, and is an extremely rare surviving storage facility associated with the early 19th century salt industry. While many storage facilities we know today are void of architecture and soul, this building looks like it was plucked from the French countryside. The salt industry in Massachusetts began on Cape Cod during the Revolution. Salt was a vital necessity for the preservation and curing of fish and meat for sale in this country and overseas. According to local lore, the Old Stone Studio was originally “a place for the conversion of sea water into salt.” Around the Civil War, the building was being used as a whale oil refinery, a fitting use for a fireproof structure. It had fallen into disrepair by the 1880s, until New York magazine editor Richard Watson Gilder bought and restored it as a studio for his wife, artist Helena de Kay Gilder. Gilder renovated the building in the early 1880s as the town of Marion was becoming a vibrant summer colony. He added a massive stone fireplace and new windows to flood the interior with natural light. The towering fireplace, with its 9-foot long mantle, was apparently designed by leading 19th-century American architect and Gilder’s friend Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White. The fireplace provided a stunning backdrop for guests, including President Grover Cleveland and First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland, who summered in town. Ms. Gilder even painted the First Lady in the studio, and hosted her on occasions.
One of the best examples of Renaissance Revival architecture in Rhode Island is the Central Congregational Church of Providence. Constructed between 1891-1893, this building was the new home to a growing congregation, which outgrew its original Thomas Tefft-designed building on Benefit Street (which has since been occupied by RISD). Famed architect Thomas Hastings of the firm Carrère and Hastings of New York City, was hired to furnish plans, and worked closely with Reverend Edward C. Moore to make sure the building was fitting of the site. The church is cross-gabled in form and is constructed of yellow brick with terracotta trimmings, evocative of Spanish and Italian Renaissance styles. The facade has a detailed central pavilion which is flanked by two towers. These towers were originally surmounted by elaborate belfries, but these were damaged by a hurricane in the mid 20th century and replaced by the present brick caps. The dome and vaulting is of tiles by Rafael Guastavino, it is the first dome that he constructed in the U.S., making this building even more significant.
These two townhouses were built in 1860 and were once part of a row of four matching homes constructed for wealthy Bostonians. The end units feature stronger detailing with the center two homes being slightly recessed and less ornate, all four constructed of brick with brownstone facades. The original owners wanted to ensure that their new homes would be harmonious in design, both with each other and with the other houses being built nearby.The property already was subject to restrictions contained in the deeds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who sold much of the land in the Back Bay for development, but the owners added further stipulations. Among them that “the front of said houses shall be of free stone and the height not less than three stories” and “the cornice and roof of all the houses shall be uniform, and shall conform to a plan to be hereinafter agreed upon.” The right house seen here was occupied by Henry Atkins, a grocer and importer of wines and spirits. The left home was occupied by John Chandler, a dry goods merchant and his wife. They both died at a young age in 1875 and 1876 respectively, and the home was sold off by their children’s guardian to Charles Porter, a physician and surgeon. He served as a doctor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School under Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and worked as Chief Surgeon at Mass. General Hospital. His wife, Margaret Cochran Dewar, who also was a physician and was resident surgeon at Sheffield Hospital in England. She had graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1894, among the first women in Scotland to receive a university degree and the first to receive a university medical qualification. In 1925, the two homes here were purchased and combined to one multi-family apartment building and remodelled the structure with ugly brick additions. By 1996, a developer purchased the building and restored them by installing a new façade and fenestration more consistent with the historical nature of the building, making their heights identical once again.
Grace Church was built in 1835 for a growing congregation in Beacon Hill. The absolutely stunning Gothic style church was designed by William Washburn (1808–1890), an architect and city councilor in Boston. The church was constructed of granite and had massive stained glass windows and soaring towers with decorative embellishments. Inside, a massive central window flooded the interior with natural light, and illuminated paintings from Mario Bragaldi, a Milan artist. In 1865, the building was sold to the Methodist Episcopal Society. 1873, it merged with Hanover Street, and took the name First Methodist. The church was variously referred to as First, Grace, or Temple Street, sometimes all at once! This church was occupied until 1962, when it merged with Copley to form First-Copley, which appears to have then occupied the Old West Church. The building was soon after acquired by Boston University and demolished for the building on the site today, a true loss to one of Boston’s most beautiful buildings.
Extant one-room schoolhouses in New England are scarce, so whenever I stumble upon one, I always stop and take a photo! This little schoolhouse in Canterbury, Connecticut was built around 1850 near the village green, and provided schooling for the rural town center’s children for about 100 years until it closed after WWII. In 1947, the modern, Dr. Helen Baldwin School opened in town, forcing many smaller, outdated one-room schools to close. After this, many were either demolished or adapted to other uses. The Canterbury Green Schoolhouse was adapted to the town’s public library. The building later housed the town’s library until 2001, when a new library building was constructed. In the 2000s, the Canterbury Historical Society and town volunteers gathered funds and restored the building to her former glory and appearance. The school is now occasionally open as a small museum for the town.
One of my favorite homes in Jamaica Plain is this gorgeous old Victorian-era home, perched high on Sumner Hill. The house was built in 1875 seemingly for John L Webster and his wife Henrietta with John as the architect/builder. John built other homes in the neighborhood, and clearly did well for himself as he acquired one of the most prominent sites in the area for his own home. After his death in 1890, the home was willed to his daughter and her husband, Augustus T. Jenkins, who worked as a Clerk in Downtown Boston. The house blends many mid-to-late 19th century styles including Second Empire, Stick, and Victorian Gothic, and is among one of the most architecturally pleasing I have seen. The central tower, obscured in my photos by trees, probably provides some amazing views of the growing city in the distance.