Across from the new Nelson Fitness Center at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island,Meehan Auditorium is an excellent example of a 1960s institutional athletic facility. The auditorium was dedicated at the Brown-Princeton hockey game on January 6, 1962 and was named after George V. Meehan, donor of half a million dollars for its construction. The new facility filled the need for a skating rink and large auditorium for indoor functions, specifically for ice skating and hockey and was the first building of the new athletic plant at Aldrich-Dexter Field east of the campus. The building was designed by Perry, Shaw, Hepburn & Dean, a prominent firm who designed many collegiate buildings in the 20th century, all over New England.
Nelson Fitness Center – Brown University // 2012
When I walked by Brown University’s athletic center, I assumed it was an older building, but was so plesantly surprised to learn that the building was actually completed in 2012! The 84,000-square foot aquatics and fitness center is a $46-million addition to the existing athletic facilities built on and near the site of the former Smith Swim Center. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and constructed by Shawmut Design and Construction, the project includes the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center, the Nelson Fitness Center, the David J. Zucconi Varsity Strength and Conditioning Center. Architecturally, the buildings seamlessly blend into their surroundings thanks to timeless traditional design and high-quality materials. The stunning cupola was actually the original cupola from Marvel Gymnasium, a Brown University gymnasium demolished in 2002, it was added atop the Nelson Fitness Center preserving some history of old Brown. American colleges and universities need more of this high-quality design, kudos RAMSA Architects.
Dimock Center – Goddard Nurses Home // 1909
Located adjacent to the Zakrzewska Building and Cary Cottage at the former New England Hospital for Women and Children is the 1909 Goddard Nurses Home, designed by John A. Fox. This three story brick building typifies the Classical Revival style with its recessed central entranceway and symmetrical fenestration with flared brick keystone lintels. The slate hipped roof is perforated by three dormers on the front facade. The broad overhanging eaves have exposed rafters which is an element of Craftsman design, common at the time. The Goddard Nurses Home provided living accomodations for up to fifty nurses who worked at the hospital. It was named after Lucy Goddard, one of the original incorporators of the women’s hospital, she served as president for twenty-five years.
Talitha Cumi Home // 1912
One thing I love about Boston is that nearly every old building has such a rich history that takes so much time to compile and write up (this account keeps me busy)! Located on Forest Hills Street in Jamaica Plain, this stucco building caught my attention when driving by, so much so, that I had to stop and go back. The building was constructed in 1912 as a home for unwed mothers called Talitha Cumi Home (a phrase from the Bible meaning “Arise, young woman”). The charitable organization outgrew their space in the South End and sought greener pastures and open space in Jamaica Plain. The group had been organized in 1836 by “earnest Christian women” who longed to open a “door of hope” to “those hopeless and helpless girls who found themselves facing the sadness and shame and wrong of unwed motherhood.” The Talitha Cumi Home allowed pregnant women to reside and birth their children before their pregnancy began to show. The site originally included an administration building and a hospital with both structures connected by a covered breezeway. The home closed in the 1950s and the former home for unwed mothers has since been converted to a middle school.
West Roxbury District Courthouse // 1922
Boston neighborhoods are very confusing, and how the West Roxbury District Courthouse came to be located in Jamaica Plain is just one example. The independent Town of West Roxbury was in existence from 1851 until 1874, a mere 23 years, bookended by its time as a section of the Town of Roxbury and being annexed into the City of Boston. West Roxbury originally included parts of the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale neighborhoods. Ultimately, West Roxbury became one of the city’s eight large districts and its municipal court division is served by this Neo-Classical style building. Built in 1922, the current West Roxbury Courthouse building on Arborway, was and still is, from a municipal court perspective as well as an historical perspective, in West Roxbury. The West Roxbury District Courthouse was designed by Timothy G. O’Connell and Richard Shaw of the firm O’Connell and Shaw who were best known for their ecclesiastical designs in New England, largely specializing in the Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles. Their design for the West Roxbury Courthouse remains one of their finest non-religious buildings and a departure from their traditional styles.
Tilia Jamaica Plain // 2020
As many of you likely agree with me, most contemporary architecture and buildings in Boston (and in many U.S. cities) is bland and mundane, but there are some projects that really stand out for creative and contextual designs. Tilia in Jamaica Plain is one of the latter! When the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) began accepting bids for the development of an undeveloped linear parcel along Washington Street just south of the Forest Hills T-stop, developers jumped at the opportunity. Urbanica Inc., a local design/development group had the winning proposal which consists of approximately 110‐120 residential units in buildings of varied density ranging from a larger apartment building to more human-scaled townhouses. Led by architect Stephen Chung with Kamran Zahedi as developer, the design for the townhouses specifically is a contemporary nod to the triple-decker form we see so much in the surrounding area. The varied color and recessed sections provide a lot of depth and character to the development along the streetwall.
Rackleff Block // 1867
Late 19th century commercial architecture in downtowns all across New England always transport me to the past because they evoke the days of carriages in the streets and the hustle and bustle of post Civil War American cities. After Portland’s Great Fire of 1866, many standing or damaged wooden buildings were replaced with fireproof construction in the event of another conflagration. Five years before the Great Chicago Fire, this was the greatest fire yet seen in an American city. It started in a boat house then spread across the city. Amazingly, only two people died in the fire, but ten thousand people were made homeless and 1,800 buildings were burned to the ground. This is one of the buildings constructed in the rebirth of the downtown/waterfront of Portland. The Rackleff Block was built in 1867 from plans by architect George M. Harding, who designed the building with details reading Italianate and Victorian Gothic. The building retains its original cast iron storefronts and ornate cornice with brackets.
Sprague Grist Mill – Sprague Public Library // c.1875
The town of Sprague, Connecticut was incorporated in 1861, with the land formed from portions of the town of Franklin. A few years earlier, in 1856, former Rhode Island Governor and U.S. Senator William Sprague III of Rhode Island had laid out plans to build “the largest mill on the Western Continent” in eastern Connecticut, only to die later that year. His nephews William and Amasa Sprague constructed the Baltic Cotton Mill in what was to become the village of Baltic, which is today the geographic and population center of the town of Sprague. The village of Baltic developed largely between the years 1857-1861, when the Sprague brothers developed the mill, commercial buildings, and workforce housing for the employees. In 1870, 804 men, 396 women, and 210 children worked in the Baltic mill. This building was constructed after the initial period of development for the town in about 1875 as a grist mill. It is now home to the town’s library!
“Snug Harbor” – Charles H. Baldwin Cottage // 1877
One of the finest Queen Anne style residences New England is this 1877 summer cottage, named “Snug Harbor”. The mansion was designed by architects William Appleton Potter and Robert Henderson Robertson for Charles H. Baldwin, a prominent admiral in the United States Navy. The design utilizes a brick first floor with shingle siding above, a high cross-gabled roof, panels and half-timbering, asymmetrical form, and a porte cochere at the entry. Later owner Arakel Bozyan, painted the entire exterior a deep red color and renamed the house “Gamir Doon”, Armenian for “Red House”. The house was restored back to a traditional color scheme and sold in 2020. The interiors are STUNNING!
Villa Rosa // 1900-1962
Built as the summer residence of Mr. Eben Rollins Morse and Mrs. Marion Steedman Morse of Boston and New York, Villa Rosa was one of the finest summer cottages in Newport. The property was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Morse, which originally included three, large estates two of which were featured previously. Mr. Morse was a stockbroker and investment banker, and the couple lived on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, maintaining a summer home in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1900, the couple hired Ogden Codman, Jr., a society architect and historian from Boston, to design a townhome in New York (their new permanent home) and Newport, where they could summer with other wealthy New Yorkers. Their cottage, Villa Rosa, was a huge statement, likely to insert themselves into the high-society of Newport summers. Oriented to the south, rather than to Bellevue Avenue, the house took maximum advantage of its long narrow setting. The exterior of the house was covered in pastel pink stucco offset with white bas-relief panels and was crowned by a copper dome. The heart of the house was the green trellised circular Music Room or Ballroom, the first room in the United States to incorporate lattice design as a decorative scheme. The property was eventually sold for $21,500 to E.A. McNulty, a Rhode Island contractor. Ogden Codman’s masterpiece was demolished in December of 1962 and an apartment complex built on the site in 1965. Townhouse condominiums replaced the gardens in the 1970s and the gateposts, a final vestige, were cleared in 2004.
Image courtesy of Newport Historical Society.