This late-Georgian farmhouse in Boxborough, Mass showcases how architectural integrity and historical context matter in historic preservation. Architectural integrity means the degree to which a building’s original design and physical composition is evident and intact. Historic contexts are the patterns, themes, or trends in history by which a specific property or site is understood and its meaning (or significance) within history is made clear. In this example, the old farmhouse retains much of its architectural integrity as it physically appears much as it would have upon its time of construction. However, the former farmland was sold off and developed as a residential subdivision, which completely obscures the historical context of the building in relation to its original use. The Simeon Wetherbee Farm remained in the Wetherbee family until the 1965, when the land was likely soon after subdivided and sold off for housing lots. A majority of the homes built surrounding this old farmhouse are classified as “Neo-Traditional” a modern take on Colonial architecture, but with cheaper materials and odd proportions. They are not a favorite among architects and historians.
When the Draper Corporation’s building boom of its factories and workers housing transformed the formerly sleepy industrial village into a bustling town, the mill owners realized that the inadequate fire station nearby would do little to prevent a fire that could wipe it all away. In 1915, the Drapers hired architect Robert Allen Cooke – who had already designed numerous buildings for the factory owners in the village – to furnish plans for a substantial new fire station. The Renaissance Revival station is larger than many firehouses built in cities nearby with populations two- or three times more citizens. The station features four arches equipment bays, a tall hose-drying tower, and fine terra cotta trimming. The fire department in Hopedale, thanks to funding by Draper, was always one of the finest in New England, and is credited as one of the first to have a vehicular fire truck in 1906.
Benjamin Helm Bristow Draper (1908-1957) was the grandson of Governor and Industrialist Eben Sumner Draper, who along with his brother, turned Hopedale, MA into the industrial village it is today. Benjamin purchased his uncle’s old mansion across the street from his cousin, who a decade earlier built the massive Tudor mansion featured previously. Benjamin razed his uncle’s old mansion and built this French Eclectic house in 1935 with a hipped roof, casement windows, and sleek design.
Daniel Campbell (1730-1802) emigrated to Schenectady, New York from Ireland, in 1754 at just 24. When he arrived to New York, he became involved in the fur trade, buying furs of animals from native people in the undeveloped lands of upstate, and selling the furs back to Europe. He began to purchase valuable land in the river town of Schenectady and nearby Albany, solidifying his position in those cities. In 1760, he married Engeltie Bradt, daughter of the Schenectady branch of a prominent New-Netherland era family. Soon after his marriage, he hired architect Samuel Fuller to design a spacious new Georgian mansion. The couple split their time between Schenectady and Albany until Daniel’s death in 1802. His widow resided at this home until her death ten years later. As State Street (where this mansion sits) turned more industrial, this home was modified with storefronts and later alterations in the mid 19th century.
Mount Hope Cemetery in Acton was laid out in 1848 as the third municipal burying ground for the town. Before that, there was a need for a cemetery between the West and South Acton villages, closer to the developing parts of town, without a cemetery of their own. The cemetery was laid out with paths following a grid pattern, with land tapering off towards the rear. The cemetery, used by many prominent families of Acton, was without a chapel for over 50 years until funds were donated by George C. Wright a wealthy resident who lived nearby (featured in the last post). Town officials proceeded to build a small building that was apparently was quite different from the vision that Mr. Wright had for the building, but Mr. Wright generously agreed to accept what had been done and presented it to the town. At the 1909 annual town meeting, the town formally acknowledged the gift. It saw some use as a chapel in the early days, but has since been used for storage and an office for groundskeeping.
This large Italianate house in Acton was built in 1873 for Henry Waldo Tuttle (1847-1916), who ran a grocery store business in town with his father, James Tuttle. The business did quite well as Henry built this massive home around his 26th birthday, likely around the time of his marriage. The exuberant Italianate home features a wide central gable and a projecting central entrance porch accessed by double entrance doors. The home has a detached stable to the left of the home too!
In 1888, William Allan Wilde, a Boston publisher who grew up in Acton, purchased land on Main Street to be used as the site for a new memorial library, in “memory of those brave and patriotic men of Acton who so freely gave Time, Strength and Health, and many of them their Lives in the war of the Rebellion, 1861-65.” The former Fletcher Homestead which was located here, was moved to a nearby street. The Richardsonian Romanesque building was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Hartwell and Richardson. The building displays traditional Romanesque materials with its brick wall surfaces, brownstone and terra cotta trim and detailing, and slate roof. The large Syrian arched entry is a hallmark in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which works extremely well with this design.
In 1894, Hiram P. Dinsmore, a clerk at the nearby Tewksbury Almshouse, purchased land not too far from his work to build a home for his family. The well-designed late-Victorian home features a wrap-around porch, a corner tower, twin sunburst or flower motifs, and the use of shingle and clapboard siding, all hallmarks of the Queen Anne style. After Hiram’s death, his wife and children lived in the home, and it was later willed to his daughter Beatrice and her husband, both of whom worked at the Tewksbury Almshouse (since renamed Tewksbury Hospital). The home has seen some deterioration with large sections of siding completely open to the elements unobscured by paint and a sagging porch roof. Hope to see this beauty restored.
Reading Vermont’s public library building was built in 1899, by local resident Gilbert A. Davis (1835-1919). The building’s funds were furnished by Mr. Davis in his life, likely inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s fund which had libraries built in towns all over the United States. Gilbert Davis worked as a lawyer in Woodstock before moving back to Reading, Vermont to run his own practice. The library he funded is Neo-Classical in design in the form of a Greek Cross with intersecting gable roofs and with a monumental portico in the Ionic Order on the front facade. The charming library building is well-preseved and an excellent example of Vermonts beautiful small-town libraries.
In the early 1830s, skilled masons from Scotland and Ireland came to central Vermont to work on building projects. A number of these workers, mainly from the Aberdeen area, and specialized in a specific building style in which plates of stone are affixed to a rubblestone wall. This method of bonding stonework is so prevalent in Scotland and
Ireland it has been referred to in some journals as ‘Celtic Bond’, but in Vermont, it is known as “snecked ashlar”. The mixture of stone sizes and colors produces a strong bond and an attractive finish. This home is a rare example in the state, which is estimated to have about 50 of these homes left. I could not locate any information on the owners of the home, but the house has seen better days, with the wooden front porch shifting away from the main house. Also, if you look closely, you can see the original wood shingle roofing breathing under the sheet metal roof!