Ambrose Knight House // c.1810

The most architecturally significant example of the Federal style in Waterford, Maine, is this c.1810 home built for Ambrose Knight, who operated a store in town. The high-style Federal home features a well-proportioned fanlight over the entrance with a Palladian window above, all with geometric moulding. The home was likely built by a housewright who employed designs from Asher Benjamin’s pattern books for builders, as the high-style features and Palladian windows are uncommon in this part of Maine.

High Street House // c.1810

This house in Freetown, MA literally made me turn the car around to get a photo (it’s a sickness, they need a rehab for old house addicts). The house was built in the early 1800s and is a stellar example of the Federal style, which took over architecture in New England after the Revolutionary War until the 1830s. The style often features intricate designs and complex geometry, which previously would have been too difficult for the majority of builders or designers to accomplish. From pattern books by influential architects like Asher Benjamin, the style was built in forms and places from urban townhomes in Boston and New York, to rural, rambling farmhouses in Vermont and Maine. Publications by Asher Benjamin including The Country Builder’s Assistant and The American Builder’s Companion opened up high-quality, architectural landmark designs to the masses, and is a significant reason New England architecture is so iconic. Benjamin included drawings and diagrams which builders could copy, from column styles and dimensions to chimney and moulding details.

Phelps-Hatheway House // c.1762

Set back from tree-lined Main Street in Suffield, the Phelps-Hatheway House is but one of many handsome eighteenth and nineteenth century homes in the town. The house began construction sometime between 1732-1762 as a modest gable-roof Georgian home built by Abraham Burbank. In 1788, the home was purchased by Oliver Phelps. at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Phelps joined the Continental Army and fought in the Battle of Lexington. He left service in 1777 and, relying on his experience as a merchant, became Massachusetts Superintendent of Purchases of Army Supplies, a Deputy Commissary of the Continental Army. He was introduced to Robert Morris, the great financier of Revolutionary times. He supplied troops and received commendation from George Washington for his efforts. After the war ended, he became a prominent businessman and was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1785 and served on the Governor’s council in 1786 (Suffield was still a part of Massachusetts at this point).

Upon returning, Phelps hired architect Asher Benjamin (when he was in his early 20s!) to redesign the home into a gambrel roof mansion and construct numerous additions to make the house a suitable home for a wealthy, sophisticated man such as himself. Phelps was a principal in the Phelps and Gorham Purchase of six million acres of land in upstate New York, making him one of the nation’s largest landowners. Phelps lived here until 1802, when he moved to Canandaigua, New York, to more closely oversee the development and sale of his holdings. Phelps or his heirs sold the house, which was purchased by Asahel Hatheway and it remained in the Hatheway family for a century. It is now owned by Connecticut Landmarks and operates as a house museum.

Colton House // 1806

Similar to the Charles Leonard House a block away, the Colton House on Main Street in Agawam remains as a historically and architecturally significant Federal style home in Western MA. The home was built in 1806 for Rufus Colton (1776-1862), a couple years after he married his first wife. The home was likely constructed by a local builder who took inspiration from Asher Benjamin’s early plan books and Captain Leonard’s home nearby. The house was later owned by Martin Luther who operated the home as a tavern for travelers along the route from Hartford to Boston. It was later owned by Isaac Cooley and documented under the Historic American Buildings Survey. Architecturally, the house features a stunning broad entry surround which incorporates a generous elliptical fan-light with leaded glass above a paneled door. Directly over the main entry on the second floor is a Palladian window with the side panels showing the urn and leaf pattern, seen only in high-style Federal homes.