United Methodist Church of Nantucket // 1823

The United Methodist Church of Nantucket stands prominently at the top of Main Street on land was obtained from Peleg Mitchell in 1822. Construction on the site began in 1823 with the massive structure originally built with a pyramidal hip roof of enormous timbers brought to the island on whaling vessels. In 1840, the roofline was amended with the present gable roof, constructed over the original hip roof. The church is a highly significant example of Greek Revival architecture on the island and a more rare example of the temple-front form seen there. Deferred maintenance threatened the building to the point that in 1995, the building was listed as one of the most endangered buildings in Massachusetts. A restoration was undertaken funded by private contributions and the Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund, preserving the building for another 200 years.

Gorham Hussey House // c.1820

This Colonialized Federal period house sits just down Vestal Street from the Maria Mitchell Association campus on the ever-charming island of Nantucket. The home was built around 1820 for Gorham Hussey (1797-1879), who would have been around 23 at the time. He married Lydia Macy in 1820 and the couple had twin daughters that same year, likely right after this house was completed (talk about a busy year)! The home was later owned by photographer John W. McCalley, who photographed this and other houses in the area. The home retains a high-style Colonial Revival fanlight over the door, likely added in the first three decades of the 20th century as colonial homes were romanticized.

Maria Mitchell House and Observatory // 1790 & 1908

Although Hezekiah Swain built this house in 1790, the property is better known as the home of Maria Mitchell and is to this day, preserved to interpret her amazing legacy. Maria Mitchell’s father William bought the house in 1818, and Maria was born there later that year. Maria grew up on Nantucket and she became the first female astronomer in America. After she discovered a comet in 1847 (which was named Miss Mitchell’s Comet), her international recognition led to many awards and that acclaim enabled her to continue her work. She accepted a position as professor of astronomy at Vassar College by its founder, Matthew Vassar, in 1865 and became the first female professor of astronomy She established the Association for the Advancement of Women and became the first female member of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. She was also very involved in the anti-slavery movement in New England. After Maria Mitchell died in 1889, the Maria Mitchell Association, was established in Nantucket to preserve the sciences on the island and Mitchell’s work. On July 15, 1908, the Observatory on Vestal Street near the Science Library and Mitchell House was dedicated. The Observatory, built by the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association, stimulated local interest in science. The success of the Observatory’s programs prompted the construction of an astronomical study in 1922, joining the existing facility with the Maria Mitchell Birthplace. The museum operates in Summers to this day, and continues Maria’s rich legacy in the sciences.

East Congregational Society Chapel // 1881

I love exploring old industrial towns. In Ware, Massachusetts, the urban decay of some buildings provides opportunity and potential, but also so much negative thoughts for long-time residents as it reminds some of the town’s once thriving past. Just off Ware’s Main Street, I spotted this former chapel and had to learn more. This structure was built in 1881 as the second East Congregational Church chapel. The congregation was largely made up of immigrant laborers who worked in the town’s mills. This chapel replaced a Greek Revival building erected in 1857 on Water (Pulaski) Street that was later remodeled by the town into a fire station. That building was destroyed during the Hurricane of 1938. This Victorian Gothic chapel was designed by architect Eugene C. Gardner of Springfield, who was very busy in central/western Massachusetts. The chapel long was used by church members for spillover events and social gatherings. Later, the building became the office of the Ware River News.

Otis Company Mill #1 // 1845

This five-story granite mill building was one of the major catalysts for the 19th century population surge in Ware, Massachusetts. As New England’s fledgling textile industry of the era played a vanguard role in transforming the U.S. into an industrial nation, the significance of this type of mill can hardly be understated. The Otis Mill #1 in Ware is one of the last remaining granite textile mills of this early period in central/western Massachusetts. The mill was built in 1845 for the Otis Company, which initially manufactured woven cotton fabric, but later branched out into stockings, woolen shirts and drawers underwear. The company was Ware’s largest employer for about 100 years! The company prospered thru WWI employing over 2,500 people. During the 1920’s the business began a decline due to the southern state’s mills and lack of modernization. In the mid 30’s the Otis Co sold its property to the citizens of Ware, which they formed Ware Industries, Inc to continue the major employer in the town. Due to this Ware came to be known nation-wide as “The Town That Can’t Be Licked.” The mill is now home to local small businesses as a sort of incubator, providing jobs to local residents!

Manley-Lefevre House // c.1820

The last (but certainly not least) building in Dorset, Vermont I’ll be featuring is the Manley-Lefevre House aka. Marble House! This stunning Federal period home was built around 1820 by Martin Manley (1783-1856) on land originally owned by his father George. The house is constructed of ashlar marble that was quarried with hand tools from the lower quarry located approximately 200′ behind the site of the house with dressed marble finished in town and brought back for installation at the lintels, sills, and door surround. In 1907, Edwin Lefevre, Sr. (1871-1943) traveled by train from Bronxville, New York to Dorset at the suggestion of the artist Lorenzo Hatch, with the intention of locating a summer residence for his family. They purchased this home, which became known as “The Old Stone House” and hired Eugene J. Lang, a New York architect, to remodel the house, design a kitchen wing and remodel the barn into a garage (1909). While in Italy, Lefevre fell in love with the formal gardens there, and wanted something like this for his country estate. Upon his return, he retained garden designer Charles Downing Lay to design the gardens that surround the house. The country estate is now home to The Marble House Project, a multi-disciplinary artist residency program.

Dorset Playhouse // 1929

During the spring of 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Goodman, devotees of the performing arts, were able to interest a number of Dorset residents in producing a play. In April 1927, a three-act play entitled ’39 East’ was presented in the Dorset Town Hall for the benefit of the PTA and was received with great enthusiasm. From this, a movement took off. Many summer residents and artists in town formed a group, the Dorset Players, who would continue performances for the town. They realized that the space in Town Hall was not suitable nor permanent enough for the goals of the group. May Goodman purchased land at the edge of the village and the group held two years of performances in nearby towns to gather funding to erect a playhouse. Ernest West, a member, offered two barns on his property in town and it, plus one more barn, were incorporated into the new playhouse. The auditorium was built so that the weathered sides of the barn boards were on the inside and hand hewn timbers 12 by 12 inches were used to achieve a rustic effect which draws many favorable comments from those visiting the Playhouse. It remains a cultural center of the town and greater region to this day.

Dorset Congregational Church // 1909

Arguably the most high-style building in the quaint village of Dorset, Vermont is the Congregational Church, which appropriately sits on Church Street. The original congregational church in Dorset was located in nearby Maple Hill Cemetery. When the wood structure burned in 1832, an new wooden church was built on this site. The second wooden building burned in 1907, and then this church was built, but of fireproof construction. Jordan Greene, an architect from New York, designed this Neo Gothic Revival style in the historic district. The church was constructed by the contracting firm of O. W. Norcross, partner in the Norcross-West Marble Company, which donated the building stone from its South Dorset quarry. The design is dominated by a massive square central tower that ascends its facade and is capped by pinnacles. Behind the tower, the gable-roofed church is built of rough-faced Dorset marble laid in patterned coursed ashlar and trimmed with dressed stone. How many other marble churches can you think of?

The Old Jail, Barnstable // c.1690

The Old Jail in Barnstable is a historic wooden jail, resembling a colonial domestic residence, which was built by order of the newly established Barnstable County, which separated from the Plymouth Colony on in 1685. It served as the Barnstable County jail from 1690 to 1820 and is the oldest extant wooden jail in the United States! By 1702, prisoners were being held in the jail while awaiting trial at the Court Sessions held in Barnstable. In 1716, the jail imprisoned Mehitable “Goody” Hallett, the lover of pirate Samuel Bellamy, later known as the Witch of Wellfleet, as well as the two survivors of Sam Bellamy’s flagship Whydah Gally which wrecked at Wellfleet, and the seven pirate survivors of his consort ship Mary Anne which wrecked ten miles south. The jail house is considered one of the most haunted in America, supposedly containing the spirits of these pirates and lost loves. The jail building was attached to a barn by the 19th century, when a new jail was constructed. This building was later removed from the barn and restored, and moved to the present site next to the old Customs House in 1968.

Langham Court // 1991

Image courtesy of Goody/Clancy

Appropriate infill construction can be a very difficult thing to accomplish, with some developments hitting the mark and others adversely impacting the historic neighborhoods where they were built. Boston is home to many examples of both occurrences, but I wanted to share a very successful infill project in the South End neighborhood, Langham Court. As the South End resurfaced as a desirable neighborhood, long-time residents were priced out, which led to the Boston Redevelopment Authority to fund projects to provide much-needed housing for the local community. This site which once housed over 20 townhouses, was razed by the 1960s in a period of urban renewal where existing housing was deemed unsafe and inadequate. The local design firm of Goody/Clancy was hired, and they masterfully designed a U-shaped complex of 84 mixed-income units that fits well within its surroundings. The design exhibits dormers, bays, arched and vaulted entries, a combination of mansard and flat roofs, stringer courses and textured brickwork, and a palette of well chosen materials all at a scale that blends in the 1990s building to its surroundings which came nearly 150 years prior. The complex remains as a testament to good-quality design even for affordable housing, which notoriously gets the short end of the stick design-wise.