James Neal House // 1831

Continuing with my mini-series on The Hill, a neighborhood of 18th and 19th century houses and buildings saved from Urban Renewal in Portsmouth’s North End neighborhood, I present the James Neal House. Built in 1831 and taxed a year later, the house stands out as a late Federal style property, a style that was well on its way out in popularity. Additionally, the home is the only extant brick house in this area of town from the period. James Neal was listed in directories as a merchant, possibly being involved in the shipping of goods from plantations in the Caribbean, which were farmed by enslaved Africans. James died just a few years after his home was built. The brick house is three-stories with a hipped roof. The entry is surmounted by a semi-circular fanlight set within a recessed opening, a modest take on the Federal style.

Samuel Eddy House // 1797

Located next door to the William Holroyd House (last post) in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood, this Federal style home appears to have been constructed by the same builder just a year apart, but in brick! This house was constructed in 1797 for Samuel Eddy, an attorney, congressman, and later served as Chief Justice of the Rhode Island State Supreme Court. Similar to the Holroyd House, the property was later acquired by a member of the Brown Family, and has since become part of the Brown-RISD Hillel.

Arnold-Palmer House // 1826

The Arnold-Palmer house (not related to the drink), a handsome brick single residence of the Federal period, was built about 1826 by Daniel Arnold, a wealthy Providence merchant who did well in the economic expansion of the 1820s and 30s. The home is attributed to John Holden Greene, a Providence architect who commonly incorporated a monitor roof in his designs. Daniel Arnold focused his wealth on flour trade, but he speculated in cotton as well, as did many of the merchants in Providence at the time. The connection of Providence with southern states and plantations demonstrate how tightly bound Rhode Island’s industrial economy was with Southern cotton and the enslaved people who produced it, with manufacturing and cotton mills all over Rhode Island. By the 1850s, Arnold’s house was sold to Joseph Palmer, who, through the firm of Palmer & Capron, manufactured gold rings in Providence’s growing jewelry business. The house was built in Cathedral Square a part of Downtown and was moved to its present site when that part of Providence was nearly entirely razed in urban renewal. While the siting is less than desirable, this rare surviving Federal home in downtown shows how the wealth and prosperity of Providence was not only restricted to College Hill.

Hall-Balcom House // 1810

This historic house in West Millbury, Massachusetts, began in the end of the 18th century as a one-and-a-half-story wood-frame farmhouse. By 1810, the home was rotated 90 degrees and a more substantial, two-story brick house was constructed facing the street. The Federal style home was owned by Thaddeus Hall (1779-1855), and after his death, it was owned by his son, Orson Eddy Hall, who possibly rented the property for income while he resided in New Orleans and ran the iconic St. Charles Hotel there. The property was later acquired by Willard Balcom and remained in the family. Oh what I wouldn’t do to see the paint come off this old brick house!!

Lawton-Warren House // 1809

The Lawton-Warren House is one of the few large, brick Federal mansions in Newport, and is located a short walk from the Tillinghast House (last post) and the mysterious Newport Tower in Touro Park. The collapse of maritime trade in Newport following the British occupation was so complete that this house style, prevalent in Providence, is virtually nonexistent here. Robert Lawton was a sea captain and merchant who died at sea in 1818 off the coast of Africa and left the house to his wife, Penelope. After Penelope’s death in 1855, the traditional Federal style home was given Italianate detailing at the second floor. The home was likely painted around this time, which thankfully has been removed. The home was purchased in 1932 by George Henry Warren and his wife Mrs. Katherine Urquhart Warren. Katherine was a preservationist and art collector interested in preserving the Colonial town of Newport. To assist with this endeavor, she convinced the Countess Szycheni, a descendant of the Vanderbilt family and owner of The Breakers, to open The Breakers mansion to the public for tours. It was the start of the Preservation Society of Newport County. She would later be appointed by First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, to the committee to restore the White House in 1961. Katherine died in 1976, she willed the home here to the Preservation Society, and it held offices there until 1994. The home was sold to a private owner who restored the home to near original conditions, keeping the Italianate detailing.

Old Brick Tavern // 1804

The Brick Tavern was an important stopping point on the old Union Turnpike, and the original two-story brick structure was completed about the time of the turnpike construction by Paul Willard, who with his heirs, operated the inn for 25 years. In the first years of the 1800s, the Union Turnpike Company planned and built a road providing a link for travel from Boston to Albany. Realizing the possibility for an inn along the first leg of the route, Willard financed this substantial brick building for travellers to stop, eat and spend the night. The tollroad was later made free, and less people stayed at the inn. After subsequent ownership, the building started to suffer from deferred maintenance and it was sold to a local Quaker group. The Quakers modernized the building by constructing the mansard roof and updating the interior. They never occupied it, but rented it to tenants for income. After, it was a hospital, boarding house, and in WWII, as a barracks of sorts for soldiers training nearby at a military base. The building is now a house!

Edwards-Machado House // 1807

Tucked away on Carpenter Street, one of my favorite Salem houses, the Edwards-Machado House stands out as the only brick house on the street, for good reason! In 1803, Joseph Edwards, a carpenter, purchased this piece of land and built a three-story wooden house for his family. Just three years later, a large fire destroyed the home, the family’s belongings, and at least two neighboring homes. Undeterred, Edwards built the present house to replace the one lost in the fire in 1807, once he received his insurance, but this time, he constructed the home of fireproof brick! He sold the house not long after, and the property went through many hands in the 19th century, many owners renting the property to families. In 1877, the property was sold to John Bertram, one of Salem’s greatest benefactors who lived at 370 Essex Street which he later gave his mansion to the city for use as a public library. Bertram rented out the former Edwards home to the Machado family.

Immigrants from Cuba, the patriarch, Juan (John) was a cattle rancher in Cuba. He came to the United States in the early 1850s to escape having to take the loyalty oath to Spain, as he believed in Cuban independence. In the U.S. he entered school in Manchester-By-the Sea in order to learn English. In Massachusetts, he met his future wife, Elizabeth, and took her back to Cuba where they remained for over ten years. In 1868, just before the beginning of the Ten Years War in Cuba, Juan, his wife and their children left for the final time after he had freed his slaves and distributed his cattle to various relatives. In Salem, he worked as a spanish teacher and translator. His son, Ernest, became famous as a prominent Cuban-American architect. Ernest attended MIT and studied architecture before entering the office of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the successors of the great architect H. H. Richardson. In the late 1890’s Machado opened his own architectural firm, with offices in Salem and Boston, and designed many large Colonial Revival estates for wealthy New England families. Tragically, Ernest died in New Hampshire, when his canoe capsized, drowning at 39 years old.

Joseph Howard House // 1808

Salem, Massachusetts is probably the best town in the country to see amazing Halloween decorations everywhere and possibly the largest collection of high-style Federal period homes, a perfect pairing! This brick Federal home on Brown Street was built in 1808 for Joseph Howard (1780-1857) after his marriage to Anstiss Smith when they were in their 20s! Joseph worked as a shipping merchant in town. Together the couple had 11 children, with the last three dying in infancy. In 1827, the family relocated to Brooklyn, New York, and there, with his son, John Tasker Howard the two established the shipping and commission house of J. Howard & Son, with offices on South Street, and later at 34 Broadway. The family lived the remainder of their lives in New York. This house in Salem was sold to Thomas Downing, a dry goods dealer with a store nearby on Essex Street. Sadly, Downing suffered with severe depression in the later years of his life until 1859 when he took his own life in the stairwell of the eastern tower of the East Church in Salem (now the Salem Witch Museum). The Brown Street home was willed to his widow.

Gardiner Almshouse // 1834

This large brick Federal house was built on the outskirts of Gardiner, Maine, in 1834. Ebenezer Moore, the builder, worked as a carpenter and house-wright in town and showcased his skill on his own brick mansion, selling it to a C.E. Bradstreet. By the late 1840s, the town of Gardiner decided that it would need a new almshouse, city-provided housing for the poor, so they purchased the Bradstreet house and 14-acres of land. In the 1848 town report documents noted, “The establishment is a brick one, of two stories, containing thirty-six fine rooms, including seven fitted for the insane in the most admirable manner, together with a spacious hall. The building is every way a most excellent one for the purpose, and is a monument of the humanity and generosity of the city.” The almshouse served as a working farm where the poor could harvest their own crops and contribute in a small, closed society. The almshouse burned in 1909, and was immediately rebuilt using the outside brick walls. In the Colonial Revival manner, a gambrel roof replaced the former gable roof, which added a third story to the almshouse. The building was eventually sold, as new housing models for low-income residents took off. The former almshouse was converted to an apartment building in 1970, a use that appears to continue to this day.

Peter Wheeler House // 1832

This cute brick house in Boxborough, MA, was built c. 1832 by the Revolutionary War veteran Peter Wheeler where he lived until his death in 1847. The home sits on a heavily trafficked street, yet retains much of its architecture and even historic windows, despite its conversion to commercial use! The brick house features e 6/6 double-hung units on the first story and 3/3 in the second, with the central window featuring stunning stained glass.