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.

Dr. Daniel Robbins House // 1804

Damn I just love old brick Federal houses! This home in Boxborough, MA was constructed in 1804 for Dr. Daniel Robbins, who owned a one-story wooden home on the site in 1798. As building materials were expensive at the time, Robbins likely incorporated that structure as one of the side additions to this new brick house you see here. Robbins served as a town doctor until his death in 1837, and would treat patients in his home or ride on horseback to treat sick residents nearby.

Merwin House // 1825

In about 1825, Francis and Clarissa Dresser built this charming brick Federal house in the rural town of Stockbridge, MA. Just 25 years later, the railroad arrived to town, connecting it to Connecticut and New York to the south, opening the town up as a leisure destination for wealthy city dwellers looking to escape the noise and congestion of the city. The period following the Civil War through World War I saw the Gilded Age reach the Berkshires. With artists, writers, financiers, and industrialists flocking to the rural hills of western Massachusetts for seasonal escapes. In 1875, William and Elizabeth Doane, wealthy New Yorkers, purchased Merwin House from the Dresser family to use as a summer retreat. As the Doane family grew to include two young daughters, Vipont and Elizabeth, they added a Shingle Style side addition to the original brick structure. The home became known as “Tranquility”, even after the home was willed to daughter Vipont. After a couple marriages, Vipont married Edward Payson Merwin, a New York stockbroker. Historic New England acquired Merwin House in 1966, shortly after the death of Marie Vipont deRiviere Doane Merwin, known as Vipont. It was her desire to leave Merwin House as a museum, as her will states, “as an example of an American culture which is fast becoming extinct.” The space is occasionally open for tours and is partially occupied by the Housatonic Valley Association.

Thomas Carter House // 1830

All I want for Christmas is a brick Federal house! This home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts was constructed in 1830 by Thomas Carter (1777-1863) and his wife Anna. The couple farmed the property and had eleven children (plus two who died in childbirth). According to a family history, the lime for the mortar on the home was burned in a kiln on the property by Thomas. The ancestral home remained in the family for generations, including by John Calvin Calhoun Carter, a town selectman, who added a full-length porch on the home in the mid-late 19th century (since removed). The home’s rural charm remains even-though it sits on a busy road in the Berkshires.

Hezekiah Porter House // 1822

Hezekiah Porter (1783-1851) built this house in 1822 for him and his family, right in Thetford Center, Vermont. Porter was born in 1783 in Hebron, Connecticut, where he presumably learned the clothier trade, before moving to Thetford in 1806. Porter later operated a brickyard, serving as contractor to the Thetford Center Methodist Church, Town Hall and several other brick homes in town dating from the 1820s and 1830s. Porter lived on this large property with his wife and ten children until his death. The property was later occupied by Hezekiah’s son, Amos P. Porter. In 1888, Amos farmed about 200 acres and had 7 cows, 50 Merino sheep and 18 Jersey cattle!