When Benjamin Whitcher donated his farm for the beginnings of a utopian Shaker community, the land and buildings became the catalyst for the next 200 years of Shaker life in the community. It is known that Benjamin Whitcher constructed his farmhouse sometime between 1775 and 1782. With the arrival of the first Shakers in 1783, Whitcher allowed families to reside on the farmland, with the 1790 Census counting 35 people on the Whitcher property. This structure was one of the original structures on the old Whitcher Farm, and is possibly the oldest extant building in the Shaker village today. The building was moved to its present location in 1841 and was used for distilling sarsaparilla syrup for medicinal purposes by members of the community.
Ames Memorial Hall // 1881
There are few buildings that make you stop and stare in marvel at their perfect architectural proportions, detailing and design, the Ames Memorial Hall in Easton, Massachusetts is one of them for me! In the late 1870s, the children of Oakes Ames commissioned the great American architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design the Memorial Hall as a tribute to their father. Richardson, the architect of Boston’s beloved Trinity Church in Copley Square, responded with a picturesque masterpiece using his signature architectural elements of rounded arches, dramatic roof lines, and heavy masonry adorned with carvings. The building was provided to the inhabitants of Easton “for all the ordinary purposes of a town hall”. Oakes Ames (1804-1873) was partner in the family business, O. Ames & Sons, a U. S. congressman, an early investor in the Central Pacific Railroad, and, at the urging of President Abraham Lincoln, a prominent force in the building of the first transcontinental railroad. The Richardsonian Romanesque building stands on the solid foundation of a natural ledge, from the northeast corner of which rises the beautiful octagonal tower, on whose frieze are carved the twelve signs of the zodiac.
Thomas Maling House // 1848
This Greek Revival home was built around 1848 for Thomas Maling, a rigger (person who installs the system of ropes and chains for a ships mast and sails). The home is built upon a raised brick foundation, likely to elevate it from the rising and receding nature of the Kennebunk River just across the street. By the 1890s, the home was converted to an inn, known as the Maling’s Inn, after the original owner. Today, the inn is known as the Old River House. On the lot, the old rigging loft remains and has been converted on the inside as additional rooms.
Tapleyville School // 1896
As the town of Danvers grew after the Civil War, the need for larger neighborhood schools became apparent. Land was acquired from Gilbert A. Tapley’s estate in 1895, and $14,500 was appropriated for the design and construction of an eight room school building. The building designed by Salem architect, Edwin B. Balcom, is Colonial Revival in style with a hipped roof and front and rear pavilion entrances. The interior finish was of pine with the first and second stories consisting of four class rooms each with a teacher’s office and book closet to each room. The second story also contained the principal’s room and supply room. The front facade of the structure exhibits simulated ashlar siding with the other sides done in clapboards, quoins are present at corners. The front pavilion entrance includes a closed pediment with dentils and a Palladian window in the gable.
In 1979, the Tapleyville School was closed for school purposes and in the summer of that year the structure was chosen by the Danvers Housing Authority for adaptive reuse for housing for the elderly. The former school remains as a housing development, architecturally significant with minor alterations which include an appropriate addition to the side of the building and a lemon yellow paint job.
Thacher Island Twin Lights // 1861
Located on Thacher Island off the rocky coast of Rockport, MA, stand two massive stone lighthouses appearing as sentinels over the horizon.
The Thacher Island was named for Anthony Thacher, an Englishman whose vessel, the Watch and Wait, was wrecked in a ferocious storm near the island in 1635 on its way to Marblehead from Ipswich. Thacher and his wife, Elizabeth, were the only survivors of the wreck in which 21 people died including four of Thacher’s children from a previous marriage and his cousin. The General Court awarded Anthony Thacher the island “at the head of Cape Ann” to recompense him for his losses, and he originally dubbed the island “Thacher’s Woe”. The island eventually was bought back by the Massachusetts colonial government at a cost of 500 pounds for the purpose of establishing a light station.
Twin lighthouses built on Thacher Island in 1771 and were the first built to mark a dangerous spot (the Londoner Ledge southeast of Thacher Island) rather than a harbor entrance. They were also the last lighthouses built under British rule in the colonies. The two lighthouses in Cape Ann dubbed “Ann’s Eyes” stood on Thacher Island until 1860, when itt was decided that new, taller towers were needed. Twin towers, 124 feet high, were built in 1861. New Hampshire granite was used instead of local Cape Ann granite, which drew much criticism from locals.
In 1932, the use of the north tower was discontinued making it one of the last operational twin light stations on the Atlantic Coast. The south tower was electrified via a submarine cable to the mainland that same year and provided a more intense light. The south tower was automated and unmanned, when a modern optic replaced the Fresnel lens in 1979. In January 2001, the Cape Ann Light Station, including several associated outbuildings, received recognition as a National Historic Landmark.
The Thacher Island Association was established in 1981 by the Thacher Island Town Committee as a non-profit group dedicated to raising funds for the restoration and on-going maintenance of the Island. The Town of Rockport owns the southern end of the Island and manages it via the Association. The northern end is owned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is managed by the Town under an agreement with USFWS.
Annisquam Cotton Mill Machine Shop // 1864
Located in the middle of Downtown Rockport, Massachusetts, a lasting remnant of the towns early industrial past remains. This stone building was once part of a larger mill complex constructed as the Annisquam Cotton Mill between 1847 and 1864. Designed by the architectural firm of McLean & Wright, the complex was transitional Greek Revival and Italianate styles. In operation since 1847, the mill was destroyed by fire in 1882. Even though the mill never reopened, its ruins remained standing for another 22 years, until they were finally removed in 1904. The fire gutted much of the building besides one wing, the machine shop, which was one of the last constructed buildings on the site. In 1904, the then-owner of the former machine shop, George J. Tarr, deeded the property to the town of Rockport, who subsequently turned the building into an elementary school, named in Tarr’s honor. Today, this former machine shop and former school building has a new use, as the town’s library.
Merchant’s Bank Building // 1857
One of the few remaining brownstone commercial buildings in Downtown Providence is the gorgeous Merchant’s Bank Building on Westminster Street. The flatiron building is of the Italianate style and a lasting vestige of what once covered downtowns in New England. Designed by Alpheus Morse and Clifton Hall, architects who formed the firm of, you guessed it, Morse & Hall; the building was home to the Merchants Bank. In 1920, the bank merged with the Providence National Bank and the building was occupied by other financial institutions until the 1970s. It now (2020) is home to a bookstore and appears to have residential units above.
Chester Central School // ca. 1880
Located on Main Street, this large brick structure stands as the latest example of Italianate architecture in town. The building was constructed as the consolidated central high school, which sought to bring together secondary school students to a larger school. By 1801, the town of Chester, with a population of just under 2,000 citizens, had 19 school districts, each with its own school building (nearly all being one-room schools). As the population of town became more centered around the developing main street and railroad depot, the central school was constructed. The building served as the town’s high school until 1911, when a larger school was constructed nearby on Depot Street. The building later served as a primary school. By the 1960s, the town had no use for the building, and allowed the newly established Chester Historical Society and Museum to operate the space and showcase the town’s rich history.
Leet-Ely House // ca.1798
This prominent Federal Style house at 14 Liberty Street in Chester, CT was built for Captain Gideon Leet, a merchant and shipbuilder who was active in the West India trade. It appears that the home was purchased soon after completion by Dr. Richard Ely (1765-1816), who may have completed the home in the Georgian-Federal transitional style we see today.
Dr. Ely graduated from Yale College in 1785 and became a prominent surgeon in Middlesex County, often seeing patients at his home in Chester (then still a part of Saybrook). When Dr. Ely died in 1816, the home was willed to his son, Richard B. Ely (1798-1869) and then two later Richard Ely’s in succession.
The Leet-Ely House is a great example of late 18th century residential architecture. The home has a prominent central chimney, modillion cornice, rusticated corner quoining, a fanlight over the door, and an ionic columned portico.