Elias Danforth House // 1832

On the southern end of Center Village in Lancaster, MA, this gorgeous late-Federal style home holds a stately presence built into and atop a sloping hill. The home was built for Elias Danforth (1788-1868) in 1832 and has been so little-altered in the nearly 200 years since. The house features amazing full-length side porches with bold columns, an early sign of the emerging Greek Revival style. The home sold a couple years ago for just over $600,000, which is a STEAL for the location and high-quality house and interior. Wow!

Lancaster Center School // 1904

Situated on the iconic Town Green of Lancaster, MA, this gorgeous Colonial Revival school building elegantly fits into the surrounding context of stately civic buildings in the small town. The Center School, (now known as the Prescott Building), was designed by architect Herbert Dudley Hale of Boston, and built in 1904 for use as the Town of Lancaster’s first high school. The building committee formed to oversee proposals and funding of the school settled quickly on the desire to see it built in the Colonial Revival style to compliment the other Town Green buildings at the time, most importantly the Charles Bulfinch-designed church at the northern end (more on that tomorrow). The Center School had been used continuously as a public school until 2001, when it outlived its utility as a modern and codified school facility. The building stood vacant for a number of years until it was restored and re-utilized as town offices next to the town hall.

Judge John Sprague House // 1771

This old Georgian house in Lancaster was built in 1771 for 31 year old John Sprague. John was born in Rochester, MA, and when of age, attended Harvard College graduating in 1765. Upon graduating, he moved to Worcester and became a law clerk. He moved around in the next couple years before settling in Lancaster and opened up a law practice with Abel Willard. Upon the dawn of the American Revolution, the partnership dissolved as Abel, a loyalist to England, fled the area. Judge Sprague would later become a member of the convention for ratifying the Constitution of the United States. In 1798, Sprague was appointed chief justice of the court of common pleas for Worcester County, a position he served as until his death. The Sprague house would have originally had a large, central chimney, which was possibly changed in the 19th century.

Jonas Whitney House // c.1803

This stunning old house in Lancaster was built in the early 19th century for Jonas Whitney (1772-1846), who acquired the land from his father, who lived across the street. The home was likely built as a wedding gift to his new bride, Mary Hawkes when they married in 1803. Jonas worked as a carpenter, and possibly built his house himself. The house is symmetrical with five bays. A classic door surround with batten door oozes charm, with the massive central chimney providing warmth throughout the house during the cold New England winters. I need this house!

Jesup Memorial Library // 1910

Bar Harbor’s first library is believed to have been organized in 1875 by a group of summer residents. This collection of 176 volumes was assembled for the use of Mt. Desert’s permanent residents and made available to them for two nights per week. A small frame library was built in 1877. In 1883, the growing collection was turned into a subscription library with borrowing privileges charged at the rate of $1.00 per family, but the fee was dropped three years later. By the late 19th century, the village’s population boomed, especially in the summer months when wealthy families descended upon the sleepy town every year to take in the cooler climate and sweeping scenery of Mount Desert Island. Acknowledging the need for a more suitable library, Maria Van Antwerp DeWitt Jesup, the widow of Morris K. Jesup (1830-1908), a New York financier and long-time summer resident of Bar Harbor, gifted the town funds to erect a new building as a memorial to her late husband. The Colonial Revival style library was designed by the New York firm of Delano & Aldrich, and exhibits a beautiful centered entrance recessed in a limestone arch.

John Sullivan House // 1740

John Sullivan was born in nearby Somersworth, and studied law. He settled in Durham to practice law in 1763, and purchased this house in 1763 (it was built in 1740 by Reverend Hugh Adams). It served as his home for the rest of his life, and is buried in the family cemetery nearby. Sullivan was a vocal opponent of British rule in the colonies, and was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774. In December of that year he led a raid on Fort William and Mary in which the colonial militia seized munitions stored there. He was appointed a brigadier general in the Continental Army in 1775, and served through the American Revolutionary War. He participated in the Siege of Boston, and was captured by the British in the 1776 Battle of Long Island. After being exchanged, he served in the Battle of Trenton, the Philadelphia campaign of 1777, the failed attempt to recapture Newport, Rhode Island, and the 1779 Sullivan Expedition, in which the Iroquois, who had largely sided with the British, were driven from upstate New York. Sullivan’s actions and barbed personality made him enemies in Congress, and he resigned from the army late in 1779. He returned to New Hampshire, where he served as Attorney General 1782-86, and as President (the office now known as Governor) 1787-89. He chaired the state convention that ratified the United States Constitution. His home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972, the most prestigious designation (more than listing on National Register of Historic Places). I encourage everyone to read his Wikipedia page, he was a fascinating and polarizing early Revolutionary, that I personally did not know about until researching.

Burnham House // c.1682

Samuel Burnham bought an older house on this site, and added to it, creating a larger residence for his family (a common occurrence in early Colonial times). One thing he did keep was a 30-foot well within the building to supply the family drinking water. Interior wells were not common, but very useful on the New England “frontier” where attacks from Native American tribes were more frequent. In the event of an attack in town, a family could close their interior shutters, and wait them out with drinking water from their internal well.

God, I love old New England homes! Could you live in one that is older than the United States?

Valentine Hill House // c.1649

Valentine Hill emigrated to Boston in 1636 from England with his brother and began a successful career as a merchant and trader. In 1638 Valentine was made a member of the Artillery Company, In 1640 he took the Freeman’s Oath, and in that same year ordained as a Deacon in the Boston Church. In 1641 he was elected a Selectman serving until 1647. In 1643 Valentine received a grant of land at the falls of the Oyster River in what is now Durham, N.H. In 1649, Valentine and an associate got permission to build a saw mill on the river. Additional grants of land included 500 acres for farming. Due to issues with his businesses in Boston, he moved up to present-day Durham to manage his mills and property there. On the property, he employed “seven Scots”, who were indentured servants captured by British forces in the Battle of Dunbar, and among other industries, lumber was milled for use in the shipbuilding industry in surrounding towns. In 1649 Valentine Hill built the original homestead, a single-story house with a basement. In 1699, Nathaniel Hill, son and heir of Valentine, made a two-story addition to the house, giving the home the appearance we see today. After successive owners, the next major period of the property was early in the 1900’s, when James Frost took over the estate, completing the transformation of the grounds and turned into a Colonial Revival summer estate with extensive formal gardens, arbors and an elaborate stone wall. The property remained in the family until the 1980s, but suffered from some neglect. The house was purchased in 1997 and restored to her former glory and is now known as the Three Chimneys Inn. Interestingly, if this home can be dated with dendrochronology (aging the home based on the age of the cut timber), this home would be at least a decade older than the present oldest home in New Hampshire!

George House // c.1929

This Georgian Revival house was built in the mid-late 1920s for the George Family, who ran a construction company based out of Worcester, Massachusetts. The home was a summer retreat for the family, who acquired a prime lot on Butler Point in Marion, MA, from the Butler’s Point Associates, a group of men who developed the peninsula with the Kittansett Club and desirable house lots from plans by the Olmsted Brothers, landscape architects. The house is prominently sited and is one of the best examples of the Colonial Revival style I have seen in the seaside town. It is clad in cedar shingles as a nod to the vernacular coastal homes and larger Victorian-era summer homes seen in the village.

Major Rowland Luce House // c.1790

Built around 1790 for Rowland Luce (1756-1835), this Federal home oozes character and charm, and is located right on Main Street in one of my favorite towns, Marion, Mass. Luce was born in Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard into a very religious family. While studying to become a Deacon like his father, the Revolutionary War broke out, and Rowland served to fight the British, leaving service as a Major. He eventually settled in Marion’s Sippican/Wharf Village and worked as a Deacon for the Congregational Church. The simple house is clad in cedar shingles and has two chimneys, a departure from earlier homes with one, large central chimney.