This house in the Hill District of Portsmouth, NH was built sometime between 1766 and 1770; however a sign posted on the house indicates an earlier date of 1725. Regardless, the house is one of the best-preserved Georgian homes in the city. The colonial-era home was apparently built for a Henry Sherburne, who was a member of some of New Hampshire’s leading families. By the 1900s, the property was the only in the city with a surviving scrolled pediment doorway from the period. Like other colonial homes in the old North End of Portsmouth, it was barely saved by the bulldozers and urban renewal when it was moved in 1972 to its present site.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire is one of the most charming towns in New England to explore by foot, largely due to its walkable network of streets and tight blocks filled with preserved Revolution-era homes. Like many other cities all over the region (and nation), Portsmouth was hit by Urban Renewal, a planning tool used nationwide to provide Federal funds to address “urban blight” and revitalize downtown cores after decades of suburbanization and loss of tax revenue. An urban renewal district for Portsmouth was its North End neighborhood, which similar to Boston’s, was home to a vibrant Italian-American population.
In 1964, federal funds were allocated to the North End project area in Portsmouth, for urban renewal. Prior to redevelopment, the North End was a mix of residential and commercial buildings, with many older houses converted into storefronts with apartments above. In the mid-1960s, the area was considered overcrowded, run down, and a fire hazard. As a result, the Portsmouth Housing Authority proposed the destruction of approximately 200 buildings, a school, and a church and redevelopment for commercial, industrial, and public use, rather than for residences. The project would displace approximately 300 families as a result. In 1968, Portsmouth Preservation Inc., a preservation organization was formed to attempt to save some of the historic building stock in the area slated for redevelopment. After bitter fighting and preservation advocacy, just fourteen houses were saved and mostly moved to an area known today as “The Hill”. This building is one of them. It was constructed around 1725 for Rev. Jabez Fitch, the new minister of the North Church in town. Fitch graduated from Harvard College in 1694 first settling in Ipswich, MA, before becoming minister of the North Church in 1724, a position he held until his death in 1746. The house was one of the few in the urban renewal area to not have been moved.
When Ridgefield, Connecticut was settled in 1708 by Europeans, there was only one Episcopal Church in the state, and the general assembly allowed dissenters their own churches so long as they continued to pay taxes to support the Congregational Church. Ridgefield’s first Episcopal church, St. Stephen’s was built in 1740 on land granted by the Proprietors who founded the town and laid out lots along the towns new Main Street. In 1776, St. Stephen’s minister, Epenetus Townsend, a Tory (loyal to the British), was ordered to leave town with his wife and five children when the Revolution picked up steam. He was appointed chaplain to a British regiment and in 1779, the battalion was ordered to Nova Scotia. En route by vessel, a severe storm arose and all passengers were lost. The church was taken over by the commissary department of the American Army. During the Battle of Ridgefield, British troops set it on fire as a statement to the townspeople. The church was replaced two more times until 1914 when the present building was constructed. The Colonial Revival church is absolutely stunning and built from plans by (unknown to me) architect Walter Kerr Rainsford. The rubblestone church is one of the most pleasing designs I have seen in Connecticut!
This old Georgian house was built in 1713 on the Proprietors Lot 5, on Ridgefield’s Main Street. Constructed for the first minister of Ridgefield, the home was originally occupied by 25-year-old Reverend Thomas Hawley (1689-1738) not long after his graduation from Harvard in 1709. In addition to being minister of the newly formed Congregational Church, Hawley (also spelled Hauley) also served as school teacher and town clerk. The house employs Dutch Colonial detailing from the gambrel roof to the extended portico over the front door, common in the Dutch colonies in the Hudson River Valley in New York.
Around the year 1713, Benjamin Hoyt built a home for himself and his family on Lot 2 of the laid out building lots along Main Street of Ridgefield CT. The building was originally a one room dwelling with a stone fireplace and no basement and was located next to the David Hoyt mansion (aka The Fountain Inn). After several years, he expanded the property by building around and above the structure, to give it the gambrel roof and size we see today. More than 50 years later, in 1769, the property was purchased by Hoyt’s son-in-law, Timothy Keeler. Timothy Keeler and his wife converted the building into an inn in 1772, just prior to the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Keeler sided with the American revolutionaries and was active in the local militia. After the Battle of Ridgefield, British forces fired on the Keeler Tavern, because Keeler was an enemy. One of the cannons used to pummel the tavern is still lodged in a corner post of the house to this day. After later owners in the Keeler Family, the property was purchased by world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert, who turned it into his family’s summer home in 1907. In doing so, he made various improvements and additions to the building, in particular he designed a Garden House and added a sunken around the year 1910. Gilbert would also design a fountain as a gift to the town, which sits almost opposite his family’s summer residence. The property was purchased in the 1960s and has since been a historical museum.
Located on Main Street in idyllic Ridgefield, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, The Fountain Inn provides one of the most welcoming and historical bed and breakfast experiences in New England! The Fountain Inn was built in 1740 as a “city home in the country” for David Hoyt, who showed off his wealth and stature in the young town by having such a high-style home built at the time. Decades later during the Revolutionary War, David Hoyt’s house became a part of the Battle of Ridgefield. After defeating the Colonial militia elsewhere on Main Street, British Gen. William Tryon‘s troops turned their attention to nearby Keeler Tavern, the local militia’s headquarters, which just happened to be neighbors with the mansion owned by David Hoyt, a known Loyalist. General Tryon’s troops practiced their artillery-firing skills on the building pummeling it with cannonballs, sending a message to the head of the local militia. David Hoyt formally demanded a cease-fire, as he was concerned about wayward cannonballs damaging his home. By 1790, with Ridgefield’s British influence diminishing by the day, David Hoyt finally left his Connecticut home and sailed back to England. The home was expanded and modernized over the next two hundred years until the present owners purchased the property and underwent a massive restoration of the Colonial house inside and out as their family residence. In the past year, the inn opened as the Fountain Inn so-named after a Cass Gilbert-designed fountain across the street.
When visiting Downtown Providence, I couldn’t help myself but to cross the river into College Hill, a neighborhood of such architectural diversity I could run this entire page just featuring that area. This beautiful Federal style home was built onto the downward slope of the hill in 1798 for William Holroyd, a merchant and active Baptist in town. The home sits atop a raised basement with brick end walls and clapboard siding on the front and rear. The property exhibits a symmetrical facade, splayed lintels above the windows, and a perfect center entry with fluted pilasters and pediment containing a fanlight. The building today appears to be a part of the Brown-RISD Hillel.
I love a good Colonial Revival commercial building, and this example in Downtown Providence is a great example! This structure was built in 1924 for the Providence Gas Company as their new headquarters. The architectural firm of Clarke & Howe were clearly inspired by the Joseph Brown House with the eccentric curved ogee gable that caps the façade with stone trimmings. The building remains in a great state of preservation and showcases the academic influence of Colonial styles in New England, and how centuries later, architects would employ earlier design detailing to meet present needs.
Waban is full of eclectic homes from the end of the 19th century, and this example is probably my favorite! The Herbert and Georgia Stetson House was built in 1897 and demonstrates how elements of the Colonial Revival style were incorporated into a less rigid Queen Anne style plan. Herbert was a lumber dealer, and likely used his own product in his home. The mixture of ornament includes Colonial
Revival style pedimented dormers, a Palladian motif window, oval windows, and a modillion cornice in combination with bays, oriels, a dramatically overshot gable roof, and a swept dormer reminiscent of the Queen Anne style. Together, the composition is perfection, and really makes you stop and analyze all the details!
While Newport is arguably best-known for the Newport mansions from the Gilded Age, there are soooo many amazing buildings from the Colonial era, including some of the most significant and historic in the United States. Touro Synagogue in Newport is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era, and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America (for reference, second-oldest extant synagogue in North America was built in 1833, seventy years later)! Its history begins in the 17th century when the small but growing colony of Newport received its first Jewish residents possibly as early as 1658. The earliest known Jewish settlers arrived from Barbados, where they participated in the triangular trade along with Dutch and English settlements. By 1758, the Jewish population had grown sufficiently that there was a need for a house of worship. The Congregation now known as Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Salvation of Israel) engaged Newport resident Peter Harrison to design the synagogue. Harrison, a British American merchant and sea captain, who was self-tutored in architecture, studying mostly from books and drawings. By the time he designed Touro Synagogue, he had already completed iconic buildings including Newport’s Redwood Library and King’s Chapel in Boston. Construction began on the “Jews Synagogue” in 1759, which was completed years later in 1763. The building is one of the most significant buildings in America, and is open to tours where you can see the immaculately restored interiors.