Simeon Wetherbee Farmhouse // c.1800

This late-Georgian farmhouse in Boxborough, Mass showcases how architectural integrity and historical context matter in historic preservation. Architectural integrity means the degree to which a building’s original design and physical composition is evident and intact. Historic contexts are the patterns, themes, or trends in history by which a specific property or site is understood and its meaning (or significance) within history is made clear. In this example, the old farmhouse retains much of its architectural integrity as it physically appears much as it would have upon its time of construction. However, the former farmland was sold off and developed as a residential subdivision, which completely obscures the historical context of the building in relation to its original use. The Simeon Wetherbee Farm remained in the Wetherbee family until the 1965, when the land was likely soon after subdivided and sold off for housing lots. A majority of the homes built surrounding this old farmhouse are classified as “Neo-Traditional” a modern take on Colonial architecture, but with cheaper materials and odd proportions. They are not a favorite among architects and historians.

Elijah Locke House // 1739

John Locke (1627-1696) settled in New Hampshire about 1640, arriving from London. He was a farmer and carpenter, and reportedly built the first church in New Hampshire. He was also a Captain in the local militia, who was constantly at odds with the people who’s land they were usurping. While working the fields at his homestead in Rye, he was killed by a native person, likely as a retaliatory attach. The attacker was soon after shot by his son, who was helping his father at the time. This Georgian home was built by John’s grandson Elijah in 1739 on family land; the date is found incised on one of the original roof beams inside.

Jones Tavern // 1732

Settlement of South Acton (by colonialists) was begun in 1701 when the Jones and Knight families purchased 600 acres of a private land grant. Over the next 26 years, members of the two families established and operated mills near the Fort Pond Brook, which provided running water for operations. Samuel Jones built a home here in 1732, which as originally built, was a simple, four room central entry Georgian home with gable roof, typical of many eastern Massachusetts homes at the time. In 1750, Jones opened a tavern and general store in his house, enlarging it with a two story addition now visible on the left side. Samuel’s son Aaron Jones, a Harvard graduate and soldier who fought at the Battle of Concord nearby, took over the tavern from his father. In 1818, Aaron more than doubled the size of his establishment when he built a large, 5-bay extension and rear kitchen ell directly behind the existing structure. In addition to enlarging his property, Aaron also had it “modernized”, inserting sash windows (replacing the casement windows) throughout and adding fashionable Federal style door and window surrounds. The additions gave the building two major entries, as well as secondary access to the communal taproom. The property was then willed to his son Elnathan Jones, who operated the establishment until 1845 as both a tavern and hotel. The building remained in the Jones family until it was sold in 1946, and divided inside into multi-family use. The house was sold for salvage in 1964 after years of neglect, but was saved by Iron Work Farm, Inc., a non-profit who maintain the property to this day.

Tirrell-Cobb House // c.1750

One of the most stunning Georgian cape homes I have seen is this charming house in Hull, Massachusetts. Built in the mid-18th century, this house was acquired by Gideon Tirrell after the Revolutionary War. Gideon married Mary Loring, a descendant of John Loring, who built the home in my last post. The family appears to have occupied the home until the Cobb family acquired the house in about 1860, when Capt. Joseph Cobb and his wife, Eliza Turner settled here. He was the third “Keeper of the Lifeboat” from 1858-1876. In his role, he rowed out to sinking ships in the Boston Harbor and attempted to save any sailors still alive, often saving dozens of lives. The home was restored in the 1980s and remains one of the best-preserved in the town!

Loring House // c.1658

Likely the oldest home in the town of Hull, the Loring House has ties to the significant Loring Family, who’s descendants include individuals on both sides of the American Revolution, the US Civil War, and today live across North America, Spain, England and Australia. This house was built on land purchased by Thomas Loring (1600-1661) who came to Hingham in 1634 from England. He built a larger estate in town until a fire destroyed all his belongings, and he chose not to rebuild, but acquired property in the adjoining plantation of Hull. In Hull, he served as constable (court officer and tax collector), and raised his family there. His eldest son, John, married in 1657 and likely had this home built on his father’s vast land holdings within the year. John worked as a house-wright and likely built the home himself. He had two wives (his first wife Mary died at 39), and 15 children at the home, though some likely did not live past infancy as was common in early colonial days. John died in 1714, but left a lasting legacy in New England and beyond. Notably, his grandson was Joshua Loring, a British Loyalist who built the famous Loring-Greenough House in Boston. The old Loring House in Hull is very-well maintained inside and out and serves as a time-capsule of days past.

Robert Haskell House // 1713

In 1712, Robert Haskell married Mary Leach in Manchester, where their first son, William, was born in 1713. Soon after, Haskell bought from his grandfather the 50-acre parcel his family owned since 1688 and built a home for his new family. The couple had numerous other children over the next years at this property overlooking the ocean. Upon his death in 1776, Robert left two-fifths of his real estate, including his “dwelling house and barn,” not to his first-born William, but to his second son, Paul. He also left one room in the house to his daughter Ruth, who apparently lived there into adulthood. The home remained in the family until the 19th century when the home was willed off in halves as the eastern and western portions. Late in the 19th century, the land was sold and subdivided to allow building lots all around, the Haskell House now sits on less than one acre of its former 300 acre parcel. The home is a great example of a modified Georgian house, which was added onto over time.

Captain Hugh Hill House // 1780

Hugh Hill was born in 1740 in Ireland. At the age of fifteen, he left home to join the English navy as a cabin boy. Without any formal schooling, Hill managed to acquire a rudimentary school education through the help of sailors. Upon leaving the naval service, Hill went to Marblehead, Massachusetts, where he married Hannah Goudy in 1766 at the age of 25. Not long afterward he moved to Beverly to the north where he found work as a mariner. In 1775, he was named captain of the privateering vessel Pilgrim by the Cabot brothers of Beverly (I featured their homes earlier in this series) and was sent to disrupt British activity in the Atlantic by capturing ships and taking cargo. In that same year he captured the British ship Industry, which he delivered to George Washington as a gift of war. Many of his successful captures were made off the coast of Great Britain and Ireland, and he earned a notoriously infamous reputation among British captains stationed near there as a “scourge of the British coast. He brought back ships full of British military goods which helped turn the tide during the Revolutionary War. Interestingly, in 1781, he captured the ship Mars in the Irish Channel which had on board the extensive and famous Philosophical Library of Dr. Richard Kirwan of Dublin, Ireland. Upon bringing the plunder to Beverly, the library was auctioned off and later became a basis for the foundation of the Salem Athenaeum!After the War, Captain Hill settled down and had this large home built, near the ocean he loved so much.

Whipple House // c.1680

Hamilton, Massachusetts was first settled in 1638 and was originally a section of Ipswich known as “The Hamlet”. The first recorded land grant in the Hamlet was Matthew Whipple’s farm, dated 1638. On this land, the old stagecoach road (now Bay Road) connecting Newburyport to Boston was laid out through his and his brother’s land in 1641. A descendant of William (also named William) built this home along the stagecoach road in around 1680, likely operating it as a tavern for weary travelers. In 1712, Matthew Whipple IV and his brothers John and James petitioned the Town of Ipswich for the right to establish a church in the Hamlet, and succeeded. By 1800, the home was occupied by the Brown Family, with Capt. Daniel Brown occupying the home as a postmaster and tavern-keeper. Over the years, the home was “modernized” giving it Georgian double-hung windows, replacing the historic diamond pane casement windows. The home was eventually restored to its 17th century appearance and sold for an estimated $2 Million.

Hamilton Community House // 1921

Located in southeastern Essex County, Hamilton was a small agricultural town throughout most of its history. There were few permanent residents in the town until the 18th century. The town grew, but still maintained its rural character much so to this day. The town became home to some established families, who used their money to better the town, one such couple was George Snell Mandell and his wife Emily. George Mandell enjoyed financial success running the Boston Transcript, the city’s principal afternoon daily newspaper, published from 1830 until 1941. George Mandell, grandson of founding partner William Henry Dutton, was the controlling force behind the newspaper from about 1889 until his death in 1934. He built a fine estate in Hamilton, where he bred and raised horses, and was an active member of the nearby Myopia Hunt Club, one of Essex County’s oldest and most distinguished country clubs. The Mandells, whose son Samuel was a WWI pilot killed in action, not only wanted to provide local residents with a community center, but they had the additional goal of creating a memorial for their son and seven other local soldiers who lost their lives in the recent war. With assistance from Community Service, Inc., a private national organization that was
established in 1919 to assist communities in establishing and financing recreational facilities, the Community House was funded and the Mandell’s hired famed Colonial Revival-specialist architect Guy Lowell to design the building for the town. Lowell studied at Harvard, MIT, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He enjoyed an illustrious career in architecture and taught landscape architecture at MIT. He opened an office in Boston in 1899, and by 1906 was also operating a branch office in New York. Friends of the Mandells secretly commissioned artist Anna Coleman Watts Ladd (an amazing woman, I encourage everyone to read about her prosthetic work and art) to create a bronze sculpture of son Samuel Mandell as a gift to his parents.

Hubbard-Brown House // c.1670

One of the oldest extant homes in Essex County Massachusetts is this stunning First Period home in Hamilton. Reverend William Hubbard (1621-1704), arrived to New England in 1635 at the age of 13, soon after graduating among the first class from Harvard College in 1642. As an adult, he was one of the earliest ministers in the town of Ipswich, was given a grant of land which included some 1,500 acres in what is now the town of Hamilton (later incorporated in 1793). Like nearly all early settlers, Hubbard built a small house and used much of the surround land for farming. Before his death, Rev. Hubbard willed the estate to his eldest son John, who soon after sold much of the property to John Brown. The Brown family grew into the home for two centuries, constructing additions, as housing needs changed over time. The home sold out of the Brown Family in 1920 when it was purchased by a George Fitz, who began restoration of the 250+ year old home.