I am on a Colonial Revival style kick lately, so bear with me on this recent span of posts on houses in the style! This estate house is an earlier example in Providence, built in 1892 for Stephen Olney Metcalf (1857-1950) a multi-millionaire who was in business in woolen textiles and insurance before diversifying his portfolio further serving as President of the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin. To make an architectural statement, Mr. Metcalf called the renowned Boston firm of Andrews, Jacques and Rantoul to design his new residence. The oversized Colonial Revival house is an excellent example of how Revival architecture tend to be a more free interpretation of their prototypes, being larger and having exaggerated features and proportions. In his will, Stephen O. Metcalf bequeathed this residence to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), an institution his mother helped found, and his daughter served as President. The mansion remains the RISD President’s House to this day.
Colonial Revival Architecture
Henry Samuel Sprague House // 1902
Colonial Revival houses just exude New England charm! This house in Providence’s East Side/College Hill neighborhood was built at the turn of the 20th century in 1902 for Henry Samuel Sprague, a Providence grain dealer, for $15,000. Mr. Sprague clearly did well for himself financially as he could afford a house lot on one of the city’s most beloved streets, Prospect Street. The large mansion has many architectural details which stand out including contrasting brick and shingle on the first and second floors, a massive projecting portico covering a prominent entry, bold fluted pilasters at the center bay, and three pedimented dormers at the slate roof. Inside, this old house has some amazing woodwork and details too!
Sarah and John Tillinghast House // 1904
This stately yellow brick Colonial Revival sits on the edge of the College Hill neighborhood of Providence, and I couldn’t help but to take a few photos! This residence was completed in 1904 for Sarah and John Tillinghast in the later years of John’s life (he died less than two years of moving into this home). The house exhibits a large semi-circular portico with balustrade above, the portico is flanked and surmounted by Palladian windows with elliptical reveals. The house was recently proposed to serve as a suboxone clinic, but that was shut down by neighbors. It appears to be divided into residential units now.
Kennebunkport Post Office // 1941
During the Great Depression, the federal government built over 1,100 post offices throughout the country as part of the New Deal’s Federal Works Agency. Many of the post offices funded and built in this period were designed by architect Louis Simon, Head of the Office of the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury. Few architects had such a role in designing buildings nationwide than Federal architects who designed buildings ranging from smaller post offices like this to courthouses and federal offices. They really are the unsung designers who impacted the built environment in nearly every corner of the nation. As part of the Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts, artists were hired to complete local murals inside many post offices built in this period, depicting local scenes and histories of the towns they were painted in. In Kennebunkport, artist Elizabeth Tracy who submitted a preliminary sketch of her piece “Bathers” which was approved depicting a beach scene, though the townspeople had not been consulted. Unfortunately, the opinion of a vocal part of the Kennebunkport populace was highly negative to Tracy’s painting, largely due to the fact that her beach scene depicted people on a beach in adjacent Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport! Within a few years, the townspeople gathered funds to hire artist Gordon Grant to paint a satisfactory replacement mural in 1945. The new mural remains inside the post office.
Edward Aldrich House // 1902
Built next door and just a year after the Hidden Family House (last post), the Edmund Aldrich House in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood shows how stately a wood-frame Colonial Revival house can be! The property was purchased by U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator, Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich (1841-1915) who quickly sold the lot to his son Edward Aldrich, who worked as president of the Times Publishing Company and was very engaged in Republican politics along with members of his family. The Colonial Revival style dwelling was designed by Providence architecture firm, Stone, Carpenter & Willson, who were pretty prolific in this part of the region by this time. It exhibits a gambrel roof punctuated with segmental pedimented dormers along with a segmental pedimented portico over the entrance. Swoon! In his will, Edward left the property to Brown University, who apparently saw no need for the property and eventually sold it to private owners. The owners today maintain the house very well.
Walter and Kate Hidden House // 1901
I love a good high-style Colonial Revival home with big proportions and warm red brick! This example on College Hill in Providence is a great example. The 2 1/2-story dwelling is five bays at the facade with a center entrance under a hollow pediment hood with an enframement which reads much in the Palladian-realm. Owners Walter and Kate Hidden hired local architect Wallis Eastburn Howe to design their elaborate Colonial-inspired home in 1901, they moved in within a year. Mr. Hidden worked at his father’s business, and in 1875 became a member of the firm of H. A. Hidden & Sons. He did well for himself and became a member in many social and outdoors groups including the Audubon Society, the Squantum Association, the Hope Club, and for five years was president of the Agawam Hunt Club.
Dimock Center – Cheney Surgical Building // 1899
With funds for expansion at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Roxbury, the hospital’s board commissioned architect Willard T. Sears (also the architect of the earlier Cary Cottage and Zakrzewska Building) to design a new surgical building at the hospital’s growing campus. Construction began on the new Cheney Surgical building in 1899 on the birthday of its namesake, Edna Dow Cheney an original incorporator of the hospital and then President. The Cheney Surgical Building was designed in the Colonial Revival style in brick, with a four-story central block with three-story wings. The central entranceway is accentuated by a classical porte-cochere topped by a Palladian window, in keeping with the Georgian Revival tradition of symmetry and classical vocabulary. The building is one of the first you see when climbing the hill into the campus.
Dimock Center – Sewall Maternity Building // 1892
As the New England Hospital for Women and Children continued to grow in the decades following its founding in 1862, expanded facilities were needed to deal with increased patients along with new nurses and doctors to treat them. Land was acquired across from the Cary Cottage and Zakrzewska Building, and a second building campaign began to expand the facilities and grow the women’s hospital. The management of the hospital did not hire Cummings and Sears, but went with architect John A. Fox to furnish plans for a new maternity building. The Sewall Maternity Building was designed in the Colonial Revival style, a relatively modest example that features a unique broken pediment over the door housing a large window. In 1916, the building was expanded by an addition at the rear which enclosed a central courtyard, it was also designed by John Fox.
Margaret Fuller Primary School // 1891
The Margaret Fuller Primary School (now Community Academy) is a public school in Boston that shows how much attention to detail the school department and the city architect paid when designing these structures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Fuller School was constructed in 1892 to alleviate an overcrowded school district resulting from rapid urbanization. Jamaica Plain was one of Boston’s first streetcar suburbs largely spurred by the growth of the Boston and Providence Company Railroad between 1860 and 1890, when the area saw a shift from large bucolic estates to subdivided urban housing (largely triple-deckers and apartment buildings along major routes). With the surge in population, many new schools were built city-wide, including this primary school which was designed by Edmund March Wheelwright (1854–1912), a prominent Boston-based architect who served as City Architect for Boston from 1891 to 1895. Architecturally, the building is a stunning example of the Colonial Revival style with red and buff brick walls which are laid in a Flemish bond and rusticated at the first story with single recessed courses of buff brick. An arched entrance and Palladian window with iron false balcony sit at the central bay. The school was named after Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1810-1850) an early transcendentalist and writer advocating for women’s rights born in Cambridge.
Robb-Kagan House // 1939
Colonial-inspired homes on Nantucket never will go away, and that is because the entire island is a local historic district! New construction, demolitions, and alterations to existing structures all need to be reviewed and approved on Nantucket, no easy task! This home was built in the inter-war period (before the historic district), when New Englanders still harkened back to the classics, Colonial homes. The house was built in 1939 for Annie Robb, and it was later purchased by artist couple Vladimir Kagan and Erica Wilson. Vladimir had a really interesting life. A cabinetmaker’s son, Mr. Kagan came to the United States at 11 after fleeing Nazi Germany with his family. He trained at his father’s New York workshop and by the 1940s was producing his own designs. One of his first orders was a set of tables and chairs for a delegate lounge at the fledgling United Nations! Meanwhile, across the English Channel, a young woman named Erica Wilson came into the world in 1928 in the town of Tidworth, England. Her father was in the military and the family moved to Bermuda soon after Erica’s birth. A drawing prodigy, Wilson “translated her drawing techniques into needlework,” Illya said. Needlework became her artistic focus and she graduated from the Royal School of Needlework in London. The duo lived in this home as a summer respite, where they could hone their artistry and skills. Their son, Ilya Kagan (also an artist, of course) also stayed in the home and still resides on the island. Love it!