Urncrest // c.1875

Located on “Millionaires Row” in Hopedale, MA, a street of homes formerly owned by factory owners and managers, sits “Urncrest” a stunning Queen Anne mansion. The home was built around 1875 for William Lapworth (1844-1937) an English-born weaving expert, who worked at Hopedale Elastics Co. and patented certain weaving processes for suspenders, boot webbing, and garters. Hopedale Elastics was absorbed by the Draper Corporation in 1890, and Lapworth was given a large pay increase. With his new salary, he “modernized” his home to what we see today, adding a corner tower, wrap-around porch, and many Colonial Revival details. Additionally, he had the detached 1870s carriage house updated with a full basement, heating, four horse stalls, and a coachman’s apartment with a bedroom and bathroom. The owners today maintain the home and carriage house beautifully! I can’t even imagine how gorgeous the interior is!

Schenectady City Hall // 1931

Buildings of New England travels! Welcome to Schenectady, a great city in upstate New York, with an hard to spell and pronounce name! The name “Schenectady” is derived from the Mohawk word skahnéhtati, meaning “beyond the pines”. Schenectady was founded on the south side of the Mohawk River by Dutch colonists in the 17th century, many of whom were from the Albany area. In 1664 the English seized the Dutch New Netherland colony and renamed it New York. They established a monopoly on the fur trade around Albany, and issued orders to prohibit Schenectady from the trade through 1670 and later. The town grew mostly as an inland agricultural town until the Erie Canal was built in 1825, creating a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, cutting through Schenectady. The town grew and became an industrial center, attracting a very diverse population of immigrants in the 19th century and African Americans as part of the Great Migration out of the rural South to northern cities for work. The community struggled (like many) in the mid 19th century but has seen a large resurgence as of late!

This building is the Schenectady City Hall, a massive architectural landmark which made my jaw drop when I saw it! The City of Schenectedy outgrew their old City Hall, and in the late 1920s, held a nationwide contest to select designs for a new City Hall. The contest was won by the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White. It appears that the designs were furnished by James Kellum Smith of the firm, the often overlooked genius of the MMW practice. The exorbitant cost of the project, which was undertaken during the Great Depression, caused the building to be dubbed “Fagal’s Folly” after Mayor Henry C. Fagal, who allowed all the cost increases while the city’s future was uncertain. He was not re-elected after this building was completed. The building is a pleasing mixture of Colonial and Classical Revival styles and features bold pilasters and a towering cupola

Tewksbury Congregational Church // 1922

Located across the Town Green from the Tewksbury Town Hall (1920), this Colonial Revival style church with Classical elements, perfectly compliments the design motif seen here. The Tewksbury Congregational Church was established in 1734 by some 34 resident families who, after leaving the church in Billerica, established the new town of Tewksbury. Their first church was erected in 1736, and was replaced in 1824. The second church edifice (and much of the town center) suffered a catastrophic fire in 1918, destroying both structures, and resulting in a rebuilding campaign. Architect Curtis W. Bixby of Watertown, furnished designs for the church, which stands boldly beyond a large front lawn.

Tewksbury Town Hall // 1920

The town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts was colonized in 1637 and was officially incorporated in 1734 from the town of Billerica. The town was historically home to at least two raids by native peoples during the infamous King Phillip’s War, which killed dozens of men, women and children settlers. The town is named after Tewkesbury, England, likely inspired by some of the original settlers. The town grew as a rural village until it became a suburb of adjacent Lowell and Andover, Massachusetts. The town’s older Town Hall building burned in 1918, and funding was quickly acquired to erect a new, suitable building for the town. The Boston-based architectural firm of Kilham & Hopkins was hired and they designed this gorgeous Colonial Revival building. The symmetrical building features a main two-story block with a rear and side wings. The facade features three entrances with recessed fanlights above. A slate roof is capped by a towering cupola, which adds an additional flair to the building. The structure was so well-designed, it was featured in the Architectural Record in 1919, a national publication.

Oak Hill Middle School // 1936

In the 1930s, America was in the throes of the Great Depression, and towns and cities struggled to provide services for the ever-growing populations, all the while suffering from lower tax revenues. The New Deal was enacted as a result, which provided a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939. One of these programs was the Public Works Administration (PWA), which funded and built large-scale public works projects such as dams, bridges, hospitals, and schools, to provide jobs and bolster local economies. In Newton, the developing Oak Hill Village required a new public school, and the town received funding for the Oak Hill Middle School in 1935. Architects Densmore, LeClear, and Robbins were hired to provide designs for a new school, and builders completed the building the next year. The Georgian Revival building is constructed with red brick with cast stone trim. The 16-over-16 windows and cupola also work to showcase the beauty of the design.

Do you know of any PWA projects near you?

Bretton Arms Inn // 1896

The historic Omni Bretton Arms Inn, adjacent to the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, was built as a private home in 1896. The home was designed by, and occupied by architect Charles Alling Gifford, while he oversaw the design and construction of the iconic Gilded Age hotel. After the hotel nearby was opened, the interior was converted to hotel rooms, and opened to guests in 1907. The Colonial Revival building features a central mass with two wings. The building was occupied in 1944 as the headquarters for the Conference Secretariat during the 44-nation Bretton Woods Monetary Conference. The Inn was granted National Historic Landmark designation in 1986 and has recently undergone a $1.4 million renovation focused on bringing the outdoors in. Part of the Omni Mount Washington Resort, this property offers more seclusion and less crowds compared to its larger neighbor. Just down the road from the Bretton Arms is the equally stunning Bretton Woods Stable, likely built at the same time.

Beverly Farms Library // 1916

The Beverly Farms Library was built in 1916, replacing its previous quarters in a GAR Hall in the village. The land on which the library stands was donated by Katharine Peabody Loring and her sister Louisa Putnam Loring, daughters of William Caleb Loring (1819-1897) and his wife Elizabeth. The wealthy, socially prominent, and philanthropic Loring family built some of the earliest summer estates nearby. The architect for the Beverly Farms Library was the Loring sisters’ first cousin, Charles Greely Loring (1881-1966), partner in the firm of Loring and Leland. He was born in Beverly and graduated form Harvard in 1903 and MIT in 1906, later working in the Boston office of prominent Boston architect Guy Lowell. He went on to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and was afterwards employed in the New York City office of architect Cass Gilbert. While he was employed by Cass Gilbert, he was tasked with overseeing the designs and construction of Beverly’s Main Library (1913). The library is an excellent example of the Colonial Revival style for civic use and it was expanded one hundred years later, with an appropriate Modern addition.

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.

Hamilton Town Hall // 1897

Hamilton, Massachusetts began as farms in the southern part of Ipswich, MA. The first recorded land grant in this area was given to Matthew Whipple to farm, dated 1638. In 1640 the new stagecoach road (Bay Road) from Boston to Newburyport was laid out through Whipple’s land. In this area, which was then called “The Hamlet” (a village without a church), houses were built for early settlers, who were attracted by countryside similar to the English farms and estates they had left behind in England. Centuries later, with a new name (after Alexander Hamilton) and with the arrival of Boston and Maine Railroad in 1839, the town grew much more and the population increased, with the town retaining its rural character. The town sought to build a town hall, separate from its location in the church, to distinguish itself as separate from ecclesiastical affairs. The town hired Ernest Miguel Antonio Machado of Salem, the son of a Cuban immigrant to design the building: he was paid $885 for his plans, a fraction of the total $12,000 it cost for the building’s construction.

Chesterwood // 1901

Chesterwood is the former summer home, studio and gardens of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850–1931), who is best known for creating two of our nation’s most powerful symbols: the Minute Man (1871–75) at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, John Harvard in Harvard Yard, and Abraham Lincoln (1911–22) for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Daniel Chester French was one of the most successful artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, producing more than 100 works of public sculpture. In the fall of 1895, he and his wife drove by horse and buggy and discovered the resort town of Stockbridge. They returned the next summer and purchased the Marshall Warner farm from the family who had purchased the land from Mohican Native Americans. The French family and two maids moved into the white clapboard farmhouse the next summer. To ensure that his summer would be productive as well as restful, he improvised a studio in the barn. He asked his friend and colleague, architect Henry Bacon, to design a studio for him (Bacon would later work with French on the Lincoln Memorial). Soon, in spite of renovation, the original farmhouse was deemed inadequate and French commissioned Bacon to design a residence, completed in 1901. The family owned the home for decades, even after Daniel Chester French’s death. Much of the credit for Chesterwood’s preservation and metamorphosis from summer retreat to public site belongs to Margaret French Cresson (1889–1973), the sculptor’s daughter. After her parents’ death, she maintained the property and began to use it year-round, assembled the work of her father, and established the estate as a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.