Main Street USA! I just love historic Main Streets and Downtowns in New England, so many are full of old buildings and were designed for pedestrians, not cars (though some towns and villages have definitely caved to the automobile). Erected in 1871, the Adams-Pickering Block building was one of several grand, mansard roofed commercial structures which local architect George W. Orff designed for Bangor’s business district in the 1870’s. With its first-story cast iron front and its granite facade, from stone quarried nearby in Hallowell, Maine, the Adams-Pickering Block and its similar contemporaries were the most sophisticated Victorian commercial buildings in Eastern Maine. The Bangor Fire of 1911 and subsequent urban change, especially urban renewal in 1968, destroyed most of the city’s nineteenth century business district. The Adams-Pickering Block is a rare survivor and shows us how old buildings at a human scale can create vibrant, people-centric places.
Located on the edge of the Chester Town Green, you can find this beautiful Federal style commercial building. The use of blind arches at the facade is a fairly common feature found in brick Federal style buildings in Vermont. The structure was built around 1830 and has served a variety of uses through its existence, the most notable being the tin shop owned by various members of the Miller and Hadley families that sold stoves and hardware during the latter half of the 19th century. The tin business in New England grew rapidly after 1820. Tin shop owners imported tinplated sheet iron from Great Britain, shaped it into a variety of forms, and distributed their finished goods through peddlers and country stores. They also sold tinware in their shops. Colanders, dippers, dish kettles, funnels, measures, and pans were in greatest demand. Other common items included lanterns, foot stoves, teapots, coffeepots, “tin kitchens”, skimmers, and sconces. After its use as a tin shop, the building was occupied as a telephone exchange and electric utility company office. It presently is home to an antique store.
Did you know that Boston once had it’s own Hogwarts? While we didn’t have wizards and witches in the streets, we did have young magicians learning the tricks of the trade! The Boston School of Magic was founded in the 1880s by William Davis LeRoy (1862-1919), a professional magician who also served as President of the Conjuror’s Club of Boston. Upon opening its doors, the Boston School of Magic was one of a handful of such schools in the country. For $75, you could learn how to escape from a pair of handcuffs from a professional instructor at W.D. Leroy’s “School of Magic”, and even buy some magic items for shows from his large catalogue. Mr. LeRoy was also friends with the famous Harry Houdini, who purchased items from his store and consulted with him on new acts. Houdini was extremely popular in Boston and held many acts and feats of strength here. The Boston School of Magic was located in the second floor of the Blanchard Building at 103 Court Street, a brick commercial building with stone facade constructed in the middle of the 19th century. The building was demolished in the 1920s and replaced with a two-story structure, which too was razed for Government Center.
Located on Arlington Street between St. James and Stuart streets in Boston’s Back Bay, this gorgeous masonry commercial block stands as a testament to the amazing architecture built in Boston in the early 20th century. The Paine Furniture Building was constructed in 1914 to house the extensive showroom, offices, and manufacturing operations of the Paine Furniture Company. Founded in 1835, the company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company, a name which stuck until the company closed in 2000. The architects for the building, Densmore & LeClear, were very busy in the early decades of the 20th century and designed many iconic buildings nearby and in towns surrounding Boston through the 1940s.
Significant as the last extant commercial building in the quaint Brookfield Village, this 1867 structure gives us a glimpse into village life in the latter half of the 19th century. The structure was constructed by Henry Smith Peck (1834-1884), who also constructed a home for his new family next door. Within a year of the store opening, Peck was joined by a partner and they opened Peck & Somers, a general store for the village, which sold local wares as well as imported goods. As is the history of many towns, in the 1960s, 100 years after the store was built, a developer purchased the building in order to demolish it for a “modern store”. The townspeople spoke out against the proposal, saving this charming building! The building is now occupied by a local real estate company.
Located across from the Federal style Unitarian Church and Romanesque style Masonic Temple and rounding out the nicest intersection of Burlington Vermont, I present, the Richardson Building. The Richardson Building was constructed in 1895 by developer Albert Richmond, and can be classified as Chateauesque with its rounded bays surmounted by conical roofs and finials, showing the complexity of a French Chateau. The building was likely constructed for a commercial interest as an income property with retail at the ground floor and professional offices above. In 1911, the famous building was purchased by Frank D. Abernethy, who purchased his partner’s share of their business and created the Abernethy’s Department Store, soon the largest department store in town. Despite being a prominent, long-term fixture on Church Street, Abernethy’s went out of business in November 1982. The building was later renovated and new tenants moved in.
This narrow, four-story commercial block is located near the Burlington City Hall, and fronts the park it sits on. Constructed in 1891 from local redstone in a unique Romanesque Revival style, the building stands out as one of the most unique in the commercial downtown area. The building was built for the Burlington Trust Company from plans by Clellan W. Fisher, an architect who soon after joined a firm with Stephen C. Earle in Worcester, MA. The design features an unusual checkerboard pattern of inlaid red and white ashlar paired with a stone cornice which similates dentils and brackets. The building is now home to a Burton snowboard retail store, a company started in Vermont in 1977, now the leading snowboard company in the country.
Following the granting of the royal charter in 1761, Newport, NH was incorporated and named after Henry Newport, a distinguished English soldier and statesman. With excellent soil for farming, and abundant water power from the Sugar River to run mills, Newport grew prosperous. The main street developed, leading to a proliferation of hotels and taverns that were soon situated along the length of Main Street to service the many travelers who stopped along the route, many such structures were wood frame construction. A fire devastated much of Main Street in Newport in 1885, leading to a massive rebuilding campaign by the town’s richest citizens. One of the earliest buildings constructed after the fire was the Lewis Block, developed by Frederick Lewis, who lived a block away, and his son Samuel DeWolf Lewis, who designed the block. The two-story building is broken up by brick pilasters with recessed corbelled detailing which give rise to buttresses capped by gablets (yes its a word), punctuating the flat roof profile.
William C. Strong, a prominent local citizen who resided nearby, had this stylish commercial block built to serve the expanding population of the village which eventually became known as Waban. After the completion of the Waban Train Station, the demand for neighborhood retail became apparent and William Strong was an early developer to realize this. He hired Lewis Bacon, an architect who resided nearby, to design the commercial block. The result is a stunning Dutch Revival building with gables showcasing stepped parapets. The upper stories were apparently used as apartments when completed. Notwithstanding Strong’s efforts, the Waban commercial district developed rather slowly. It was not until 1924 that the row of one-story shops was added to its right. The addition was designed by Edward B. Stratton, who followed suit with Tudor and Jacobean motifs, to compliment the Dutch Revival block.
Adjacent to a near replica, this 1818 Federal style commercial building and its neighbor anchor the west side of tiny Chelsea Vermont’s Town Common. The store’s gable-front, three bay, two-story form, with its twin end chimneys connected by gable parapets, is trimmed with granite splayed lintels and frieze, a glazed fanlight with radiating muntins in the front gable peak and an arched, recessed, entryway filled with an arched granite piece above the door (likely infilled from an original glazed transom). This well-preserved structure has continuously housed a commercial operation since its construction by Amplius Blake in 1818. In 1874, it was bought by Amos Hood and run with his son William, as a drug store. William’s brother Charles, is believed to have been responsible for developing sarsaparilla, a popular product at the Chelsea store, in a drug store in Lowell, Massachusetts, later developing it in mass in a factory. The building is now home to Will’s Store, a local market.