Barnstable Customs House – Coast Guard Heritage Museum // 1855

The former United States Customs House (now the Coast Guard Heritage Museum) in Barnstable is located at the eastern end of the village, and across the street from the Unitarian Church (featured previously). The building was constructed in 1855, likely under the supervision of Ammi B. Young, who was acting as the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department. The Seventh Customs District was established by Congress in 1789, and encompassed Barnstable County except Falmouth, and it ranked fourth in revenue among the state’s customs districts. By 1850, 91,102 tons of materials had been reported through the district, so the need for a new customs house was clear. The Customs House is said to have been the first ‘fireproof’ building constructed on Cape Cod, in contrast to the traditional wood-frame and shingled dwellings found there. This district merged with Boston in 1913, and the building became a local Post Office until 1958. It was converted to a museum and named after Donald G. Trayser. It was renamed the Coast Guard Heritage Museum in 2005.

Providence Custom House // 1855

The Providence Custom House was designed by the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department Ammi B. Young in an academic Italianate style. Built between 1855-1857, the structure was constructed of the iconic granite from quarries in Quincy, Massachusetts. It is a three-story building, topped by a hip roof and metal dome (hard to photograph), with strong quoined corners and cornices between the levels. After completion it housed the city’s main post office, Federal District Court, District Attorney, Internal Revenue Service, Collector of Customs, and Steamboat Inspector. The space was outgrown, and a modern Federal building was constructed a few streets away, though they retained offices in this building. According to Wikipedia, after the Federal Government vacated the structure in 1989, it was considered by a variety of businesses for occupation, including a restaurant, a facility for homeless persons, and offices. The building was bought by the State of Rhode Island and converted to office space for the State Courts System. After extensive renovation at a cost of $550,000, the building was opened by the state in 1992 as the John E. Fogarty Judicial Complex.

Louis T. Graves Memorial Library // 1813

What is known today as the public library of Kennebunkport, the Louis T. Graves Memorial Library was not always used for books and learning. Built in 1813 as a branch office of the Kennebunk National Bank, the brick structure was valuable as a local bank for the growing port neighborhood. By 1831, the Kennebunk Bank’s charter was revoked and they sold their branch location to the U.S. Government as a Customs House (the second floor was already partially occupied as a Customs House). By the end of the 19th century, the second floor was leased out to the Kennebunkport Public Library. The Customs District was eliminated in 1913, and by 1920, the building was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Abbott Graves, who purchased the property at auction for $1,350., the couple lived just a couple blocks away in a rare Prairie style home. In 1921, the Graves family deeded the property to the Library Association on the condition that the Library be named in memory of their deceased son Louis T. Graves who valued books all his life.