Hull Public Library // 1879

“We must not be Irish or African, or black or white. Not in America. We are gathering here … not to build up any petty community but to make the greatest nation and the strongest brotherhood that God ever smiled upon.”-John Boyle O’Reilly. This home (now the Hull Public Library) replaced the old Hunt House, which was the first parsonage of Hull, which was built around 1750. John Boyle O’Reilly, an Irish-American poet, journalist, author and activist bought the Hunt House in the 1870s and soon after demolished it as he felt it could not be salvaged. There are books about O’Reilly’s life story, so I recommend checking out his Wikipedia page. He constructed this house as a summer home by 1879, an excellent example of an early Shingle-style home. I cannot locate the architect, but am dying to learn! In the summer of 1890, O’Reilly took an early boat to his residence in Hull, Massachusetts from Boston. He had been suffering from bouts of insomnia during this time. That evening he took a long walk with his brother-in-law hoping that physical fatigue would induce the needed sleep.Later on that night he took some of his wife’s sleeping medicine and he apparently suffered an overdose of the medicine at this home, passing away at 46. Thousands of Bostonians mourned O’Reilly, and memorials were erected in the city, including the iconic 1896 John Boyle O’Reilly Memorial by Daniel Chester French.

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.

New York Appellate Courthouse // 1899

Distinguished for its classic beauty, this small marble courthouse expresses the best of Classical tradition, in its columned portico and fine sculptures adorning it. Located at the edge of Madison Square Park, the building was constructed between 1896 and 1899 to serve as a courthouse for the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. The marble Classically inspired Beaux-Arts courthouse, was designed by James Brown Lord and is considered to be an excellent example of the City Beautiful movement, which sought to introduce monuments and beautification to American cities. Of the nearly $650,000 spent on the building, 25 percent was spent on sculpture, a huge sum at the time. Sixteen sculptors – sponsored by the National Sculpture Society and among of the most esteemed of the day – worked on the thirty 12-foot marble statues on the facade, the most ever to work on a single building in the United States. Sculptures by Daniel Chester French, Charles Henry Niehaus, Karl Bitter, and more adorn the balustrade and entrance steps. Additionally, four caryatids sculpted by Thomas Shields Clarke on the Madison Avenue front, showcase a rare feature not typically seen in American architecture, representing the four seasons.

In 1953 a $1.2 million restoration of the facade was undertaken by the Department of Public Works during which the huge marble statues were removed and cleaned. It was at this time that the general public first realized one of the lawgivers was Mohammed. Representatives from Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia petitioned the State Department to destroy the statue rather than restore it, citing Islamic canon that forbids the depiction of human beings in painting or sculpture. When the statues were replaced in 1955, each was moved over one spot to fill in the void where Mohammed had stood. Today one empty pedestal remains.