Further up Broadway from Everett City Hall, you’ll find the town’s Masonic Hall, a now-vacant institutional building which contributes to the diverse streetscape and character of Everett’s built environment. The local Palestine Lodge of the Masons in Everett originally met in its original lodge, built in 1870. A corporation known as the Everett Associates, which included only Masons, subsequently constructed the original Masonic Building. The property burned in a fire in 1908, leading to a new building campaign by members. A site was acquired further up Broadway, and the groundbreaking was held on June 11, 1910, led by Everett Mayor Charles Bruce, a past master of the Palestine Lodge. Mayor Bruce also served as the chair of the Building Committee. In his remarks at the groundbreaking, Bruce noted the membership of the lodge as over 500 men! Inside the cornerstone, members placed: original papers from the former Masonic Building, a history of the Palestine Lodge, a list of lodge members, photographs, news articles, and other ephemera. The Boston architectural firm Loring and Phipps was responsible for the design of the building, which is constructed of water-struck brick and is of the Classical Revival style. After WWII, membership declined sharply, and the organization sold the building in the 1980s. From the mid-1990s to 2019 the building was owned by the Islamic Association of Massachusetts, and suffered from deferred maintenance. The red “X” on the building is for firefighters not to enter the building in case of fire or emergency. Luckily, the building was purchased and the new owner hopes to convert the building into housing, preserving the structure and using Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Fingers crossed!!
Isaac Harris Cary’s land holdings adjacent to Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, saw a surge in value when the cemetery and Forest Hills Station were constructed, opening up the area for development. After Isaac’s death in 1881, his unmarried daughter Susanna, built this large Second Empire style building contributes to the varied 19th century architecture of the street. This double-house was constructed around 1884, seemingly as a rental property which provided Susanna income while residing nearby. The two units suffer from some deferred maintenance, but are excellent examples of the Second Empire style in a double-house form.
This house in Assonet Village in Massachusetts has SOOOO much potential, I just want to save her! The Cudworth House was built at the end of the 18th century, possibly for John Cudworth a mariner who owned a wharf just across the street. By the mid-late 19th century, the home was renovated, given the steep gable, bracketed details, and projecting entry. The house has seen better days, and needs some serious TLC to bring it back to livable conditions.
The Freetown Village School was originally built in 1794 as a lawyer’s office. At that time, it was half as wide as its current configuration. Around 1800, the office became a private academy for children of sea captains and ship-builders in Assonet. In 1858, the Town of Freetown purchased the building and turned it into a public school. By 1906, the school was enlarged and given the Colonial Revival detailing we see today. Like many smaller schools in New England, this school building was outgrown after WWII, and converted to other uses for the town, with uses from committee meeting space to storage. The schoolhouse was finally abandoned at the end of the 20th century, and stood empty. The roof developed leaks and water infiltration became a serious problem. In 2011, the Town approached the Massachusetts Historical Commission for an Emergency Grant, and was granted $30,000 for the preservation and restoration of the decaying building. The roof has been replaced and structurally repaired, but more work is to be done. I can’t wait to come back and check up on this beauty.
The Assonet Congregational Church, now the United Church of Assonet was originally known as the Town Church and was organized in 1704. In 1807, fifteen residents of town, all from prominent families, gathered to ‘‘manifesting the desire to enter into a Church estate.’‘ Land was deeded to the church in 1807, and the Federal style edifice was constructed the next year. Documentation on its construction is limited, with research stating, “we can only speculate on the construction of this beautiful Church
building. It is believed that Ebenezer Peirce (1777-1852) of Assonet and Middleboro was the master builder assisted by ship builders of the village. Mr. Peirce sent his sloop “Unicorn” to the Penobscot River region in Maine to procure most of the lumber.” The church is in great condition today, even retaining its bell, cast by Paul Revere, and original box pews. Sadly, in October 1910, the steeple was struck by lightning and the acorn top blew off. The 1880s clock was damaged but repaired. The steeple was re-installed or reconstructed, but deferred maintenance required the church to remove it and the Revere bell in the early 2000s until funding could be gathered to restore, nothing yet. What I wouldn’t do to see the original acorn top of this steeple again!
Just a block away from the Women’s Service Club Building (last post) on Mass. Ave in Boston, you’ll find this landmark, with both architectural and cultural significance. The townhouse (along with the house next door) was built around 1860 for William and Martha Carnes. William Rice Carnes was a fine lumber importer and furniture maker, bringing in high-quality mahogany and rosewood to Boston, aligning with the Victorian era housing and furniture boom here, he made a lot of money. Inside his home, he showcased the quality and durability of his product, much of which remains today. It is believed that the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad, with the connected basements of the two houses (#558 and #560) providing an easier escape in the event of a slave-catcher coming by. After William died, the property eventually sold to Nathaniel W. Farwell of Maine on October 29, 1868. The Farwell family occupied the house only until 1910, and as evidence of the decline of the South End, it stood empty until 1920 when it was sold to the League of Women for Community Service, a pioneering Black women’s organization. The League emerged from the ‘30s and ‘40s and as late as the 1950s as a safe place and a popular gathering place for African Americans in Boston. Many hotels at the time were not willing to accommodate Black patrons or charged so much that events there were unattainable. Coretta Scott King lived in the home while she attended college at the New England Conservatory and honed her amazing singing skills. It is at the home that she and Martin Luther King Jr. – then a student at Boston University – likely had dates and began their courtship. The LWCS has recently received funding through grants to preserve and restore the landmark to her former glory.
This historic rowhouse in the South End of Boston was home to the Women’s Service Club, a social and volunteer organization made up of Black women to uplift Black Bostonians of varied backgrounds, including soldiers, students, migrants and mothers. “464,” as some locals admiringly called it, was formed in the early 20th century as Boston. The city, once known as “Freedom’s Birthplace” and the “Athens of America” as a hub of abolitionist activity leading up to the Civil War, saw extreme segregation in housing and education for its Black residents by the early 20th century. From this, local activist Mary Evans Wilson organized a knitting group in 1917 to support soldiers of color fighting in World War I. An estimated 350 women joined the group, donating their talents to produce scarves and gloves for servicemen. Humanitarianism guided the activity of the Women’s Service Club’s over the next half century. This building was purchased in 1919 and operated as part-meeting space and part-settlement house. “A Home Away from Home,” as some described it, the building offered affordable shelter to female workers, migrants, and college students barred from on-campus housing due to racist policies. One of the club’s most prominent members was Melnea Cass (1896–1978), who served as its President for more than fifteen years. Cass initiated the Homemakers Training Program which certified domestic workers so they would be assured a liveable minimum wage, social security and other benefits. The club continues to do great work, but could use funding to restore the landmark building!
I have gotten a lot of requests recently to feature an old New England mill town, and I wanted to highlight a lesser-known one, so here is Millbury, Massachusetts! This gorgeous mill building was constructed between 1879-1919, impacted by over forty years of growth and design. The Lapham Woolen Mill is the largest and most intact 19th century industrial building in Millbury and sits in the middle of Bramanville, an industrial village in the town, off Singletary Brook, a branch of the Blackstone River. The Lapham Woolen Mill was built on the location of the former Burbank paper mills, which were in operation in Bramanville between 1775-1836. The Lapham Woolen Mill was started in the mid-1870s by Mowry A. Lapham, who oversaw the company’s growth after the Civil War, manufacturing clothing and other woolen goods. After Mowry’s death, the company’s pollution into the brook got the best of them and they disbanded, selling it. The mill was then purchased by Josiah and Edward Mayo, and their business partner Thomas Curtis. The group renamed the existing business the Mayo Woolen Company. The complex was occupied by Steelcraft Inc., a manufacturer of medical supplies, until recently. The building’s future was threatened until 2020, when a proposal to restore the old mill, and add new housing on the site was proposed. Fingers and toes are crossed to see this gorgeous building restored!
Located in Lancaster, Massachusetts, the Thomas Safford House has stood for over 220 years, but is slowly decaying. Built in 1799 for Thomas Safford, a baker, the house is an excellent example of a Federal-style homestead that appears much like it did when built (besides the neglect). After two subsequent owners, the property was purchased in 1890 by Pauline Revere Thayer, a direct descendant of Founding Father, Paul Revere. Pauline added a large wrap-around porch and balcony to the house, which served as a vacation home for working girls from Boston. She appropriately named the house “Goodrest” where the girls could enjoy their summers, without working in poor conditions. After she died in 1934, the property was acquired by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as the residence for the head of the Lancaster Industrial School for Girls. The Lancaster Industrial School for Girls was a reform school and the country’s first state reform school for girls, opening in 1856. This school paved the way of social reform, moving away from child imprisonment for “delinquents” towards a correctional paradigm. This was in part achieved because of the observed benefits of environmental change in children, as well as the importance of education. The bucolic, open-air setting was believed to be beneficial for childhood development, compared to a prison setting common before-hand. In 1935, the Safford House was restored to the original appearance, and the porches removed. The State of Massachusetts owns this house and the rest of the severely deteriorating buildings on the campus. It is a shame to see such significant buildings intentionally left to rot.
The Lancaster Industrial School for Girls in Lancaster, Massachusetts, was was established in 1854 as one of the most progressive correctional institutions of its day, and the first in the U.S. for girls. Throughout the 19th century, state governments struggled with how to best deal with youthful law-breakers and vagrants. Some states began to provide correctional facilities, often known as “Industrial Schools,” while other states continued to incarcerate “delinquents” in prisons alongside adults who often were charged with much more heinous crimes. Institutions like the Lancaster Industrial School led the way in social reform, copying a cottage system created in France that emphasized a wholesome, family-like atmosphere and the opportunity to rise above the “low life” slums from which Victorians assumed delinquent children came from. All girls who were under 17 years old at the time of commitment, were housed in one of eight “cottages” where they would each have their own rooms and chores. The Rogers Cottage seen here was one of a handful of the earliest cottages, all identical in design. Matrons and teachers taught the girls the domestic arts, including how to cook and sew. The Industrial School closed in the 1970s and has been used in an ever-diminishing role by the State of Massachusetts ever since. There have been talks about this complex being sold for redevelopment with some old buildings saved, but I am not holding my breath.