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 thiscomplex being sold for redevelopment with some old buildings saved, but I am not holding my breath.
It’s rare to find a house with so much potential in Salem, a town where seemingly every old house has been purchased and lovingly maintained or restored. This home on Federal Street could use some TLC to restore her to her former glory. In 1808, William Orne Jr., a housewright and his wife Polly acquired a mortgage for the lot here and he built a large, Federal style home with gambrel roof, showcasing his building skills. The property was a little more than the couple could handle financially, which was compounded by the War of 1812, and the Royal British Navy blockading maritime trade, which especially hurt Salem’s port. The Orne House was sold in 1817 to Captain John Derby III, who died just a year later, leaving his widow Sarah (Felton) Derby all his estate. Sarah rented the home to family, but was allowed to live there until her own death in 1857. The stunning home with fanlight at the front door, historic wood windows, and pair of large brick end chimneys all could be saved with a good restoration of the home. Fingers crossed!
The last stop we will see at the stunning Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut is the former Superintendent’s Residence. Built in 1936, the home is elegantly sited at the waterfront, which would have provided amazing views for the man in charge of running Seaside, the Tuberculosis hospital for children here. Like the Maher Building, Nurse’s Residence, and Duplex Residence previously featured, this building was designed in the Tudor Revival style and is also credited as a work of architect Cass Gilbert. The Superintendent’s Residence is interesting as it has two completely different facades. The campus-facing facade features an L-shape with a garage wing and projecting entry pavilion in stone. Above, a diamond-pane window would allow natural light into what may be the stairhall. At the waterfront, a large open porch (since boarded up) and large windows at the first floor, would provide natural light and air into the building, along with amazing views of Long Island Sound. Additionally, a catslide roof extends from the rightmost bay and covers a recessed porch with basketweave brickwork above. I would for sure live here, could you?
One of the most entrancing and clearly haunted places in Connecticut is the Seaside Sanatorium on the coast of Waterford, CT. It’s founding dates back to the early 1900s, when tuberculosis killed 252 of every 100,000 people living in the state, making it the leading killer in the state early in the century. When Connecticut Tuberculosis Commission members, including Chairman Dr. Stephen J. Maher, a New Haven physician, began hearing of success in Europe with exposure not only to ocean air, but to strong sunlight, they began pushing for a new location in Connecticut to treat children with tuberculosis. The first Seaside was established in Niantic in 1918, which was outgrown, and a newer, modern facility on the coast was needed. The State found a site on the coast of Waterford and hired world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert to design the complex in the Tudor Revival style, a departure from the Colonial or Classic Revival styles favored at the time for such projects. When the facility opened, children would spend as much time as possible exposed to the sun’s rays as part of their treatment here. They played sports, took lessons, ate, read, and played music outside year-round, either on the beach, the lawns, or the three levels of south-facing porches. By the early to mid-1950s, tuberculosis became curable with antibiotics that required limited bed rest and could be given in a regular hospital setting. After its use as a TB facility ceased, the state re-opened Seaside as a hospital for people with mental illness, which too closed in the 1990s. The massive campus has sat vacant since, rotting away as a State Park. Apparently the State has been looking for a developer to revitalize the campus as a hotel or other use, but sadly, nothing has materialized.
The Newington Railroad Depot was built in 1873 at the narrowest point at the Piscataqua River as part of the Portsmouth and Dover Railroad. The Portsmouth and Dover Railroad Company was chartered in 1866 in order to provide a link between the eastern and western divisions of the Boston and Maine Railroad and also included the means to cross Great Bay. The rail line was completed in 1874 and included this railroad depot which included a residence for the stationmaster while he collected tolls for pedestrians and carriages crossing the bridge nearby, and operated the swing section of the bridge to permit boat traffic to pass. By 1915, the one story wing was constructed which served as a 10’x20′ waiting room and ticket office. The offshoot rail line remained in service until the completion of the General Sullivan Bridge in 1934, due to the popularity of the automobile. The rail line was subsequently abandoned, and the nearby tracks were taken up in 1940. Elmer Brooks, the longtime stationkeeper was allowed to remain in the old depot, renting the building from the State of New Hampshire, who acquired the site in 1940. He lived here until his death in 1971. After which, the building has decayed. The State of New Hampshire should restore this valuable piece of history and has an amazing opportunity for a park in the surrounding area. Hopefully something is done to preserve the building!
Located on Odiorne Point in Rye, New Hampshire, this old farmhouse has overlooked the Atlantic Ocean for over 200 years. Before that, this land was Pannaway Plantation, the first European settlement in what is now currently the state of New Hampshire. By 1630, the plantation was abandoned, and the settlers moved to Strawbery Banke in what is now Portsmouth. John and Phillip Odiorne (likely brothers) arrived to Portsmouth in 1657 from England, and some of their descendants moved south to modern-day Rye. This home was built by a descendant around 1800, and although built as a farm house, not as a city mansion, it is quite large. The house is a Federal period farmhouse with later alterations and additions, but has deteriorated since the property was acquired by the State of New Hampshire from the Odiorne Family in 1942. More on the property next!
Perched high on a hill in Acton, Massachusetts, this once grand Italianate mansion has been slowly deteriorating without a caretaker. The home was built in 1861 for George C. Wright (1823-1910), a wealthy coffee and spice merchant at Dwinell, Hayward, and Co., a powerhouse in the coffee industry in Boston. In 1855, he was overworked in Boston and fell ill for two years, which worried his wife, who convinced him to relinquish some of his work and move back to Acton, which he did. Soon after he built this house, not too far from the village train depot which would give him easy access to Boston. In papers, he stated, “I felt that good air and a plenty of sunshine would do more for my health than anything else. For this reason, we built upon a hill and arranged the rooms of the house so as to get the sun to its fullest degree.” Wright later served as a State Representative, and remained active in local politics in the suburban town. His home was connected to a large barn (since demolished) and featured a large belvedere (removed after a hurricane) to provide sweeping views from his house on the hill. In recent years, an absentee owner did not appear to maintain the home and it has deteriorated, but good news! The house sold the week that I took these photos, so hopefully it will be restored to its former glory soon!
In 1894, Hiram P. Dinsmore, a clerk at the nearby Tewksbury Almshouse, purchased land not too far from his work to build a home for his family. The well-designed late-Victorian home features a wrap-around porch, a corner tower, twin sunburst or flower motifs, and the use of shingle and clapboard siding, all hallmarks of the Queen Anne style. After Hiram’s death, his wife and children lived in the home, and it was later willed to his daughter Beatrice and her husband, both of whom worked at the Tewksbury Almshouse (since renamed Tewksbury Hospital). The home has seen some deterioration with large sections of siding completely open to the elements unobscured by paint and a sagging porch roof. Hope to see this beauty restored.