“Less is more” is a phrase adopted in 1947 by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to describe his minimalist, Miesian glass box buildings. While he was referring to Modern architecture, the same phrase can be used in 19th century design, where massing, form, and materials are showcased in all their glory with little frills or additions. The Robert Lippitt House in Providence was constructed by 1854 for Robert Lincoln Lippitt (1823-1858), who worked with his brother Henry Lippitt in owning and managing textile mills. Henry would later build his own mansion nextdoor to his late brother’s house (see past post). Sadly, Robert died four years after this home was built, at the young age of 34. His widow, Louisa Gorden Hallet remained in the home and remarried within a year of her late husband’s death, to Charles Lippitt, possibly a cousin to Robert. Messy. The home was designed by architect Thomas A. Tefft, a promising and respected young architect who also died young, at the age of 33.
The town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts was colonized in 1637 and was officially incorporated in 1734 from the town of Billerica. The town was historically home to at least two raids by native peoples during the infamous King Phillip’s War, which killed dozens of men, women and children settlers. The town is named after Tewkesbury, England, likely inspired by some of the original settlers. The town grew as a rural village until it became a suburb of adjacent Lowell and Andover, Massachusetts. The town’s older Town Hall building burned in 1918, and funding was quickly acquired to erect a new, suitable building for the town. The Boston-based architectural firm of Kilham & Hopkins was hired and they designed this gorgeous Colonial Revival building. The symmetrical building features a main two-story block with a rear and side wings. The facade features three entrances with recessed fanlights above. A slate roof is capped by a towering cupola, which adds an additional flair to the building. The structure was so well-designed, it was featured in the Architectural Record in 1919, a national publication.
One of my favorite buildings in Downtown Boston is the Richards Building on State Street for its rare and lavish cast-iron facade. Built in about 1859, the building was developed by Quincy A. Shaw and Gardiner H. Shaw (uncles of Robert Gould Shaw, who led the famed African American regiment that is the subject of St. Gaudens’ and Charles McKim’s Boston Common monument), merchants who then leased out commercial space in the building. The architect of the building is unknown; however, the sheet metal was supplied by E.B. Badger & Sons. The original design was a five-story, eight-bay cast iron front structure, in the Northern Italian mode of the Renaissance Revival style. The facade is only a screen attached to the front of the building. It is made of pieces of cast iron that were fabricated in Italy and bolted together in Boston. In 1889, the building was sold to Calvin A. Richards, a wealthy street railway tycoon and it is presumed that the two upper stories and corner oriels were added at that time. The building features one of a handful of extant cast-iron facades in Boston, which was restored in the 1980s.