James Neal House // 1831

Continuing with my mini-series on The Hill, a neighborhood of 18th and 19th century houses and buildings saved from Urban Renewal in Portsmouth’s North End neighborhood, I present the James Neal House. Built in 1831 and taxed a year later, the house stands out as a late Federal style property, a style that was well on its way out in popularity. Additionally, the home is the only extant brick house in this area of town from the period. James Neal was listed in directories as a merchant, possibly being involved in the shipping of goods from plantations in the Caribbean, which were farmed by enslaved Africans. James died just a few years after his home was built. The brick house is three-stories with a hipped roof. The entry is surmounted by a semi-circular fanlight set within a recessed opening, a modest take on the Federal style.

Pardon Miller House // 1822

Pardon Miller, a watchmaker and silversmith in Providence had this Federal style home built in 1822 in Providence’s high-value College Hill neighborhood when he was in his 20s. The home and its neighbor were built at the same time, seemingly by the same builder as they share a lot of similarities in design and detailing. The house remained in the Miller Family until 1882, and it is now owned by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The homes on the northern side of Angell Street, like this house, are largely built on a raised foundation with high retaining walls, which showcases the “hill” in College Hill.

Ambrose Knight House // c.1810

The most architecturally significant example of the Federal style in Waterford, Maine, is this c.1810 home built for Ambrose Knight, who operated a store in town. The high-style Federal home features a well-proportioned fanlight over the entrance with a Palladian window above, all with geometric moulding. The home was likely built by a housewright who employed designs from Asher Benjamin’s pattern books for builders, as the high-style features and Palladian windows are uncommon in this part of Maine.

High Street House // c.1810

This house in Freetown, MA literally made me turn the car around to get a photo (it’s a sickness, they need a rehab for old house addicts). The house was built in the early 1800s and is a stellar example of the Federal style, which took over architecture in New England after the Revolutionary War until the 1830s. The style often features intricate designs and complex geometry, which previously would have been too difficult for the majority of builders or designers to accomplish. From pattern books by influential architects like Asher Benjamin, the style was built in forms and places from urban townhomes in Boston and New York, to rural, rambling farmhouses in Vermont and Maine. Publications by Asher Benjamin including The Country Builder’s Assistant and The American Builder’s Companion opened up high-quality, architectural landmark designs to the masses, and is a significant reason New England architecture is so iconic. Benjamin included drawings and diagrams which builders could copy, from column styles and dimensions to chimney and moulding details.