Laura Richards House // 1810

This stunning Federal style house in Gardiner, Maine, was built about 1810 by Ebenezer Byram, who had purchased the land from Robert Hallowell Gardiner, a descendant of Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, the “founder” of the town. Dr. Gardiner was a resourceful Boston druggist, who was one of the principal owners of the Kennebec Purchase, known as the Plymouth Company, who purchased land on the west side of the Kennebec River in Maine. Dr. Sylvester Gardiner had been attracted to the Gardiner area for a number of reasons, primarily because of the depth of the water of the river to the point of Gardiner as the head of navigation for ships here. This house overlooking that river was purchased in 1878, by Henry and Laura E. Richards. Laura Richards (1850-1943) was the daughter of Samuel Gridley Howe, an abolitionist and the founder of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind. Her mother, Julia Ward Howe wrote the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a tune that I am sure most of you have heard of, but never knew the name. Henry and Laura moved to Gardiner in 1876 after suffering financial reverses in Boston, where Henry worked at his family’s paper mill, and it was about that time that Laura Richards began her writing career. At this house in Gardiner, Laura wrote more than 90 books including biographies (including one on her mother), poetry, and several children’s books. Even more impressive, Laura was awarded one of the first four ever Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for her biography on her mother, years before women were even afforded the right to vote!

Gardiner Almshouse // 1834

This large brick Federal house was built on the outskirts of Gardiner, Maine, in 1834. Ebenezer Moore, the builder, worked as a carpenter and house-wright in town and showcased his skill on his own brick mansion, selling it to a C.E. Bradstreet. By the late 1840s, the town of Gardiner decided that it would need a new almshouse, city-provided housing for the poor, so they purchased the Bradstreet house and 14-acres of land. In the 1848 town report documents noted, “The establishment is a brick one, of two stories, containing thirty-six fine rooms, including seven fitted for the insane in the most admirable manner, together with a spacious hall. The building is every way a most excellent one for the purpose, and is a monument of the humanity and generosity of the city.” The almshouse served as a working farm where the poor could harvest their own crops and contribute in a small, closed society. The almshouse burned in 1909, and was immediately rebuilt using the outside brick walls. In the Colonial Revival manner, a gambrel roof replaced the former gable roof, which added a third story to the almshouse. The building was eventually sold, as new housing models for low-income residents took off. The former almshouse was converted to an apartment building in 1970, a use that appears to continue to this day.

Peter Wheeler House // 1832

This cute brick house in Boxborough, MA, was built c. 1832 by the Revolutionary War veteran Peter Wheeler where he lived until his death in 1847. The home sits on a heavily trafficked street, yet retains much of its architecture and even historic windows, despite its conversion to commercial use! The brick house features e 6/6 double-hung units on the first story and 3/3 in the second, with the central window featuring stunning stained glass.

Dr. Daniel Robbins House // 1804

Damn I just love old brick Federal houses! This home in Boxborough, MA was constructed in 1804 for Dr. Daniel Robbins, who owned a one-story wooden home on the site in 1798. As building materials were expensive at the time, Robbins likely incorporated that structure as one of the side additions to this new brick house you see here. Robbins served as a town doctor until his death in 1837, and would treat patients in his home or ride on horseback to treat sick residents nearby.

Parsons Homestead // c.1800

The Parsons Homestead in Rye, contains some of the most interesting early Federal-style design elements in the coastal towns of New Hampshire outside of the principal towns of Portsmouth and Exeter. When the Parsons House assumed its present appearance at the turn of the nineteenth century, Rye was a coastal farming community, but despite its rural character, the town developed distinctive preferences within the Federal style. There is no architect listed for the home, but it is highly likely a housewright took cues from William Pain’s “The Practical Builder” (1774, published in Boston in 1792). This book, inspired directly by the designs of British architect Robert Adam, allowed carpenters to take plans from one of the earliest “do-it-yourself” manuals ever published. The builders’ manuals and pattern book offered carpenters and other construction workers important resources for designs and techniques in house design and construction. Those unable to afford an architect’s services could feel confident in the good taste of their residence by selecting designs from a pattern book style in southeastern New Hampshire. Records show the land here was purchased in 1757 by Samuel Parsons (1707-1789). The property was acquired by his son Captain Joseph Parsons (1746-1832), who was a Doctor and Captain in the Revolutionary War. It is likely that he or his own son built this “modern” Federal home, and incorporated some of the old features of the family home inside.

Dr. Skinner “Lottery” House // c.1800

In 1794, four men from Acton, Abel Conant, Dr. Abraham Skinner, John Robbins and Horace Tuttle, jointly purchased a $5.00 ticket in a lottery run by Harvard College to raise funds for the construction of Stoughton Hall in Harvard Yard. This house, built for Dr. Abraham Skinner, is one of the four, and is the most grand of the four. Dr. Skinner was the third physician to practice in Acton and the first to arrive from out of town. He came to Acton in 1781 from Woodstock, Connecticut, and continued in practice until his death in 1810. The Federal style home is nearly square with five bays on all sides, with the facade and rear being slightly less crowded. The main entry includes a pediment with dentils, 4-pane side lights and a 4-panel, wooden door with elongated, rectangular, top panels. A similar entry, without sidelights, centers the south elevation. Time to buy some lottery tickets!

Baldwin-Geleg House // c.1810

This perfect country home was built around 1810, likely for Eli Baldwin (1782-1832) and sits in the Iron Works Village of Brookfield, CT. Eli and his wife Lucy had 10 children at the home before Eli died at just 52 years old. Lucy lived at the home until the family sold the house and she moved into the home of one of her children. In the early 20th century, the property was purchased by Andrew Gereg, who immigrated to Connecticut from Hungary. It remained in the Geleg family until the 1980s. The story is one of the “American Dream” where today, it seems less attainable as 90% of the children born in 1940 ended up in higher ranks of the income distribution than their parents, only 40% of those born in 1980 have done so. This is paired with the limiting of immigration into the country compared to the early 20th century, a symptom of xenophobia, which has impacted immigrants here for centuries. Anyways, here is a well-preserved, historic house!

Amory-Ticknor House // 1803

This house overlooking the Boston Common, was the first of several erected on Park St. from the plans of premier architect Charles Bulfinch, though the only one extant on the street today. Bulfinch is thought to be the first native-born American to practice architecture as a profession. The home was designed in 1803 for merchant Thomas Amory Jr. The new mansion was referred to as “Amory’s Folly” because of its unusually large size and pretentiousness. As Amory was completing the house, he suffered major losses at sea, and this plus other business setbacks and his extravagant building ruined him financially. The house was soon after rented to Catherine Carter as a fashionable boarding house popular among lawmakers, due to its location across the street from the State House. The home sold to George Ticknor in 1829, and he owned the home until 1871. Ticknor was an academic who worked for years as a professor at Harvard. He was a world traveller who acquired rare books for his own personal library, later gifting it to the newly established Boston Public Library in 1852, an organization he had a large part in creating. In the 1880s, the house was converted to commercial use due to the shifting demands for the neighborhood (many wealthy Bostonians moved to Back Bay). In 1884, the large oriel (bay) windows, dormers, and storefronts were added to give the house the look it retains today.

Luther-Babbitt House // 1809

In 1809, Giles Luther built this two-story, 5-bay, hip-roof Federal house, which has been substantially enlarged and altered over the years in succeeding styles. Original detailing on the facade includes the Palladian window, modillion cornice, quoins, and wide-beaded window casings with splayed lintels. Giles Luther (1775-1841), a shipmaster, merchant, and farmer, was more importantly the first Grand Marshall of the Bristol Fourth ofJuly Parade, which is believed to be part of the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the country. In 1825 Luther’s business failed; the Commercial Bank took this house and sold it in 1828 to Jacob Babbitt. Babbitt owned part of a wharf in town and in his will of 1849, he left the “use and improvement” of this house to
his son Jacob, Jr. (1809-1862). The younger Babbitt was wealthy and likely made the mid-19th century modifications to the home, including the Italianate triple-arched door and full-width porch with delicate cut-out posts and railings. The home was occupied for much of the 20th century by the Bristol Nursing Association, and sold in the 1970s to a private owner. The home was for a period ran as a bed & breakfast but appears to be back to a private residence today.

Russell Warren House // 1807

Architect Russell Warren (1783-1860), who I have featured on here numerous times, built this 2-story, 5-bay, hip-roof Federal house in Bristol, Rhode Island. This residence as interpreted by Warren as an example of the Federal style with stylistic features most notably being the angulated quoins (at the corners of the house). The house was designed for William Van Doom, a Bristol tailor of modest means. In 1814, Warren, a young and aspiring architect, saw the significant wealth in Bristol and decided to buy this home he designed. Siting himself in the vicinity of the extremely wealthy DeWolf family, he gained recognition and success by designing three expensive and elaborately crafted houses for them at this time, only Linden Place remaining. Warren lived in this house from 1814 until 1823.