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.

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.

Linden Place // 1810

For the last post in this series on Bristol, Rhode Island, I am leaving you with a house that is architecturally stunning, but holds a dark history. Linden Place was built in 1810 by slave trader, merchant, privateer and ship owner George DeWolf and was designed by architect, Russell Warren. The DeWolfs of Bristol, who became the biggest slave-trading family in U.S. history, transported well over 11,000 Africans to the Americas between 1769 and 1820. The U.S. banned the slave trade in 1808, but the DeWolfs continued dealing in the slave trade until the 1840s by going through Cuba, where they had numerous plantations. They also got help from a DeWolf brother-in-law, who served as a customs inspector in Bristol — thus ensuring family slave ships continued to come and go. In 1825, George DeWolf suffered major financial hits and he and his family fled to his plantation in Cuba, where they’d be beyond reach of his creditors. Stories explain that with the possibility of legitimate payment out of the question, the townspeople sought compensation for George’s debts where they could, and they broke down the front door of Linden Place, and took everything, even peeling the silk wallpaper off the walls.

Following DeWolf’s bankruptcy, the house was bought by his uncle James DeWolf, who was alleged to have directed the murder of a female African slave in 1789 who was sick with smallpox on the slave ship Polly, which he commanded; she was bound to a chair and lowered overboard. James DeWolf was tried and effectively acquitted; which, sadly, should not surprise anyone based on historical precedent. In fact, James DeWolf financed another 25 slaving voyages, usually with other members of his family and was thought to be the second richest man in the United States upon his death in 1837. In later years the house passed to Samuel Pomeroy Colt, a grandson of George DeWolf (as well as the nephew of the inventor of the Colt revolver). His son Russell married actress Ethel Barrymore, who was the great-aunt of current actress Drew Barrymore, and lived in the home. Today, the grand estate is a house museum and event space.

George Coggeshall Farmhouse // 1799

In the decades after the American Revolution and British burning of Bristol, Rhode Island, the port city rebuilt with grand mansions downtown and farmhouses on vast land holdings beyond. One of such farms was that of George Coggeshall (1752-1812), who built this Federal home in 1798. George Coggeshall was an ancestor of Wilbour Coggeshall, who operated a farm on Poppasquash Point in town (featured recently), now the site of the Coggeshall Farm Museum. After George’s death in 1812, the farm was purchased by Nathaniel Bullock, who would later become Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island. The home is a great example of the early Federal style of architecture. It features a large central chimney, classical pedimented entrance with fluted pilasters, and flared lintels over the first floor windows. Oh, and that stone wall with cute little gate!