This mansion was erected in 1855 by Julia A. Birch while her husband, James, was engaged in organizing a stagecoach business in Sacramento shortly after the California Gold Rush. Mr. Birch lost his life in the shipwreck of the Central America in 1857, just after their mansion was completed. The next year Mrs. Birch married her first husbands’ business partner, Frank Shaw Stevens. They returned to live in Swansea permanently in 1858. After the sale of the stage coach lines , Mr. Stevens invested in the burgeoning textile mill business in Fall River and was a partner in the firm of Paris and Allen wholesale liquor dealers of New York. The couple lived in this mansion together until Julia died in 1871. Stevens remarried to Elizabeth Richmond Case. When Mr. Stevens died in 1898, she oversaw gifts to the town for the library and church. Upon her death in 1930, she set up a new home for troubled and orphaned boys at the mansion. The Frank S. Stevens Home for Boys opened in 1939 and while considered an orphanage, the home transitioned to a program providing services to a growing population of troubled boys who found it difficult to adjust to life in the community, or public school setting. The legacy continues today as the Stevens Treatment Programs.
The gorgeous public library building in Swansea was built in 1900 from designs by Henry Vaughan. Similar to the nearby Christ Church, the building was funded by the widow of Frank S. Stevens in memory of her husband. The stone building contributes to and echos design elements of the Christ Church building also designed by Vaughan, but is warmer with the use of a red Potsdam sandstone trim and detail. At the interior, oak panelling and floors paired with red brick create a warm, and cozy feeling.
Christ Church in Swansea, Massachusetts is a turn-of-the-century Gothic Revival Church, that echoes medieval country chapels in England. Designed by English-born architect Henry Vaughan (1845-1917), one of the most influential ecclesiastical architects in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this church clearly evokes his early days in the English countryside. Vaughan is most notable for being supervising architect of the Washington National Cathedral just a decade after this church was complete. Endowment for the church (and many other buildings) was a gift to the town by Mrs. Elizabeth Case Stevens, the recent widow of Frank S. Stevens, the richest man in Swansea. The church – which replaced an earlier wood frame Gothic Revival edifice – is constructed of rough faced stone blocks laid in regular courses. Its crenelated west tower, conical stair tower, buttressed gabled end wall, and pointed arch window all add to the Gothic aesthetic. The church had a series of stained glass windows donated from the 1960s-1970s which depict various events in the Bible.