Litchfield, New Hampshire remained a rural agricultural town on the eastern banks of the Merrimack River from its founding by white settlers until after WWII when it rapidly became a bedroom community for nearby NH cities and Boston. The area’s Presbyterian residents needed a place to worship, separate from the more common congregationalists, and they built this Gothic and Greek Revival style church near the geographic center of town, a stone’s throw from the Merrimack River. The building features lancet windows, tracery, and a two-tiered belfry with classical pilasters and Gothic finials at the tower.
Horatio Harris Villa // 1857
Not much remains of one of Roxbury’s once grand rural estates, but as there is some left, I want to feature it before it’s all gone, possibly any day now! Horatio Harris was born in Dorchester (present-day South Boston) in 1821 and ran a prominent auction house in Boston. He built his country estate in Roxbury beginning in 1857 in the Gothic Revival style, adding on and updating numerous times. During the Civil War, the firm of Horatio Harris & Co. obtained the contract to sell at auction all goods which were confiscated by the United States’ land or naval forces and brought to Boston. He made a lot of money and added to his land holdings and estate house in Roxbury. The mansion’s construction was timely as Roxbury was transitioning from a rural town, with farms and country estates of wealthy Boston merchants, to a streetcar suburb, increasing the land value of his holdings. The estate included nearly 30 acres of meandering paths, a lake with an island, outbuildings, and an observation tower – one of which remain today besides the ruin of the former mansion. Horatio died in 1876, in the decades following his death, his heirs began subdividing the estate, developing some and selling other plots off for houselots. By the early 1900s, Jewish people began moving into Roxbury, mixing with the predominantly Yankee population. By 1915, the Harris manor house was owned by the Hebrew Alliance of Roxbury, Inc. By the 1920s, they expanded facilities, adding a school building to the front of the former Harris Mansion, completely obscuring the facade of the old estate. In the 1940s, the upper stories were removed. Seemingly the death knell of the old Harris Villa was a fire in 2019, which gutted much of the remaining original fabric of the estate. All that remains is a bay window, some window trim details and a Gothic porte-cochere at the rear of the estate. See it before it’s too late!
Dorset Congregational Church // 1909
Arguably the most high-style building in the quaint village of Dorset, Vermont is the Congregational Church, which appropriately sits on Church Street. The original congregational church in Dorset was located in nearby Maple Hill Cemetery. When the wood structure burned in 1832, an new wooden church was built on this site. The second wooden building burned in 1907, and then this church was built, but of fireproof construction. Jordan Greene, an architect from New York, designed this Neo Gothic Revival style in the historic district. The church was constructed by the contracting firm of O. W. Norcross, partner in the Norcross-West Marble Company, which donated the building stone from its South Dorset quarry. The design is dominated by a massive square central tower that ascends its facade and is capped by pinnacles. Behind the tower, the gable-roofed church is built of rough-faced Dorset marble laid in patterned coursed ashlar and trimmed with dressed stone. How many other marble churches can you think of?
Howard Athenaeum // 1846-1962
One of the more iconic theater buildings to ever stand in Boston was the Howard Athenaeum, later the Old Howard, which stood on the former Howard Street in Downtown Boston. The origins of the building begin in 1843, when a flimsy, tent was built to serve as a church for the small Millerite sect. The small but loyal congregation eventually abandoned the site following disappointment with the minister’s promise that the world would end in 1844. After Armageddon failed to materialize, the founder of the sect, William Miller, an ex-Deputy Sheriff from Poultney, Vermont, was discredited and the Millerites moved on. After running their former minister out of town, several church members (who had given up all their worldly possessions in preparation for their trip to heaven,) decided to recoup some of their losses by selling the property to Messers Boyd and Beard, who opened a theater here in 1845. A fire destroyed the structure, and it was replaced by a larger, fireproof building that same year. The new building was constructed in 1845 and was designed by architect Isaiah Rogers in the Gothic Revival style with massive granite blocks from Quincy.
The Howard Athenaeum saw many iconic performers and historical events in its 100 years. A young John Wilkes Booth, played Hamlet at the Howard before becoming famous for a more nefarious deed in Washington in 1865. Also, Sarah Parker Remond, a Black anti-slavery activist and lecturer with the American Anti-Slavery Society (and later a medical doctor), had bought a ticket through the mail for the Donizetti opera, Don Pasquale, but, upon arriving, refused to sit in a segregated section for the show. She was forcibly removed and pushed down a flight of stairs. She eventually won a desegregation lawsuit against the managers of the Howard Athenaeum and received $500 in a settlement.
The theater was quickly deemed obsolete and second-tier compared to more modern theatres built nearby. By the mid-20th century, the Old Howard was largely featuring burlesque shows. To keep bringing in audiences, the burlesque performances got more risqué with each year. As a result, the Boston vice squad made the Old Howard the object of their attention. The Boston Vice squad made a 16 mm film during one of their raids in 1953 and captured on film the performance by “Irma the Body”. This film footage resulted in an indecency hearing which eventually led to the closing of the Old Howard in 1953. A fire a few years later along with Urban Renewal led to the demolition of the Old Howard by 1962. Like the former Suffolk Savings Bank (featured previously), the present Center Plaza Building is on the site.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church // 1896
The Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Everett, Massachusetts, is an imposing Gothic Revival building, that shows how the church spared no expense to build imposing and awe-inspiring edifices all over New England. Constructed of red brick with Longmeadow brownstone trim, the church was designed by preeminent Catholic Church architect Patrick W. Ford and the cornerstone was laid in 1896. Ford was born in Ireland and in 1872, he moved to Boston and opened his own practice. He was widely recognized as an authority on church architecture and his practice focused primarily on designing churches and institutional buildings for the Roman Catholic Church in New England. Ford died suddenly at age 52 in August 1900. Due to a lack of funds, the church was not completed until 1908, so Ford did not see this church completed in his lifetime. The work was completed by architects Reid & McAlpine and is stunning with its square corner tower topped by a pyramidal spire with smaller pinnacles marking the corners of the tower. The projecting entry porch has three, pointed arch openings and is topped by crenellation. The congregation appears pretty active to this day.
Glimmerstone // 1845
What a treat it was to stumble upon one of the most beautiful homes in Vermont, and all the best houses have names! Glimmerstone is located in the small town of Cavendish, and is possibly the finest Snecked Ashlar constructed home in the state. The house was built in 1845 for Henry Fullerton, manager of the Black River Manufacturing and Canal Company mill in Cavendish. The stone used to build the house was quarried less than a mile away, and hauled to the site. The construction style consists of stone facing on either side of rubble fill, with slabs and snecks sometimes laid across the fill to provide strength, a method brought to the region by Scottish immigrant masons. The house’s design is by a local carpenter, Lucius Paige, and is based on designs published by Andrew Jackson Downing, who depicted many Gothic style designs in pattern books which were built all over the country. The house has had a number of owners after Mr. Fullerton died. During the prohibition era, Art Hadley, who would later become extremely wealthy as the inventor of the expansion bracelet, used the home as part of a rum running operation. Glimmerstone was purchased in 2010 by the current owners, who underwent a massive restoration of the home, converting it into a bed and breakfast, allowing the public to experience the property as well.
Newfane Congregational Church // 1839
The town of Newfane, Vermont was chartered on June 19, 1753, by Governor Benning Wentworth, who named it Fane after John Fane, the 7th Earl of Westmoreland. But hostilities during the French and Indian War prevented its settlement, and because a first town meeting was not held within the required five years, the charter was annulled. From this, Wentworth issued an entirely new charter in 1761, as New Fane. The town was eventually settled in 1766 from families that moved there from Worcester County, Massachusetts. Newfane became the shire town of the county before 1812 and county buildings were constructed. The village’s location up the hill was not ideal and was difficult to access in the winter, so many new buildings were constructed on the flat of town. The village has retained its rural character, but packs a punch in terms of architecture, especially for a town of under 2,000 people. One of the landmarks in town is the Newfane Congregational Church, constructed in 1839 in the Gothic Revival style. The large lancet (pointed arch) windows with corresponding shutters and spire are eye-catching.
Brookline Baptist Church // 1836
Brookline, Vermont is home to just 540 people but has one of the most beautiful brick churches in the state! The Brookline Baptist Church sits along a quiet road in town and is an excellent example of vernacular Gothic Revival architecture in the Vermont. Brookline’s first organized church congregation were Baptists, who established a formal organization in 1785 out of local homes and barns. By 1836, enough funds were gathered to erect a church, but of brick, a more substantial building material than traditional wood-frame buildings. The church remained active throughout the nineteenth century, and the vestry addition was constructed off the rear in 1895 to provide space for community gatherings and meals. Dwindling membership led the church to become mostly used for weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies, and craft fairs by the second half of the 20th century. The Town of Brookline presently owns the significant structure, and while preserved, it does not appear to get much use.
“Granite Lodge” // 1851
I love Rockport because every time I walk the winding, narrow streets, I find something new. This time, I stumbled upon this absolutely amazing mansion, built at the height of the romantic period of architecture. The home was built in 1851 by Solomon Torrey and his wife, Susanna Norwood. Susanna was the daughter of Charles Norwood, a descendant of Joshua Norwood, who owned much of the land in this part of town and lived in the c.1680 cottage down the street (last post). Solomon Torrey was the son of a quarry owner in Quincy, who seemingly moved to Rockport to continue in the family trade (the “Rock” in Rockport). Solomon and Susanna were gifted some land from her father to build a fine home, when the couple were still in their 20s! Before this, Solomon traveled west to partake in the California Gold Rush, his newlywed wife Susanna kept a diary, while he was away, mentioning her dream “stone cottage” where she and her family would live a long life together. When Solomon returned, the couple built their dream home, and had two daughters, Aria and Susannah. Sadly, Solomon lived only 5 years after his return from the Gold Rush and died at just 33 years old. Susannah was aided by her family, raising her two daughters, never remarrying, living in her dream home without the love of her life until her death in 1908, at 81 years old.
Captain Lawton House // c.1850
Captain Job Lawton (1795-1860) was a sea captain and wharfmaster in Assonet Village, in Freetown, Mass. I could not locate much on him other than a note about his skill on the sea, highlighted in a history of the town of Freetown. “Captain Job Lawton, on one of his many voyages across the ocean, lost his rudder at sea. With commendable ingenuity, he made a temporary one from old ropes, hung and managed it by chains passed over the stern and either side of the ship, and by his cool determination and never tiring perseverance brought his sloop safely into port. For this remarkable feat, he received high public commendation, and a substantial recognition from the insurance companies interested in his vessel and her cargo. Several models of this rudder are now in existence, one being on exhibition at the National Museum in Washington. He married Polly, daughter of Captain Charles Strange.” Lawton, in the later years of his short life, appears to have built this home, which elegantly blends both Gothic and Greek Revival styles.