In 1888, Kate and Charles Page purchased a house lot in the sparsely developed Fenway section of Boston. The corner lot at Westland and Parker (renamed Hemenway) provided views to natural scenery and access to many Boston amenities. The couple worked with architect Herbert Langford Warren, who had previously apprenticed under the great H. H. Richardson. Warren took many of the common motifs seen in Richardson’s own style, but he was also a fan of the Arts and Crafts Movement, with its love of fine handicraft. You can see that in the elaborate diaper-patterned brick and in the stepped gables. The gables were a revival of a motif from old Flemish, Dutch, and Scottish architecture, sometimes called corbie-step gables, because corbies (crows) liked to stand on the steps. The interior was just as stunning, with massive brick arches, fanciful woodwork, and a prominent stairhall at the entrance. The couple was likely inspired to hire Warren by their son, Walter Gilman Page, a young artist who maintained a studio space in the home for some time. The home was sold out of the family by 1912. In 1917, the whole house was lifted up one story and a strip of retail stores was inserted beneath it. The original arched entryway then became a second-floor window. It was replaced with a taller building by 2003. Interestingly, upon the opening, the Commissioner of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and long-time Boston Preservation Alliance Executive Director stated that the 1888 house “looked like a missing front tooth” and was happy to see it demolished.
In 1880, twenty years after Frederick L. Ames built his rural estate “Langwater”, he felt the need to give the property more rural character, especially given the close proximity to the Ames Shovel Works. Emulating old European estates with gatehouses, Ames hired star-chitect Henry Hobson Richardson, to design a gate lodge at the entrance to his property, fitting of one of the richest men in Massachusetts. Richardson’s design for the gate lodge was oriented longitudinally and is bisected by the arched entry to the estate. The large room on the left was intended to serve as a storeroom for flowering plants, and the two-story portion had a caretaker’s residence on the lower floor and a “bachelor hall” for men’s socializing and spill-over bedroom. The building uses glacial boulders found on the expansive grounds and older stone walls, with trim of Longmeadow brownstone. The bright red terracotta roof contrasts boldly with the rough stone walls. The building is one of the most beautiful structures I have seen, but can be difficult to photograph without trespassing. Ugh!
In 1881, Henry Hobson Richardson furnished plans for this modest, shingled cottage in the town of Marion, overlooking Sippican Harbor. At the same time, he was also completing designs for Austin Hall at Harvard and overseeing the construction of Albany City Hall in New York, both in his iconic Richardsonian Romanesque style. This Shingle style home in Marion was designed for Reverend William Percy Browne (1838-1901), who was educated at Kenyon College in Ohio alongside John Cotton Brooks, the youngest brother of Phillips Brooks, who would become the Rector of Boston’s Trinity Church and briefly Bishop of Massachusetts. Brooks would hire H.H. Richardson to design Trinity Church in Boston in the early 1870s. From this connection and being members of the St. Botolph Club of Boston, Reverend William Percy Browne and H.H. Richardson began a working relationship designing Browne’s summer cottage in Marion. The legend is that at the club, Browne bet Richardson that he could not design a small house for $2,500. Browne lost. This modest house was completed in 1882 and represented an early, significant example of a Shingle style home in Massachusetts. Browne died in 1901 and the house was sold to Sidney Hosmer, a Boston electrical engineer. Under his ownership, the home was expanded and altered, somewhat obscuring Richardson’s original design. The cottage was eventually purchased by Tabor Academy, who in 2019, pulled a demolition permit for the house. Architects and historians quickly rallied and advocated for the preservation of the cottage, saving it from the wrecking ball. The academy is undergoing alternative plans, which were stalled due to Covid-19.
One of my favorite buildings in Boston (and always dressed up with a big red ribbon for the holidays) is the Flour and Grain Exchange Building in Downtown Boston. The third Boston Chamber of Commerce was incorporated in 1884 to promote just and equitable principles of trade, solve disputes between members and acquire and disseminate information related to mercantile interests. There was, however, a feeling among the members that the organization could not attain its full stature until it had a building of its own, one that would be both an ornament to the city and a credit to itself. In 1889, a triangular site was donated to the organization by members, who then hired prominent Boston architectural firm, Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, the successor to Henry Hobson Richardson‘s practice. It appears the firm was inspired by H.H. Richardson’s F. L. Ames Wholesale Store which was built nearby just years before. The steel-frame building is constructed of rough hewn Milford granite pierced with engaged columns and arched openings, both common in Richardsonian Romanesque buildings. The prominent corner at Milk and India Streets features a rounded corner tower with conical roof, surrounded by a crown of dormers. The building was restored by owners Beal Properties in the late 1980s who own it to this day.
SAVE THIS HOUSE!
Built c.1803 by Samuel Gardner Perkins, a Boston merchant and avid horticulturist as a summer escape from the city, this house with its two-story columned porch and a natural ravine at the rear, was one of a handful of so-called “Jamaica Planter” style houses unique to Brookline. After a subsequent owner, the home was purchased in 1864 by Edward W. Hooper as a summer estate. In May 1874, the renowned Henry Hobson Richardson moved to Brookline, Mass., to supervise construction of Trinity Church. He rented this home from his Harvard classmate and fellow Harvard Porcellian Club member, Edward Hooper. The house, it is said, reminded Richardson of the plantation houses of his native Louisiana. Richardson established his office in the home, adding wings at the rear and sides for drafting rooms and a library (demolished after his death in 1886). In the home, dozens of fledgling young architects worked under one of the greats, including: George Shepley, Charles Rutan, and Charles Coolidge, who later would grow out of Richardson’s practice after his death. Just down the street, world-renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for designing Central Park in Manhattan, lived and worked in his own office/home setting, with the two often collaborating on important projects. Richardson died in 1886 at the age of 47, with substantial debts even being one of the premier architects of the country; his widow stayed in the house at a nominal rent until she acquired it in 1891. The Richardson family owned the home until 2000, following the 1998 death of his grandson, H. H. Richardson III. Presently, the home, and two other significant homes sit on a single, 4.5+acre lot currently being eyed for redevelopment. The current owner is petitioning to have all three homes on the lot demolished for a single family home. A demolition delay is almost guaranteed, but all three homes’ future is very uncertain.
SAVE THIS HOUSE!
Located adjacent to the former H.H. Richardson House (also threatened with demolition), this home in Brookline may eventually face the wrecking ball… The rear ell of the building appears to have been constructed prior to 1844, possibly as an outbuilding or the main house as part of Samuel Perkins’ estate. The property was later subdivided and had numerous owners who bought and sold it in quick succession until 1858, when it was purchased by Francis A. White (1825-1910) a partner of Frederick Guild (1826- ) in the Boston tanning firm of Guild & White, Co., until 1871, when White retired to devote full time to his real-estate investments in the Boston area. It is likely that White updated and enlarged the home in the 1870s, with the massive corner tower, as a testament to his proficiency in real estate development and design. Francis lived in the home with his wife and four children until his death in 1910, when the home was willed to his late wife Caroline. After her death, the home was owned by their daughter Sophia, who had married John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920), a prominent landscape architect and nephew of Frederick Law Olmsted, who lived just down the street. John and Sophia lived in the home, renovating and enlarging the home at least once, and John would walk down the street to his office, now the Olmsted National Historic Site. John was the first president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, founded in 1899, and was active in the formation of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects. Sadly, a demolition permit has been applied for to raze this home, the Richardson House and a Techbuilt house by a developer. It is likely a demolition delay will be enacted, but advocacy on the two older houses preservation should be the first and only option for the site.
Dedicated in 1893, the First Parish Church of Brookline is the fourth to house the congregation that began as The Church of Christ here in 1717. Earlier iterations of the church were located here, at the geographic center of the new town which separated from Boston. Before this handsome stone church was constructed, the third home to the congregation was constructed in 1848 in the Gothic Revival style designed by architect Edward C. Cabot. The church purchased the former Brookline Town Hall in 1890, and sought to enlarge their church building, deciding to construct a new house of worship and expand, later connecting to the former Town Hall. The congregation hired the firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, the successors to H. H. Richardson, whose architectural influence is readily apparent in the Romanesque arches and heavy massing of the building. The church has a collection of some of the most stunning stained glass windows in the region, many of which are designed and signed by Louis C. Tiffany.
Located across the street from the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall and the Ames Free Library, the North Easton Savings Bank and Post Office building perfectly compliments the Romanesque Revival motif seen in the village. The building was constructed in 1904 in a Richardsonian Romanesque design with rough-faced granite ashlar walls with brownstone trim. The three-bay front façade contains centered entrances recessed behind a wide brownstone arch in the signature Richardsonian manner. The building was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, a Boston-based architectural firm which grew out of Henry Hobson Richardson’s office, where they completed many of Richardson’s unfinished works after his death.
The Ames Free Library first opened its doors in 1883. Under the terms of the will of Oliver Ames II, $50,000, in trust, was left for the construction and support of a library for the benefit of the inhabitants Easton. The library was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in 1877 and opened in 1883, becoming one of the finest public libraries in the region. The library is built of Milford granite with the same Longmeadow trim used on his famous Trinity Church in Boston. The very low cavernous arch over the doorway was used here by Richardson for the first time and became one of the most prominent and widely imitated characteristics of his style.
The village of Waban in Newton, Massachusetts, was named after a Massachusett Chief who had previously resided atop Nonantum Hill on the Newton-Brighton line. This location is believed to have been a favorite hunting ground for Waban (the Wind) and his people. Throughout much of the 19th century, Waban remained a quiet agricultural region. As late as 1874, fewer than 20 families held title to all of its land. In the mid-1880s, however, interest in suburban developments near the Boston and Albany Railroad became increasingly widespread. Seeing suburbanization in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century.
The station that allowed all the development in the early days of Waban was built in 1886. The Boston & Albany Railroad hired renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design the station, and many others on branches of the various lines radiating out from Boston. The Highland Branch (which this station was on) was later acquired by the MBTA in Boston, which operated it as a Commuter line. Waban Station closed along with the rest of the Highland Branch commuter rail line in 1958 and reopened a year later in 1959 as part of the Green Line’s D Branch. The gorgeous H.H. Richardson-designed station was demolished in order to build a 74-space parking lot. They literally paved paradise, and put up a parking lot…