The Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow House, sitting high on Oak Hill in Newton, is among the last designs (1886) of architectural icon Henry Hobson Richardson. If you already didn’t know, Richardson was one of the foremost architects of his day and is known both for bold Richardsonian Romanesque and Shingle style designs. He was hired by Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow to provide plans for a sprawling country retreat from the noisy and cramped conditions in Boston.Dr. Bigelow was an eminent surgeon in Boston who administered the first dose of ether as anesthesia on a patient, a breakthrough that led to the stunning Ether Monument in the Boston Public Garden. Bigelow only got to enjoy the country estate for a couple years until he died in the home in 1890. Years later, the estate (and nearby buildings) became home to the Peabody Home of Crippled Children, which worked as a sort of open-air hospital. Eventually, the home was vacated and sat, deteriorating on the hill. It was saved from demolition through the efforts of preservationists in Newton, and was restored as a part of “This Old House” with Bob Vila. It was restored as a set of five condominiums sited in a sunny interior courtyard.
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.
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.
Frederick Lothrop Ames (1835-1893) was born in Easton, MA, the son of Oliver Ames Jr. who ran the Ames Shovel Works in town. On the death of his father in 1877, Frederick became head of the Ames & Sons Corporation also inheriting upwards of six million dollars, which he invested in railroads. From this, he eventually became Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific railroad. At the time of his death, Ames was reported to be the wealthiest person in Massachusetts! Due to his role for the Old Colony Railroad, Ames had a rail station built in his hometown, adjacent to his family’s factory. Henry Hobson Richardson, who designed many other buildings in town for the Ames Family, designed this station in his signature Richardsonian Romanesque style with its large arches, varied rustication of stone, and brownstone trimming. The building was completed two years before Richardson’s death. Rail service here was cut in the 1950s, allowing the Ames family in 1969 to buy the station back from the consolidated New York Central Railroad, gifting it to the Easton Historical Society.
There are few buildings that make you stop and stare in marvel at their perfect architectural proportions, detailing and design, the Ames Memorial Hall in Easton, Massachusetts is one of them for me! In the late 1870s, the children of Oakes Ames commissioned the great American architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design the Memorial Hall as a tribute to their father. Richardson, the architect of Boston’s beloved Trinity Church in Copley Square, responded with a picturesque masterpiece using his signature architectural elements of rounded arches, dramatic roof lines, and heavy masonry adorned with carvings. The building was provided to the inhabitants of Easton “for all the ordinary purposes of a town hall”. Oakes Ames (1804-1873) was partner in the family business, O. Ames & Sons, a U. S. congressman, an early investor in the Central Pacific Railroad, and, at the urging of President Abraham Lincoln, a prominent force in the building of the first transcontinental railroad. The Richardsonian Romanesque building stands on the solid foundation of a natural ledge, from the northeast corner of which rises the beautiful octagonal tower, on whose frieze are carved the twelve signs of the zodiac.
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…
Designed by two of the greatest designers of the time, H.H. Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted, this tiny train station was (until fairly recently) under threat from demolition.
The depot was a stop on the Boston & Albany railroad designed the year of the world-renowned architect’s death, but not built until 1890. The train depot was a stop on the Boston and Albany Railroad and is constructed out of Milford granite and Longmeadow sandstone trim. Frederick Law Olmsted designed the landscaping around the depot, which includes a tranquil pond. This site is one of a few remaining designs where Richardson and Olmsted collaborated on a project.
The depot suffered a large fire in 1969, which destroyed the interior. After the fire, the town of Wellesley purchased the building for $2,000. Shockingly, the board of selectmen then voted to demolish the building. Large public protests occurred and preservation won!
The depot was restored and now is a commuter train station with the MBTA.