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.
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 earlier, helped facilitate the first public 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.