Chesterwood is the former summer home, studio and gardens of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850–1931), who is best known for creating two of our nation’s most powerful symbols: the Minute Man (1871–75) at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, John Harvard in Harvard Yard, and Abraham Lincoln (1911–22) for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Daniel Chester French was one of the most successful artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, producing more than 100 works of public sculpture. In the fall of 1895, he and his wife drove by horse and buggy and discovered the resort town of Stockbridge. They returned the next summer and purchased the Marshall Warner farm from the family who had purchased the land from Mohican Native Americans. The French family and two maids moved into the white clapboard farmhouse the next summer. To ensure that his summer would be productive as well as restful, he improvised a studio in the barn. He asked his friend and colleague, architect Henry Bacon, to design a studio for him (Bacon would later work with French on the Lincoln Memorial). Soon, in spite of renovation, the original farmhouse was deemed inadequate and French commissioned Bacon to design a residence, completed in 1901. The family owned the home for decades, even after Daniel Chester French’s death. Much of the credit for Chesterwood’s preservation and metamorphosis from summer retreat to public site belongs to Margaret French Cresson (1889–1973), the sculptor’s daughter. After her parents’ death, she maintained the property and began to use it year-round, assembled the work of her father, and established the estate as a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
H.H. Richardson House // c.1803
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.
Staples-Crafts Farm // 1750
In 1688, John Staples, settled in the untouched landscape seven miles west of Boston, now known as Waban Village in the town of Newton. John was a weaver by trade but he ended up as the first public school teacher, the town clerk, a policeman, and an alderman. John married and lived in a modest farmhouse for decades here, witnessing the birth of a new nation nearby. The couple had no children of their own but raised some of Mary’s relatives including Moses Crafts, who would eventually take over the home. Craft rebuilt the house on the original foundation around 1750, constructing a colonial farmhouse two and a half stories high with five windows and two rooms across, one room wide.
Joseph Crafts died in 1821 at the age of 85, leaving no will and considerable
debts owed. The Judge of Probate ordered the property to be auctioned, and
Joseph’s son, Moses Crafts II, made the winning bid of $5.50 for the house,
barn, and a large tract of land! In 1824, Moses Craft II sold the property to his cousin William Wiswall, who gave the house a Federal period remodeling.
By the late 19th century, the home and ample farm land were acquired by William Strong and his wife Mary. William, President of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, used the property for some time as a nursery, with apple orchards and rose gardens. After his petitioning for a train station in Waban, he parceled up the farmland into large house lots for sale, seeing the neighborhood shifting to a suburban village. He soon after built the Strong Block, the first commercial building here.
East Chop Light // 1878
Is anything more “New England” than a historic lighthouse? Whenever I think of symbols of New England, lighthouses, Saltbox colonial homes, and lobster comes to mind. Located just north of Oak Bluffs, the East Chop Light was built to guide the hundreds of ferries every summer, picking up and dropping off passengers to the island. One of the many definitions of “chop” is the entranceway into a body of water. Knowing this, it seems natural that the two lighthouses flanking the entrance to the harbor at Vineyard Haven on the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard are respectively known as East Chop Lighthouse and West Chop Lighthouse. In 1878, a one-and-a-half-story dwelling and a cast-iron tower were under construction at the station. The forty-foot-tall, conical tower was similar in style to several other New England lighthouses constructed during the late 1800s. The lighthouse was painted white at first, but in the 1880s it received a coat of reddish-brown paint and became popularly known as the “Chocolate Lighthouse.” In 1988, it was returned back to white, as the dark color was causing excessive heat and condensation in the tower. East Chop Lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation, although the Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern beacon in 1984. The land surrounding the tower was sold to the town of Oak Bluffs in 1957 for use as a park.
Eastham Windmill // 1793
Built in 1793, the Eastham Windmill on the old Town Green is the oldest workable gristmill on Cape Cod. Typical of Cape Cod, Eastham’s windmill is an octagonal , “hat and smock” or Flemish design in which the revolving top or hat can be rotated to direct the sails into the wind. Local historians contend that Thomas Paine, a noted early millwright and resident of Eastham, most likely built the Eastham Windmill in the late eighteenth century. Some sources state that the windmill was likely built in Plymouth and later moved to Truro and eventually to Eastham in 1793. In 1895, the women of the Village Improvement Society raised money to purchase the windmill and two adjoining properties from private ownership for $ 113.50. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the windmill became a local tourist attraction and the subject of postcards and souvenirs. The windmill is now the main attraction of the annual Eastham Windmill Weekend.
Narragansett Engine Company #3 // 1846
Located on Baker Street in Warren, RI, and next door to the similarly restored Federal Blues Building, the former Narragansett Engine Company Firehouse stands out as one of the most unique buildings in town. Constructed in 1846, the flushboarded two-story building features corner pilasters leading to a pedimented gable end roof. At the second floor tripartite rounded arch windows somewhat resembling a Palladian window are centered, providing an early victorian flair to the building. The structure was restored in the 1970s and now is home to the Warren Fire Museum which houses memorabilia and equipment from as early as 1802, when the Department was formed including helmets, leather fire buckets, uniforms, insignia, and photographs.. The museum even has two restored engines, “Little Button” and “Little Hero”.
Derby Summer House // 1793
The Derby Summer House is a rare and excellent example of a formal eighteenth century garden house designed with, the lightness of detail which, characterized the Federal Style. It was built in 1793-94 by Samuel Mclntire, the noted craftsman-carpenter of Salem. The structure was built in Elias Hasket Derby’s farm garden in present-day Peabody (now the site of a shopping mall) and featured two figures on the roof; a Milkmaid and Reaper, designed by John and Simeon Skillin of Boston (removed at the time of the photos). The Derby Farm eventually purchased by Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott, a descendant of the original owner, and she had the summer house transported to Glen Magna Farm 4 miles away. The structure is now a National Historic Landmark.