Perched high on a hill in Acton, Massachusetts, this once grand Italianate mansion has been slowly deteriorating without a caretaker. The home was built in 1861 for George C. Wright (1823-1910), a wealthy coffee and spice merchant at Dwinell, Hayward, and Co., a powerhouse in the coffee industry in Boston. In 1855, he was overworked in Boston and fell ill for two years, which worried his wife, who convinced him to relinquish some of his work and move back to Acton, which he did. Soon after he built this house, not too far from the village train depot which would give him easy access to Boston. In papers, he stated, “I felt that good air and a plenty of sunshine would do more for my health than anything else. For this reason, we built upon a hill and arranged the rooms of the house so as to get the sun to its fullest degree.” Wright later served as a State Representative, and remained active in local politics in the suburban town. His home was connected to a large barn (since demolished) and featured a large belvedere (removed after a hurricane) to provide sweeping views from his house on the hill. In recent years, an absentee owner did not appear to maintain the home and it has deteriorated, but good news! The house sold the week that I took these photos, so hopefully it will be restored to its former glory soon!
Chaffee House // 1931
Herbert Almon Chaffee and Irma Chaffee had this Tudor home built by 1931 for their family in Fairfield, Connecticut. Mr. Chaffee was the Vice President and Assistant Treasurer of the City Savings Bank of nearby Bridgeport. Chaffee also at that time worked as Vice President of the A.W. Burritt Company, a lumber mill that produced building supplies and also operated as a real estate company that bought land and constructed on it. The home he had built clearly showcased the company’s work and features hallmarks of the English Tudor Revival style, with half-timbering, slate roof, and jettying (upper floor slightly overhanging the first).
Colton House // 1806
Similar to the Charles Leonard House a block away, the Colton House on Main Street in Agawam remains as a historically and architecturally significant Federal style home in Western MA. The home was built in 1806 for Rufus Colton (1776-1862), a couple years after he married his first wife. The home was likely constructed by a local builder who took inspiration from Asher Benjamin’s early plan books and Captain Leonard’s home nearby. The house was later owned by Martin Luther who operated the home as a tavern for travelers along the route from Hartford to Boston. It was later owned by Isaac Cooley and documented under the Historic American Buildings Survey. Architecturally, the house features a stunning broad entry surround which incorporates a generous elliptical fan-light with leaded glass above a paneled door. Directly over the main entry on the second floor is a Palladian window with the side panels showing the urn and leaf pattern, seen only in high-style Federal homes.
Head House // 1980
If the 1980s was a house, this home in the Fisher Hill neighborhood of Brookline would be it! Located at the corner of Fisher Ave and Leicester Street, the property actually was built in 1902 for Elizabeth Head. The home was the earliest on the street and was wood frame with stucco siding. In 1980, the home was completely renovated in the Post-Modern style, fairly uncommon in this high style. The owners hired architect Tom Larson to completely reconfigure the home and add some cartoonish features which really catch the eye. The home was re-clad with multi-colored stucco, given rounded windows, and a rounded entry with colonnade.
George Dexter House // 1885
The George Dexter House on Sewall Avenue in Brookline was built in 1885 and designed by architect S. Edwin Tobey. George B. Dexter was part-owner of Dexter Brothers which was one of the two most prominent manufacturers of paints and oils in New England (the other being Cabot Co.). Dexter hired Tobey to design a wood-frame house for his family which combined shingles and clapboards, as well as a variety of other wood trim, which would display his companies products. According to an article, Dexter also stained and painted the interior a variety of colors to showcase the wide range of options his company had.
The home is a great example of the Queen Anne/Shingle style with some early Colonial Revival elements. The Dexter House features a hipped roof and overhanging eaves supported by broad rafters, with a large front porch. The veranda and undulating oriel are especially gorgeous which showcase the ability of shingles to wrap around any shape of feature. The home was converted to a two-family in the 1920s.
Capt. Cranston House // 1783
One of the most charming homes in Warren is the Captain Cranston House, built in 1783. Captain Benjamin Cranston (1754-1823) served on multiple ships during the Revolutionary War and lived in his family home until after the conclusion of the War. He built this small gambrel home around 1783, the same year as his son was born. The family home was occupied by the Cranston’s until Mary, Benjamin’s widow died in the house in 1848 at the age of 92! The house is a modest three-bay home with an off-center chimney.
Almy-Palfrey House // 1853
This house on Ivy Street in the Cottage Farm neighborhood of Brookline, MA was built in 1853 as one of many single-family rental properties on the former Lawrence estate. This house was rented by the Amos Lawrence under the supervision of his attorney until his death in 1886, to friends as Lawrence did not want to sell the properties near his home and have bad neighbors! It appears the home was often rented to Frederick Almy (1841-1898) from the time it was built into the 1870s. Almy was an attorney who had an office in Downtown Boston. The original home was of a two-story brick mansard design, later altered in the 1920s for owner John G. Palfrey, also an attorney who later worked at the Harvard Law School. Palfrey hired architect R.A. Fisher to box out the third story where the mansard roof was with brick veneer and give the home a Federal Revival design. In 1925, architects Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbott were hired to construct a one story playroom on the front corner of the house.
Ingersoll’s Ordinary // 1670
Nathaniel Ingersoll (1632-1718) was born in Salem to Richard and Ann Ingersoll, who arrived to Salem in 1629 from Bedfordshire England. Ingersoll and his family ran an “ordinary” – the 17th century term for a local tavern – which was the social center of the community of Salem Village, then an agricultural village of Salem Town. The estate even had a watch tower for citizens to watch for Native American attacks from the forest.
During the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, those accused of witchcraft were brought to the Ordinary before their initial hearings and held in an upstairs room. Originally, the hearings themselves – with accusers throwing themselves on the ground in front of the judges, screaming, and claiming to see the “specters” of the accused torturing them – were to be held in the barroom as county court sessions were. Due to the large crowds that wanted to watch the spectacle, the hearings were moved down the road to the meetinghouse (see past post), but afterwards the judges and spectators returned to the tavern for lunch and drinks. John Indian, Reverend Samuel Parris’ slave and husband of Tituba, the first accused and killed of witchcraft, worked the bar sometimes for Ingersoll, and he would show off scars on his arm to out-of-towners who passed through, bragging that he got them when he was attacked by witches. The barroom at Ingersoll’s is also where one of the accusers admitted that they were accusing and sending innocent people to their deaths for nothing but “sport.”
When Nathaniel Ingersoll died in 1718, the estate was sold and operated as a tavern through the 1700s and into the 1800s under different owners. Due to its proximity to the militia training field, it was frequented by the men who later marched from Danvers to confront the British soldiers on the day of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The home eventually became the parsonage of the First Church of Danvers and remained as such until about 1970, when the home was acquired as a private home.
Dr. Robert Amory Houses // 1870
Two homes, originally identical, were built side-by-side in the Longwood area of Brookline by Dr. Robert Amory, a Harvard physician who married the daughter of Amos A. Lawrence, the developer of the neighborhood. Amory likely got a good deal on the lots and developed them with two single-family stone mansard homes facing the Muddy River, which was soon after redesigned by Frederick Law Olmsted as part of the iconic Emerald Necklace system of Boston and appropriately renamed the Riverway. Dr. Amory apparently conducted medical experiments in his stable on the action of drugs on animals before moving to Boston.
One home remains almost identical to what it looked like in 1870 with the original mansard roof with iron cresting and stone base. It’s neighbor was altered at the end of the 19th century with a gambrel roof vertical addition, portico and side porch which may have been a porte-cochere.
Samuel Pellet House // 1752
Located just north of the town green in Canterbury, Connecticut, this Georgian home looks much like it did when it was built in 1752. Built by Samuel Pellet for his second wife Hannah Underwood, the home features a central chimney, double door entry flanked by fluted pilasters, and large multi-pane windows. Not visible from the image, the home also is a salt box in form. According to the Canterbury Historical Society, Sarah Harris, Prudence Crandall’s first black student worked as a servant in this house and is believed to have resided there as well.