One of the oldest and most significant homes in Boston is the Loring-Greenough Houseon South Street in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. The house was constructed in 1760 for Joshua Loring (1716-1781), a Commodore in the English Colonial naval forces, who sought retirement from military service at this house on the outskirts of Boston. His life as a distinguished member of the Colonial gentry came to an abrupt end with the bitter factionalism of the incipient Revolution, made worse by the fact he was appointed as a member of the governor’s council by Governor Thomas Gage, a position which made him so unpopular that he was reportedly attacked by mobs. A popular story recounts that, asked by an old friend what he would do when faced by a choice between remaining loyal and supporting the popular spirit of revolt, Loring replied “I have always eaten the King’s bread, and always intend to.” Immediately after taking this position as a Loyalist and aligning with the King of England, Loring was forced to flee, with his family, to the safety British-occupied Boston. He was denounced by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress as “an implacable enemy to their country” and later fled to Nova Scotia, before living out the rest of his life in England, where he received a royal pension until his death. The Loring property in Jamaica Plain was quickly taken by Revolutionary forces and was used as a hospital during the siege of Boston. After the Revolutionary War, the property was confiscated by the state in 1779 and sold at auction to private owners.
Anne Doane, a wealthy forty-year-old widow, bought the Loring estate in 1784, in anticipation of her marriage to lawyer David Stoddard Greenough (1752 – 1826). Four generations of their descendants lived in the house until 1924, when the house and the small surviving plot of land on which it stands was purchased by the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club, saving it from demolition. The members, all women, were following the example of earlier ladies’ associations, which had saved and begun to restore such historic sites as Mount Vernon and Monticello. The Loring–Greenough property is still owned and operated by the Tuesday Club, which offers tours on Sundays and other programming and events throughout the year.
New England is lucky to have so many diverse house museums where architecture and history nerds like me can tour old houses and envision what it was like to live in that era. The Governor Henry Lippitt mansion in Providence stands out as one of the most significant Victorian-era homes in Rhode Island, and contains one of the best-preserved Victorian interiors in America. The mansion was likely designed by local architect Russell Warren, and modified by Henry Lippitt (1818-1891), heir to one of Rhode Island’s leading textile manufacturing families, for his wife Mary Ann Balch (1823-1889) and their six children who survived to adulthood. While Henry was a prominent businessman, his wife Mary may have been even busier. Mary owned and managed rental properties in Providence, including this mansion, giving her husband Henry life tenancy. She oversaw day-to-day running of the mansion, supervising the servants while teaching her daughter Jeanie, who became deaf at age four due to complications from scarlet fever, to read lips and continue to develop her speech. The Lippitt Mansion is an early, and high-style example of an Italianate Villa/ Renaissance Revival design, which moved away from the more prescribed forms of architecture towards the more eclectic, Victorian-era mode. The home features two main facades, with the smaller, west (main) facade featuring a central pavilion with ornate foliate frieze and Corinthian columns, and the north (side) facade – my favorite – with a more commanding presence with a bold porte-cochere. The home remained in the Lippitt family for 114 years, and was later acquired by Preserve Rhode Island, who opened it to the public as a museum in 1993.
One of three pre-1725 houses in South Acton, the Faulkner Homestead is the best preserved First Period house in the area and displays elements from its First Period construction date of 1707 and from the later Georgian period. The home was built for Ephraim Jones, who was one of the first millers starting what was to become the Faulkner mills located near the old homestead. The home was known as a Garrison House, built as a refuge for the settlers in times of Indian raids, but there is no record that it was ever used for that purpose. In the 1730s, the home was rented by Ammi R. Faulkner (1692-1756), who purchased it years after he moved in. The Faulkner Homestead remained in the Faulkner Family for over 300 years, when it sold our of the family in the 1940s.
For the last post in this series on Bristol, Rhode Island, I am leaving you with a house that is architecturally stunning, but holds a dark history. Linden Place was built in 1810 by slave trader, merchant, privateer and ship owner George DeWolf and was designed by architect, Russell Warren. The DeWolfs of Bristol, who became the biggest slave-trading family in U.S. history, transported well over 11,000 Africans to the Americas between 1769 and 1820. The U.S. banned the slave trade in 1808, but the DeWolfs continued dealing in the slave trade until the 1840s by going through Cuba, where they had numerous plantations. They also got help from a DeWolf brother-in-law, who served as a customs inspector in Bristol — thus ensuring family slave ships continued to come and go. In 1825, George DeWolf suffered major financial hits and he and his family fled to his plantation in Cuba, where they’d be beyond reach of his creditors. Stories explain that with the possibility of legitimate payment out of the question, the townspeople sought compensation for George’s debts where they could, and they broke down the front door of Linden Place, and took everything, even peeling the silk wallpaper off the walls.
This stunning house was built in 1694, possibly with structural members from an earlier parsonage, by Beverly’s first minister, Rev. John Hale (1636–1700). Hale is now best remembered for playing a significant part in the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692. Hale’s theory was that demons impersonated the accused and appeared in their forms to the afflicted. He probably most likely changed his views about those executed for “being witches” due to the fact that his own wife (the second one) was accused as being a witch, though never prosecuted. Hale served as the minister of the First Parish Church of Beverly (last post) until his death. This home, just a short walk to his church, was the finest in town at the time. The house featured numerous additions and alterations over its time including the gambrel section added in 1745. The Hale House remained in the family for 12 generations, and was eventually gifted to the local historical society, now known as Historic Beverly in 1935. It now operates as a house museum.
Located on Asbury Street in Hamilton, MA, this large farm estate has a whole lot of history! The home was constructed around 1786 as a family farm for the Smith Family. After successive owners and a changing dynamic of the town from agriculture to suburb, the home was purchased in 1928 by the siblings of Beatrice Ayer, the daughter of Frederick Ayer an industrialist. The home was a gift to Beatrice and her husband, George S. Patton. George Patton (1885-1945) is best-known as a military officer who was an outstanding practitioner of mobile tank warfare in the European and Mediterranean theatres during World War II. The general was colorfully referred to as “Old Blood-and-Guts” by his men and he played a key role in defeating the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge, after which he led them across the Rhine River and into Germany, capturing 10,000 miles of territory and liberating the country from the Nazi regime. Patton died in Germany in December 1945 following an automobile accident. His death left his wife, Beatrice, and four children to preside over their Hamilton farm alone. Beatrice died in 1953 in a hunting excursion. At the time of his mother’s death, General George S. Patton IV was serving in Korea. He and his family took over the family home. George Patton IV died in 2004, and his wife, Joanne Patton eventually gifted the family home to the Town of Hamilton. The site is now a cultural center and archive which can be rented out for events.
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.
One of the most stunning Gothic Revival homes in New England has to be the Justin Morrill Homestead in the tiny town of Strafford, Vermont. The home was designed by and built for Senator Justin Smith Morrill (1810-1898), who was born in town and worked with his mentor Jedediah Harris at the local store. He later expanded and owned numerous stores in the area and diversified, investing in railroads, banks and real estate in the region. He retired in the late 1840s and became a gentleman farmer, building this Gothic Revival home in town. In 1854 Morrill was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress as a Whig. He was a founder of the Republican Party, and won re-election five times. In 1866, Morrill was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Union Republican, serving until his death in 1898. Morrill is best known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. This act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and established federal funding for higher education in every state of the country. Senator Morrill primarily used this house as a summer residence, as he spent much of his time in Washington, DC. The property remained in the Morrill family, until World War II. The house was eventually acquired by preservationists, who sold it to the state in 1969 for use as a Historical Site and museum.
Set back from tree-lined Main Street in Suffield, the Phelps-Hatheway House is but one of many handsome eighteenth and nineteenth century homes in the town. The house began construction sometime between 1732-1762 as a modest gable-roof Georgian home built by Abraham Burbank. In 1788, the home was purchased by Oliver Phelps. at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Phelps joined the Continental Army and fought in the Battle of Lexington. He left service in 1777 and, relying on his experience as a merchant, became Massachusetts Superintendent of Purchases of Army Supplies, a Deputy Commissary of the Continental Army. He was introduced to Robert Morris, the great financier of Revolutionary times. He supplied troops and received commendation from George Washington for his efforts. After the war ended, he became a prominent businessman and was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1785 and served on the Governor’s council in 1786 (Suffield was still a part of Massachusetts at this point).
Upon returning, Phelps hired architect Asher Benjamin (when he was in his early 20s!) to redesign the home into a gambrel roof mansion and construct numerous additions to make the house a suitable home for a wealthy, sophisticated man such as himself. Phelps was a principal in the Phelps and Gorham Purchase of six million acres of land in upstate New York, making him one of the nation’s largest landowners. Phelps lived here until 1802, when he moved to Canandaigua, New York, to more closely oversee the development and sale of his holdings. Phelps or his heirs sold the house, which was purchased by Asahel Hatheway and it remained in the Hatheway family for a century. It is now owned by Connecticut Landmarks and operates as a house museum.
Located on the idyllic Main Street of Suffield, Connecticut, the Alexander King House stands as a well-preserved example of a high-style Georgian home. Alexander King (1737-1802) is a prominent figure in Suffield’s history. He was a graduate of Yale, and later practiced medicine in town, as well as serving as Selectman and Town Clerk for almost thirty years. He was also a Justice of the Peace, Representative to the Assembly, participant in agitation against British colonialism, and delegate to the Connecticut Ratifying Convention of 1788, when the state ratified the U.S Constitution. The home eventually was acquired by the Suffield Historical Society, who operate the home as a house museum and holds exhibits on the town’s rich history.