Samuel B. Capen House // c.1869

This lovely Italianate home in Jamaica Plain, Boston, was built around 1869 for newlyweds Samuel B. Capen and Helen W. Capen. The house (with a glorious, bold paint scheme) features a central entry with columned portico, central gable with arched window and decorative trusses, and decorative features like corbels at the eaves and window hoods at the ground floor. Owner Samuel Billings Capen (1842-1914) entered the carpet business in Boston at the age of 17 in the firm of Wentworth & Bright, and in 1864 became a partner in the firm, which later became Torrey, Bright & Capen Company. He later became an advocate for immigrants moving into Boston and served as President of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Chairman of Board of Trustees of Wellesley College, and Trustee of World’s Foundation. He died while on a trip with his wife and daughter in China, after a three day illness with pneumonia, while trying to spread Christianity in Shanghai. After his death, his widow and daughter returned to Jamaica Plain, where Helen lived to 97 years old.

Governor Henry Lippitt Mansion // 1865

North (secondary) facade

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.

George C. Wright House // 1861

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!

Henry Tuttle House // 1873

This large Italianate house in Acton was built in 1873 for Henry Waldo Tuttle (1847-1916), who ran a grocery store business in town with his father, James Tuttle. The business did quite well as Henry built this massive home around his 26th birthday, likely around the time of his marriage. The exuberant Italianate home features a wide central gable and a projecting central entrance porch accessed by double entrance doors. The home has a detached stable to the left of the home too!

Acton Town Hall // 1863

Acton, Massachusetts, was once part of Concord, the first inland colonial town established in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635. 100 years later in 1735, land that we know today as Acton, separated from Concord to become their own town. Acton’s second Meetinghouse was located here in Acton Center, which was selected for its location more accessible to all houses and farms in the town. The Second Meetinghouse was built in 1806, and burned to the ground in 1862. Immediately after, a town committee was formed to construct a new town hall. Opening in 1863, Acton’s Town Hall stands as a stunning Italianate building with tripartite arched windows, corner quoins, a two-stage cupola with clock, and a bold (and historically appropriate) paint scheme. Acton’s Town Hall remains as one of the finest extant in the state.

George Lee House // c.1865

This Italianate mansion was built in the 1860s for George E. Lee, a tanner. Lee lived in this home for a few decades until his death, before which, we had a stable or carriage house built to house his horses and carriage. There is a belvedere at the roof which could have been used by George or his wife to oversee the tannery business just blocks away! The home was willed to his son William after his father’s death, who sold off land across the street for new development. Interestingly, land behind the house was sold off in the early 2000s for townhouse development, possibly to provide funding to restore the home, currently undergoing renovations. The street that the townhomes sit on… Preservation Lane.

Bristol Customs House and Post Office // 1858

Completed in 1858 from designs by architect Ammi B. Young, the Bristol Customs House and Post Office is a two-story rectangular Italianate style building, that stands out as an uncommon building of the style in town. Ammi B. Young was the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department. As federal architect, he was responsible for designing many custom houses, post offices, courthouses and hospitals across the United States. He was a master of the Greek Revival style so it is interesting to see how he diverged from his trusted style in a town so populated by homes and buildings in the style. The design is more subdued compared to other Customs Houses he designed around the time, likely a response to the declining economy in town from whaling and shipping. The building was occupied as a customs house and post office until 1962, when it was abandoned. The adjacent YMCA purchased the building soon after, connecting it via a small addition and occupying it as additional programming space until 1990. The building was restored and is now home to the Bristol Oyster Bar.

312 Ocean House Road // c.1870

This charming home in Cape Elizabeth, Maine looks to have been built after the American Civil War, as an interesting Italianate cottage. The home is clad with scalloped shingle siding which works well with the paired round headed windows facing the street. The deep overhanging eaves are supported by brackets. Running under the eaves on the sides are octagonal windows, a very unique detail. The home is located at the center of town, away from the summer cottages which sprouted up along the rocky coastline in town starting around this time. It was converted into condominium units sometime in the late 20th century.

Southport Savings Bank // 1865

The Southport Savings Bank obtained a charter from the Connecticut General Assembly in May 1854, and was organized on September 25 of that year. Original incorporators included Paschal Sheffield, Austin Perry, Wakeman B. Meeker, Charles Perry, Prancis D. Perry, E.D. Sherwood, John Meeker, Frederick Marquand, and Andrew Bulkley. A new building, located at the foot of Main Street, was constructed to be accessible to shipowners, shop keepers, the farmer patronage, and commercial traders. This bank building was occupied in 1865, eventually merging with Bridgeport People’s Savings Bank on July 1, 1955, becoming the Southport Branch of the People’s Savings Bank – Bridgeport. It ceased to be a bank in the 2010s and is now occupied by the Southport School.

Charles Loomis House // 1862

This home was built for Charles Loomis of the Loomis Family, who made their fortune in the tobacco farming and rolling industry in Suffield, Connecticut. Charles F. Loomis used his tobacco money to have this asymmetrical Italianate Villa constructed in 1862. The home features a prominent three-story tower capped with iron cresting, broad overhanging eaves with brackets and some stickwork, and a gorgeous door with arched transom and sidelights. There are almost too many architectural details to list. What is your favorite?