Eliza Starbuck Barney House // 1873

Another of the less common Victorian-era houses on Nantucket is this beauty located right on Main Street, named after its first owner. Eliza Starbuck was the third child of Joseph Starbuck and Sally Gardner, a Nantucket family that had become wealthy in the whale oil industry. At 18, Eliza married Nathaniel Barney and despite their wealth, the couple shared a home with Eliza’s sister, Eunice, and her husband William Hadwen. The husbands became business partners, opening a whale oil refinery on the site of the current Nantucket Whaling Museum. This house was built around 1873 for Eliza Starbuck Barney after the death of her husband. Mrs. Barney is best known as an abolitionist, a temperance and women’s suffrage advocate, and a local genealogist. The home is a fine example of Italianate-style architecture. Note the round-arch or Roman windows and bracketed cornice typical of the style.

Otis Company Agent’s Residence // 1870

This house in Ware, Massachusetts was built after the Civil War by the Otis Company, the major employer in town, for use as an agent’s house. Crazy I know! Historically, it was a common practice for New England textile companies to provide housing for employees (though agents got the nicest dwellings). Many of the agents were brought from Boston and a comfortable residence was a benefit of the job. The first agent to reside in this house was Sylvester Bowen Bond, agent of the company between 1870 and 1877. Mr. Bond sadly would die in the dwelling of typhoid fever, aged 36. The Italianate style property on a large lot continued to be used as an agent’s residence until the Otis Company left Ware. The property was acquired by the nearby St. Mary’s Church as a convent.

Bailey-Keeler House // c.1860

Lewis H. Bailey (1818-1899) was a local banker, merchant, and hotel proprietor in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He had this stunning Italianate Villa home built on Main Street before the American Civil War. Bailey was savvy in realizing the upcoming development boom in town as wealthy New Yorkers began to arrive in town to build summer houses to escape the cramped city living and polluted air, and he began to sell off land and develop streets in the village. To house some shorter-term summer residents, Bailey constructed and operated the old Bailey Inn on a lot adjacent to his own home. The inn was torn down in the 1920s as the town’s dynamic as a summer town began to change with more more year-round residency. The Italianate Villa is a lasting legacy of Bailey and his impact on the town. The home with its square tower and detached carriage house are in a great state of preservation and significantly contribute to the character of Main Street.

Providence Custom House // 1855

The Providence Custom House was designed by the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department Ammi B. Young in an academic Italianate style. Built between 1855-1857, the structure was constructed of the iconic granite from quarries in Quincy, Massachusetts. It is a three-story building, topped by a hip roof and metal dome (hard to photograph), with strong quoined corners and cornices between the levels. After completion it housed the city’s main post office, Federal District Court, District Attorney, Internal Revenue Service, Collector of Customs, and Steamboat Inspector. The space was outgrown, and a modern Federal building was constructed a few streets away, though they retained offices in this building. According to Wikipedia, after the Federal Government vacated the structure in 1989, it was considered by a variety of businesses for occupation, including a restaurant, a facility for homeless persons, and offices. The building was bought by the State of Rhode Island and converted to office space for the State Courts System. After extensive renovation at a cost of $550,000, the building was opened by the state in 1992 as the John E. Fogarty Judicial Complex.

Edward Moulton House // c.1870

This stunning Italianate style home in the Forest Hills area of Jamaica Plain, Boston, sits directly adjacent to Forest Hills Cemetery, one of the finest examples of a rural cemetery in America. This house dates to the mid-19th century and maps show it was built on land owned by Isaac Cary, who built homes on this hill. By the 1880s, the property seems to have been acquired by the cemetery, or they gave financial assistance to Edward Everett Moulton, who worked as an Assistant Clerk at the cemetery. Edward lived in this house seemingly until his death in 1927. Since then, the home stands as one of the best-preserved in the area and is a testament to stewards of these significant old homes.

Hathaway-Read House // c.1800

The best street in Assonet (Freetown), Mass. is Water Street, a quiet road that runs along the bank of the Assonet River with gorgeous old homes lining the opposite side. This beautiful home on Water Street was built around the turn of the 19th century, possibly as a rental property for Philip Hathaway who lived nearby. The home was likely built by shipbuilders, who worked across the street, building sloops for the village’s sea captains. From the date, we know the boxy Federal style home once was more refined, but it was updated by a later owner, Captain Washington Read. Captain Read loved being on the open sea. From age nine, he worked on his father’s ships as a cabin boy, eventually commanding his own sloop at just thirteen years old! Later, in the ship “Caroline Read” (named after his wife), he circumnavigated the globe. Starting from New York in 1850, being then thirty-seven years of age, he doubled Cape Horn to San Francisco; thence to Singapore, thence to Calcutta, thence around the Cape of Good Hope to London, and from there home to New York. The trip occupied seventeen months. Captain Read crossed the Atlantic about seventy times, his wife accompanying him thirty-eight times. He never grounded or lost a vessel. He rescued many survivors from numerous wrecks, taking fifty-two from one wreck in mid-ocean, encountering great peril in so doing. For this he received high commendation from the Lord Mayor of London, the rescued being British subjects. It was Read who “modernized” this home with Italianate detailing including: the bracketed eaves, bay windows, and door hood. The monitor roof may have been original.

Peckham Houses // c.1855

On a little stretch of Kay Street in Newport, you can find four strikingly similar Italianate style houses, all neighbors. Upon further research, it turns out they were designed by the same man, Job Peckham. Job Almy Peckham (1807-1885) was a descendant of one of nearby Middletown’s “founding” families. He ran a lumberyard and began working as a housewright, building homes. He was a believer of the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so he built many of his houses in a sort of cookie-cutter way, but each showcasing slight design changes. One of the most impressive features of these homes is the massive overhanging eaves with scrolled brackets. Peckham’s own house (bottom right) is included in the bunch. What do you think of these homes?

Case-Crowley House // 1840

Built in 1840 for Titus Case, this old house looks very different than it would have been when first constructed. The house was originally Greek Revival in style, probably with a gabled roof, common of the region and style. Case died in 1845, and the home was later purchased by Jeremiah Crowley who ran the Canton Creamery nearby. After the Civil War, he “modernized” the house in the then fashionable Italianate style, with a low-sloped roof with overhanging eaves, large brackets, a cupola, and a wrap-around porch.

Lancaster Industrial School for Girls – Rogers Cottage // 1855

The Lancaster Industrial School for Girls in Lancaster, Massachusetts, was was established in 1854 as one of the most progressive correctional institutions of its day, and the first in the U.S. for girls. Throughout the 19th century, state governments struggled with how to best deal with youthful law-breakers and vagrants. Some states began to provide correctional facilities, often known as “Industrial Schools,” while other states continued to incarcerate “delinquents” in prisons alongside adults who often were charged with much more heinous crimes. Institutions like the Lancaster Industrial School led the way in social reform, copying a cottage system created in France that emphasized a wholesome, family-like atmosphere and the opportunity to rise above the “low life” slums from which Victorians assumed delinquent children came from. All girls who were under 17 years old at the time of commitment, were housed in one of eight “cottages” where they would each have their own rooms and chores. The Rogers Cottage seen here was one of a handful of the earliest cottages, all identical in design. Matrons and teachers taught the girls the domestic arts, including how to cook and sew. The Industrial School closed in the 1970s and has been used in an ever-diminishing role by the State of Massachusetts ever since. There have been talks about this complex being sold for redevelopment with some old buildings saved, but I am not holding my breath.