One of the more high-style houses in rural Rochester, Massachusetts, is the Weld-Haskell House. The house was built around 1854 in the Italianate style for a recently widowed Susan Haskell. Susan was the daughter of Jesse Haskell, who was a state representative and served in the War of 1812, and a descendant of one of the town’s earliest colonial settlers. The home remained in the Haskell family until the second half of the 20th century.
This Italianate style house was built in 1868 for Augustus and Laura Blaisdell, natives of New Hampshire who moved here to Chester, Vermont, in 1860. The Blaisdell’s operated a company that manufactured fireproof roofing and paint at their home base in New Hampshire, and built this building on a prominent site in the village to promote sales, which were conducted from a storefront on its ground floor. The location of the Blaisdell House alongside the tracks of the local railroad depot, was strategic in order to provide ease in the transportation of goods to the village of Chester Depot from the New Hampshire-based headquarters of A.H. Blaisdell & Co.The home and store is significant in the local economy and is itself, a significant example of the Italianate style in town.
This beautiful Italianate building was constructed around 1880 for the newly established Tabor Academy, which was founded in Marion, Massachusetts by Ms. Elizabeth Taber in 1876. After Ms. Taber funded the constructed of a town library and museum and oversaw construction of the new academic building for her school, she endowed money for Tabor Hall, which was to house the school’s Principal, some boarding students, and most importantly, herself. The structure was located on Spring Street, just north of the library, until 1937, when the “Tabor Swap” was finalized. The swap was a deal between the academy and the Town of Marion, who exchanged properties in 1937. The town received the library building, the academic building (soon after converted to Town Hall) and land where this building once sat. The town erected Sippican Elementary, a public school on the land, and Tabor Academy moved this building a block over.
The first of many generous gifts by Elizabeth Taber to the town of Marion, Massachusetts was this gorgeous Italianate style library building. Elizabeth Taber (1791-1888) was educated in the Sippican Village School, immediately giving back, teaching school in Marion while still in her teens. At 33, she married Stephen Taber, a clockmaker, and they had three children, none living to adulthood. They eventually settled in New Bedford, where Stephen made much more money in his trade, paired with investments in whaling excursions leaving the town. In 1870, eight years after the death of her husband, Elizabeth Taber turned her attentions to engaging in projects for the benefit of her hometown, Marion. In 1870, she bequeathed over $20,000 for the design, construction and furnishing of a new library in town that would also house a natural history museum. The natural history museum component of the building had been eclipsed in importance by the library which was expanded by side wings during the mid-20th century. Encompassing a collection of rocks, minerals, stuffed birds and other curiosities, the second floor museum was designed to complement the first floor’s book-learning activities. By the late 1870s, the Taber Library and Natural History Museum had become a key component of the Tabor Academy campus, founded just years later.
Welcome to Marion, Massachusetts! Colonized in 1679 as “Sippican”, the town was once a district of adjacent Rochester, Massachusetts. The name, which also lends itself to the river which passes through the north of town and the harbor at the heart of town, was the Wampanoag name for the local tribe that once utilized these lands. Native settlements in present-day Marion dates as far back as 3000 B.C. as the local people were members of the Wampanoag tribe who, when the Pilgrims came, lived in a number of villages in Southeastern Massachusetts under the leadership of the great chief Massasoit. By the 19th century, the town was mostly known for its many local sea captains and sailors whose homes were in town. Today, the coastal town is known for its charming village and large waterfront homes, oh and amazing architecture!
This building was constructed in 1876 by Mrs. Elizabeth Taber (1791-1888), who, at the age of 85, founded Tabor Academy in town. She named it after Mount Tabor in Palestine rather than after herself. The school was built towards the end of the “Age of the Academies”, when in 1852, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to make education compulsory. While some major private institutions already existed, many more were founded in the mid-19th century. Tabor Academy served as a private school for boys and girls over 12 years of age, and was to remain free for local students. With the rise of public schools in the state, many academies began to struggle with admitting students, especially those that had parents willing to pay additional money for enrollment. The school struggled around the Great Depression and thus, traded buildings with the Town of Marion in the 1930s and this building became the Marion Town Hall, a use it retains to this day. The building itself is a stunning Italianate design constructed from plans by Boston architect William Gibbons Preston.
Stay tuned for more buildings and history on one of my favorite Massachusetts towns!
“Less is more” is a phrase adopted in 1947 by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to describe his minimalist, Miesian glass box buildings. While he was referring to Modern architecture, the same phrase can be used in 19th century design, where massing, form, and materials are showcased in all their glory with little frills or additions. The Robert Lippitt House in Providence was constructed by 1854 for Robert Lincoln Lippitt (1823-1858), who worked with his brother Henry Lippitt in owning and managing textile mills. Henry would later build his own mansion nextdoor to his late brother’s house (see past post). Sadly, Robert died four years after this home was built, at the young age of 34. His widow, Louisa Gorden Hallet remained in the home and remarried within a year of her late husband’s death, to Charles Lippitt, possibly a cousin to Robert. Messy. The home was designed by architect Thomas A. Tefft, a promising and respected young architect who also died young, at the age of 33.
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.
Before most small New England towns had single school buildings for elementary, middle and high school, small one-room schoolhouses like this dotted the landscape, especially in rural towns. Having smaller schools spread out allowed for a greater number of students to attend school without traveling by horseback long distances, and more local school buildings was a great solution. This c.1857 school building was in use until 1949, and it didn’t even have heat, running water, or electricity until the 1930s, making smart design a necessity to get the most out of the building. Large windows would provide natural light to flood the classroom and the steep gable roof would ensure snow to slide off the roof. Sadly, many towns have lost these buildings, but some have been restored or even repurposed as homes!
Welcome to the Stockade Historic District in Schenectady, NY! The National Park Service has described it as “the highest concentration of historic period homes in the country,” from this, the Stockade became New York State’s first local historic district, protecting it from demolitions and unfettered development. The neighborhood began in 1661, when a group of Dutch settlers, mostly merchants and fur traders looking to do business with Native Americans, settled the banks of the Mohawk River. This group of settlers built twelve houses surrounded by a wooden stockade (wooden defensive walls), to protect them from invasions, the neighborhood was named after this feature. The neighborhood developed over the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, providing an amazing layered neighborhood that showcases the best of designs throughout history! This home is no different. It was built around 1850 as an early example of Italianate architecture. It was most notably occupied by the famed Dr. Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a German-born scientist who beat the (then) impossible odds of succeeding with from dwarfism, hunchback, and hip dysplasia. Born Karl August Rudolph Steinmetz, he emigrated to the United States in the 1880s He changed his first name to “Charles” in order to sound more American, and chose the middle name “Proteus“, a wise hunchbacked character from the Odyssey. He got a job with General Electric in Lynn, MA, and was later transferred to Schenectady where he lived out his days. He settled in this quaint home between 1893-97, running a laboratory out of the first floor rooms. He went on to bigger homes, and never married or fostered children. I highly recommend that you all read more about him, he was a truly fascinating person!
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!