Founder’s Hall // 1883

The centerpiece of of Atlantic Union College‘s campus in Lancaster, Massachusetts, Founder’s Hall is significant not only for its architecture, but as the oldest educational building constructed for a Seventh-day Adventist school in the United States. The school was constructed in 1883 as South Lancaster Academy, the school was established Stephen N. Haskell, an elder of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church. Haskell financed the school by floating a stock issue of $75,000 among the 15,000 Adventists of the time. Wood for the building’s construction was cut locally and much of the labor to build it was donated without charge. The architectural firm of Barker and Nourse designed the Queen Anne/Stick style building. South Lancaster Academy changed names, first to Lancaster Junior College, and then to Atlantic Union College, the name which it retains today. The building is presently used as administrative offices.

Carter-Hussey-Whitney House // 1827

Architecture and history is often layered, so it’s always a treat to find a building that showcases different eras in design. This cute house on Main Street in Lancaster was built in 1827 for a James Carter. The home was a side-hall two-story gable end house, with a Federal style fanlight over the front door (which remains). By 1847, the property was sold to Captain Francis Hussey, a sea-captain from Nantucket who seemingly wanted to get away from the sea, settling in central Massachusetts. He is likely the one who added the corner pilasters, giving the home an update in the Greek Revival style, which is very common on his native Nantucket. Hussey died in 1863 and the home went through the hands of a couple owners until Anna Henshaw Whitney purchased the property in 1887. Ms. Whitney was born in Cambridge, and after attending private schools, she moved to Lancaster in the 1860s as an assistant at Lancaster Academy, teaching there until her retirement in 1889 at 45 years old. It was Anna Whitney who constructed additions to the home, and the beautiful mansard roof which we see today. In her retirement, Anna farmed the massive property and opened one of the finest kennels for Saint Bernard dogs in the world. From this, she became the first woman judge with the Westminster Kennel Club.

Old Settlers’ Burying Ground // 1674+

I know.. I know.. It’s not a building, but I couldn’t help myself but to find this hidden cemetery and take some photos! Tucked way off a street, across railroad tracks and down into a grove of trees, I came across this Colonial-era cemetery known as the Old Settlers’ Burying Ground. Established by 1674, it is the town’s oldest formal cemetery with gravestones dispersed, both standing up to the heavens and seemingly jutting out of the ground like crooked teeth. The Old Settlers’ Burying Ground contains approximately 196 stones and an estimated 230 burials. The stones in the cemetery reflect the continuum of headstone iconography popular from the 17th through 19th centuries, depicting winged death’s head, soul effigy, heart, hourglass, skeleton, and cherubs, to name a few. The cemetery is thought to possibly have unmarked graves of the colonists who were killed during the Lancaster Raid, the first in a series of five planned raids on English colonist towns during the winter of 1675 as part of King Philip’s War. Metacom, known by English colonists as King Philip, was a Wampanoag sachem involved in leading and organizing Wampanoag warriors during the war. The tension that led to these raids began from the decline in the fur trade due to overhunting, the decrease in the native population due to European-derived diseases, and the invasion of English livestock on native land. According to one estimate, at least fourteen Lancaster inhabitants died and twenty-three were captured and taken as prisoners, some of those 14 are likely buried here in unmarked graves.

Lancaster First Church of Christ // 1816

The First Church of Christ in Lancaster, Massachusetts, (also known as the Bulfinch Church) is one of the finest Federal style religious buildings in America. The history of First Church goes back to the beginnings of the town of Lancaster in 1653. By Massachusetts law, a town could not be established without a church and a minister. First Church was founded as the official town church. The current building is the fifth of the congregation and was designed by Charles Bulfinch, who is regarded by many as the first native-born American to practice architecture as a profession. The church building is rectangular in plan with a projecting front section supporting a two-stage tower. At the facade, an arcaded and pedimented portico with three high openings with round-arch tops, frame three entry doors. The arches are separated by pilasters, which rise to an entablature and a fully enclosed gable pediment. The church is so pleasing to look at! To the side, the old horsesheds remain, where members would keep their horses during church services.

Elias Danforth House // 1832

On the southern end of Center Village in Lancaster, MA, this gorgeous late-Federal style home holds a stately presence built into and atop a sloping hill. The home was built for Elias Danforth (1788-1868) in 1832 and has been so little-altered in the nearly 200 years since. The house features amazing full-length side porches with bold columns, an early sign of the emerging Greek Revival style. The home sold a couple years ago for just over $600,000, which is a STEAL for the location and high-quality house and interior. Wow!

Lancaster Center School // 1904

Situated on the iconic Town Green of Lancaster, MA, this gorgeous Colonial Revival school building elegantly fits into the surrounding context of stately civic buildings in the small town. The Center School, (now known as the Prescott Building), was designed by architect Herbert Dudley Hale of Boston, and built in 1904 for use as the Town of Lancaster’s first high school. The building committee formed to oversee proposals and funding of the school settled quickly on the desire to see it built in the Colonial Revival style to compliment the other Town Green buildings at the time, most importantly the Charles Bulfinch-designed church at the northern end (more on that tomorrow). The Center School had been used continuously as a public school until 2001, when it outlived its utility as a modern and codified school facility. The building stood vacant for a number of years until it was restored and re-utilized as town offices next to the town hall.

Burbank Homestead // c.1800

Do you like McDonalds french fries? If you do, you can thank Luther Burbank, who was born in this house!

Image courtesy of Lancaster Historical Society

This Federal style home formerly in Lancaster, MA, was built around 1800 by housewright Simon Willard. The brick farmhouse saw generations of the Burbank Family live, marry, and die here. In 1849, Luther Burbank was born in an upstairs bedroom, as the 13th of 15 children of Samuel Walton Burbank and his three wives (not at the same time). Growing up on the farm, Luther enjoyed the plants in his mother’s large garden. When his father died when he was 18 years old, Burbank used his inheritance to buy a 17-acre plot of land in nearby Lunenburg. There, he developed the Burbank potato. He soon after sold the rights to the Burbank potato for $150 and moved to California, where he spend the remainder of his life. Today, the Russet Burbank potato is the most widely cultivated potato in the United States. The potato is popular because it doesn’t expire as easily as other types of potatoes, and it is the most commonly used potato for McDonalds iconic fries. In his life, Burbank created hundreds of new varieties of fruits (plum, pear, prune, peach, blackberry, raspberry); potato, tomato; ornamental flowers and other plants. He did more than I could possibly list, I highly suggest reading about him online. He was even so inspiring that Frida Kahlo painted Burbank as a tree/human hybrid, sprouting out of his corpse underground (seriously). In the 1930s, Henry Ford came to Lancaster and negotiated with the Dexter family, who then owned the house, to move the wood-frame ell to his museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it remains to this day. The brick house was demolished by the Federal Government when the nearby U.S. Army Base at Fort Devens was expanded in the site.

Judge John Sprague Second House // 1785

When Judge John Sprague built his first home in Lancaster (see last post), he was just 31 years old and built a modest attorney’s home at the beginning of his career. After the Revolutionary War, Judge Sprague was one of the wealthiest residents in town and as a result, built a more substantial house on Main Street on the banks of the Nashua River. Eli Stearns and Jonathan Whitney, Lancasters most talented carpenters and craftsmen, were responsible for the construction with stunning detail inside and out. After John’s death, the home was willed to his only child, Ann Austin Sprague Vose and her husband Peter. The home remained in the family until the 1870s. Later, it was purchased and given as a parsonage to the local Unitarian church “fully furnished and equipped” by Col. John E. Thayer, who maintained it for 25 years. In 1933, the year Thayer died, it was bequeathed to the church. Besides the mid-late 19th century window replacements, the home looks much like it would have when built. Swoon!

Judge John Sprague House // 1771

This old Georgian house in Lancaster was built in 1771 for 31 year old John Sprague. John was born in Rochester, MA, and when of age, attended Harvard College graduating in 1765. Upon graduating, he moved to Worcester and became a law clerk. He moved around in the next couple years before settling in Lancaster and opened up a law practice with Abel Willard. Upon the dawn of the American Revolution, the partnership dissolved as Abel, a loyalist to England, fled the area. Judge Sprague would later become a member of the convention for ratifying the Constitution of the United States. In 1798, Sprague was appointed chief justice of the court of common pleas for Worcester County, a position he served as until his death. The Sprague house would have originally had a large, central chimney, which was possibly changed in the 19th century.

Jonas Whitney House // c.1803

This stunning old house in Lancaster was built in the early 19th century for Jonas Whitney (1772-1846), who acquired the land from his father, who lived across the street. The home was likely built as a wedding gift to his new bride, Mary Hawkes when they married in 1803. Jonas worked as a carpenter, and possibly built his house himself. The house is symmetrical with five bays. A classic door surround with batten door oozes charm, with the massive central chimney providing warmth throughout the house during the cold New England winters. I need this house!