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.

Derby Summer House // 1793

The Derby Summer House is a rare and excellent example of a formal eighteenth century garden house designed with, the lightness of detail which, characterized the Federal Style. It was built in 1793-94 by Samuel Mclntire, the noted craftsman-carpenter of Salem. The structure was built in Elias Hasket Derby’s farm garden in present-day Peabody (now the site of a shopping mall) and featured two figures on the roof; a Milkmaid and Reaper, designed by John and Simeon Skillin of Boston (removed at the time of the photos). The Derby Farm eventually purchased by Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott, a descendant of the original owner, and she had the summer house transported to Glen Magna Farm 4 miles away. The structure is now a National Historic Landmark.

Frank Cousins photograph of Derby Summer House, seemingly before its move to Danvers.

Hancock Manor // 1737-1863

One of the grandest homes in Boston before the American Revolution was the estate of Thomas Hancock (1703-1764), a publisher who later became a merchant who imported and exported for the British Empire, which made him one of the richest men in the city. Thomas and his wife Lydia had no children of their own, but in 1744, Thomas’s brother John died, and his seven-year-old son, also named John Hancock, moved to Boston to live with his uncle in the Hancock Manor on Beacon Street. John Hancock eventually took over his uncle’s business and inherited the Hancock estate. Hancock eventually became one of the most well-known Patriots and fought for independence from Britain, famously signing the Declaration of Independence with his huge signature. Widely popular, John Hancock became the first governor of Massachusetts, and won every term he ran. Massachusetts did not have a governor’s mansion, but Hancock’s palatial estate served the purpose well, receiving distinguished guests from Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington.

Ca. 1860 image via Boston Public Library collections.

Hancock died in 1793, and the grounds of his estate were begun to be sold off, most notably the eastern portion of his land which soon after was developed into the current Massachusetts State House. Hancock’s widow, Dorothy, had remarried in 1796, and she lived here in this house until 1816. The house remained in the family, though, with John Hancock’s nephew, also named John, owning the house until his death in 1859. On June 16, 1863, at one o’clock, the Hancock Manor was sold at public auction for a mere $230. The terms of the sale were cash down and the purchaser, Willard Dalrymple, had ten days to have everything removed. The building was torn down despite public outcry and souvenirs of it were actively sought as it fell. The Hancock Manor’s demolition sparked an early movement for historic preservation of Revolutionary landmarks including the Old South Church, which nearly suffered the same fate. The site was redeveloped with rowhouses which were later demolished for the front grounds of the State House’s west wing expansion, in 1917.

Amazingly, the front door of the house was donated to the Bostonian Society, and recently restored. Additionally, a replica of the house was built in 1925 based on plans of the Hancock Manor prior to its demolition. The replica house is owned by the Ticonderoga Historical Society.

Image of Hancock House replica in Ticonderoga.