One of the most unique buildings on the grounds of the Harkness Estate has to be the most functional, the 1910 water tower. The structure was designed by architect James Gamble Rogers, a really under-appreciated architect who was commissioned by Edward and Mary Harkness to revamp their summer compound. The water tower features a skeletal frame with concrete block tower protecting it, surmounted by a shingled water tank which once had a functioning wind mill on it! Nearby the water tower, a garden designed by female landscape architect Beatrix Farrand frames the tower very well. In that garden sits a 110+ year old Japanese Thread Leaf Maple tree, which is probably the most beautiful tree I have ever seen.
Juniper Hill Cemetery Gate Lodge and Chapel // 1869 & 1913
As Bristol grew to be a dominant financial center in Rhode Island in the mid 19th century, prominent families there decided that their loved ones (and later themselves) needed a place of beauty to rest eternally. In 1855, descendants of Levi DeWolf, of the infamous slave-trading family, donated 22-acres of land for use as a cemetery. The old Levi DeWolf home remains fronting Hope Street, featured previously as the Reynolds-DeWolf House. It is a fine example of the mid-19th century rural cemetery movement, with winding lanes and paths. The landscape was designed by Niles Bierragaard Schubarth, who had done similar work at other Rhode Island cemeteries. Upon the opening of Juniper Hill, many families relocated their loved ones from other cemeteries in town here, so the families could be interred nearby each-other. The cemetery has three main structures; a gateway, the gate lodge, and a chapel/receiving tomb. The gate is a massive stone archway set at the entry to the cemetery, and was built in 1876 by the Smith Granite Company of Westerly, R.I. The Gate Lodge was built years earlier is located at the side of the entry into the grounds, and is a stone Victorian Gothic Revival building, designed by Providence architect Clifton A. Hall and constructed of granite quarried on the site during construction of the landscape. Yards away, the charming Amory Chapel and Receiving Tomb, built in 1913, is a 1-story stuccoed structure with a tile roof, designed by the firm of Angell & Swift of Providence. The small chapel stands out as it is a rare example of the Spanish Revival style, but has seen better days, and is apparently being used as a tool shed.
“Long Hill” // 1923
Built in 1923 as a summer home for Ellery Sedgwick and his family, “Long Hill” was designed in the Georgian Revival style by the architectural firm of Richardson, Barott and Richardson, in the northern part of Beverly, Massachusetts. Some of you may remember a post I did a while back on Theodore Sedgwick and his house in Stockbridge, Mass, where he lived while he won the case Brom and Bett vs. Ashley (1781), an early “freedom suit“, for two escaped slaves in Western Massachusetts, a case that assisted in the abolishment of slavery in the state two years later. Ellery Sedgwick, a descendant of Theodore, was editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1908-1938, turning circulation from less than 10,000 in 1908 when he purchased the magazine to readership of more than 125,000 decades later. The success was largely due to his inclusion of works by many young authors that other publications overlooked, including: Ernest Hemingway and James Hilton. The magazine, now known as The Atlantic is now one of the leading publications in the nation. Sedgwick summered here with his first wife, Mabel Cabot Sedgwick, an accomplished horticulturist, gardener, and author of The Garden Month by Month, and his second wife, Marjorie Russell Sedgwick, a rare plants specialist—both of whom created a delightful, enchanting landscape, surrounded by more than 100 acres of woodland. In 1979, Sedgwick’s children gifted the family summer estate to The Trustees of Reservations, who maintain the immaculate property and landscape to this day.
SAVE THIS HOUSE!
Located adjacent to the former H.H. Richardson House (also threatened with demolition), this home in Brookline may eventually face the wrecking ball… The rear ell of the building appears to have been constructed prior to 1844, possibly as an outbuilding or the main house as part of Samuel Perkins’ estate. The property was later subdivided and had numerous owners who bought and sold it in quick succession until 1858, when it was purchased by Francis A. White (1825-1910) a partner of Frederick Guild (1826- ) in the Boston tanning firm of Guild & White, Co., until 1871, when White retired to devote full time to his real-estate investments in the Boston area. It is likely that White updated and enlarged the home in the 1870s, with the massive corner tower, as a testament to his proficiency in real estate development and design. Francis lived in the home with his wife and four children until his death in 1910, when the home was willed to his late wife Caroline. After her death, the home was owned by their daughter Sophia, who had married John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920), a prominent landscape architect and nephew of Frederick Law Olmsted, who lived just down the street. John and Sophia lived in the home, renovating and enlarging the home at least once, and John would walk down the street to his office, now the Olmsted National Historic Site. John was the first president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, founded in 1899, and was active in the formation of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects. Sadly, a demolition permit has been applied for to raze this home, the Richardson House and a Techbuilt house by a developer. It is likely a demolition delay will be enacted, but advocacy on the two older houses preservation should be the first and only option for the site.
Walnut Hills Cemetery // 1875
Walnut Hills Cemetery is located in South Brookline, and covers about 45 acres of rolling hills and mature trees. Paved and unpaved roads and paths wind through the cemetery, following the contours of the terrain. The cemetery is an example of the Rural Cemetery movement which began in 1831 in the United States at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Walnut Hills began in 1874, when the town of Brookline authorized the purchase of land for a new cemetery, as its Old Burying Ground was filling up, it was consecrated a year later. The town retained two landscape architects, Ernest Bowditch and Franklin Copeland, to oversee its layout. Just inside the entry gate, the superintendent’s cottage (1901), designed by Guy Lowell, and the receiving tomb (1901) to a design by Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Jr. add much to the bucolic landscape. Of the number of notable burials in the cemetery, the most notable is likely Henry Hobson Richardson, one of the premier architects of the 19th century.
Fisher Hill Reservoir Gatehouse // 1887
Located at the center of Fisher Hill, an Olmsted-designed neighborhood in Brookline, is a 10-acre park with raised earth and a depression in the middle. At first glance you may think its just been playing fields and open space for as long as the neighborhood has been around, but upon closer inspection (and geeking out over the gatehouse), you can learn much more!
The Fisher Hill Reservoir was built in 1886-87 as an early component of the Boston Water Board’s expansion of its high service system. The gatehouse was likely designed by Boston City Architect, Arthur Vinal, who also
designed the Chestnut Hill High Service Pumping Station (now the Waterworks Museum) completed the same year. The gatehouse has a granite substructure, stone main floor, and brick second story. Brownstone is used for quoins and window heads, including the oversized voussoirs above round-arched openings in the main floor.
Providing water for the area for over 60 years via a large open reservoir, the land was eventually abandoned by the state as newer facilities were constructed and distribution changed after WWII. The site and gatehouse sat abandoned for decades until the Town of Brookline purchased the parcel from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for use as a municipal park. The landscape architecture firm of Klopfer Martin Design Group kept the earth structure as a historic reference to the site’s context within Brookline and greater Boston, and conveyed the site’s history as a reservoir, using both spatial and interpretive elements and signage, as well as delivering a contemporary, and programmatically rich park, worthy of its Olmstedian context.