Located right on Main Street in the beautiful village of Chester, Vermont, this historic inn has been a landmark in town since it was built in the mid 19th century. The house was constructed around 1850 for Dr. Abram Lowell (1794-1876), the village doctor. Dr. Lowell conducted his medical practice in a small building next to the main house and resided in the home, which originally had a side-gable roof. Tributes printed in regional newspapers at the time of his death called him an eminent physician, accomplished gardener, “eccentric in his ideas,” and “the wealthiest man in town.” After his death, the home was inherited by his daughter and her husband, George Hilton. They immediately “modernized” the home, adding the mansard roof, which provided an extra full story of living space. The home was converted to a bed & breakfast in 1998, and has been one of the most intact, Victorian era inns in the state since! It is known as Inn Victoria, so named after Queen Victoria and the Victorian period of architecture in the United States.
One of the most prominent homes in Jamaica Plain is the Riddell House, built in 1873. The Second Empire style house was built for Samuel S. Riddell, who is listed in directories as a merchant with offices in Downtown Boston. After the Civil War, it was common for those with money, to build larger mansions outside the city and commute in via horsecar or train. Boston at the time was an industrial powerhouse with coal stacks and horses spewing waste all over, so a respite from the urban conditions of Boston was a selling point for many to build homes farther out. Interestingly, Second Empire style homes by the 1870s were starting to wane in popularity, but the owner decided to have the home constructed in the style anyway. Besides the amazing siting on the hill with lush landscaping, the house features a large belvedere at the roof, which would allow Samuel the ability to see Boston in the distance, along with all the pollution at the time.
Otis Brewer (1809-1888) worked as editor and owner of the Boston Cultivator, the nation’s second agricultural paper. The paper ran from 1838-1876 and included articles on livestock, labor-saving machines, and the best methods of cultivation. In addition, there were sections devoted to trade and commerce, moral and religious pieces, listing of marriages and deaths, proceedings of the Massachusetts legislature and Congress, and after 1843, a Young Men’s Department, and a Ladies’ Department, which featured tales and items on marriage. With the paper’s success in the mid 19th century, he had this large home built by housewright Stephen Heath, in the fashionable Second Empire style, known for its mansard roof. The home remained in the Brewer family under his son’s ownership at least until his death in 1934.
One of the most striking homes in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, is this Second Empire house built in 1870. The home was constructed for Francis B. Beaumont, who served in the Civil War as Colonel and returned to Massachusetts, settling in Jamaica Plain, around other returning vets with deep pockets. He commuted into Boston, and worked downtown as a clerk. He and his wife Clarissa had three children, two girls and one boy. Their son William, worked as a doctor in town. In 1897, he caught Scarlet Fever and died soon after. When Francis and Clarissa died in 1903 and 1905 respectively, the home was willed to their eldest daughter, Ethel. The house itself is a high-style example of Second Empire residential architecture in Boston and features decorated window surrounds and flush-board siding at the ground floor to look like granite. The home was purchased by Craddock Builders who are undergoing a large restoration project and gave the home a striking paint scheme, highlighting the many architectural details. The project is not yet complete (the front porch/steps are still being installed), but I can’t wait to see the final project, inside and out!
The Captain Nathaniel Stone House in Farmingdale, Maine was constructed in 1872 on a small plot of land overlooking the Kennebec River. The charming home was constructed by Nathaniel Stone (1797-1884), a retired ship chandler,(a dealer in supplies or equipment for ships) who moved back to his hometown after making his fortune in Boston. He lived here with his wife, Martha, and his adopted son, Uriah, in this fashionable Second Empire style. Nathaniel died in 1884, outliving his wife by two years. The property was willed to his adopted son Uriah, who quickly sold the home on account of him seeing ghosts inside, he refused to live there because of it. The home was acquired by William Ring, a businessman who owned real estate in nearby Gardiner, Maine. Between 1886 and 1912 he and his family resided at the former Stone House, but by the turn of the Twentieth-century he grew increasingly in debt, and on several occasions he borrowed against his property to meet his obligations. Before the home went up for auction in 1912, a massive fire broke out in the home, destroying all the interior woodwork, and William perished inside. Although significantly damaged, it was largely rebuilt to its original appearance by its eventual buyer and has been an architectural landmark on the Kennebec River ever since. Now that I think of it, maybe Uriah Stone could see the future and saw William Ring as a ghost!
Set way off the coast of Connecticut at the eastern end of Long Island Sound, sits this stunning lighthouse which appears more as a Second Empire style home than a lighthouse! By the early 1900s, New London, with its protected harbor at the mouth of the Thames River, had made the transition from whaling center to industrial city. New London Ledge Light was built because New London Harbor Light wasn’t sufficient to direct vessels around the dangerous ledges at the entrance to the harbor. The New London Ledge Lighthouse was completed in 1909, built by the Hamilton R. Douglas Company of New London and is an architectural antique as its Second Empire style is about 50 years past the time the style was popular in American architecture. The lighthouse reportedly owes its distinctive French Second Empire style to the influence of the wealthy home owners on the local coast, who wanted a structure in keeping with the elegance of their own homes. Sadly, many of the large homes near the shore in the area were destroyed in the Great Hurricane of September 21, 1938. Coast Guard crews lived at the light until it was fully automated in 1987. The lighthouse today is owned and operated as a museum by the New London Maritime Society.
The Dutcher Temple Company was incorporated in 1867 and founded by Warren W. Dutcher in Hopedale, MA. Dutcher was an extremely ingenious inventor, taking out 20 patents, mainly on temples and machines by which to manufacture them. Temples are adjustable stretchers used on a loom to maintain the width and improve the edges of the woven fabric. The company merged with Draper later on, but after Dutcher built this stunning Second Empire home perched atop a hill. What is your favorite part of this house? The roof and dormers? The porch? The paint scheme?
Founded in 1835, Paine’s Furniture Company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine, his son-in-law. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company. The company occupied a couple wooden and metal buildings on this site in the Bulfinch Triangle until a fire destroyed the complex. The growing firm took this opportunity to hire one of the most successful architect Gridley J. F. Bryant who worked with a colleague, Louis P. Rogers, to design the fire-proof building. The Second Empire style building with mansard roof was split into three sections with the rear two rented out to other companies, while Paine’s occupied the south-facing (main) facade. When Paine’s moved to their new building in the Back Bay, they sold this building and later alterations severely diminished the original design of the building. The current hodgepodge of alterations creates a mess of what was once an undeniable architectural landmark.
In 1873 Elnathan Jones, Jr.(1829-1904) purchased house plans from a friend in Groton, adapted the plans, and built these two houses, in Acton. One home for himself, and one for his business partner Jonathan Wetherbee (1832 1926). Also near these two houses is the Tuttle House (featured last), in a different style. All three of these men were family by marriage, and ran businesses in the village of South Acton. The Jones and Wetherbee houses were built as sister houses, identical; but over the years, the Jones House has seen some unsympathetic alterations which diminish its architectural significance. The Wetherbee House (yellow) retains its original detailing and corner, towered mansard roof.
Located on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, the Hooper Mansion represents one of the most elegant examples of Second Empire architecture style in the city. This home was actually constructed as a double-house for Samuel Hooper and his wife Anne, with a separate, semi-detached home for his son and his own family. The double-mansion was designed by esteemed architect Arthur Gilman, who used pressed brick contrasted with the tan sandstone on the home. Additionally, he designed the dentillated cornice, lavish door and window surrounds, and octagonal bays, all capped with a mansard roof with many windows laid inset to the roof, a stunning feature. The house was designed symmetrically, with entrances on each side elevation. In the early 1890s, later owners extended the eastern half of the façade so that it would be on the same plane as the western half, with an entrance at street level (seen in the right of this photo). Today, the double house is broken up into four large condominium units. When the conversion was approved, the developer wrote into the deed that the open space at the corner, used as a garden, would remain open space in perpetuity.