The College Hill neighborhood of Providence has some of the finest residential architecture in New England, and some really fun stories of those who built these grand homes. In 1859, the house was built with a concave mansard roof punctuated with dormers and a bold bracketed cornice below. The use of round headed windows on the second floor is a really great design detail. The residence was first owned by Eliza Talbot Almy (1808-1886), who held the title to the property. Wives holding the title of properties in this period was fairly common as it would protect their personal property and residence from financial risk if the husband was met with lawsuits or financial hardship. Eliza’s husband was cotton broker and manufacturer Samson Almy (1795-1876), who had already been sued in a case heard before the United States Supreme Court in 1851. After Eliza’s death in 1886, her daughter, Susan Smith (1837-1917) and husband, Amos Denison Smith (1835-1912), a Civil War veteran, occupied the house into the early 20th century.
Belair Mansion // 1850
One of the most stunning summer “cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island is this stone behemoth named “Belair”. The house is set back way off the street and was one of the first summer estates built in this section of Newport. Belair was built in 1850 for New York oil baron H. Allen Wright in the Italianate style and constructed of roughly dressed stone and was originally about half of the size of the current footprint. The mansion was designed by architect Seth C. Bradford, who is also credited as architect of the similarly designed Chateau-sur-Mer, built one year later. Wright sold this house to George H. Norman two years after its completion. Norman (1827-1900), founded the Newport Daily News in 1848 and made his fortune as an engineer, first establishing gas works and later water works systems across New England, New York, and the Midwest. Norman made a fortune, and renovated and expanded his mansion in 1870 from plans by Newport architect Dudley Newton, with grand Second Empire additions, including the high convex-mansard corner tower. The original four acre Belair property has been extensively subdivided, and this house now occupies a lot of about an acre; with the original outbuildings sold off, and Belair is now 11 condominium units!
Coney House // c.1870
Located on Church Street, the best architectural stretch of buildings in Ware, Massachusetts, you’ll find this absolutely charming mini-Mansard house. The property was built after the Civil War and historic maps show it was owned by a J. Coney. Upon further research, it seems J. Coney is John Coney (1809-1884), a farmer who retired in 1870 and was later referred to as a carpenter in census’. It is likely that Mr. Coney built this mansard cottage around his retirement and relocation to Ware’s industrial village, building it himself. The home features gabled dormers with round-headed sash projecting from the mansard roof. A two-story tower has paired, round-headed windows with oculus windows. Perfection.
Francis Carpenter House // c.1857
I love a good Second Empire style house with a mansard roof, and luckily, New England is full of amazing examples. This house in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood dates to about 1857 and appears to have been built for Francis W. Carpenter, a successful businessman who would later serve as President of the Congdon & Carpenter Company, an iron and steel company which was founded in 1792. Carpenter did very well for himself and would later move out of this house and into a stunning Beaux Arts mansion further up the street (featured previously), designed by the premier architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings. The house is today owned by RISD, and appears to be used for residences.
Converse-Brown House // 1912
When walking around Boston, don’t forget to look up! When strolling around Beacon Hill, I always make a point to stop and look at details, and this towering mansard roof really caught my eye this time. In 1911, real estate developer Gerald G.E. Street purchased a brick horse stable and razed it to lay out house lots for ten townhouses. He hired architect Richard Arnold Fisher, a specialist in the ever-popular Colonial Revival style to design the houses. For this property, he veered into English/Tudor Revival with the stone frame casement windows. The house was purchased by Frederick Shepard Converse, a composer who taught at the New England Conservatory of Music in addition to composing such works at The Pipe of Desire, which in 1915 was the first American work ever performed at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. By 1927, the home was owned by Waldo H. Brown, New England manager of Colonial Air Transport Company, an early airline that flew between New York and Boston. The 32-year-old Waldo occupied the house with his wife Frances, three young children and four servants: housekeeper, cook, maid and nurse! In 1927 Brown filed a permit application to build a tall new room over a roof terrace with a slate mansard roof containing a huge studio window, possibly to house all of the servants in the home! Richard Arnold Fisher, the building’s original designer, was cited as architect.