My favorite home in Marion, Massachusetts is this summer cottage on Water Street, overlooking Sippican Harbor. The home is said to have been built from a c.1840s house and enlarged by Reed as a summer home in the fashionable Shingle style. H. R. Reed, an agent for the Revere Sugar Refinery in Boston was well-connected in town and hosted President Grover Cleveland with Rev. Percy Browne ( a summer resident) at his cottage during the summer months. Evidently, Reed added the rubblestone elements, modified the porch, added a tower on the south elevation, the massive dormers at the roof, and is responsible for the exquisite Colonial Revival-style interior, from architect James Templeton Kelley. The home is arguably best known as the summer White House of Grover Cleveland, the only U.S. president to marry in the White House and the only two-time president to serve non consecutively – from 1885-89 and from 1893-97. The Cleveland’ Family summered in Marion between their time in the White House. In 1891, the President hoped to purchase the home, but could not settle upon a reasonable price, so he bought Grey Gables, a summer cottage in nearby Buzzards Bay (no longer extant).
Benjamin E. Waters (1863-1962) was a local businessman and real estate developer in Marion by the end of the 19th century. He acquired a large property not far from the beach, in the middle of a high-class residential enclave and developed the property, running a small dirt path through the middle, known today as Pie Alley. He built three large Shingle style homes and appears to have rented them out to wealthy residents. The homes are all situated very well on their lots among large lawns framed by stone walls, just a short walk from the beach.
“Point Rock” is one of the smaller summer cottages built during the end of the 19th century for wealthy city-dwellers to escape for summers from the stress and pollution of city life. This home was built around 1890 for David W. Lewis, a concrete and stone dealer in Boston. The home is sited in the middle of a waterfront lot, overlooking Sippican Harbor and Buzzards Bay. The house is a great example of the Shingle style, popular in the late 19th century, and features a strong horizontal emphasis and continuous shingles from the roof to the foundation. The chippendale porch balustrade is a great added touch.
One of the most interesting houses in Marion, Massachusetts, is the Frederick Cutler Cottage, at the corner of Water and Lewis streets. The home was built in the 1890s for Frederick B. Cutler, partner in the firm of Stetson, Cutler & Company in Boston, a building materials company who sold everything from long lumber and shingles to lime. The Shingle style mansion was occupied by the Cutler Family between their time in Brookline and Marion for summers until the 1920s. In 1972, the owner separated the structure into two parts that now sit on adjacent lots as 4 and 8 Water Street.
The Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, Massachusetts, was established in 1908 for the purpose of athletic exercise and a place for social gatherings in town. Historically, the town’s population surged in the summer months when wealthy city residents would flock here and stay in their waterfront mansions for a few months a year. The large hipped roof rectangular building was constructed just before the club opened in 1908, and it is flanked by eight tennis courts. Charles Allerton Coolidge, a principal in the well known firm, Shepley Rutan and Coolidge, was one of the original shareholders as well as the architect for the building. He also was a summer resident himself (his home was previously featured). The building is constructed of concrete and features paired, tapered columns which run the perimeter of the structure, supporting a deep porch. The broad elliptical arch and exposed rafters add to the Craftsman style flair of the building.
One of the most grand Summer estates on the coast in Marion, MA, is “Fair Oaks”, a 1903 Tudor Revival mansion across the Sippican Harbor from the village. Horace B. Shepard was the president of the Shepard and Morse Lumber Company, which was headquartered in Downtown Boston. The company was a wholesale dealer in all kinds of lumber including: white pine, spruce, hemlock, North Carolina pine, yellow pine, poplar, and various oaks. Given Shepard’s line of work he not surprisingly called his summer estate “Fair Oaks”, and his house’s building materials
were undoubtedly supplied by his company. He appears to have hired Charles Allerton Coolidge, who lived nearby in his own summer cottage (featured previously) to design the Tudor mansion. The “cottage” is almost 13,000 sq.ft. and has 11 bedrooms, 9.5 bathrooms. Wow!
After Charles Allerton Coolidge built his summer home in Marion, on an undeveloped peninsula, investors saw the potential for the waterfront sites nearby, plus they had a local renowned architect who could be hired to furnish designs of new homes. Boston physician Albert Edgar Angier worked with Charles A. Coolidge on his proposed summer house by the turn of the 20th century. The house is in a V-shape and exhibits late 19th century architectural elements of the Shingle style with a large polygonal section to provide sweeping views of the harbor.
Charles Allerton Coolidge (1858-1936) was born in Boston and grew up in the iconic Beacon Hill neighborhood, known for its stunning architecture. Inspired by his surroundings, he attended Harvard and MIT and studied architecture, graduating in 1883. He entered into Henry Hobson Richardson’s architectural practice as a draftsman until Richardson’s death in 1886. Upon his death, Coolidge continued Richardson’s commissions as a partner, as Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. Shepley married Richardson’s daughter; and Coolidge later married Shepley’s sister. It is likely that Coolidge became aware of Marion from Richardson’s earlier design of the Percy Browne Cottage in town. He must have liked the town so much, since he built this summer cottage in 1891 in a sparsely developed area across Sippican Harbor from the village. The Shingle style home was later rented to Isaac Henry Lionberger, a lawyer who served as assistant Attorney General of the United States by appointment of President Cleveland (who also summered in Marion). Lionberger, who spent most of his time at his home in St. Louis, married Coolidge’s wife’s sister, so the families often hung out at this home together. The summer cottage in Marion is still owned by Coolidge’s heirs to this day.
This Georgian Revival house was built in the mid-late 1920s for the George Family, who ran a construction company based out of Worcester, Massachusetts. The home was a summer retreat for the family, who acquired a prime lot on Butler Point in Marion, MA, from the Butler’s Point Associates, a group of men who developed the peninsula with the Kittansett Club and desirable house lots from plans by the Olmsted Brothers, landscape architects. The house is prominently sited and is one of the best examples of the Colonial Revival style I have seen in the seaside town. It is clad in cedar shingles as a nod to the vernacular coastal homes and larger Victorian-era summer homes seen in the village.
Bird Island sits about seven football fields away from the tip of the Butler Point peninsula, which juts out into Buzzards Bay in Marion. A small sitting area at the Kittansett Club provides a bench and amazing views of the open water and historic lighthouse in the distance. Immediately after the War of 1812, Marion became a hub of whaling and shipping with many sea captains building homes in town. As a result, Congress appropriated $11,500 for the purchase of Bird Island and the erection and stationing of a lighthouse. A 25-foot-tall conical rubblestone tower was constructed, surmounted by a 12-foot tall iron lantern. The accompanying stone dwelling was 20 by 34 feet, and a covered walkway connected the house and tower. William S. Moore, a veteran of the War of 1812, was appointed as the first keeper, which went into operation in 1819. There are legends about murder and hauntings on the island.
Moore’s wife, suffering from tuberculosis, would frequently get into liquor and cigarettes, and would become raucous when she did. When the villagers of Sippican would visit the island, many times they would bring her tobacco to the dismay of Keeper Moore. The legend claims that one morning, after returning from a shed on the island, he found his wife drunk and dancing through the snow. Reports are that he returned to the keeper’s dwelling, retrieved his rifle, and shot her. She is reported to be buried on the island, but there is no sign of a grave. Keeper Moore insisted that she had “succumbed from nicotine” when the townsfolk had asked what had happened. Many years later, when the keeper’s dwelling was being torn down in 1889, a rifle and a bag of tobacco were purportedly found in a secret hiding spot. With those items, was an alleged note that said the following:
“This bag contains tobacco, found among the clothes of my wife after her decease. It was furnished by certain individuals in and about Sippican. May the curses of the High Heaven rest upon the heads of those who destroyed the peace of my family and the health and happiness of a wife whom I Dearly Loved.”
The lighthouse is owned today by the Town of Marion. And the only residents are endangered roseate tern.