Millbury Post Office // 1940

Located in downtown Millbury, MA, the town’s local post office stands as a great example of Art Deco and Colonial Revival architecture styles, showing how well different styles can be incorporated into a single, complimentary design. The Millbury Post Office building was constructed in 1940 from plans by Louis Adolph Simon, who served as Supervising Architect in the Office of the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury from 1933 until 1939, when the office was moved to the Public Works Administration / Works Progress Administration. The post office was designed at the tail end of the New Deal programs to help stimulate local economies by building infrastructure and providing jobs to locals. Inside, a mural “An Incident in the King Philip’s War, 1670” was painted by Joe Lasker and installed in 1941 and was “revivified” in 1991.

Grass Hill School // 1861

In western Millbury, the Grass Hill school was constructed to provide a place of learning for children in the agricultural section of town. The district school, a remnant of the system of autonomous school districts that characterized the educational system of Massachusetts in the 19th century, this is a larger example of many of them. West Millbury had many wealthy farmers and they financed a district school here as far back as 1814. After two earlier, smaller school buildings, this two-story school was erected and was one of the most substantial. At one time, students in eight grades taught there, all at the same time, with grades 1-4 downstairs and 5-8 upstairs. As there weren’t many students, each grade only took up one or two rows. The building remained as a school for the town until 1968, and the building was leased to the Millbury Historical Society long term. They just completed a massive restoration project for the building, it looks great!

Hall-Balcom House // 1810

This historic house in West Millbury, Massachusetts, began in the end of the 18th century as a one-and-a-half-story wood-frame farmhouse. By 1810, the home was rotated 90 degrees and a more substantial, two-story brick house was constructed facing the street. The Federal style home was owned by Thaddeus Hall (1779-1855), and after his death, it was owned by his son, Orson Eddy Hall, who possibly rented the property for income while he resided in New Orleans and ran the iconic St. Charles Hotel there. The property was later acquired by Willard Balcom and remained in the family. Oh what I wouldn’t do to see the paint come off this old brick house!!

Longley Farmhouse // 1819

Backroads in New England are just amazing! When driving through Millbury on my way to visit one of the finest examples of Federal style architecture in the state, I stumbled upon this gorgeous rural Federal style farmhouse, and had to snap a picture! Millbury is best-known as a mill town (hence the name), but you can find dozens of rural farms dispersed between the mill villages in the township. The Blackstone River cuts through the town, and during the Industrial Revolution, it provided much of the water power to the town’s many textile mills and factories. Like many former mill towns, the shifting of the economy away from manufacturing towards the service sector, harmed the economy of Millbury in the 20th century. Many mills were abandoned and demolished, others adaptively reused. Before we get to some industrial history, I wanted to share this charming farmhouse. This home was built for Nymphas Longley upon the time of his 1819 marriage to the love of his life, Nancy Bond. They ran a farm on over 80 acres, with Nymphas also serving as a town selectman, an overseer of the poor, and led recruitment efforts in town at the start of the Civil War. Like many farms, this one saw suburban development take some of the former land, but this home still sits on over 9 acres, not bad for being so close to Worcester!

Unity Church Parsonage // 1878

Architects William Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt designed this parsonage in Easton, Massachusetts for the Unity Church in town (featured previously). The Victorian Gothic house is constructed of polychromatic stone, wood trim, slate and copper roof surfaces, and terracotta finials. The architecture is very well-developed and stands toe-to-toe with the other architectural landmarks in town, just a short walk away.

Langwater // 1859

The country estate of Frederick Lothrop Ames (1835-1893), “Langwater” sits in North Easton amongst a collection of some of America’s greatest architectural treasures, all thanks to the Ames Family. The Ames family was a wealthy family which had lived in Easton for many generations. Frederick’s grandfather Oliver Ames Sr. founded the Ames Shovel Works in Easton, Massachusetts. The Shovel Works earned the family a huge fortune, during a time when aggressive canal and railroad expansion was built by the hands of thousands of men using shovels. Frederick’s father Oliver Jr. was president of the Union Pacific Railroad during the building of the transcontinental railroad. Frederick’s cousin Oliver Ames was governor of Massachusetts 1887–1890. Frederick himself was Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific railroad. At the time of his death, Ames was reported to be the wealthiest person in Massachusetts. With this immense wealth, Frederick built a castle where he would spend most of the year, overseeing his various businesses, in his hometown of Easton, Massachusetts. The mansion was designed by architect George Snell and built around 1860, with a couple additions and updates until Frederick’s death. A few years before his death, Frederick hired famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who he already worked with in designing the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall(Easton’s Town Hall), to design a gate house leading to Langwater (more on that later).

Oakes Ames Shooting Lodge // c.1905

Located near the banks of Leach Pond in Borderlands State Park, this handsome stone structure set the style for one of the most iconic and beautiful buildings in Easton, the Ames Mansion. The one-story concrete and stone structure was designed and constructed under the supervision of Blanche Ames, and may have been a prototype for the construction technique used in the Ames Mansion, built just years later. Blanche was an amazing woman. She was an artist, political activist, inventor, writer, and prominent supporter of women’s suffrage and birth control. In 1900, she married Harvard University botany professor Oakes Ames (no relation). She took the married name Blanche Ames Ames. She illustrated her husband’s botanical research on orchids, and later got involved in designing the family’s country retreat. Originally designed as a warming hut during hunting season, this lodge was originally minimally designed with exposed stone walls. In the 1930s, the lodge was renovated to contain a living space, a kitchen, and a bedroom. When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired the Ames Estate in the 1970s for a state park, the Lodge was restored to its original condition. The hunting lodge is open to the elements and the public, who can warm themselves in one of the two six-foot fireplaces.

Old Brick Tavern // 1804

The Brick Tavern was an important stopping point on the old Union Turnpike, and the original two-story brick structure was completed about the time of the turnpike construction by Paul Willard, who with his heirs, operated the inn for 25 years. In the first years of the 1800s, the Union Turnpike Company planned and built a road providing a link for travel from Boston to Albany. Realizing the possibility for an inn along the first leg of the route, Willard financed this substantial brick building for travellers to stop, eat and spend the night. The tollroad was later made free, and less people stayed at the inn. After subsequent ownership, the building started to suffer from deferred maintenance and it was sold to a local Quaker group. The Quakers modernized the building by constructing the mansard roof and updating the interior. They never occupied it, but rented it to tenants for income. After, it was a hospital, boarding house, and in WWII, as a barracks of sorts for soldiers training nearby at a military base. The building is now a house!

Swedenborgian Church of Lancaster // 1881

This beautiful old building was constructed in 1881 in Lancaster, MA as a Swedenborgian Church. The congregation in The United States has always been much smaller than other prominent religions, but Lancaster had a sizable group of believers. Some wealthier residents bankrolled for a new church building, which would and could not compete with the Unitarian Church designed by Charles Bulfinch. Architect Francis Ward Chandler from the Boston firm of Cabot & Chandler designed the modest, yet beautiful building in the Queen Anne style. The congregation died off and in 1923, the building was purchased by members of the Current Topics Club, seemingly a debate and social club in town. The old church sold in 2020 as a residence.

Carter House and Publishing Company Building // 1820

Here is a two-for-one post! These two absolutely gorgeous Federal style buildings on Main Street in Lancaster were built in 1820 for George Carter and his brothers who ran a publishing company in the sleepy town. The Carter family was very active in the Swedenborgianism, a very small church in the general realm of Christianity, and they helped create a small enclave of worshippers in town. The brick, Carter and Andrews Publishing Company building (on the other side of a dead end street from this house) was built at the same time as the Carter home. The company was extremely popular in publishing children’s books, textbooks, and maps. One of my favorite publications the company made was “Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation”, now say that three times fast!