The United Methodist Church of Nantucket stands prominently at the top of Main Street on land was obtained from Peleg Mitchell in 1822. Construction on the site began in 1823 with the massive structure originally built with a pyramidal hip roof of enormous timbers brought to the island on whaling vessels. In 1840, the roofline was amended with the present gable roof, constructed over the original hip roof. The church is a highly significant example of Greek Revival architecture on the island and a more rare example of the temple-front form seen there. Deferred maintenance threatened the building to the point that in 1995, the building was listed as one of the most endangered buildings in Massachusetts. A restoration was undertaken funded by private contributions and the Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund, preserving the building for another 200 years.
This Colonialized Federal period house sits just down Vestal Street from the Maria Mitchell Association campus on the ever-charming island of Nantucket. The home was built around 1820 for Gorham Hussey (1797-1879), who would have been around 23 at the time. He married Lydia Macy in 1820 and the couple had twin daughters that same year, likely right after this house was completed (talk about a busy year)! The home was later owned by photographer John W. McCalley, who photographed this and other houses in the area. The home retains a high-style Colonial Revival fanlight over the door, likely added in the first three decades of the 20th century as colonial homes were romanticized.
Colonial-inspired homes on Nantucket never will go away, and that is because the entire island is a local historic district! New construction, demolitions, and alterations to existing structures all need to be reviewed and approved on Nantucket, no easy task! This home was built in the inter-war period (before the historic district), when New Englanders still harkened back to the classics, Colonial homes. The house was built in 1939 for Annie Robb, and it was later purchased by artist couple Vladimir Kagan and Erica Wilson. Vladimir had a really interesting life. A cabinetmaker’s son, Mr. Kagan came to the United States at 11 after fleeing Nazi Germany with his family. He trained at his father’s New York workshop and by the 1940s was producing his own designs. One of his first orders was a set of tables and chairs for a delegate lounge at the fledgling United Nations! Meanwhile, across the English Channel, a young woman named Erica Wilson came into the world in 1928 in the town of Tidworth, England. Her father was in the military and the family moved to Bermuda soon after Erica’s birth. A drawing prodigy, Wilson “translated her drawing techniques into needlework,” Illya said. Needlework became her artistic focus and she graduated from the Royal School of Needlework in London. The duo lived in this home as a summer respite, where they could hone their artistry and skills. Their son, Ilya Kagan (also an artist, of course) also stayed in the home and still resides on the island. Love it!
Ellen Banning Ayer (1853-1918) of Minnesota married Frederick Ayer in 1884 and her life completely changed. Frederick Ayer was one of the richest men in New England and he was involved in the patent medicine business, but is better known for his work in the textile industry. After buying the Tremont and Suffolk mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, he bought up many textile operations in nearby Lawrence, combining them in 1899 into the American Woolen Company, of which he was the first president. The couple had at least three houses in Lowell, Boston, Pride’s Crossing and had three children (one of whom Beatrice, later married the famed general George Patton). As the Ayer Mansion on Commonwealth Avenue was being built, the family was looking for a country house near the city. One year, Frederick asked Ellen what she wanted for a gift and she said “roses”. Frederick purchased an old farmhouse on Nahanton Street in Newton and had greenhouses and a stable built immediately, followed by a Colonial Revival country house for his wife Ellen. The mansion held lavish parties for the Ayers, who loved to entertain and it was passed down to their eldest daughter Katharine Ayer Merrill. After her death in the 1980s, the large site was eyed for redevelopment. The architectural firm of Dimella Shaffer was hired, and they restored the Ayer House, and designed forty residential units on the site, all tucked into the woods gently peering out here and there.
After the Quabbin Reservoir was filled (more on the history in my last post), the cleared land and body of water, with its over 181 miles of coastline, was seen as not only an engineering marvel, but a place of natural beauty and splendor. Upon a rise in the land and the edge of the reservoir, they saw a perfect location to build a tower that could serve many purposes. The Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission hired the firm of Densmore, LeClear & Robbins to design a tower that would serve as a radio tower, fire station and observation tower to view the reservoir. The structure, while designed in the Arts and Crafts mode, is of modern construction and is comprised of two main parts. The lower portion, is constructed of stone and concrete, with metal casement windows, granite lintels and sills and bronze doors. This section was used for radio equipment. The interior has glazed tile walls and cement floors. The six-story tower has five floors of metal and concrete stairs. At the top is a two-level, glass enclosed observation tower.
By the early 1900s, metropolitan Boston’s demands for freshwater began exceed its supply, causing the state legislature to look for other sources of water to supply the metro’s population growth. A 1922 study endorsed the Swift River Valley (Quabbin area) as the best location for a new reservoir that could supply Massachusetts with fresh water, but there was one issue, there were towns and people living there. To create the Quabbin Reservoir, the depressed land would need to be flooded, this required over 80,000 acres of land to be purchased or seized by eminent domain by 1938. Four towns: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott were disincorporated and their excess land not flooded was added to surrounding municipalities. In total, an estimated 2,500 residents lost their homes as part of the flooding. Not all elements of the towns were destroyed, however. Town memorials and cemeteries in the four towns were moved to Quabbin Park Cemetery, in Ware, a short distance from the Quabbin Reservoir. Many other public buildings were moved intact to other locations (like those in Dorset, Vermont featured previously). In the over 80,000 acres that were flooded, the Commonwealth had to relocate an estimated 7,500 burials in over 35 cemeteries in these flooded towns. Bodies were removed from their respective locations, and intered in the new Quabbin Park Cemetery, built by the Commission in 1932 with grounds designed by landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff. An area for unknown graves and a memorial area at the entrance to the cemetery also contains public war monuments from the abandoned towns. This service building was added to the cemetery from designs by architect Frederick Kingsbury who died during its construction.
The East Congregational Church in Ware was established in 1826, spurred by the industrial growth and subsequent immigrant population boom in the village of Ware, Massachusetts. The Ware Manufacturing Company, a major player in town, contributed $3,000 to towards the construction of a new congregational church in the village, which was matched by residents. The original church was built in 1826, following plans prepared by Isaac Damon, a noted church architect from Northampton, in the Federal style, popular at the time. In 1925, just a year before its centennial, the church burned to the ground. Plans to rebuild the church formulated immediately. Due to changes to the neighborhood since 1826 (notably the construction of tenement housing adjacent to the church), the decision was made to locate the new church setback from the street. Plans were drawn by Frohman, Robb and Little of Boston for the new building, which was to be Federal Revival, a nod to the former church building. The grounds in front were landscaped by the prominent landscape architect Arthur A. Shurtleff. After WWII, population decline and dwindling membership of some churches in town required a few congregations to consolidate, creating a union or united church here. The United Church of Ware came into being in 1969 when the East Congregational Church, United Church of Christ and the Ware Methodist Church, United Methodist Church joined together and became one federated church with ties to two denominations.
All Saints’ Church in Ware Massachusetts was originally known as St. William’s parish, and was the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the town. Beginning in 1850, regular Catholic services were held in the new industrial village, as large a population of French Canadians moved there for work in the textile mills. A small frame church was built on West Street and a cemetery laid out around it for members of the congregation. As the congregation grew, a larger building was needed. In 1888, work began on the present structure which was to be located in a more central location. The Archdiocese worked with Patrick W. Ford, an architect who designed many Roman Catholic churches built in the eastern part of United States through the latter half of the 19th century. The Victorian Gothic church building remains one of the best examples of the style in central Massachusetts.
South of the Ware River in Ware’s Industrial Village, you will find this absolutely charming former manufacturing office on the side of the road. The building was constructed in 1885 for the George H. Gilbert Co., a textile manufacturer, as the company offices. The building’s architect could not be readily located, but the building appears to have been the work of a skilled designer. When the Gilbert Company relocated north to a new industrial village of Gilbertville, the Joseph T. Wood Shoe Company moved in. The building now appears to be owned by the present occupant of the mill building nextdoor, American Athletic Shoe Company. The former Gilbert Co. Office is one of the more high-style buildings in the town of Ware and exhibits the best in Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival architecture.
The first library in Ware, Massachusetts was organized in 1796. Operating on a subscribers system, books were lent out to those who paid the most at the time. The Society flourished for 26 years until it abruptly disbanded. In 1824, a second library was organized, called the Mechanics and Manufacturers’ Library, which was loosely managed by the manufacturing companies in town. In 1872, an act providing for the formation of library corporations was passed in Massachusetts. The Ware Young Men’s Library Association was the first to incorporate under the new law. They established a location in a commercial space in town until it was outgrown. In 1879, the present lot at the corner of Main and Church streets was donated by a local businessman. Funding was acquired and Springfield-based architect Eugene C. Gardner was hired to design the building. In 1923, an addition was built onto the side by architects Gay & Proctor in the Jacobethan Revival style, which blends well with the original Queen Anne building. The building remains home to the library and is the town’s public library.