Wetherbee-Steele Farm // 1784

In 1775, Silas Wetherbee gave three acres of land in present day Boxborough, MA, to be used as a meetinghouse and burial ground site for the new town that he and 17 other outlying farmers of Stow, Harvard, and Littleton hoped to establish. That year, having formed a new religious society, they acquired the old meetinghouse in the nearby town of Harvard, dismantled it, and began to reconstruct it on land donated by Wetherbee. In 1783, the Town of Boxborough was officially incorporated, with the meetinghouse at its approximate center. That next year, Silas sold his son Levi, “60 acres of land, half of a building referred to as the “old house,” and half of a barn, all located just east of the townhouse. The farm was run by Levi until his death in 1829, when it came into the possession of his son, John Wetherbee (1800-1858). In 1908, the property was sold out of the family when it was purchased by Burpee Clark Steele, who owned it for the next seventeen years. Steele had immigrated from Nova Scotia to Boxborough in 1886, and he quickly became known for his expansive apple orchards. In 1925, Burpee Steele conveyed the farm to his son, Burpee Franklin Steele. Under his ownership, the old barn blew down in the Great Hurricane of 1938, and he constructed a new barn years later. Also a later addition, the Richardson Ice House was moved to the site by the local historical society in the 1990s. The farm today is protected by the town, but the buildings could use some better maintenance. Hopefully the town funds their preservation so they do not decay.

Littlefield Farm // c.1843

One thing I really love about small towns in New England is the prevalence of amazing old homes on the winding back roads. Located in Boxborough, MA, the Jacob Littlefield Farmhouse showcases the agricultural character and charm seen in the town. The farmhouse and outbuildings were built by Jacob Littlefield, who likely hired a housewright from town as the home is a near match to a home built on a nearby street. Mr. Littlefield was a farmer from Wells, Maine with seven children and a wife named Anna. After his death, his wife Anna owned the farm, until her death in 1896. Their son Albert ran the farm from about 1896-1922, after which time Jacob’s grandson Earl was the owner. Earl was taxed in 1928 for ownership of two horses, 17 cows, a bull, the house, barn and shed, tool house, ice house, root house, hen house, garage, and a second house on 101 acres. He resided here until 1929 when it was sold out of the family. Since then, subsequent owners have restored the home and the various outbuildings to maintain the architectural and historic integrity of the property. We need more stewards of old homes like this!

The Larches // 1910

George Otis Draper (1867-1923) was born in Hopedale and attended MIT to prepare to help run the extremely busy Draper Corporation in town, a family business (featured previously). With his position at the company, he had the money in the late 19th century to build a massive country estate known as The Larches. The shingled Colonial Revival style home featured a massive castellated tower and appeared like a castle in the countryside. George O. Draper sold this home to his aunt Hannah Thwing Draper Osgood in 1909, and within a month, the home burned to the ground. Around the time her husband died, she rebuilt the Larches and lived here with her daughter until they both died in 1929. The “new Larches” is a stunning blending of Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles. The home was likely designed by Robert Allen Cook, who was based out of nearby Milford, MA. The property today is run by Crossroads Clubhouse, an employment and recovery center that offers people with mental health conditions opportunities to achieve their full potential.

Hopedale Community House // 1923

Hopedale in the 1920s oversaw a civic building campaign led by George A. Draper (1855-1923), then treasurer of the Draper Corporation. Draper often talked about the need for a community center in Hopedale for his workers, and in 1919 decided to build one at his own expense. He commissioned architect Edwin J. Lewis, Jr. of Boston to design the Hopedale Community House which was intended to serve as a social and civic center for all Hopedale residents, as well as Draper Corporation employees residing in other towns. The building was opened in 1923, but sadly George Draper died before he could see it used. The Community House included an assembly hall, a banquet hall that doubled as a gymnasium, a kitchen, rooms for smoking and cards and billiards, a ladies’ social room, the Knights of Pythias club room, and candlepin bowling lanes in the basement, all of which exist to this day.

Eben S. Draper Jr. Mansion // 1926

Anyone that has followed me for long knows I am obsessed with two architecture styles, Dutch Renaissance and Colonial, and Tudors! Set back way off the street in Hopedale, Mass., sits this rambling Tudor Revival country estate. Built in 1926 for Eben Sumner Draper Jr. (1893-1959), the son of Massachusetts Governor and Draper Corporation owner Eben Sumner Draper, the home provided a secluded escape for the rich millionaire. The home was designed by Boston architects Bigelow & Wadsworth, and replaced his father’s Shingle style country mansion “The Ledges”. The new Draper mansion was highlighted in numerous architectural magazines shortly after it’s construction, which highlighted the amazing brickwork, layout, and interior finishes, all of which remain to today! This spectacular home is over 14,000 square feet and has 17 bedrooms, several located in the staff wing, 10 full baths and 4 half baths, an in-ground swimming pool, gazebo, tennis court, and landscape design attributed to the notable landscape architect Warren Manning. In the 1960s, the home sold out of the family and was used as a home for adults living with developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, physical disabilities, the facility has since sold the Draper mansion and occupies the former carriage house.

Hopedale Town Hall // 1886

In 1886, when the Town of Hopedale was incorporated, George Draper (who basically created the town for his company) bankrolled $40,000 for the design and construction of a town hall building for the new town. This Richardsonian Romanesque building was built of local Milford granite with brownstone trim. The town hall building was designed by architect Frederick Swasey and was intended to always house two commercial spaces at the ground floor. To the right of the storefronts is the entry to the town hall, which is framed by an entry arch with engaged colonettes. Before the building was completed, George Draper died, and the building was officially donated to the town by his heirs.

Draper Corporation Office Building // 1910

Located across the street from the soon-to-be-demolished Draper Factory in Hopedale, MA., the company’s former office building stands as an excellent example of how adaptive reuse of old buildings can meet current needs of a town, while preserving the past. In 1910, the Draper’s hired architect Robert A. Cooke, a local architect who had previously designed many workers’ housing projects for the company nearby. The new office building replaced an older 1880 building which held a staff of 6 men, the new building would have a staff of 90! With the unfathomable success of the Draper Corporation, the new office building, resembles a school building for a large town, showing how rich the company had become. The renaissance revival building was abandoned around the time Draper closed in 1980, but this building was adaptively reused as a senior living facility in the 1990s, saving this piece of local history!

Draper Corporation Factory Complex // 1892-2021

In 1886, Hopedale, Massachusetts separated from Milford, almost entirely due to the young, and successful Draper Corporation growing in The Dale village of town. When George and Eben Draper succeeded in creating their own town of Hopedale, with their factory at the center, it gave the Draper brothers almost complete control over the development of a 3,547 -acre community. In the ensuing decades the factory village of Hopedale became a “model” company town. The Draper Corporation controlled every aspect of the town and worker life in a paternalistic program that extended beyond social structure to include architecture and urban planning of the village, with the company developing hundreds of homes for workers, a town hall, library, churches, schools, and recreational facilities, generating an entire town centered around the industrial giant. Draper Corporation originally made doors, window sashes and blinds and ran a printing office, but they discovered early on that their most profitable business was making textile machinery. By 1892, with the advent of the Northrop Loom, Draper became the largest producer of textile machinery in the country! Due to their success at the end of the 19th century, much of the complex was built and rebuilt in fire-proof brick factory buildings with large windows to allow light and air into the facilities. Draper’s dominant position within the textile machine manufacturing industry began to erode shortly after World War II, and the company began to sell its company houses to their occupants as private homes in 1956. During the 1960s American textile machinery makers such as Draper lost their technological leadership to foreign manufacturers due to cheap labor, and the general American textile industry collapsed. The plant eventually closed in 1980, and has sat vacant until the bulldozers came this year. The site is undergoing a full demolition, which is striping this town of its historic heart. It is truly sad to see.

Stoneymeade Farm // c.1773

This stunning Georgian farmhouse in Acton, Massachusetts, was built around 1773 for Seth Brooks (1740-1831) and his wife Molly Conant Brooks, on land that had belonged to her father, William Conant of Concord (part of which was later annexed to Acton). Seth Brooks fought under Captain Isaac Davis on April 19th, 1775 at the Battle of Concord, who was among the first killed and was the first American officer to die in the Revolution. It was Brooks who ordered Davis’ body carried from the field after he fell, so he could be buried with honor. After the war, the family suffered an unfathomable tragedy. Seth and his wife, all their nine children, and all but one of their grandchildren died of the same type of tuberculosis, “slow consumption.” The family “curse” appears to have been broken by grandson Nathan Brooks, Jr., (1799-1881,) who inherited the property. According to local legend, a room beside the center chimney sheltered runaway slaves, as Nathan Brooks was an avid abolitionist. At the turn of the 20th century, the farm was purchased by Brookline timber merchant Benjamin Pope, owner of the Pope and Cottle Company of Boston. For many years, the Pope family used the house as a summer residence, with managers working the property as a dairy farm. It was Pope who named the farm “Stoneymeade,” and added greenhouses, an icehouse, and had an elaborate water system installed. Stoneymeade Farm continues to this day as an equestrian farm with boarding space for horses.

Hosmer House // 1760

This 2-1/2 story wood frame house in Acton, Massachusetts was built in 1760, and is one of the town’s best-preserved colonial-era houses. It is an unusual double house, consisting of one section with a square plan, and the other with a typical colonial “half house” plan, having three bays and an off-center chimney. The house was built by Jonathan Hosmer, Jr., a bricklayer whose workmanship is evident in the house’s many fireplaces. Hosmer was also prominent in civic and military affairs; he served (along with his son, who was killed at 17 years old) in the 1777 Battle of Bennington. The home was later owned by Jonathan’s son Simon, who may have added the attached dwelling, creating the double-house form we see today. In 1974 the property was acquired by the Acton Historical Society, which rents one of the units, and operates the rest of the property as a museum. The home is a great example of a Georgian double-house with a saltbox roof.