In 1679, three years after the end of King Phillip’s War, an armed conflict in 1675–1678 between indigenous inhabitants of New England and New England colonists, land that would become Rochester, Mattapoisett, Marion, and Wareham was purchased from King Phillip, and immediately divided among 32 proprietors of “Old Rochester.” The first white settlers took up residence in 1680, and the Town of Rochester was incorporated in 1686. Rochester town center was formally established in 1697 when land was set aside for a meetinghouse, burying ground and training field. Rochester’s first meetinghouse, built in 1699, served as a church and town building. A larger meetinghouse was built in 1717, and a third in 1760, doubling in size every time as the town’s population grew. The old buildings were insufficient for the growing farming town, and wealthy widow Elizabeth Leonard funded half the cost of a new town hall building. The current structure on the town green was built in 1892 and is an uncommon example of a Queen Anne style town hall in Massachusetts. The building originally was painted a darker color, common in the style, but was given a bright white paint scheme to blend in with the older buildings on the Green.
This “cottage” on Water Street in Marion, Massachusetts was designed by William Gibbons Preston and built for Judge James Austin in 1885. By 1919, the property had passed into the hands of Herbert Austin and his sister Miss Edith Austin, the latter, a benefactress of many local causes. In 1921, Edith Austin’s best friend June Butler married Parker Converse and honeymooned in China. Upon her return, June shared photographs of moon gates to her best friend Edith. Moon gates are circular opening in a garden wall that acts as a pedestrian passageway and is a traditional architectural element in Chinese gardens. Upon seeing these, Edith had one built as a formal entrance to her massive gardens. The stones were pulled from the grounds and shoreline, and the top piece was apparently purchased in China and shipped to Marion. The open cornice and ducks that adorn the top symbolize wealth and marital bliss. The infamous 1938 New England Hurricane heavily damaged the Austin cottage, but seemingly spared the moon gate. The property was later subdivided.
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.
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.
Main Street in Marion, Massachusetts is a house lover’s dream. The street is lined with perfect 18th century capes and old whaling captains houses. This little cape house was built in 1790 for a J. Blankinship, one of the prominent local whaling families in town. By the early 1900s, Henry M. Prichard, an accountant, lived here. Born in New York City, Prichard and his family moved to Massachusetts. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the 25th Massachusetts Volunteer infantry and was part of the Burnside Expedition. According to his obituary,“he was wounded so seriously at the Battle of Cold Spring Harbor that he never fully recovered.” An “ardent devotee of canoeing”, Mr. Prichard retired to Marion, having spent most of his life in New York City and lived out his final days. It was likely he who added the large dormer windows as fresh air and light were seen as cures to ailments in the time. His widow, Abby and daughter, lived here until at least the mid-1920s.
This late 19th century home in Marion was built for Florence and Walton S. Delano, a descendant of the great Delano family in Massachusetts. Walton worked in nearby Wareham at A. S. Gurney and Company, dealers in coal, grain and flour. The house is unique as it is in the American Foursquare form, a type of home built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The hallmarks of the style include a basically square, boxy design, two-and-one-half stories high, usually with four large, boxy rooms to a floor, a center dormer, and a large front porch with wide stairs. This example stands out for the shingle siding, flared eaves and rubblestone foundation. Swoon!
Built during the 1890s for real estate agent Harvey W. Everest, this home in Marion has such a stately presence even as a cottage. The Colonial Revival home features a large gambrel roof with two shed dormers and one central gable dormer. Mr. Everest in was active in town affairs, he petitioned to build a section of sea wall in town to help protect the buildings from storms and flooding during inclement weather. After building this home, he lived out his final days here, until the old age of 92. There is a horse hitch near the street too!
Across from the Marion Town Hall (last post), this perfect little cottage showcases what makes coastal New England so special. Built around 1840, by and for Warren Blankinship, a carpenter in town, the home represents a well-preserved example of a modest Greek Revival home. The home is clad in cedar shingles, a hallmark of many coastal homes in New England. White Cedar shingles are so popular historically as the species is such a hard wood that pieces are naturally insect and rot resistant and hold up amazingly well to salt air. Early colonists noted the use of the tree for canoes and other objects by Native people and followed suit, constructing homes from the native tree. The shingles were usually left exposed, and they would eventually weather over time. The exposed, cedar shingles have been a classic look in coastal homes since and even today, evoke a strong sense of place when seen on an old home here.
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.
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!