Robert Palmer Jr. (1856-1914) was born in Groton, Connecticut as the son of Robert Sr., a prominent businessman and Deacon in Noank’s seaside village (his house was featured previously). Robert Sr. established the Palmer shipyard, which became the largest business enterprise in Noank. Jr. would later join his father’s business and did well for himself financially, eventually marrying and building this Neo-Classical mansion on Church Street in town. The company, under Sr. and Jr.’s leadership, built many seafaring vessels that were internationally renowned until the company closed in 1914 after the death of Robert Jr. This house is unique in town for the monumental two-story portico, Palladian windows at the first floor, and a projecting entry vestibule.
West Roxbury District Courthouse // 1922
Boston neighborhoods are very confusing, and how the West Roxbury District Courthouse came to be located in Jamaica Plain is just one example. The independent Town of West Roxbury was in existence from 1851 until 1874, a mere 23 years, bookended by its time as a section of the Town of Roxbury and being annexed into the City of Boston. West Roxbury originally included parts of the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale neighborhoods. Ultimately, West Roxbury became one of the city’s eight large districts and its municipal court division is served by this Neo-Classical style building. Built in 1922, the current West Roxbury Courthouse building on Arborway, was and still is, from a municipal court perspective as well as an historical perspective, in West Roxbury. The West Roxbury District Courthouse was designed by Timothy G. O’Connell and Richard Shaw of the firm O’Connell and Shaw who were best known for their ecclesiastical designs in New England, largely specializing in the Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles. Their design for the West Roxbury Courthouse remains one of their finest non-religious buildings and a departure from their traditional styles.
Lounsbury House // 1896
One of the (many) stately homes on Ridgefield’s Main Street, this massive Neo-Classical mansion is also among the most visited in Fairfield County. Lounsbury House was built in 1896 by former Connecticut Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury. While attending the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Governor Lounsbury was so taken by the Connecticut State Building that he built a replica to serve as his family home. The Connecticut State Building was designed by Waterbury-based architect, Warren R. Briggs at a cost of $112,000! Gov. Lounsbury loved this house, which he named “Grovelawn” until his death in 1925. After his death, his heirs were unable to maintain the massive home, and it started to decay. The Town of Ridgefield did not want to see the mansion demolished, and in an early example of historic preservation, the town purchased Lounsbury House in 1945. A school was built behind and nearly ten years later, the home was leased to the The Ridgefield Veterans’ Memorial Community Association. The home is now managed by a board and rented for weddings and community events.
Edwin Cummings House // 1908
This two-and-a-half story mansion sits on a steep hillside overlooking Downtown Norway, Maine. The home was built in 1908 for Edwin Cummings, who appears to have been a son of Charles B. Cummings, who ran a profitable woodworking and carpentry firm in the village. Charles Cummings was the owner of the Evans-Cummings House (featured previously) and updated it to show off his carpentry skills. The house here is a great example of Neo-Classical architecture with the monumental columns to create a prominent portico. The home retains the original windows which really complete the facade!
“Beachmound” Mansion // 1897
Beachmound, a unique summer residence in Newport, was built in 1897 by architect Henry Ives Cobb for Benjamin Thaw Sr., (1859-1933) a Pittsburgh banker and philanthropist. The mansion is Neo-Classical in style, taking cues from Classical architecture, specifically Greek Revival, with the monumental columns, pediments, and pilasters. Benjamin Thaw was the half-brother of Harry Kendall Thaw (known for the 1906 murder of architect Stanford White). The murder took over the press as one of the more salacious scandals of the gilded era. Harry Thaw’s wife, the actress/model Evelyn Nesbit was said to have been raped by Stanford White while 16 year old (White was 47). She later married Harry K. Thaw. Thaw shot and killed White, the internationally famous architect, in front of hundreds of witnesses in a theater during a performance in New York. Following two trials, he was acquitted based on the insanity defense, a stint in an asylum from which he escaped, and eventual court-ordered freedom, Thaw was a celebrity. A comical piece of the story is that when Thaw later visited “Mar-a-Lago”, the Post Mansion in Palm Beach, Florida (now best known as Donald Trump’s home), he gasped, “My God, I shot the wrong architect!” Beachmound remains as a stunning, refined summer estate in Newport, and is comprised of condo units.
Lancaster Center School // 1904
Situated on the iconic Town Green of Lancaster, MA, this gorgeous Colonial Revival school building elegantly fits into the surrounding context of stately civic buildings in the small town. The Center School, (now known as the Prescott Building), was designed by architect Herbert Dudley Hale of Boston, and built in 1904 for use as the Town of Lancaster’s first high school. The building committee formed to oversee proposals and funding of the school settled quickly on the desire to see it built in the Colonial Revival style to compliment the other Town Green buildings at the time, most importantly the Charles Bulfinch-designed church at the northern end (more on that tomorrow). The Center School had been used continuously as a public school until 2001, when it outlived its utility as a modern and codified school facility. The building stood vacant for a number of years until it was restored and re-utilized as town offices next to the town hall.
Susan Lord House // 1913
This home was built in 1913 and is a high-style Neo-Classical example of a “beach cottage”. The home is located in the fashionable Rye Beach colony in New Hampshire, which developed in the mid 19th century through the first half of the 20th century as an exclusive enclave for vacationing elite. The home was purchased by Susan Bailey Lord just years after its completion as a summer retreat from her home in Malden, MA, just outside Boston. She purchased the home just years after the death of her husband, who was thirty years her senior. It’s safe to say that Susan let loose up on the beach and had a “hot girl summer”.
Tewksbury Center School // 1934-2021
Built in 1934 as the fourth high school for the town of Tewksbury, this Neo-Classical school building has seen better days. The Center School was designed by Miller and Beal architects of Portland, Maine, and likely funded with assistance of New Deal program funding during the Great Depression. The next year, Tewksbury Stadium was dedicated in 1938, which was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The Tewksbury Center School retains many of the details that characterize its Neo-Classical Style including: the front gable entry portico supported by two-story Corinthian columns and pilasters, the wide frieze band with the band of dentil molding, the decoratively clad end bays framed by Corinthian pilasters, the broken pediment of the door surround, and keystones in the brick lintels. The town needed to expand at the end of the 20th century, and hired Architectural Resources Cambridge to design the John F. Ryan Elementary School, located behind this building. The Ryan Elemetary School is a pleasing design which is Post-Modern in style. The Center School has been used as offices for the School Department and was recently proposed to be demolished for surface parking, and a new school constructed elsewhere on the site. This seems very wasteful, and epitomizes the lack of regard for environmental or historical conservation in many cities and towns.
Gilbert A. Davis Memorial Library // 1899
Reading Vermont’s public library building was built in 1899, by local resident Gilbert A. Davis (1835-1919). The building’s funds were furnished by Mr. Davis in his life, likely inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s fund which had libraries built in towns all over the United States. Gilbert Davis worked as a lawyer in Woodstock before moving back to Reading, Vermont to run his own practice. The library he funded is Neo-Classical in design in the form of a Greek Cross with intersecting gable roofs and with a monumental portico in the Ionic Order on the front facade. The charming library building is well-preseved and an excellent example of Vermonts beautiful small-town libraries.
Cape Cottage Casino and Theater // 1899
The Cape Cottage Casino and Theater was one of several amusement parks developed in the late 1890s by Portland’s electric railways in order to increase business on their trolley lines. Residents of Portland would be able to take a surface trolley to the outskirts of the city in record time, and soak up the sun at luxurious summer communities. The Cape Cottage Casino and Theater was designed by iconic Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, completed in 1899. The casino represents the best in Neo-Classical design, with a full-height, projecting classical pediment supported by bold ionic columns. A wide entablature is accentuated with dentils and modillions; and at the entry, the main front door has a fanlight and is flanked by two small windows, creating a Palladian motif. In 1922, due to the demise in the trolley ridership, partly caused by the rise in personal automobile, the casino was sold off and the Cape Cottage Park Company then hired E.C. Jordan & Company, civil engineers, to subdivide the land and retained John Calvin Stevens and his son as consulting architects. Roughly 50 house lots were platted, resulted that were arranged around the former casino, which was extensively downsized and remodeled as a private residence. While the side wings were removed, the building does retain much of its architectural integrity, while its sheer size has been severely diminished.