In 1832, Sylvanus B. Phinney purchased land on Main Street in Barnstable Village, building a home two years later. He never lived in the home and rented it to friends. The house was purchased in 1850 by 25-year-old Peter Pineo after he graduated from Harvard Medical College. During the Civil War, he worked with Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, and after the Civil War, in Hyannis, Pineo started a hospital for sick and disabled seamen. The home transferred hands many times throughout the remainder of the 19th and 20th centuries, with slight changes in almost its 200 year history. It has been owned by the Barnstable Historical Society since 2012.
This large, Federal period home in Barnstable Village was built around 1807 by Deacon Timothy Phinney (1746-1838), a merchant and member of the Whig Party as a State Senator and supporter of the Revolution. He lived into his nineties and fathered twelve children. The Phinney House was purchased by Daniel Carpenter Bacon, a prominent merchant who was born in Barnstable and went off to Boston in 1802 at 14 years old, to sail as a mate on William Sturgis’s ship Atahualpa. He was first mate on the Xenophon, and became its Captain in 1807. He later sailed on Theodore Lyman’s ship and distinguished himself in trade with China and in the Pacific Northwest fur trade, making his fortune. He retired from the seas and sold this house to his brother, Ebenezer Bacon, in 1837. Ebenezer worked locally as the second president of the Barnstable Savings Bank and as trustee of the Barnstable Academy. Upon his death, his widow Phoebe (1797-1882) inherited the house and lived there until her death with her three unmarried daughters. She left the house in her will to their three unmarried daughters, Louisa, Emily and Sarah, stating she knew the other seven children “would understand”. The home has been very well-preserved and is an excellent example of a Federal style mansion on the Cape.
The original section of this building was the second dwelling house of Rev. John Lothrop (1584-1653), one of the first European settlers who settled in present-day Barnstable in 1639. The oldest part of this structure, built in 1644 (yes you read that correctly), is possibly the oldest extant house in the Town of Barnstable. The home was constructed as 21 feet long and 29 feet deep with a chimney on the west side of the house. Perhaps John Lothrop’s principal claim to fame is that he was a strong proponent of the idea of the Separation of Church and State (also called “Freedom of Religion”). This idea was considered heretical in England during his time, but eventually became the mainstream view of people in the United States of America, because of the efforts of Lothrop. His descendants today include six former presidents, Louis Comfort Tiffany (of the stained glass fame), J. P. Morgan, Clint Eastwood, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and many more recognizable names! The house was eventually owned by Isaac Chipman in the 19th century, and he modified the house close to its current conditions, adding on numerous times.
Captain William Sturgis, a mariner, businessman and politician, who was born in the house, purchased the property in 1862 from the heirs of Isaac Chipman. Sturgis left $15,000 along with this property in a trust to be gifted to the people of Barnstable for a public library. The library opened in 1867 in his honor, with 1,300 books. As the old Lothrop House is incorporated in the building, it makes the Sturgis Library the oldest building housing a public library in the USA. A great claim to fame for this town!
Ebenezer Lothrop (1743-1815) purchased land on the Old Kings Highway in Barnstable for 63 pounds, 6 shillings , 8 pence from Sturgis Gorham in 1771, building a home soon after. The old house was likely built as a one-story half cape with a door on the side with two windows to its left. When the house was moved in the 1820s by Ebenezer’s heirs, it is possible the second floor was added, which was followed later by the rear wings and wrap-around porch. The home is very well preserved and is excellently located on a raised lawn.
In 1739, recently married Daniel Davis (1713-1799) and Mehitable Lothrop Davis (1717-1764) inherited land in Barnstable Village from Mehitable’s father Thomas as their wedding present. The young couple broke ground on a new family home that year. Daniel Davis fought in the American Revolution and was was a selectman, assessor, town clerk, and treasurer for Barnstable and represented it at the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Council. Davis also held the position of Guardian of the Mashpee Indians, a position begun in 1746 when Massachusetts appointed white guardians to manage each Indian reservation in the province, the Mashpees protested. Daniel Davis died in the home in 1799. The house retains much of its original design from the multi-pane double-hung windows to the large, central chimney.
This historic building was constructed in 1763 as the Barnstable County Courthouse replacing an even earlier courthouse building that was outgrown in the village. The building served primarily as a courtroom with jury deliberations carried out in one of the nearby taverns. Additionally, large town meetings were sometimes held in this building until it too was outgrown. This courthouse was the site of a mass protest on Sept. 27, 1774, after Britain revoked Massachusetts Bay’s 1691 charter — one of a series of Coercive Acts intended to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party the previous year. As a result of the protest, all Barnstable county officials agreed to ignore Parliament’s new rules, effectively freeing Cape Cod of British control. The significance of this building cannot be understated as the building is one of only two remaining Massachusetts colonial-era courthouses where such protests occurred. The county dedicated its new courthouse in the 1830s, consolidating all court functions in a large, granite structure closer to the present center of Barnstable Village (featured previously). This building was acquired by the Third Barnstable Baptist Church, who renovated the building at the time and again in 1905. After the church was disbanded in 1972, the building was purchased by Tales of Cape Cod, a nonprofit volunteer group committed to preserving the Cape’s history. What a building to be based out of!
Perched atop a hill in Barnstable Village, the old town center of the historic Cape Cod town, the Barnstable County Courthouse sits proudly as a well-preserved example of the Greek Revival architectural style in a civic building. The building was constructed in 1831 from plans by renowned architect Alexander Parris, who designed the iconic Quincy Market in Boston just years earlier in the same style. Due to its highly visible location along the Old King’s Highway and public function, the courthouse was likely instrumental in popularizing the Greek Revival style on the Cape. The building was constructed of Quincy granite with a portico and fluted Doric columns made of wood fashioned to look like stone (which fooled me from the street). The building has been expanded five times between 1879 and 1971, with each addition made cognizant of the architectural significance of the building. At the front of the building, two bronze statues of Mercy Otis Warren and James Otis, Jr frame the building. The Barnstable Superior Court is located in the building today.
Appropriate infill construction can be a very difficult thing to accomplish, with some developments hitting the mark and others adversely impacting the historic neighborhoods where they were built. Boston is home to many examples of both occurrences, but I wanted to share a very successful infill project in the South End neighborhood, Langham Court. As the South End resurfaced as a desirable neighborhood, long-time residents were priced out, which led to the Boston Redevelopment Authority to fund projects to provide much-needed housing for the local community. This site which once housed over 20 townhouses, was razed by the 1960s in a period of urban renewal where existing housing was deemed unsafe and inadequate. The local design firm of Goody/Clancy was hired, and they masterfully designed a U-shaped complex of 84 mixed-income units that fits well within its surroundings. The design exhibits dormers, bays, arched and vaulted entries, a combination of mansard and flat roofs, stringer courses and textured brickwork, and a palette of well chosen materials all at a scale that blends in the 1990s building to its surroundings which came nearly 150 years prior. The complex remains as a testament to good-quality design even for affordable housing, which notoriously gets the short end of the stick design-wise.
Just steps from the iconic Louisburg Square in Boston’s exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood, a man named Joshua Bennett in 1834, purchased two recently completed townhouses built by housewrights Samuel H. Mitchell and Loring Dunbar. Joshua Holden Bennett (1792-1865) was born in Billerica, Massachusetts and split his time between his hometown and Boston. Bennett and his family owned the two identical bowfront houses until about 1930, likely renting them out to middle-upper class families. The home on the right (pictured) was later purchased by Benjamin B. Gillette an organist at a local church. After WWII, property values in Beacon Hill began to falter and this property and its neighbor became lodging houses of rented rooms to a more wealthy clientele than those on the North Slope of the hill. The home last sold in 1989 for $753,000 and is estimated at a value today at over $4,000,000!
One of my favorite houses in Hurley is the Dumond House (also known as the “Spy House”), a pre-Revolutionary stone cottage built in Dutch traditions. The house is one and one-half stories high, and is built of limestone. The limestone walls are of various thickness, from a nearby quarry, with the square ends laid up in mortar made of clay, and pointed with lime mortar outside. The house was built by Jacobus Van Etten (1696-1779) and used as a Guard House during the American Revolution. In 1777, it was famous for housing the convicted British spy, Lt. Daniel Taylor after he was caught carrying a message between British Generals Henry Clinton and John Burgoyne. Lt. Taylor was arrested as a British spy, convicted in court of spying and held in the basement of the Du Mond House as a prisoner. He was hung on October 18, 1777 from a nearby tree. American soldiers encamped in the area were paraded by the body as a warning to any potential British sympathizers. The home was later owned by the Dumond Family. It has been owned by the Kent family since 1933.