In 1820, just seven years after the incorporation of Sweden Maine, a homesteader, Amos Parker purchased fifty acres of land and began to erect a two-story, Federal house with a center chimney and a detached store beside it. Plagued by debt, Parker sold the unfinished house to Samuel Nevers circa 1833–1835, who purchased the property with the store for his recently married son, Benjamin. By 1860, Benjamin Nevers had a successful store and prospering farmstead. Benjamin died in 1883, and in the next two years, their daughter Charlotte, and her husband, Charles Bennett, dramatically remodeled and modernized the farmstead, adding a connected two-story ell building outward from the main house toward the old 1840 barn, connecting the entire property. I believe that the property remains in the Nevers-Bennett Family, as recently, Steve and Judy Bennett, recently negotiated an easement with the Maine Farmland Trust to protect their hay, beef, and maple sugaring acreage as farmland into the future.
Elijah Waters (1773-1846), a hardscrabble farmer in West Millbury inherited his father’s large farm and resided there for over thirty years before wanting something more his style. Unmarried and without children, Elijah (who was 72 at the time), had this impressive Greek Revival farmhouse constructed near his old family homestead. He was possibly looking to spend money saved up and without a wife or heirs to will it to. The massive temple-front Greek Revival mansion has a stunning doorway and six columns supporting a projecting pediment. Within a year after the home was built, Elijah died. The home was willed to his nephew, Jonathan Waters. The house is for sale for $384,000 which is a STEAL!
This farmhouse is unreal… Located on a rural back road in Millbury, I came across this rambling old Cape house with a stone wall and everything! The home appears to have been built in the late 18th or early 19th century, possibly as a half-cape (with the door and two windows to the right) for Emery Bond, or possibly his father, Oliver Bond. The home (like many Cape houses) was added onto as the family grew and finances could necessitate a more substantial house. It likely added the two bays to the left of the front door next, then bumping out the sides by the 20th century to give it the present, elongated appearance. It’s not often that a once-modest Cape house stops me in my tracks!
Completed in 1880, the Newport Casino building is one of the best examples of Shingle style architecture in the world, and despite its name, it was never a gambling facility. Planning for the casino began a year earlier in August, 1879. Per legend, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the influential publisher of the New York Herald and a summer resident of Newport, bet his polo partner, Captain Henry Augustus Candy, a retired officer of the Queen’s 9th Royal Lancers and skillful British polo player, to ride his horse onto the front porch of the exclusive gentlemen’s-only club, the Newport Reading Room. Candy took the dare one step further and rode straight through the clubrooms, which disturbed the members. After Candy’s guest membership was revoked, Bennett purchased the land across the street from his home, on Bellevue Avenue, and sought to build his own social club. Within a year, Bennett hired the newly formed architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, who designed the U-shaped building for the new club. The Newport Casino was the firm’s first major commission and helped to establish MMW’s national reputation. The building included tennis courts, facilities for other games such as squash and lawn bowling, club rooms for reading, socializing, cards, and billiards, shops, and a convertible theater and ballroom. In the 20th century, the casino was threatened with demolition as Newport began to fall out of fashion as a summer resort. Saviors Candy and Jimmy Van Alen took over operating the club, and by 1954, had established the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the Newport Casino. The combination of prominent headliners at the tennis matches and the museum allowed the building to be saved. The building remains a National Landmark for its connections with gilded age society and possibly the first commission by McKim, Mead and White, who became one of the most prominent architectural firms in American history.
Built in 1887 for John O’Brien, a direct descendant of Brian Boru, the High King Of Ireland, “Inchiquin” in Newport stands out for its bold stone exterior and proper siting. The mansion was named after Inchiquin, a barony (or state) in Ireland, likely where O’Brien’s ancestors were from. The cottage was designed by John Dixon Johnston, a well-known Newport architect, who designed the stone mansion in a sort of hodge-podge of styles, which actually work well together somehow! In 1901, Inchiquin was acquired by The Baroness Seilliere, the adopted daughter of John O’Brien. She was a daughter of Mrs. O’Brien by a former husband. After her first husband died she married the Baron de Seilliere, brother of the Princess de Sagan. Like some other massive, expensive mansions in Newport, this home was converted to condos.
Newport in 1774 had approximately 153 free Black residents residing in 46 households comprising of thirty-percent of Newport’s population at this time. One of these free Black families was the Jack family who resided around Levin Street (Memorial Boulevard today). The Jack Family appears to have been from Antigua and may have had ties to the Redwood Family (the namesake of the Redwood Library), who owned a plantation on the island and resided in Newport. Alexander Jack, Jr. was a free African American whose trade was a cordwainer or shoemaker. He bought his land in 1811 and is thought to have begun construction almost immediately. Jack heirs remained on this property until 1881. The Newport Restoration Foundation purchased the house in 1969, moved it that same year to Mill Street to save it from urban renewal and the widening of Levin Street as Memorial Blvd.
Located just a short walk from the oldest extant Jewish synagogue in the United States, Touro Synagogue (last post), the Touro Jewish Cemetery and stately gate, showcase the significance and position Jewish residents held in Newport, going back to Colonial times. The earliest Jews in Newport arrived from Barbados, where a Jewish community had existed since the 1620s. They were of Spanish and Portuguese origin; their families had migrated from Amsterdam and London to Brazil and then to islands in the Caribbean. After the completion of the synagogue in 1763, the Jewish community in Newport realized the need to acquire land for a Jewish cemetery. Two of the original immigrants, Mordechai Campanal and Moses Pacheco purchased the lot at the corner of what is now Kay and Touro Streets for this purpose. In 1843, the cemetery funded the erection of a cemetery gate and fencing to surround the plot. They hired architect Isaiah Rogers to design the gate, which he took inspiration from his design at Boston’s Granary Burying Ground, completed just two years earlier. The Egyptian Revival gate is a very rare example of the style in the United States. On the granite gate, the torches turned to face downward are an acknowledgement of the ending of life’s flame.
Tucked away behind the Ames Free Library in Easton, you will find one of the most stately examples of Gothic Revival architecture in a house in New England. The house is known as Queset House. Queset was commissioned to be built in 1853 and it was completed the following year for Oakes Angier Ames, of the wealthy Ames Family, who ran a shovelworks in town, and built some of the most handsome structures in the state. The house’s front portion design was drawn from a plan by noted architect Andrew Jackson Downing (who died in 1852). Downing collaborated with Alexander Jackson Davis who provided architectural drawings. The two architects created pattern books which greatly influenced Gothic Revival and Italian Villa style architecture for the next decades, with many wealthy people hiring builders to complete homes in their designs. Queset House is different than most in that the house is constructed of local stone. Oakes would later hire Harvard-educated architect John Ames Mitchell, (a first cousin of Oakes Angier and architect of the nearby Unity Church in Easton) designed the rear addition in 1873, adding the copper-clad chimneys. In the later years of his life, Oakes wanted to help further-improve his town and worked with his family to consult with starchitect H. H. Richardson and landscape starchitect Frederick Law Olmsted on projects in town (the Library, Town Hall, Rockery). After his death in 1899, the home was occupied by his son, famous theatrical producer Winthrop Ames, and his wife. The family would eventually gift the property to the Town of Easton, who today occupy it as an extension of the Public Library, open to the public!
The country estate of Frederick Lothrop Ames (1835-1893), “Langwater” sits in North Easton amongst a collection of some of America’s greatest architectural treasures, all thanks to the Ames Family. The Ames family was a wealthy family which had lived in Easton for many generations. Frederick’s grandfather Oliver Ames Sr. founded the Ames Shovel Works in Easton, Massachusetts. The Shovel Works earned the family a huge fortune, during a time when aggressive canal and railroad expansion was built by the hands of thousands of men using shovels. Frederick’s father Oliver Jr. was president of the Union Pacific Railroad during the building of the transcontinental railroad. Frederick’s cousin Oliver Ames was governor of Massachusetts 1887–1890. Frederick himself was Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific railroad. At the time of his death, Ames was reported to be the wealthiest person in Massachusetts. With this immense wealth, Frederick built a castle where he would spend most of the year, overseeing his various businesses, in his hometown of Easton, Massachusetts. The mansion was designed by architect George Snell and built around 1860, with a couple additions and updates until Frederick’s death. A few years before his death, Frederick hired famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who he already worked with in designing the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall(Easton’s Town Hall), to design a gate house leading to Langwater (more on that later).
These two Italianate-style stores sit on Collinsville’s Main Street, a walkable main street village along the banks of the Farmington River. Each structure has a central, recessed entry with storefront windows meeting the sidewalk. One structure is two stories with a very shallow gable roof and the other is 1 1/2 stories with a false front. These false front facades remind me of old frontier towns in western movies, they are great!