Here it is… The oldest house in Nantucket! The Jethro Coffin House dates to 1686, and when it was built, Nantucket’s English population totaled several hundred, and the native Wampanoag outnumbered them by at least three to one. The home was built seemingly as a wedding gift from twenty-three-year-old Jethro Coffin (1663–1727) to his new sixteen-year-old wife Mary Gardner (1670–1767). The marriage merged two of the old Nantucket families and was built on Gardner family land out of lumber transported to the island from Exeter, New Hampshire, where Jethro’s father, Peter Coffin, owned timberland and a saw mill. The First Period house has small windows of small panes of glass as the material was shipped from England at high cost. The large central chimney would heat the entire home on cold winter nights. Mary and Jethro sold their Nantucket dwelling to Nathaniel Paddack in 1708 and moved to Mendon, Massachusetts, when Jethro inherited property there. By the late nineteenth century, the house was abandoned (for some time it was used as a barn) and had fallen into disrepair. A Coffin family reunion held on the island in 1881 renewed interest in the property and off-island members of the family bought the old Coffin House. The Nantucket Historical Association acquired the house in 1923, and four years later, Historic New England), commenced an extensive reconstruction in an attempt to return the house to its historic appearance. It remains a location of pride for residents and visitors to the island to this day.
This five-story granite mill building was one of the major catalysts for the 19th century population surge in Ware, Massachusetts. As New England’s fledgling textile industry of the era played a vanguard role in transforming the U.S. into an industrial nation, the significance of this type of mill can hardly be understated. The Otis Mill #1 in Ware is one of the last remaining granite textile mills of this early period in central/western Massachusetts. The mill was built in 1845 for the Otis Company, which initially manufactured woven cotton fabric, but later branched out into stockings, woolen shirts and drawers underwear. The company was Ware’s largest employer for about 100 years! The company prospered thru WWI employing over 2,500 people. During the 1920’s the business began a decline due to the southern state’s mills and lack of modernization. In the mid 30’s the Otis Co sold its property to the citizens of Ware, which they formed Ware Industries, Inc to continue the major employer in the town. Due to this Ware came to be known nation-wide as “The Town That Can’t Be Licked.” The mill is now home to local small businesses as a sort of incubator, providing jobs to local residents!
Another of Boston’s Lost buildings is the King’s Head Tavern, an old establishment that was built in the early days of Boston and rebuilt following a fire in 1691. It stood on the corner of Lewis and North Streets, in the North End near Scarlett’s Wharf. Due to its proximity to the harbor and wharfs, it became the first place weary sailors stopped to get a drink on solid ground. The two-story, brick tavern was capped with a gambrel roof, which was later filled with wooden additions giving the structure a boxy look. The establishment was named the King’s Head Tavern after a popular London tavern of the same name. Like much of the North End, surging immigrant populations put immense strain on the built environment and many older buildings were demolished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for tenement housing. The old King’s Head Tavern was demolished in 1870, just two years after the photo was taken.
What sets Beacon Hill apart is that almost every home is unique to its neighbors. This townhouse on Brimmer Street stands out in a big way architecturally and does not remotely try to fit in with the red brick and traditional massing of the Greek Revival and Italianate rows on the surrounding streets. This home was built in 1888 on the last undeveloped parcel on the street. The house was built by Seth Russell Baker and Henry Wilson Savage, real estate developers and sold to a J. Little. By 1900 four families are listed as occupying the house, which was rented out by that time. By 1917 Marie Ames Byrd, wife of polar explorer Richard E. Byrd, had acquired the building, which she owned through at least 1938 according to atlas’. Byrd lived at and owned 9 Brimmer Street, and her mother, Helen A. Ames, owned 7 Brimmer. This house at 5 Brimmer was rented to upper class residents who sought apartment living in a desirable area of the city. Among them was Caroline P. Atkinson, the daughter of Edward Atkinson of Brookline, a successful antebellum cotton mill executive and, ironically, a major figure in the Boston-area abolitionist movement. William Coombs Codman and his son John also lived at 5 Brimmer Street, the former was a merchant trader with dealings in the East Indies and Calcutta. Architecturally, the building is unique with the use of rough-faced brownstone façade and copper at the entablature and parapet. Would you live here?
While Everett’s population had remained small compared to nearby towns throughout much of the nineteenth century, its close proximity to Boston resulted in dramatic population growth between 1885 and 1915. During this late industrial period Everett’s population was one of the fastest growing in the state, doubling between 1870 and 1880, nearly tripling from 1880 to 1890 and doubling again between 1890-1900. The City of Everett immediately went about erecting a new schoolhouse to educate its youth. Architects Loring & Phipps were retained to prepare plans for the new high school. Ground was broken in August 1892 and the building was dedicated just over a year later in September 1893. The school was opened to 175 students on Monday, October 2, 1892 with a capacity of 550 students (as it was realized that the city would continue to grow). The building is high-style Queen Anne with red brick and mortar and light sandstone trimming. In 1905, the capacity of the high school was nearly doubled by the construction of an addition on the west end of the original building. Even doubling the size of the school did not prove adequate as the building was outgrown less than a decade later. From this, the Second Everett High School was built a block away. The First Everett High School is now known as the Whitney Lorenti House, a low income, elderly housing complex.
Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant (1833-1890) was born in a poor Maine farming family and began working as a shoemaker to make ends meet. He devised a crude machine used in shoe manufacturing and moved to Boston in 1856 seeking backing for further development, thus began his career as an inventor. In his travels around shoe factories, Sturtevant was troubled by the airborne wood dust created by the machines wanted to invent a way to eliminate the dust and its resulting health effects. In 1867, he patented a rotary exhaust fan and began manufacturing the fan and selling it to industrial buyers across the country. He built a factory in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood that manufactured his invented air blowers, fans, and pneumatic conveyors. The factory in the 1870s was the largest fan manufacturing plant in the world. From his success, Ben Franklin Sturtevant built a house in the fashionable Sumner Hill neighborhood of Boston. The home was likely built in the Second Empire or Stick style, both popular at the time. When Benjamin died in the home, the home was willed to his widow until her death in 1903. In that time, the home was likely updated in the Queen Anne style, with Colonial embellishments. The couple’s youngest daughter, Lilla, occupied the home with her husband Eugene, who was previously hired to the B. F. Sturtevant Company by her late father. Eugene Foss, who married Lilla, was a member of the United States House of Representatives, and served as a three-term governor of Massachusetts. No biggie.
Tucked behind the St. John Episcopal Church in Sumner Hill, Boston, the Thomas Sherwin House sits atop the peak of the hill, and likely has views of downtown Boston from its upper floor. The house was built in 1883 for Thomas Sherwin, an auditor, and possibly the man of the same name who was a Brigadier General in the American Civil War. The home was designed by the powerhouse architectural firm of Ware & Van Brunt and spans two major architectural styles of the period; Stick style and Queen Anne. The home is one of the best examples in the neighborhood and is very well preserved!
In the early 1780s, Leonard Proctor and Salmon Dutton and their families, moved from Massachusetts and settled in present-day Cavendish, Vermont and gave their names to the two major settlements on the Black River, Proctorsville and Duttonsville. Leonard Proctor was born in Westford, Massachusetts and fought in the Revolutionary War at a young age. He settled in Cavendish in 1782 and built a modest house/tavern, and underwent developing the village in his name, Proctorsville. By the early 1800s, Leonard was a highly esteemed member of town and had the funds to erect the finest Federal style manse in the village, to showcase the stability and wealth of his community. The home exhibits scalloped cornice moldings and the carved wood flowering vines springing from urns on the upper pilasters that have a folk/Federal quality that stands out as a very unique design detail. Carved Adamesque bell flowers that flank the door suggest Asher Benjamin’s Windsor influence. Elliptical sunbursts above the pilasters, elaborate guilloche friezes, and the broad semielliptical attic light have a later Federal character. It is possible that Leonard had this house built, and it was “modernized” by one of his heirs.
When you think of the quintessential New England Village, what do you think of? These villages of white houses around a town green, usually anchored by a congregational church with a tall, white steeple, have been the subject of myriad photographs and memories for decades. Why are so many like this? Well, historically, the bright white we know of as a common house color was not available until the 1920s. Before the early 1900s, “white” paint was more cream or off-white as we would describe it. Many such villages started seeing white paint proliferate as Titanium Dioxide was mixed with pigments to generate the bright white, about at the same time Colonial Revival style homes saw a second resurgence in popularity. The bright-white paint was more expensive and represented stability and prestige. Publications like Yankee Magazine showed photographs of these charming villages blending into the freshly fallen snow or fall foliage and the romanticization of New England truly began. Newfane, Vermont is one of these villages, which are dominated by the bright white paint. It is an obvious choice, especially due to the number of classically inspired Greek Revival style houses.
Rural New England towns like Dummerston, Vermont long relied on agriculture as a means of life. From this, local farmers and their families would organize in regional Grange Halls through the The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, an agricultural advocacy group. Many rural communities in the United States still have a Grange Hall and local Granges still serve as a center of rural life for many farming communities. The local Evening Star Grange was organized in Dummerston Center in 1874 with 32 members, growing by the end of the 19th century. This building would have held meetings where farmers could share trade secrets, make deals, and “talk shop” regarding farm life. Such buildings are significant as community centers for agricultural communities and should be preserved for future generations.