John Foster Farmhouse // c.1810

Tracing the history of old New England homes can be difficult and finding the history of this house is no different! The rural property here in Boxborough, MA, was owned in 1731 by Moses Foster, a teacher according to a deed of that year. A home was built here, but it appears it was a one-story house, which is verified as the 1798 tax lists report two single-story houses on the property. It is likely that a subsequent owner modified one of the homes and added a second story to fit a growing family here, probably in the early 19th century. To add more layers to this, the historical commission’s research lists the house date as c.1731, the sign on the house reads c.1778, and my estimation is c.1810. Who said historic preservation and house research is easy?!

Stanhope Stables // c.1868

Boston has many examples of adaptive reuse, likely none as frequent as converted horse stables and carriage houses from the 19th century. These one-story stables with a mansard roof on Stanhope Street in the Back Bay were constructed by 1868. The street once held other stable buildings, but those lots were either redeveloped or closed for the extension of Clarendon Street. The stables were used to store the horses and carriages of wealthy Back Bay residents including Jacob Pfaff, Dexter Follett, and Barney Corey. When automobiles replaced horses as a primary way of getting around, these buildings were converted to garages. As the land value raised here, they were adapted to commercial use eventually as restaurants. The building at the far left (now Red Lantern) was originally occupied by Gundlach’s Hofbrau German Restaurant, followed by the Red Coach Grill. A large fire occurred at the restaurant in 1955, likely destroying any historic fabric inside. The Stanhope Stables are threatened for redevelopment as the high-value land facilitates a higher and better use (presently proposed as a hotel). While the preservationist in me wants to see these stables remain intact, my stance is that the brick facades should be reconfigured into a new development in a lobby or restaurant.

What do you think?

The Clarendon // 2010

Few architects today continually put out good designs for new construction. One of those firms is Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), who designed The Clarendon, a high-rise apartment building catty-corner to the tallest building in New England, the Hancock Tower. The Clarendon rises 32-stories atop a five-story limestone base, which relates to the scale of the base of the Old John Hancock Building (across the street). Above, the building is clad in the traditional Boston palette of red brick and limestone, but expressed in a way that relates to its modern neighbors with two-story recessed masses that break up the sheer height of the building. Above the base, the building sets back to create elevated green spaces and to mitigate wind conditions caused by the John Hancock Tower. Together the design features and materials provide a nod to historical context in Boston, while being unapologetically Modern. Part of the appeal for me is how this building does not command the corner, but adds to the rich layered fabric in this section of the Back Bay.

What do you think of the Clarendon?

Draper Corporation Factory Complex // 1892-2021

In 1886, Hopedale, Massachusetts separated from Milford, almost entirely due to the young, and successful Draper Corporation growing in The Dale village of town. When George and Eben Draper succeeded in creating their own town of Hopedale, with their factory at the center, it gave the Draper brothers almost complete control over the development of a 3,547 -acre community. In the ensuing decades the factory village of Hopedale became a “model” company town. The Draper Corporation controlled every aspect of the town and worker life in a paternalistic program that extended beyond social structure to include architecture and urban planning of the village, with the company developing hundreds of homes for workers, a town hall, library, churches, schools, and recreational facilities, generating an entire town centered around the industrial giant. Draper Corporation originally made doors, window sashes and blinds and ran a printing office, but they discovered early on that their most profitable business was making textile machinery. By 1892, with the advent of the Northrop Loom, Draper became the largest producer of textile machinery in the country! Due to their success at the end of the 19th century, much of the complex was built and rebuilt in fire-proof brick factory buildings with large windows to allow light and air into the facilities. Draper’s dominant position within the textile machine manufacturing industry began to erode shortly after World War II, and the company began to sell its company houses to their occupants as private homes in 1956. During the 1960s American textile machinery makers such as Draper lost their technological leadership to foreign manufacturers due to cheap labor, and the general American textile industry collapsed. The plant eventually closed in 1980, and has sat vacant until the bulldozers came this year. The site is undergoing a full demolition, which is striping this town of its historic heart. It is truly sad to see.

George L. Allen Summer Residence // c.1895

This massive summer “cottage” in Rye Beach, NH, was built around 1895 for St. Louis businessman George L. Allen. The massive Colonial Revival home features a gambrel roof with a series of gabled, hipped and shed dormers to break it up. A circular driveway would have allowed visitors for Great Gatsby-esque parties to get dropped off by their driver and enter right into the home’s large stair-hall. The most stunning facade is the rear, which faces a lawn with views out to the Atlantic Ocean. A full-length porch on the first floor sits recessed under the floor above to provide shelter from the harsh summer sun. Sadly, the mansion has seen better days and appears to be a shadow of its former self. Luckily, almost all of the historic windows remain and the home can definitely be saved. Fingers and toes are crossed to see this beauty preserved.

Lougee Cottage // c.1880

This house was built and first occupied by George G. Lougee, owner and proprietor of the Sea View House Hotel (demolished) across the street. Before building his own hotel, Lougee was a clerk at the Atlantic House, another summer resort. Lougee eventually worked his way up and ended up managing that hotel. Lougee’s success managing the Atlantic and later, the Farragut, enabled him to pursue his own enterprise and build his Sea View Hotel. When Lougee sold the Sea View hotel, he also sold this house with it. His former Stick style home was then converted to additional rooms at the hotel until it closed in the 20th century.

Fort Dearborn // 1943-1961

Odiorne Point in Rye New Hampshire was owned by the Odiorne Family from at least 1800, when the family built a farmhouse on the land. The peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Portsmouth, and it was seen as a strategic position by the United States Government, to protect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. With the advent of World War II, the United States Government deemed it necessary to improve the fortifications commanding the approaches to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, so the Government acquired this property and named it Fort Dearborn. Giant 16” coast defense guns and other equipment were installed to protect the coast from the impending German advance into North America. The Government acquisition on Odiorne’s Point included Mr. Odiorne’s home and 24 other properties, with many fine old homes on the coast demolished to make way for military facilities, but the Odiorne house was converted to a barracks. When The Nazi forces were beat in Europe, the fort was deactivated and all the guns were removed. In the Cold War period, the U.S. Air Force took formal possession of 45.3 acres at Odiorne’s Point in 1955, which it had been using since 1949 as the Rye Air Force Station. By 1961, the defensive use of the site was not as important, and the site was sold to the State of New Hampshire as a State Park. Today, you can explore the park and the decaying concrete batteries up close, which is a favorite excursion of mine.

Hosmer House // 1760

This 2-1/2 story wood frame house in Acton, Massachusetts was built in 1760, and is one of the town’s best-preserved colonial-era houses. It is an unusual double house, consisting of one section with a square plan, and the other with a typical colonial “half house” plan, having three bays and an off-center chimney. The house was built by Jonathan Hosmer, Jr., a bricklayer whose workmanship is evident in the house’s many fireplaces. Hosmer was also prominent in civic and military affairs; he served (along with his son, who was killed at 17 years old) in the 1777 Battle of Bennington. The home was later owned by Jonathan’s son Simon, who may have added the attached dwelling, creating the double-house form we see today. In 1974 the property was acquired by the Acton Historical Society, which rents one of the units, and operates the rest of the property as a museum. The home is a great example of a Georgian double-house with a saltbox roof.

Exchange Hall // 1860

Arguably the most identifiable and iconic building in Acton is Exchange Hall, towering above the small village of South Acton. Exchange Hall was built in South Acton in 1860 to serve a variety of functions, primarily commercial. South Acton, with small milling operations and an ironworks established along Fort Pond Brook, had been a locus of
settlement since the earliest years of the 18th century. While the town’s village center evolved to the north, South Acton remained the site for industrial and economic development into the 19th century, spurred by the arrival of the Fitchburg Railroad from Boston in 1844. On the eve of the Civil War, South Acton supported a number of thriving
businesses, most under the aegis of three men: James Tuttle, his brother Varnum Tuttle, and Elnathan Jones Jr. The latter was the great-grandson of Samuel Jones, who established a successful tavern and store across the road from the site (a previous post). At the cost of $10,000, the three men financed the construction of Exchange Hall, designed to serve as the focus for the group of shops they ran together. The Italianate style Exchange Hall is 3 1/2-stories atop a raised foundation, with full length porches, stunning proportions, and a cupola at the roof.

Old Acton Parsonage // c.1740

Not far off Main Street in Acton Center, this stunning old Georgian home was built around 1740 for Jacob Hooker a tailor and later served as the home of James Dudley, a blacksmith in the village. After the American Revolution, Acton called on Reverend Moses Adams (1749-1819) to be the minister for the Acton Meetinghouse. The town acquired the old Dudley House for Reverend Adams to reside in with his family. In 1780, the home was enlarged, and possibly given the raised foundation we see today. Mrs. Adams ran a store out of the basement, accessed by the doorway in the brick foundation. After Adams’ death in 1819, the property went to the next reverend in town, until his death decades later. In 1889, a carpenter, Moses Taylor, purchased the home, restored much of the woodwork, and replaced the historic windows with 2-over-1 windows, popular at the time. Moses moved a house on Main Street to make way for the new Acton Memorial Library, and was active in building and renovating homes in Acton until his death.