Porphyry Hall // 1880

One of the best examples of Victorian Gothic residential architecture in Massachusetts has to be Porphyry Hall (aka the Jacob E. Spring House) in Danvers. Jacob E. Spring was born in Maine in 1825. At the age of just twenty years old, he went to Argentina and amassed a fortune in the sheep and wool business in Buenos Aires between 1845 and 1865. He would ship hides back to the United States, and in exchange, relatives would ship lumber down to Argentina for sale. Spring and his wife moved back to America before purchasing a 150-acre farm in Danvers.

Jacob Spring hired architect George M. Harding and mason Peter Henry to design a stone country estate. The Victorian Gothic mansion stands out as being composed of over 40 types of stone of irregular size and varying colors with door and window sills of Nova Scotia freestone. Upon its completion, poet and neighbor John G. Whittier suggested the estate be called “Stonecroft,” but it became known as “Porphyry Hall” after the Greek word for hard stone.

Reported to have entertained lavishly at his house, Spring lived here for only eleven years after the structure was built, removing to Brooklyn, N.Y., having lost most of his fortune. The property was sold in 1891 for $120,000 to the Xavarian Brothers, who opened it as Saint John’s Normal College. By 1899, the College was reorganized as an all-boys Catholic School, St. John’s Preparatory School.