This tiny half-cape house in Marion was built in the mid-19th century for Timothy Hiller Briggs (1822-1877), a whaler. Based on the Federal/Greek detailing on the house, it is also likely the home was built much earlier for Timothy’s father, Silas, a sea captain, and was willed to his only son upon his death in 1833. Timothy died at the young age of 54 and his widow, Josephine, maintained the cottage until her death in 1924! The home is a half-cape as it has an off-center door with two bays of windows at the facade. A full-cape would be symmetrical with a central door and two windows on either side. The central chimney would provide heat to all rooms in the cold winter months.
These two townhouses were built in 1860 and were once part of a row of four matching homes constructed for wealthy Bostonians. The end units feature stronger detailing with the center two homes being slightly recessed and less ornate, all four constructed of brick with brownstone facades. The original owners wanted to ensure that their new homes would be harmonious in design, both with each other and with the other houses being built nearby.The property already was subject to restrictions contained in the deeds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who sold much of the land in the Back Bay for development, but the owners added further stipulations. Among them that “the front of said houses shall be of free stone and the height not less than three stories” and “the cornice and roof of all the houses shall be uniform, and shall conform to a plan to be hereinafter agreed upon.” The right house seen here was occupied by Henry Atkins, a grocer and importer of wines and spirits. The left home was occupied by John Chandler, a dry goods merchant and his wife. They both died at a young age in 1875 and 1876 respectively, and the home was sold off by their children’s guardian to Charles Porter, a physician and surgeon. He served as a doctor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School under Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and worked as Chief Surgeon at Mass. General Hospital. His wife, Margaret Cochran Dewar, who also was a physician and was resident surgeon at Sheffield Hospital in England. She had graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1894, among the first women in Scotland to receive a university degree and the first to receive a university medical qualification. In 1925, the two homes here were purchased and combined to one multi-family apartment building and remodelled the structure with ugly brick additions. By 1996, a developer purchased the building and restored them by installing a new façade and fenestration more consistent with the historical nature of the building, making their heights identical once again.
This refrigerator white painted house in Jamaica Plain was built in 1880 for Charles Hardon, an executive with C.A. Browning & Co. a millnery goods company (making and selling women’s hats). Business must have been good because Hardon was able to buy a large house lot from the Greenough Family and hired esteemed architect William Ralph Emerson to design a Queen Anne house for him and his family. The home was eventually purchased by Henry F. Colwell, a stock broker at the Boston Stock Exchange. The massive home is notable for the asymmetry, different siding types, and inset porches, all hallmarks of the Queen Anne style of architecture. If you owned this house, would you paint it differently?
Henry Schermerhorn DeForest (1847-1917) was born in Schenectady, New York and became a leading citizen of the bustling upstate city. He attended school in his hometown before leaving to study at Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie. He returned to Schenectady and married Lucie Van Epps, soon after gaining employment by her brother at his broom manufacturing company as a clerk and bookkeeper. He began using his earnings to buy and develop property in the city, eventually making him the city’s largest landlord. He was also a building contractor, with his company constructing more than 1,000 homes in the Schenectady area. He served as Mayor, in a role that he successfully advocated for General Electric to locate in Schenectady when it was formed from the mergers of several other companies, including Edison Machine Works, which had moved to Schenectady in 1886, creating a huge boom in development and growth for the city. After this, he has this large stone mansion constructed to showcase his wealth and success as a developer and Mayor. After his death in 1917, the home remained in the family for some time until it was acquired by the Schenectady Veterans Association not long after WWII, who maintain the building to this day.
This two-story Greek Revival home was built in 1839 for George H. Reynolds (1809-1880), a descendant of Joseph Reynolds, who’s home was featured here previously. In 1836, George Reynolds worked as a blacksmith; by 1837 he sold shoes and groceries. By 1840, he was appointed postmaster. The side-hall home features corner pilasters and a gorgeous pedimented window in the gable end. The home was given a delicate entry portico in the latter half of the 19th century which immediately caught my attention.
At 55,000 square feet and 106 rooms, the Elm Court mansion retains the title of the largest American Shingle Style home in the United States. The structure was built for William Douglas Sloane and Emily Thorn Vanderbilt (granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt) as their summer “cottage” in the Berkshires. The home straddles the towns of Stockbridge and Lenox and sits on a massive parcel of land, giving the owners space to breathe the clean countryside air. Emily’s brother, George, built The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina and her sister, Eliza (Lila), constructed Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. The home was constructed in 1886 from plans by the great Peabody & Stearns architects. Shortly after the turn of the century, ca. 1901, the couple commissioned Peabody and Stearns again, to vastly enlarge their original house. The additions used both Shingle Style and Tudor Revival motifs, and the result is a structure highly reminiscent of an English country house. William Sloane died in 1915, and Emily Vanderbilt continued to use the summer cottage, and in 1921, she married a summertime neighbor, Henry White, a career diplomat. While Henry White died in 1927, Emily retained the house and kept the grounds running until her death in 1946. The property’s use evolved into an inn in the late 1940s. During the 1950s, it embraced the public for dinners, overnight accommodations and events. Eventually Elm Court’s doors closed, and for approximately 50 years the mansion succumbed to significant theft and vandalism. The property has been listed for sale numerous times in the past decades, after a renovation by the last owners in the Sloane family. It is now listed for $12,500,000!
SAVE THIS HOUSE!
Located adjacent to the former H.H. Richardson House (also threatened with demolition), this home in Brookline may eventually face the wrecking ball… The rear ell of the building appears to have been constructed prior to 1844, possibly as an outbuilding or the main house as part of Samuel Perkins’ estate. The property was later subdivided and had numerous owners who bought and sold it in quick succession until 1858, when it was purchased by Francis A. White (1825-1910) a partner of Frederick Guild (1826- ) in the Boston tanning firm of Guild & White, Co., until 1871, when White retired to devote full time to his real-estate investments in the Boston area. It is likely that White updated and enlarged the home in the 1870s, with the massive corner tower, as a testament to his proficiency in real estate development and design. Francis lived in the home with his wife and four children until his death in 1910, when the home was willed to his late wife Caroline. After her death, the home was owned by their daughter Sophia, who had married John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920), a prominent landscape architect and nephew of Frederick Law Olmsted, who lived just down the street. John and Sophia lived in the home, renovating and enlarging the home at least once, and John would walk down the street to his office, now the Olmsted National Historic Site. John was the first president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, founded in 1899, and was active in the formation of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects. Sadly, a demolition permit has been applied for to raze this home, the Richardson House and a Techbuilt house by a developer. It is likely a demolition delay will be enacted, but advocacy on the two older houses preservation should be the first and only option for the site.
Charles Storrow (1809-1904) was a wealthy engineer who first brought water power to and developed mills at the industrial scale in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He started his own cotton mills in the city of Lawrence and laid out streets radiating from those mills on the river, allowing him to become the first mayor of Lawrence in 1853. He married Lydia Cabot Jackson in 1836 and they eventually built a country home in the Pill Hill neighborhood Brookline to get away from the dense housing and pollution of the cities. It appears he gifted this house (adjacent to his own house) to his son, also Charles. The home was designed by architect Edward Clarke Cabot, Lydia’s father, who was a partner in the firm Cabot & Chandler. Charles Storrow’s grandson James, is the namesake of Storrow Drive, the highway that runs along the Charles River in Boston.
William A. Gallup was born October 28, 1851, in North Adams. He worked primarily for the Arnold Print Works beginning in 1870 before becoming a charter member, elected clerk, and director of the company. He went on to work for and own a few more mills in North Adams by the end of the 19th century. Gallup hired H. Neill Wilson, a Western MA based architect to design a mansion for his family on Church Street, near his father in-law and business partners (A.C. Houghton) house.
Built for “the best-known real estate operator in the city [Boston]”, this stunning townhouse, while narrow, packs a punch among the gorgeous homes on Marlborough Street in the Back Bay. This home was designed by the architectural firm of Winslow & Bigelow and built for Alexander Sylvanus Porter, Jr., and his wife Henrietta Goddard Wigglesworth. Mr. Porter was a partner of J.K. Porter & Co., auctioneers and real estate brokers. He was crucial for the development of many iconic buildings in Boston and New York, including the Touraine Hotel, the Boston Stock Exchange, the Brazer Building, and more. The townhome can be classified as Classical Revival with the symmetrical facade with central door, use of classical pilasters at the central bay, and decorative stone ornamentation on every floor.