Evans-Cummings House // 1855 & 1890

The most iconic house in Norway, Maine has to be the Evans-Cummings House (also known locally as the Gingerbread House) on Main Street. The ornate Victorian era home was originally built in 1855 for Richard Evans, who was born in Portland in 1805 and after training as a carpenter, moved to Norway in 1833 for work. He and his wife, Mary Warren Hill, had eight children and they resided in the home until their death. In 1890, Charles B. Cummings bought the house in 1890 and hired local architect John B. Hazen to remodel the house. Hazen added the gingerbread adornments for which the house is now known colloquially. The home attracted a lot of attention in the region, and the later heirs continued that whimsical appeal. When the home was willed to Fred and Cora Cummings, they were said to have kept a stuffed peacock at the top of the stairs, which delighted children when they toured the home. The house eventually became used as storage by the owners of the local Advertiser Democrat newspaper, and its future was threatened. Since 2012, a local group, Friends of the Gingerbread House, have poured tens of thousands of dollars and an equal amount of time restoring the iconic home to her former glory! Preservation is important!

Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow House // 1886

The Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow House, sitting high on Oak Hill in Newton, is among the last designs (1886) of architectural icon Henry Hobson Richardson. If you already didn’t know, Richardson was one of the foremost architects of his day and is known both for bold Richardsonian Romanesque and Shingle style designs. He was hired by Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow to provide plans for a sprawling country retreat from the noisy and cramped conditions in Boston.Dr. Bigelow was an eminent surgeon in Boston who administered the first dose of ether as anesthesia on a patient, a breakthrough that led to the stunning Ether Monument in the Boston Public Garden. Bigelow only got to enjoy the country estate for a couple years until he died in the home in 1890. Years later, the estate (and nearby buildings) became home to the Peabody Home of Crippled Children, which worked as a sort of open-air hospital. Eventually, the home was vacated and sat, deteriorating on the hill. It was saved from demolition through the efforts of preservationists in Newton, and was restored as a part of “This Old House” with Bob Vila. It was restored as a set of five condominiums sited in a sunny interior courtyard.

Saugus Town Hall // 1875

The Saugus Town Hall was built in 1875 and is one of the most visually striking buildings on the North Shore of Massachusetts. The original Town Hall for Saugus (after the separation of church and state required a separate buildings for town matters and religious gatherings) was built in 1837 in the Greek Revival style. The first town hall was built to serve a community of just 750 residents, which by the last quarter of the 19th century had grown to more than 2,000. The current town hall was built in 1875 to serve “the needs of a progressive and growing municipality”. As planning for the town hall was underway, it was established that the town’s high school was becoming inadequate to a growing population. It was therefore proposed that the new town hall would also serve as a “High School House”. It was also deemed appropriate to locate the public library in the building as well. Even the police department and jail were located in the basement, making the Saugus Town Hall a one-stop shop for governmental functions.

The architectural firm of Lord and Fuller designed the grand building, who that same year designed the Topsfield Town Hall and the next year, designed the iconic Abbott Hall in Marblehead. The building features delicate stick style detailing and is capped with a central clock tower with a tent roof cupola, all painted historically appropriate paint colors! By the 1990s the town hall had fallen into disrepair and the town proposed tearing it down. However, the Saugus Historical Commission pushed to save and restore the building. The structure reopened in 1998 with a final cost of $3.5 million dollars, with nearly half supported by preservation grants and fundraising, effectively saving the town money compared to the demolishing and construction of a new town hall. Preservation wins!