There are always those houses that just stop you in your tracks… For my last post (for the time being) on Providence, I wanted to share this significant property, known as the Woods-Gerry House, perched atop College Hill. Owner Marshall Woods, who married into the Brown family and was active in the affairs of Brown University. Locally he was also involved on the building committee for St. Stephen’s Church where he was a factor in selecting renowned architect Richard Upjohn to design the church. He must have liked Upjohn so much (or got a good deal) that he hired Richard Upjohn to design his new home on Prospect Street. The exterior of the three-story brick building stands out amongst the other Italianate mansions built in the same decade nearby, but is elevated design-wise with a bowed centerpiece on its east elevation with the handsome new front entrance renovated in 1931 by then-owner, Senator Peter Gerry, who was a great-grandson of Elbridge Gerry, the fifth Vice President of the United States (who had given his name to the term gerrymandering). Today, this significant building is owned by the Rhode Island School of Design and houses the Woods Gerry Gallery. The grounds are also very well designed.
Grace Episcopal Church, Providence // 1845
By 1829, the population of Providence, Rhode Island was spreading from the east side of the Providence River (near Brown University) to the west. Around this time, two dozen parishioners of the St. John’s Episcopal Church on Providence’s East Side purchased the old Providence Theater on the west side of town and renovated it for use as a church. By 1835, the congregation grew to 260, and a new church building was needed. Grace Church hired the foremost architect of the time, Richard Upjohn, to design the beautiful new building, which was the first asymmetrical Gothic Revival church in America when it was completed in 1846! In addition to its architectural significance, the building contains the first painted windows ever seen in Rhode Island. Downtown Providence eventually grew up around the church, really diminishing the chance at a good photo of the building, but later urban renewal and the razing of parts of the downtown area (many undeveloped to this day) provide some interesting sightlines of the towering steeple.
Thomas A. Hill House // 1836
One of the nicest homes in Bangor, Maine, is the 1836 Thomas Hill House, a stunning Greek Revival home constructed of brick just outside downtown. The home was built for Thomas A. Hill (1783-1864), a lawyer and banker in town. He clearly made substantial money in his time in Bangor, because he hired architect Richard Upjohn, who was in town at the time overseeing designs for his first church St. John’s Episcopal Church (burned in 1911) and the Farrar Mansion. Thomas Hill suffered financial losses during the Panic of 1837 and the bank foreclosed on his properties. The bank allowed him to stay in the house and pay the insurance, heat and taxes until the home was sold by the bank to Samuel and Matilda Dale, who purchased the home in 1846. Mr. Dale came to Bangor in 1833 as a sail-maker. Eventually he would own grocery and ship chandlery businesses downtown before serving as Mayor of Bangor from 1863-1866 and again in 1871. The Sons of Union Veterans bought the house in 1942 and named it the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial. During 1952 the Bangor Historical Society was allowed to use the house, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. In 1974 the house was deeded to the Bangor Historical Society, who occupy the home to this day.
Isaac Farrar Mansion // 1836
The Isaac Farrar Mansion in Bangor, Maine not only looks gorgeous, it is significant as the one of the first known works of architect, Richard Upjohn. It is important because it shows that English-born Upjohn, who is best-known for launching the popularity of the Gothic Revival style in the United States, began his career by building in the Greek Revival style, the traditional style of the time. This mansion was designed for Isaac Farrar, a lumberman and merchant, and later, President of the Maritime Bank of Bangor. Charles B. Sanford, who lived in the house from 1865-1878, was proprietor of the Sanford Steamship Lines. The home had a few more subsequent owners until 1911, when it was acquired by the University of Maine Law School, which used it as a residency until 1929. It was soon after purchased the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, who renamed it “Symphony House”, and operated the Northern Conservatory of Music on the premises, also hosting the music branch of the Bangor Public Library. In 1972 the school closed, and the symphony sold the building the following year to the local YMCA, which now uses it as an exhibit and reception space. While some aspects of the house look to be from the early 20th century, it retains much of the Greek Revival design by Upjohn. Talk about a full history!
Oaklands // 1835
A massive amount of land on the eastern edge of the Kennebec River was acquired by Sylvester Gardiner in the 18th century, but confiscated by the state during the American Revolutionary War (because Gardiner was a Loyalist who fled). Years later, the land was recovered by Gardiner’s grandson and heir, Robert Hallowell Gardiner. Upon coming to age, Robert Hallowell Gardiner returned to Maine in 1803, after graduating from Harvard, ready to straighten out and manage the holdings willed to him by his late grandfather Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, the founder of Gardiner, Maine. He came with no inclinations or training in business, but his cousin Charles Vaughan in Hallowell helped in steer him on the right course. Starting at the age of 25, Robert Hallowell Gardiner embarked on the task of developing an entire city, Gardiner, but with profit and investment in mind over the next sixty-one years. His business enterprises included: six dams, saw and gristmills, shipyards, foundries, a brick mill, broom making industries, furniture manufacture, paper making and the ice-harvesting business. He married Emma Jane Tudor of Boston (who he likely met during his time at Harvard, in 1805. They soon after built a home for their family and welcomed friends and family to stay there on the massive property. The first Oaklands estate burned in 1834 and the present Gothic Revival mansion on the site was built in 1835-37. Designed by English-born architect Richard Upjohn, Oaklands typifies an English country manor house and features a rectangular hip roof, hooded window moldings, turrets and elaborate stonework. Oaklands is among the first and finest 19th-century rural villas in the State of Maine and is among the most significant in the country. The home remains on over 310-acres of sprawling land which looks out over the Kennebec River, and is owned by the Gardiner family to this day!