Hopedale Town Hall // 1886

In 1886, when the Town of Hopedale was incorporated, George Draper (who basically created the town for his company) bankrolled $40,000 for the design and construction of a town hall building for the new town. This Richardsonian Romanesque building was built of local Milford granite with brownstone trim. The town hall building was designed by architect Frederick Swasey and was intended to always house two commercial spaces at the ground floor. To the right of the storefronts is the entry to the town hall, which is framed by an entry arch with engaged colonettes. Before the building was completed, George Draper died, and the building was officially donated to the town by his heirs.

Acton Memorial Library // 1889

In 1888, William Allan Wilde, a Boston publisher who grew up in Acton, purchased land on Main Street to be used as the site for a new memorial library, in “memory of those brave and patriotic men of Acton who so freely gave Time, Strength and Health, and many of them their Lives in the war of the Rebellion, 1861-65.” The former Fletcher Homestead which was located here, was moved to a nearby street. The Richardsonian Romanesque building was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Hartwell and Richardson. The building displays traditional Romanesque materials with its brick wall surfaces, brownstone and terra cotta trim and detailing, and slate roof. The large Syrian arched entry is a hallmark in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which works extremely well with this design.

Burnside Memorial Hall // 1883

Located on Hope Street in Bristol, the Burnside Memorial Hall stands out as an elaborate, poly-chromed, two-story Richardsonian Romanesque public building. The Town of Bristol required a new town hall, and hired Worcester-based architect Stephen C. Earle to design the new structure. Earle’s program was to combine a town hall with a memorial to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, Civil War hero, thrice governor of Rhode Island, and later United States senator, who died in 1881. The centerpiece of Burnside Memorial Hall was to be a statue of the general on its porch, long since removed from the building. Bristol town offices were removed from the building in 1969, and shifted to a bland building attached at the rear, Burnside Hall now serves purely as a memorial. Fun Fact: Burnside was noted for his unusual beard, joining strips of hair in front of his ears to his mustache but with the chin clean-shaven; the word burnsides was coined to describe this style. The syllables were later reversed to give the name we know today as “sideburns”!

Flour and Grain Exchange Building // 1892

One of my favorite buildings in Boston (and always dressed up with a big red ribbon for the holidays) is the Flour and Grain Exchange Building in Downtown Boston. The third Boston Chamber of Commerce was incorporated in 1884 to promote just and equitable principles of trade, solve disputes between members and acquire and disseminate information related to mercantile interests. There was, however, a feeling among the members that the organization could not attain its full stature until it had a building of its own, one that would be both an ornament to the city and a credit to itself. In 1889, a triangular site was donated to the organization by members, who then hired prominent Boston architectural firm, Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, the successor to Henry Hobson Richardson‘s practice. It appears the firm was inspired by H.H. Richardson’s F. L. Ames Wholesale Store which was built nearby just years before. The steel-frame building is constructed of rough hewn Milford granite pierced with engaged columns and arched openings, both common in Richardsonian Romanesque buildings. The prominent corner at Milk and India Streets features a rounded corner tower with conical roof, surrounded by a crown of dormers. The building was restored by owners Beal Properties in the late 1980s who own it to this day.

North Easton Savings Bank and Post Office // 1904

Located across the street from the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall and the Ames Free Library, the North Easton Savings Bank and Post Office building perfectly compliments the Romanesque Revival motif seen in the village. The building was constructed in 1904 in a Richardsonian Romanesque design with rough-faced granite ashlar walls with brownstone trim. The three-bay front façade contains centered entrances recessed behind a wide brownstone arch in the signature Richardsonian manner. The building was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, a Boston-based architectural firm which grew out of Henry Hobson Richardson’s office, where they completed many of Richardson’s unfinished works after his death.

North Easton Railroad Station // 1884

Frederick Lothrop Ames (1835-1893) was born in Easton, MA, the son of Oliver Ames Jr. who ran the Ames Shovel Works in town. On the death of his father in 1877, Frederick became head of the Ames & Sons Corporation also inheriting upwards of six million dollars, which he invested in railroads. From this, he eventually became Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific railroad. At the time of his death, Ames was reported to be the wealthiest person in Massachusetts! Due to his role for the Old Colony Railroad, Ames had a rail station built in his hometown, adjacent to his family’s factory. Henry Hobson Richardson, who designed many other buildings in town for the Ames Family, designed this station in his signature Richardsonian Romanesque style with its large arches, varied rustication of stone, and brownstone trimming. The building was completed two years before Richardson’s death. Rail service here was cut in the 1950s, allowing the Ames family in 1969 to buy the station back from the consolidated New York Central Railroad, gifting it to the Easton Historical Society.

Ames Memorial Hall // 1881

There are few buildings that make you stop and stare in marvel at their perfect architectural proportions, detailing and design, the Ames Memorial Hall in Easton, Massachusetts is one of them for me! In the late 1870s, the children of Oakes Ames commissioned the great American architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design the Memorial Hall as a tribute to their father. Richardson, the architect of Boston’s beloved Trinity Church in Copley Square, responded with a picturesque masterpiece using his signature architectural elements of rounded arches, dramatic roof lines, and heavy masonry adorned with carvings. The building was provided to the inhabitants of Easton “for all the ordinary purposes of a town hall”. Oakes Ames (1804-1873) was partner in the family business, O. Ames & Sons, a U. S. congressman, an early investor in the Central Pacific Railroad, and, at the urging of President Abraham Lincoln, a prominent force in the building of the first transcontinental railroad. The Richardsonian Romanesque building stands on the solid foundation of a natural ledge, from the northeast corner of which rises the beautiful octagonal tower, on whose frieze are carved the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Waban Station // 1886-1958

Image from Harvard Archives.

The village of Waban in Newton, Massachusetts, was named after a Massachusett Chief who had previously resided atop Nonantum Hill on the Newton-Brighton line. This location is believed to have been a favorite hunting ground for Waban (the Wind) and his people. Throughout much of the 19th century, Waban remained a quiet agricultural region. As late as 1874, fewer than 20 families held title to all of its land. In the mid-1880s, however, interest in suburban developments near the Boston and Albany Railroad became increasingly widespread. Seeing suburbanization in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century.

The station that allowed all the development in the early days of Waban was built in 1886. The Boston & Albany Railroad hired renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design the station, and many others on branches of the various lines radiating out from Boston. The Highland Branch (which this station was on) was later acquired by the MBTA in Boston, which operated it as a Commuter line. Waban Station closed along with the rest of the Highland Branch commuter rail line in 1958 and reopened a year later in 1959 as part of the Green Line’s D Branch. The gorgeous H.H. Richardson-designed station was demolished in order to build a 74-space parking lot. They literally paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

Massachusetts Normal Arts School // 1886-1967

The Massachusetts Normal Art School was one of the many Richardsonian Romanesque buildings constructed in the Back Bay, but it did not survive like so many others did. The building’s history goes back to the 1860s, when wealthy Bostonians petitioned for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (State Government) to assist with the founding of new institutions to enhance the quality of life in the state. Due to this, the legislature funded three major institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1860) and the Museum of Fine Arts (1870), and founded in 1873, the Massachusetts Normal Art School. The Normal Arts School was tasked with training future teachers for public schools and budding professional artists in the arts, with courses ranging from drawing to architecture. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts rented space in various buildings in Downtown Boston before they appropriated $85,000 and hired the firm of Hartwell & Richardson to design and oversee construction of the new school at the corner of Newbury and Exeter Streets. The Richardsonian Romanesque building was constructed of red brick and brown freestone, featured entrances on both street facades, and held gallery spaces inside for members of the public to view the work created at the school. The school outgrew the original building, which could comfortably fit just 100 students, and in 1929, a new building was constructed at Brookline and Longwood Avenues. Before moving one more time to its current location in 1983, the school was renamed to the Massachusetts College of Art and is best known as MassArt today. The original school in Back Bay was demolished in 1967 and was home to a surface parking lot before the existing building was constructed.

Fisher Hill Reservoir Gatehouse // 1887

Located at the center of Fisher Hill, an Olmsted-designed neighborhood in Brookline, is a 10-acre park with raised earth and a depression in the middle. At first glance you may think its just been playing fields and open space for as long as the neighborhood has been around, but upon closer inspection (and geeking out over the gatehouse), you can learn much more!

The Fisher Hill Reservoir was built in 1886-87 as an early component of the Boston Water Board’s expansion of its high service system. The gatehouse was likely designed by Boston City Architect, Arthur Vinal, who also
designed the Chestnut Hill High Service Pumping Station (now the Waterworks Museum) completed the same year. The gatehouse has a granite substructure, stone main floor, and brick second story. Brownstone is used for quoins and window heads, including the oversized voussoirs above round-arched openings in the main floor.

Aerial photograph of Fisher Hill Reservoir in 1931. Courtesy of Digital Commonwealth.

Providing water for the area for over 60 years via a large open reservoir, the land was eventually abandoned by the state as newer facilities were constructed and distribution changed after WWII. The site and gatehouse sat abandoned for decades until the Town of Brookline purchased the parcel from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for use as a municipal park. The landscape architecture firm of Klopfer Martin Design Group kept the earth structure as a historic reference to the site’s context within Brookline and greater Boston, and conveyed the site’s history as a reservoir, using both spatial and interpretive elements and signage, as well as delivering a contemporary, and programmatically rich park, worthy of its Olmstedian context.