My favorite Georgian style house in Rochester, MA is the Delano-Clapp House set far off the street, behind a stone wall. The house was built in 1735 for Jonathan Delano, a weaver. Jonathan’s son, Jonathan, Jr., sold the house and land to Ebenezer Clapp, in 1755. The property remained in the Clapp Family for nearly 250 years, when it sold out of the family in 1990. This house is testament to the fact that you can find great architecture in every corner of New England!
The Grange, officially named The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a social organization that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. Grange Halls can be found in rural towns and villages all over New England, and historically served as a gathering place to discuss agriculture-based business, crops, trade, and issues faced in the community. The Rochester Grange Hall was constructed in 1924 to the designs of architects Brown and Poole of New Bedford, MA and is of the Craftsman style. The National Grange has sharply declined in membership since the late 19th century. In 2013, the Grange signed on to a letter to Congress calling for the doubling of legal immigration and legalization for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. The Grange now emphasizes an expansion in the H-2A visa program to increase legal immigration and address the crisis-level labor shortage in agriculture.
One of the more high-style houses in rural Rochester, Massachusetts, is the Weld-Haskell House. The house was built around 1854 in the Italianate style for a recently widowed Susan Haskell. Susan was the daughter of Jesse Haskell, who was a state representative and served in the War of 1812, and a descendant of one of the town’s earliest colonial settlers. The home remained in the Haskell family until the second half of the 20th century.
The North Rochester Congregational Church is located in a distinctly rural, area in the northwest corner of the largely pastoral town of Rochester, Massachusetts. This church, built 1841, is locally important to the development of religion and community in North Rochester. In Rochester as in other early New England towns, the building of a church symbolized the founding of a community. North Rochester’s first church was built in 1748, about 1 mile west of the present building, and was served by traveling ministers from other communities. The church congregation was formally organized in 1790, and a new church was built at that time, serving a larger area. The current church building was built in 1841 by Solomon K. Eaton, a noted regional builder whose credits include several other area churches. The church is of the Greek Revival style, which was frequented in the designs of hundreds of churches all over New England in the mid-19th century.
Calvin Chaddock (1765-1823) graduated from Dartmouth in 1791 and three years later earned a Master of Arts degree from the college. In 1792, he married Meletiah Nye and they settled in Rochester, Massachusetts, where he became pastor of a Congregational parish in the rural northern part of town. In 1798, he opened an academy for boys and girls in the village and built this beautiful Federal style home as a boarding house for students to reside in (the schoolhouse is no longer extant). By 1804, he had “a respectable number of students from different parts of the United States.” The man moved to Ohio before settling in Charlestown, West Virginia, where he lived in a homestead with his family and three enslaved people, Charles, Thomas, and an unnamed woman. Upon his death in 1823, the three people enslaved by Chaddock, were sold at auction. The former boarding house in Rochester was later occupied as a tavern and stagecoach stop, and a store, when it was given some 19th century alterations. It has been a private home for the past hundred years.
Craftsman bungalows are a rarity in New England. The Craftsman style surged in the early 1900s, which coincided with the ever-popular Colonial Revival styles reign as most commonly built house style. Many of the Craftsmans that were built are less “ornate” than the West Coast counterparts, lacking deep exposed rafters, sweeping porches, and low-pitched roofs, but they are out there. This bungalow in Rochester was built around 1910 and has some Colonial qualities, including the Tuscan columns, boxed eaves, and shingle siding. I do love that full-length porch and hipped roof with a cute centered dormer! Do you wish we had more Craftsmans in New England?
In the early 19th century, the schools in the town of Rochester, Massachusetts (and many other rural towns in New England), were under the control of a district system. This system divided the town into districts, with each district having its own schoolhouse and an elected committeeman. The committeeman selected the teacher to run his district school and was responsible for providing school equipment. Each district had to provide its school with a building that included a hall or closet, desks and benches on three sides with 10 square feet of open space in the center for recitations. The schools held two terms (winter and summer) and each term averaged a length of 3 months, much of the “off-time”, students would assist their families on farms. By 1859, Rochester had 11 districts, each with its own schoolhouse that stood throughout the town. Rochester Academy was built at the town center, and educated the “older” students in the town. The school later admitted younger students to ease congestion in the smaller rural schoolhouses. The Greek Revival building, constructed in 1838, presently serves as a community space for the town, but is in need of some maintenance!
This beautiful house was built by retired whaling Captain John G. Dexter in 1860. The Dexter family’s ties to Rochester, Massachusetts, began when William Dexter became the first descendant of the Dexter
family to settle in town around 1679. William, one of the 32 original grantees of the town (from land by Sachem Metacomet), died in Rochester in 1694 and his four sons and grandsons remained in Rochester through the 19th century. After being away for months or years at a time, Captain John Dexter returned to his hometown to build this home on family land that was previously undeveloped. The Dexter family remained in the house well into the early 20th century, carrying on the family’s deep rooted history in the area. The home is a blending of Gothic and Italianate styles, which work really well in the rural area.
Rochester’s First Congregational Church is the oldest extant building still standing on the Town Green in Rochester Center and is the fourth house of worship to occupy the site. Constructed in 1837 to the designs of architect, Solomon K. Eaton, the beautiful Gothic Revival church building is among the most beautiful in the state. Eaton was well-known for his ecclesiastical structures, but also designed other prominent civic buildings in Southeastern Massachusetts. A fun fact about Eaton is that at age 55, he volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War and his unit saw action in North Carolina, he returned home after the war and lived out his final days. The church stands out to me for the quatrefoil windows on the bell tower, the pointed finials and comer posts, and large lancet windows. Swoon!
In 1679, three years after the end of King Phillip’s War, an armed conflict in 1675–1678 between indigenous inhabitants of New England and New England colonists, land that would become Rochester, Mattapoisett,
Marion, and Wareham was purchased from King Phillip, and immediately divided among 32 proprietors of “Old Rochester.” The first white settlers took up residence in 1680, and the Town of Rochester was incorporated in 1686. Rochester town center was formally established in 1697 when land was set aside for a meetinghouse, burying ground and training field. Rochester’s first meetinghouse, built in 1699, served as a church and town building. A larger meetinghouse was built in 1717, and a third in 1760, doubling in size every time as the town’s population grew. The old buildings were insufficient for the growing farming town, and wealthy widow Elizabeth Leonard funded half the cost of a new town hall building. The current structure on the town green was built in 1892 and is an uncommon example of a Queen Anne style town hall in Massachusetts. The building originally was painted a darker color, common in the style, but was given a bright white paint scheme to blend in with the older buildings on the Green.