When one thinks of architecture on Nantucket, many would think of old Colonial-era capes and stately Federal and Greek Revival whaling captains mansions. There are Victorian-era houses on Nantucket, but building on the island tapered off by the mid 1800s after the mid-1700s to the late 1830s when Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world. In December of 1877, Nantucket coal dealer Andrew Hunt purchased a vacant lot on Broad Street to erect a new home for his family. Mr. Hunt hired local builder Charles H. Robinson to design and construct the Second Empire cottage, which today, remains one of the best-preserved and high-style Mansard residences on the island.
Located on Church Street, the best architectural stretch of buildings in Ware, Massachusetts, you’ll find this absolutely charming mini-Mansard house. The property was built after the Civil War and historic maps show it was owned by a J. Coney. Upon further research, it seems J. Coney is John Coney (1809-1884), a farmer who retired in 1870 and was later referred to as a carpenter in census’. It is likely that Mr. Coney built this mansard cottage around his retirement and relocation to Ware’s industrial village, building it himself. The home features gabled dormers with round-headed sash projecting from the mansard roof. A two-story tower has paired, round-headed windows with oculus windows. Perfection.
Built in 1865, this gorgeous building in Beacon Hill shows how perfectly imperfect historic structures are. The stable building was first occupied by Samuel Neal, a carpenter, and Jonathan Dow, a blacksmith. Within a decade, the stable’s owner Nathaniel Thayer, appears to have kept his carriage in the building. By 1911, architect Harold S. Graves was hired to renovate the former stable which would soon become the Toy Theatre. The Toy Theatre was founded in 1911 by an amateur theatrical group to present plays that had not been presented professionally in Boston. That included both works written by members of the group itself and playwrights as far away as Europe. The founding group included many members of Boston’s high-society who were involved in the arts. The group desired a new, modern space and pooled together resources to build a more appropriate theatre in the Back Bay just a few years later (next post). This building was then converted to a residence.
I love a good Second Empire style house with a mansard roof, and luckily, New England is full of amazing examples. This house in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood dates to about 1857 and appears to have been built for Francis W. Carpenter, a successful businessman who would later serve as President of the Congdon & Carpenter Company, an iron and steel company which was founded in 1792. Carpenter did very well for himself and would later move out of this house and into a stunning Beaux Arts mansion further up the street (featured previously), designed by the premier architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings. The house is today owned by RISD, and appears to be used for residences.
Isaac Harris Cary’s land holdings adjacent to Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, saw a surge in value when the cemetery and Forest Hills Station were constructed, opening up the area for development. After Isaac’s death in 1881, his unmarried daughter Susanna, built this large Second Empire style building contributes to the varied 19th century architecture of the street. This double-house was constructed around 1884, seemingly as a rental property which provided Susanna income while residing nearby. The two units suffer from some deferred maintenance, but are excellent examples of the Second Empire style in a double-house form.
Isaac Harris Cary (1803-1881) was born in Charlestown, MA to an established, old New England family. He eventually settled in West Roxbury, an area that is now known as Jamaica Plain, where he operated a tannery along a branch of Stony Brook, a tributary of the Charles River. Isaac built this home and a couple income-producing rental properties on a hill adjacent to the newly established Forest Hills Cemetery. The Second Empire style home today features bright colors and a modern recessed window set into the mansard roof, likely providing views to Boston’s skyline.
The Second Empire style did not take off in Maine as it did in other parts of New England (and the U.S. for that matter), so it’s always a treat to spot one driving the backroads of the Pine Tree State! This house in Denmark, Maine, was built around 1870 for E. A. Boothby, who worked as Assistant Engineer of the Maine Central Railroad. The Second Empire style is evident here from the mansard (French style) roof, bracketed eaves, and a hooded double-door entry.
Margaret Barker Sigourney was the wife of Boston lawyer Henry Sigourney (1783–1849). In 1864, just as the Civil War was coming to a close, Sigourney purchased a piece of land on Bellevue Avenue in Newport soon after the time that Newport had been rediscovered as a tourist destination for the elite class. Sigourney wanted to make a splash as a single woman summering in Newport, so she hired local architect George Champlin Mason to design her cottage in the fashionable Second Empire style. The refined facade is more academic, while the rear and side facades exhibit porches with delicate bargeboards and trim. Sigourney spent summers at her cottage with her only son until 1873 when he and his family perished and were lost at sea aboard the Ville du Havre, when it collided in the Atlantic with another ship, killing a total of 226 aboard the ships, many of which drowned and their bodies never recovered. Alone, Margaret Sigourney continued to spend her summers in Newport until her own death in 1885.
Collinsville, a village in Canton, Connecticut, sits along the Farmington River and is one of the most charming New England villages I’ve been to. The village sprung up around the Collins Axe Company, a manufacturer of edge tools, such as axes, machetes, picks and knives. With the company’s growth (more history on the company in a later post), immigrants moved to the town, and lived in workers cottages built by the factory owners. Churches, stores, schools, and parks came soon after, creating the dynamic village we see today. Nathan L. Polk moved to the village and built this charming Second Empire style cottage, walking distance to his apothecary shop. By 1872, Nathan died and the house was sold to Ulrich Haury. Haury was born and raised in Germany and settled in Collinsville by 1862, working at the Collins Axe Company. From his earnings, he opened up a grocery in the village, spending his earnings bringing his family for vacations to his homeland in Germany. The home remains in excellent condition.
After sharing the old Central Fire Station building in Lancaster (last post), I couldn’t help myself but to share another mini-mansard fire station constructed in town! Located in North Village, this station was built in 1888, and provided fire service to the more rural part of town. The wood-frame structure features a central tower which may have been used originally as a hose-drying tower. In the 1940s, the building was occupied by volunteers of the Ground Observer Corps, an American civil defense organization. The building’s tower provided unobstructed views of airspace where one could keep their eyes open for invading German aircraft. After the War, the Town of Lancaster sold the building, which then converted to a private residence. Sadly, a fire in 2015, damaged much of the interior of the building, but she survives!