The College Hill neighborhood of Providence has some of the finest residential architecture in New England, and some really fun stories of those who built these grand homes. In 1859, the house was built with a concave mansard roof punctuated with dormers and a bold bracketed cornice below. The use of round headed windows on the second floor is a really great design detail. The residence was first owned by Eliza Talbot Almy (1808-1886), who held the title to the property. Wives holding the title of properties in this period was fairly common as it would protect their personal property and residence from financial risk if the husband was met with lawsuits or financial hardship. Eliza’s husband was cotton broker and manufacturer Samson Almy (1795-1876), who had already been sued in a case heard before the United States Supreme Court in 1851. After Eliza’s death in 1886, her daughter, Susan Smith (1837-1917) and husband, Amos Denison Smith (1835-1912), a Civil War veteran, occupied the house into the early 20th century.
Henry A. Thomas House // 1870
People don’t explore Roxbury enough! The neighborhood is full of amazing architecture with buildings in a great state of preservation and some waiting for the overlapping vinyl siding to be removed. This restored beauty sits perched above the road and is one of the best examples of a Second Empire merchant’s home in Roxbury. The house was built around 1870, within a year of owner Henry A. Thomas purchasing the lot here for $4,800. Mr. Thomas owned a boot and shoe retail store in Downtown Boston for years. The lot was later subdivided and stucco apartments were built to the side, notable at the time when Roxbury began to really densify with housing construction in the early 1900s.
Dadmund-Glennon House // 1875
Boston’s many unique neighborhoods have some amazing hidden architectural gems. It always helps to get out and explore by walking or biking your city to see things from a different perspective than a car or bus. This brick mansard house sits on a quiet dead-end street in the Stonybrook section of Jamaica Plain and was built in the mid-1870s for Joseph A. Dadmund, a coppersmith. From the 1880s-1920s, the house was occupied by the Glennon Family, who built two large wooden stables in the rear yard, both of which remain to this day.
Isaac Cary Estate // 1850
Isaac Harris Cary was born in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts on November 3, 1803, the seventh child of Jonathan and Mary Cary. In 1824, Isaac and his brother William formed a partnership and ran a fancy goods imports business, Isaac H. Cary & Co. on Washington Street in Boston. The brothers opened a store in New York and William moved there full-time. In 1831, Isaac married Phebe P. Pratt of Roxbury and they would have three children, two of them living to adulthood. After doing business in New York City and later in New Orleans, Isaac and his family settled in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, purchasing large land holdings and developing real estate. One of the finest lots he owned was developed for his country estate in 1850, an Italianate/Second Empire-style mansion perched atop an outcropping of Roxbury puddingstone. The large home with a rear three-story tower remained in the Cary family under his single daughter Susanna’s ownership until her death in 1913.
William Allen Jr. House // 1866
Italianate style houses dominate the Deering Street area of Portland architecturally, but there are definitely some great Second Empire residences and other styles seen here. This house (like seemingly every building in Portland in the 1860s) was designed by architect George M. Harding for William Allen Jr. The house would soon be Harding’s neighbor, so he made an effort to site and design this residence with care. The brick building is capped by a slate mansard roof and it has a beautiful projecting door hood with pendants carved of grapes. Sadly, like some others on the street, the belvedere was removed in the mid-20th century.
Thompson Block // 1868
Another of Portland’s stunning mid-19th century commercial blocks is the Thompson Block, built in 1868. The structure is one of the most high-style commercial buildings in Maine and is in a great state of preservation. The building was designed by George M. Harding, a VERY busy architect after the disastrous Great Fire of 1866, which destroyed much of Downtown Portland. The building stands three-stories tall with a polychrome slate mansard roof providing a full fourth floor, a subtle and great way to get extra height without making a building too overbearing. The mansard is broken up at the facade by dormers with round-arch windows and keystoned and eared hoods. If only all cities held off urban renewal, we would have so many more structures like this!
Woodman Block // 1867
Located next-door to the Rackleff Block, this high-style Second Empire commercial block in Downtown Portland, Maine really turns heads. The Woodman Block (like its neighbor) was built in 1867 from plans by architect George M. Harding, who designed the building for George W. Woodman, a drygoods dealer. This stunning commercial block originally housed Woodman’s dry goods firm, Woodman, True, and Company. It later held a druggist and medicine company. The building retains much of its original architectural character minus the iron cresting which once capped the mansard roof. They don’t make them like they used to!
Sprague Grist Mill – Sprague Public Library // c.1875
The town of Sprague, Connecticut was incorporated in 1861, with the land formed from portions of the town of Franklin. A few years earlier, in 1856, former Rhode Island Governor and U.S. Senator William Sprague III of Rhode Island had laid out plans to build “the largest mill on the Western Continent” in eastern Connecticut, only to die later that year. His nephews William and Amasa Sprague constructed the Baltic Cotton Mill in what was to become the village of Baltic, which is today the geographic and population center of the town of Sprague. The village of Baltic developed largely between the years 1857-1861, when the Sprague brothers developed the mill, commercial buildings, and workforce housing for the employees. In 1870, 804 men, 396 women, and 210 children worked in the Baltic mill. This building was constructed after the initial period of development for the town in about 1875 as a grist mill. It is now home to the town’s library!
Belair Mansion // 1850
One of the most stunning summer “cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island is this stone behemoth named “Belair”. The house is set back way off the street and was one of the first summer estates built in this section of Newport. Belair was built in 1850 for New York oil baron H. Allen Wright in the Italianate style and constructed of roughly dressed stone and was originally about half of the size of the current footprint. The mansion was designed by architect Seth C. Bradford, who is also credited as architect of the similarly designed Chateau-sur-Mer, built one year later. Wright sold this house to George H. Norman two years after its completion. Norman (1827-1900), founded the Newport Daily News in 1848 and made his fortune as an engineer, first establishing gas works and later water works systems across New England, New York, and the Midwest. Norman made a fortune, and renovated and expanded his mansion in 1870 from plans by Newport architect Dudley Newton, with grand Second Empire additions, including the high convex-mansard corner tower. The original four acre Belair property has been extensively subdivided, and this house now occupies a lot of about an acre; with the original outbuildings sold off, and Belair is now 11 condominium units!
Andrew Hunt House // 1878
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.