During the 1790s and early 1800s, the rise of the coastal schooner trade and whaling ushered in a long period of prosperity for coastal towns in New England, which continued unabated until the Civil War. The War of 1812 provided many Marion sailors and sea captains with the chance to experience life at sea with privateers papers issued by the United States government, these captains went to sea in their schooners to hunt down British ships, plundering them like pirates. One of these captains was Ward Parker Delano, who built this house in 1797 overlooking Sippican Harbor. Under subsequent owners in the Delano family, the home was modified on numerous occasions in styles popular at the time until the early 20th century when it was Colonialized, which added the portico, gable, and dentils.
Handy’s Tavern // 1812
Before the days of cars and even trains ruled, people in New England would get around by horseback or stagecoach (horse-drawn carriages) from town to town. Due to the long travel times to get everywhere, many New Englanders built taverns, which served as inns and bars for the weary traveller on their journey. In 1812, a recently married Caleb Handy built this house to serve as a residence and source of income, as a tavern for travellers on the Plymouth-New Bedford stagecoach route. He married Sophia Dexter in 1811, who died just two years later at the age of 22. Two years after the death of his first wife, he married Sophia’s sister, Mary, who just turned 18 (he was 33). The tavern had a ballroom for local dances and a room for serving drinks, based principally on West Indian rum, that was shipped in from sugar plantations, owned by many wealthy white families in New England (many of whom exploited the slavery abroad). The Tavern was later owned by Benjamin Handy, who continued to operate it as a Tavern until the railroad made the stagecoach route obsolete in the middle of the 19th century. It then became a family home. The house was sold to the Sippican Women’s Club in 1923, who renovated and restored much of the building, and held luncheons and events inside. They maintain the building to this day.
Dr. Ellis House – Sippican Historical Society // 1839
This house was built in 1839 Dr. Walton Nye Ellis (1808-1867), who served as physician in Marion in the second quarter of the 19th century. Born in Wareham, Ellis moved to Marion, and married Susan Delano (1809-
1840) after her death, within the year, he married Lucy Clark Allen (1820-1885); he had a daughter with his first wife and four daughters and three sons with his second. By 1838, he purchased a lot in Sippican Village for the price was $225. In 1855, Dr. Ellis organized a meeting of prosperous Village men, mostly sea captains, with the purpose of planning a library for the town. They pooled resources and funded a library which was located in a large closet on the second floor of his home seen here. The library’s books could be borrowed for a few cents a week. Subsequent funding from Elizabeth Taber helped create the Taber Library just decades later. In the 1960s, the home was gifted to the Sippican Historical Society, who remain in the building to this day.
Ryder Homestead // c.1675
The oldest home in Marion, this c.1675 Cape house apparently has interior structural elements dating the home to the earliest colonized days of Sippican Village. The tiny home was built for a member of the Ryder family around 1675, according to the Sippican Historical Society. It was recorded and noted as standing by the 1690s. The home is an example of a three-quarter cape, meaning there are two bays on one side of the front door and one on the other side. During colonial times, for economic reasons, a newly married couple could build a half-cape house with a door, two windows to one side of the door and a single fireplace heating multiple rooms. It was expected that they would expand the house to either a three-quarter house by adding a single window on the other side of the door or doubling the size of the home adding two other bays, all rooms heated by the central chimney.
Marion Post Office // 1830
Built around 1830, this little cottage is set behind a front lawn and is among the many photogenic buildings along Marion’s Main Street. Originally located behind the Marion Congregational Church, this structure was moved to its current site between 1855 and 1879, and run as a post office for the village. During the mid-19th century, the job of post-master was a political appointment. For a time Captain Nathan Briggs, a retired sea captain and Democratic party appointee, operated a post office in this structure, competing with Republican Dr. Walton N. Ellis who was in charge of a rival Post Office nearby. He ran the post office until he was struck by lightning in the doorway of his home. Who knew that everything was as political then as they are now? Things do not change!
Major Rowland Luce House // c.1790
Built around 1790 for Rowland Luce (1756-1835), this Federal home oozes character and charm, and is located right on Main Street in one of my favorite towns, Marion, Mass. Luce was born in Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard into a very religious family. While studying to become a Deacon like his father, the Revolutionary War broke out, and Rowland served to fight the British, leaving service as a Major. He eventually settled in Marion’s Sippican/Wharf Village and worked as a Deacon for the Congregational Church. The simple house is clad in cedar shingles and has two chimneys, a departure from earlier homes with one, large central chimney.
St. Rita’s Roman Catholic Church // 1916
A Roman Catholic parish was established in the South Coast/Cape Cod area by 1830 in Sandwich, where a large glass company employed a number of Irish immigrants. Over the course of the 19th century, several mission churches were established, and eventually a second parish, St. Patrick’s, was established in Wareham in 1911. Soon after, a mission was established in nearby Marion to serve the summertime Catholic community there. A parcel of land was acquired by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fall River and they hired architect Matthew Sullivan to furnish plans for the small church. Matthew Sullivan (1868–1948) trained in the office of Edmund M. Wheelwright, Boston City Architect (1891-1894). Sullivan succeeded Wheelwright as City Architect and served in that position from 1895 to 1901, when he became a junior partner in the firm of Maginnis, Walsh and Sullivan, which was widely known for its ecclesiastical work, where he too specialized in religious buildings. St. Rita’s Roman Catholic Church is an example of an early 20th century chapel in the Craftsman style, characterized by eaves marked by long projecting rafter tails and a bold entry framed by Tuscan columns.
Marion Town Hall // 1876
Welcome to Marion, Massachusetts! Colonized in 1679 as “Sippican”, the town was once a district of adjacent Rochester, Massachusetts. The name, which also lends itself to the river which passes through the north of town and the harbor at the heart of town, was the Wampanoag name for the local tribe that once utilized these lands. Native settlements in present-day Marion dates as far back as 3000 B.C. as the local people were members of the Wampanoag tribe who, when the Pilgrims came, lived in a number of villages in Southeastern Massachusetts under the leadership of the great chief Massasoit. By the 19th century, the town was mostly known for its many local sea captains and sailors whose homes were in town. Today, the coastal town is known for its charming village and large waterfront homes, oh and amazing architecture!
This building was constructed in 1876 by Mrs. Elizabeth Taber (1791-1888), who, at the age of 85, founded Tabor Academy in town. She named it after Mount Tabor in Palestine rather than after herself. The school was built towards the end of the “Age of the Academies”, when in 1852, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to make education compulsory. While some major private institutions already existed, many more were founded in the mid-19th century. Tabor Academy served as a private school for boys and girls over 12 years of age, and was to remain free for local students. With the rise of public schools in the state, many academies began to struggle with admitting students, especially those that had parents willing to pay additional money for enrollment. The school struggled around the Great Depression and thus, traded buildings with the Town of Marion in the 1930s and this building became the Marion Town Hall, a use it retains to this day. The building itself is a stunning Italianate design constructed from plans by Boston architect William Gibbons Preston.
Stay tuned for more buildings and history on one of my favorite Massachusetts towns!