In about 1825, Francis and Clarissa Dresser built this charming brick Federal house in the rural town of Stockbridge, MA. Just 25 years later, the railroad arrived to town, connecting it to Connecticut and New York to the south, opening the town up as a leisure destination for wealthy city dwellers looking to escape the noise and congestion of the city. The period following the Civil War through World War I saw the Gilded Age reach the Berkshires. With artists, writers, financiers, and industrialists flocking to the rural hills of western Massachusetts for seasonal escapes. In 1875, William and Elizabeth Doane, wealthy New Yorkers, purchased Merwin House from the Dresser family to use as a summer retreat. As the Doane family grew to include two young daughters, Vipont and Elizabeth, they added a Shingle Style side addition to the original brick structure. The home became known as “Tranquility”, even after the home was willed to daughter Vipont. After a couple marriages, Vipont married Edward Payson Merwin, a New York stockbroker. Historic New England acquired Merwin House in 1966, shortly after the death of Marie Vipont deRiviere Doane Merwin, known as Vipont. It was her desire to leave Merwin House as a museum, as her will states, “as an example of an American culture which is fast becoming extinct.” The space is occasionally open for tours and is partially occupied by the Housatonic Valley Association.
The 2nd oldest house in Saugus, the Boardman House, was built in 1692, just 72 years after the pilgrims landed in Plymouth. The Boardman House is an example of early New England architecture that exhibited exposed and decorated structural carpentry, and that evolved from English Post-medieval architecture transferred to New England by the early settlers. Built in 1692, the home is considered a hall and parlor plan, consisting of two rooms at each story separated by a stair hall at the front and by a massive central chimney at the rear. Sometime between 1692 and 1696, the rear lean-to kitchen was added to the house, creating the Saltbox roof.
Built by William Boardman, a carpenter, the home remained in the family until 1911, when it was purchased by a developer. The original 300-acre farmland was sub-divided and sold through the centuries after William’s death in 1696 at the age of 38. In 1913, the local community, concerned that these changes spelled certain destruction for the old house, appealed to William Sumner Appleton, founder and corresponding secretary of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England, and the purchase of the house was finally negotiated in 1914. Over the next year, Appleton had the foresight to purchase eight additional small lots surrounding the house, allowing it to stand in a comparatively open space and setting it apart from the close-set houses that eventually sprang up in the immediate neighborhood. The Boardman House is now one of a few 17th century house museums in the region.