Located on Main Street in Chester, Vermont, you can find this perfect little Snecked Ashlar home. The building technique is very local and can be found in just a handful of towns in central Vermont. Scottish-born masons from Canada introduced the technique to local masons while erecting a mill in nearby Cavendish in 1832, and within a few years, the first stone structure in North Chester village was built by local masons. Soon after, the local school, church and other homes were all constructed the same way. This home outside the Stone Village district was built later than almost all other examples in town. It features Federal and Greek Revival detailing with a central fluted fan at the door and large gable-front roof.
The James Paul House in Durham, NH, stands out as a rare example of stone construction in town. The house was built between 1830 and 1840, and is transitional Federal/Greek Revival in style. It has four tall chimneys (two on each slope of the roof), granite lintels over the windows, and granite quoins at the corners which together, create an elegant composition. Tragically, James Paul died unexpectedly when removing the staging on this house, he was never able to live in this beauty. The home was occupied by two reverends of a local church.
Lexington Farm was built by Elisha Wright Watkins (1805-1886) in around 1835, and was operated as a dairy farm until the 1980’s. Today, the property consists of a snecked ashlar stone farmhouse, cow barn, horse barn and tractor barn, grouped together at the southern extremity of the village of Felchville (also known as Reading). The farmhouse and barns are situated next to a waterfall on a tributary of the Black River, and are surrounded by pastures, hayfields and extensive woodland. A couple decades after Watkins’ death, the property was purchased by Alonzo Goddard. It stayed in that family and was eventually willed to Errol Locke in 1923. Errol, by trade, wasn’t a farmer. He was a Harvard-educated man who graduated there in 1913. Eventually, he went to work for a company called General Radio, which was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1915. He started as a clerk, and 37 years later, he retired as president. The company, by that time, had moved to Concord, Massachusetts, which we know, thanks to the important events of April 19, 1775, is not too far from Lexington, where Locke lived. He renamed the Watkins Farm, Lexington Farm, seemingly as a tribute to his home town in the Bay State. In 2009, the Hall Art Foundation began the process of converting Lexington Farm to museum-quality galleries. The former dairy farm’s location and existing structures were ideally suited for this purpose. After approximately three years of restoration, renovation and refitting, Lexington Farm was transformed to approximately 6,000 sq. feet of exhibition space.
In the early 1830s, skilled masons from Scotland and Ireland came to central Vermont to work on building projects. A number of these workers, mainly from the Aberdeen area, and specialized in a specific building style in which plates of stone are affixed to a rubblestone wall. This method of bonding stonework is so prevalent in Scotland and Ireland it has been referred to in some journals as ‘Celtic Bond’, but in Vermont, it is known as “snecked ashlar”. The mixture of stone sizes and colors produces a strong bond and an attractive finish. This home is a rare example in the state, which is estimated to have about 50 of these homes left. I could not locate any information on the owners of the home, but the house has seen better days, with the wooden front porch shifting away from the main house. Also, if you look closely, you can see the original wood shingle roofing breathing under the sheet metal roof!
On a rise above the Cape Elizabeth’s rocky shore stands Beckett’s Castle, a picturesque Gothic cottage of a century ago. Designed and built by the Portland literary figure Sylvester Beckett for his summer residence, the Castle was begun in 1871 and finished in 1874. It is said that Beckett constructed the cottage from local gray fieldstone largely with his own hands, though he must have had help, or fabricated this fiction as he would have in his own books. The home was patterned after a typical English castle, but on a much smaller scale, and is tucked away from the street. Sylvester Blackmore Beckett was born in Portland, Maine in 1812, as the son of English parents. Although never attending college, he acquired a modest education and became a prominent journalist and articulate writer. He was admitted to the bar in 1859 and spent much of his time administering and settling estates becoming well-connected in town. Beckett held massive parties in the home, and invitations to the social gatherings held there were highly prized; guests were served expansive dinners cooked in primitive fashion in a large fireplace. Sylvester Beckett died in 1882, and went to his only child, Lizzie. The home fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but was restored by the most recent owner. It was sold in 2018, and the listing photos show some great interior spaces.
This shell of a former mansion was built in 1859 for Colonel John Goddard (1811-1870), a Civil War Union Army Officer. Goddard was a “lumberman” who amassed substantial wealth before the outbreak of the Civil War, and he hired architect Charles A. Alexander, to design an estate house for him and his family. The home appears to have been constructed of local stone with white granite trim and featured a prominent tower, emulating an Italian Villa. The home was purchased in 1898 by Judge Joseph W. Symonds, who presided over the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Just two years later in 1900, during the expansion of Fort Williams, the estate was acquired by the Federal government. The home was used for housing married enlisted men and their families while stationed at Fort Williams. The basement was converted into the fort’s Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club. At the time of the town’s purchase of the Fort in 1964, the mansion was already in serious disrepair and its future was uncertain. People routinely broke in and damaged the interior, which suffered numerous small fires over the years, until the town decided in 1981 to hold a controlled burn of the home, leaving the shell. The shell remains a significant architectural landmark and a massive opportunity for the town.
Built in 1893 on “Stevens’ Hill” this mansion stands out for its amazing use of stone and brick construction, seemingly emerging from the hill itself. The home was constructed for Robert Rantoul Endicott (1833-1914), who was the State Representative from Beverly and later served at a Selectman and President of the Board of Trade. Mr. Endicott succeeded his father later and became President of the Beverly Savings Bank, and served until five years before his death. I could not locate an architect for this house, but it is possibly designed by Augustus D. Rantoul, an architect, and possible family member of Robert Rantoul Endicott.
Josiah Hosford of Thetford, Vermont built this stone house for his family in about 1835. Hosford was a stone mason who built a series of stone houses in town, using stone quarried in nearby Lyme, New Hampshire. Josiah Hosford (1802-1883), was the grandson of Aaron Hosford, one of the earliest settlers in the North Thetford area. The distinguished family contributed resided and contributed to the town’s vibrant history, as ministers, teachers, artists, farmers, and tradespeople. A fire at the home in the early 1900s gutted the interior, and the owner at the time, a carpenter, reconstructed the interiors, shingled the side gables, and added on the porches.
The oldest extant house (and my favorite) in the Cottage Farm development of Brookline is the Frederick Sears House. This house is significant as one of the major surviving examples of Gothic Revival domestic architecture that was part of the original Cottage Farm development. David Sears laid out the parks and squares in the Cottage Farm neighborhood in 1849 on land he acquired from Uriah Cotting in 1818. He also built houses for himself and his children. His own house, erected in 1843, stood at the comer of Pleasant Street and Freeman Street. Sears built houses for his daughters, Ellen, Harriet, Anna, and Grace, all of which are no longer extant. Only the house he built for his son Frederick at 24 Cottage Farm Road survives among the Sears family houses.The large Gothic Revival home was constructed from Roxbury Puddingstone with granite trim. Possibly a work by George Minot Dexter, it is the highest style Gothic home, equipped with bargeboards, quoins and trefoil and quatrefoil windows.