In 1888, Charles F. Folger of Philadelphia purchased the former Elijah Alley house on Easton Street, just north of the main village of Nantucket. Folger hired carpenter Edwin R. Smith to design and build a new grand hotel for summer residents of Nantucket. Originally named the Point Breeze Hotel, the grand resort opened in the summer of 1891. The Queen Anne style hotel contained forty sleeping apartments in the upper floors and was dominated by a corner tower with billiards rooms and a bowling alley in the raised brick basement. Business was booming, and by the early 20th century, Folger expanded the hotel adding the east wing in the Colonial Revival style. In 1925, a fire destroyed the original Point Breeze Hotel, leaving just the East Wing. By this time, the days of the grand, wooden hotels was coming to a close. The Nantucket Institution for Savings acquired the hotel during the Great Depression, until 1936 when Gordon Folger Jr., grandson of the Point Breeze’s original proprietor, purchased the hotel and renamed it after himself, as the Gordon Folger Hotel. By the end of the 20th century, the building sat underutilized, the early 2000s when Little Gem Resorts purchased the hotel, seeking to restore this historic property back to her former glory. The original 1891 hotel was rebuilt in 2012, even down to its iconic corner tower, and the hotel was renamed The Nantucket. The hotel is open year-round and is lavish inside and out, providing you with a sense of home even when on vacation in the middle of the Atlantic!
The Paragon Park Carousel at Nantasket Beach in Hull, was built in 1928 for the Paragon Park Amusement Park (last featured), and is possibly the oldest remaining feature of the old park. When the park was created, many wealthy summer residents clutched their pearls as their quiet, peaceful summers would soon be overrun by those looking for rides and pleasure. From its inception in 1905, Paragon Park placed a carousel at the hub of its amusement attractions, just south of the main entrance gate. While this was just the first of several carousels to be installed in the park, its inclusion in the earliest iteration of Paragon Park shows the importance of the form as an attraction. The current carousel was built in 1928 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company for Paragon Park, the carousel featured two chariots pulled by two horses each and had four rows of horses (66 in all). One of only 18 four-row carousels ever produced by Philadelphia Toboggan Company it is some forty feet in diameter. Housed in a specially built twelve-sided stucco structure to protect the delicate motor and paint in poor weather. When Paragon Park was sold to developers in 1986, parts of the carousel ride were auctioned off, but most were purchased by a locally organized preservation committee. That same year, it was moved a short distance to its present location to save it from the wrecking ball. It is now operated by the Friends of the Paragon Carousel.
Located in Beverly Farms, an exclusive summer colony in Beverly, this church served as one of the places of worship for the Episcopalians who built mansions here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1900, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Beverly established a mission at the Beverly Farms area with services held in nearby buildings until the present church building was erected in 1902. Completed during the summer of 1902, the church was designed by architect Henry Vaughan, who was trained in England and used his inspiration there to design many iconic churches around the region. He is credited with bringing the English Gothic style to the American branch of the Episcopal Church, The design follows that seen in earlier English churches with Tudor and Gothic detailing. As the neighborhood developed in the 20th century with more families, the church has grown to provide ample space for the surrounding towns.
Oak Bluffs got its start as a resort community when the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association began constructing permanent summer cottages in 1860 in the area known as Wesleyan Grove. Due to this success, a couple wealthy men in Edgartown formed the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company, who purchased land adjacent to the Grove, between the Campground and Nantucket Sound. The 75-acre parcel was laid out by Robert Morris Copeland, a Boston landscape architect, who created a system of curvilinear streets and parks, with house lots surrounding each park, in much the same manner as the Campground itself. A few parcels were established for places of worship, but the development wanted to appeal to other religions as the Methodists already had an entire development, from this the 1870 Union Chapel, designed by Samuel Freeman Pratt, was the first built. Another anchor of the development was to be a large luxury resort.
At the head of the Steamship Wharf, the Company built one of the most spacious and luxurious resort hotels of its time, the Sea View House. When it was completed in 1872, the Sea View House was the symbol of the Company’s success. The Sea View was built at a cost of $102,000 with a further cost of $30,000 in furnishings; five stories high on the waterside and four on the inland elevation, it measured 225 feet in length and 40 feet in depth. It contained 125 rooms, office, parlor, spacious dining salons and reception suites. Speaking tubes connected every room with the office; the whole hotel was lit by gas, and warmed by steam heat. The hotel was the first thing seen by new visitors disembarking from the steamers onto the island. The hotel was designed by the same architect as the Union Chapel, Samuel Freeman Pratt. He continued his use of the Stick style for the hotel with elaborate wood framing, trim and Victorian flair. Sadly, on September 24, 1892, the Sea View House caught fire and burned to the ground in less than 40 minutes after the alarm was sounded. The fire originated in the basement near the kitchen, and it was thought resulted from a stray spark getting into the cotton waste that was near the engine.
Saint Ann’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Kennebunkport is possibly my favorite building in the seaside town. As the Cape Arundel summer colony of Kennebunkport was rapidly developing in the 1880s, summer residents needed a place to worship and sought an appropriate location close to their mansions. Boston architect Henry Paston Clark sketched up some conceptual drawings for a stone chapel pro-bono as he already had active commissions in the town and summered there himself. Funds were raised and the current site was donated by the Kennebunkport Seashore Company, who developed the neighborhood. The cornerstone was laid on August 22, 1887. Five years later construction was completed, and the church was debt-free. The large sea-washed stones were hoisted and dragged to the church site during the winter of 1886-1887, and work on the building began May 27, 1887. The same sea-washed stones that grace the building’s exterior were also used for the interior of the church and sacristy. The roof over the central part of the church (the nave) is framed with hard pine hammer beam trusses and the floor is cleft slate.
In the late 1800s, many coastal New England communities – including Kennebunkport – became summer resort towns and colonies for upper and middle class families. To accommodate families, who would arrive to these small towns by the train-load, many wealthy citizens constructed luxury hotels which offered longer term stays compared to what we think of hotels today.
The Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport was named from a Native American word meaning ‘blessing’ or ‘prayer’, but has become synonymous with ‘family’, the word was chosen as the building was believed to have been constructed on land where Native Americans traded with early settlers. Opened on the Fourth of July in 1884, the hotel was constructed for Captain Henry Heckman, the original owner. The building was a fairly modest, late Italianate design until alterations and additions in the 1890s added a Colonial Revival motif, with pilasters capped with Corinthian capitals and cartouches; however, many features have been removed.
Louis Sherry, a well-known New York restauranteur, was contracted to be the first Superintendent for the newly opened Narragansett Pier Casino. He soon realized the need for the wealthy to stay in private summer cottages instead of hotels. In 1887, Sherry purchased five acres of land in Narragansett Pier and hired the firm of McKim, Mead, and White, the same firm who designed the main casino to design a small complex of cottages surrounding a central green and restaurant.
A total of six cottages were constructed with a casino/restaurant at the center and all were similar in style and features amenities including porches and electric lights. The enterprise was successful until 1912, when a fire started in the casino’s kitchen, destroying that structure and three cottages, and three cottages across the street on Earl’s Court, another luxury development. One of the Sherry Cottages was rebuilt, but the fire disrupted the original design intent and siting of the cottages.
This shingle style summer cottage was built in 1887 for the Gwynne sisters, the two sisters of Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt. Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt was the wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, and she clearly wanted her sisters to be close, but not too close to her summer cottage The Breakers in nearby Newport, RI. The home, at 106 Central Street, was designed in the Shingle style with a hipped roof and large veranda.
Designed by the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White, with landscaping designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the Narragansett Pier Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island was one of the finest Gilded Age resorts in New England upon its opening in 1886. Considered to be the center of social life for summer residents in Narragansett Pier, a close second to the glamour of Newport, the Casino structure stood complete for just under 15 years. Guests of the resort enjoyed beach-going, billiards, tennis, cards, bowling, shooting, boating, and beautiful reading rooms, shops, restaurants and a theater within in the Casino. In 1900, most of the Shingle style building burned down during what is known on September 12, ending the Summer season. That day, a fire broke out in the neighboring Rockingham Hotel. The flames spread quickly to the Casino and many other significant wood-frame buildings, and leaving only the stone porte-cochere and towers standing of the original casino.
The stone structure was damaged multiple more times from hurricanes and fires, but stood proudly as a lasting reminder to Narragansett Pier’s Gilded Age past. The Towers is now the premier event space in town and a symbol for the town. Sadly, much of the area of Narragansett Pier today is dotted with surface parking and (in my opinion) uninspiring condominium/hotel developments, though there are collections of significant structures nearby that survived the fire.