Backroads in New England are just amazing! When driving through Millbury on my way to visit one of the finest examples of Federal style architecture in the state, I stumbled upon this gorgeous rural Federal style farmhouse, and had to snap a picture! Millbury is best-known as a mill town (hence the name), but you can find dozens of rural farms dispersed between the mill villages in the township. The Blackstone River cuts through the town, and during the Industrial Revolution, it provided much of the water power to the town’s many textile mills and factories. Like many former mill towns, the shifting of the economy away from manufacturing towards the service sector, harmed the economy of Millbury in the 20th century. Many mills were abandoned and demolished, others adaptively reused. Before we get to some industrial history, I wanted to share this charming farmhouse. This home was built for Nymphas Longley upon the time of his 1819 marriage to the love of his life, Nancy Bond. They ran a farm on over 80 acres, with Nymphas also serving as a town selectman, an overseer of the poor, and led recruitment efforts in town at the start of the Civil War. Like many farms, this one saw suburban development take some of the former land, but this home still sits on over 9 acres, not bad for being so close to Worcester!
The 200-acre campus of Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra spends its summer months, spreads the grounds of two historic summer cottages in the charming town of Stockbridge, MA. One of the summer “cottages” Tanglewood, where the music center gets its name, was constructed around 1865 for Caroline Sturgis Tappan, husband William Aspinwall Tappan and their two daughters, Ellen Sturgis Tappan and Mary Aspinwall Tappan. Mary, with her niece Rosamund Hepburn, donated the family summer home, Tanglewood in 1937 to Serge Koussevitzky, a Russian-born conductor, composer and music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949. The campus has since grown astronomically as it hosts musicians and tourists from all over the region and globally to experience the arts in the charming town in the Berkshires. The Tanglewood house retains much of its historic architecture and siting, overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl (lake).
Citizens Hall, which was built in 1870 in a small village within Stockbridge, MA, is a small-scale version of the civic buildings constructed in the Second Empire in American towns and cities following the Civil War. The building is the architectural epicenter of Curtisville (now sometimes referred to as Interlaken), a small community within the Town of Stockbridge, which grew up around twelve mills. The mills are gone but several significant structures remain, also retaining their rural character. Citizens Hall was designed by Charles T. Rathbun, and inside, the two rooms on the first floor housed the public school and the second floor was the community assembly hall. The building was threatened with deferred maintenance in the mid-20th century and its future was uncertain until 1975 when a local group worked with the State Historic Preservation Office and acquired a grant to make needed repairs on the building. Today, the structure is maintained and houses the Art School of Berkshire (now known as Interlaken School of Art). Look at that historically appropriate paint scheme!
Located on the idyllic Main Street in Stockbridge, MA in the Berkshires, this stone church marks the emergence of the once sleepy town into a summer retreat for wealthy citizens, escaping the cities in the late 19th century. This building is Charles Follen McKim’s first church design, a building reflecting his early training in the office of H. H. Richardson with the use of Romanesque detailing, though with a hint of Norman design. St. Paul’s Church is constructed of gray Berkshire granite with stained glass windows by John La Farge. The church replaced an older wooden church building designed by Richard Upjohn in the Gothic Revival style. The church was almost entirely funded by Charles Butler, a New York lawyer who wanted to honor his late wife Susan Ridley Sedgwick Butler, a descendant of Theodore Sedgwick, whose home I featured not long ago.
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.
Norman Rockwell‘s ‘Home for Christmas’ painting in 1967 depicts the Main Street scene in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and epitomizes the essence of Christmas in small towns across the country. In the iconic painting, you can find many landmarks (including the Town Offices building) that make up the quaint main street, that typifies many small New England towns. At the center of his painting, the Guerrieri Block can be seen with a Christmas tree lit up in the window on the second floor. The Guerrieri Block was built in 1921 by Antonio Guerrieri, a skilled woodworker who sold and repaired antiques in one of three street level shops in the block. He and his family lived in an apartment on the second floor. The next year he completed construction of a shop behind the block where he worked out of. In 1953, Norman Rockwell moved to Stockbridge and spoke with Antonio about using the second floor of his building as a studio. Antonio constructed a large central bay window with plate glass to flood the space with light and allow Rockwell to work while observing the street below. Rockwell used the space as his studio until 1957. The building has since been occupied as a general store.
Built in 1884, the Town Office Building on Main Street in Stockbridge, housed more conveniently located government offices and came equipped with a basement jail. The building was constructed of brick to protect town records from fire and the adjacent buildings. The architecture is Flemish Revival with its stepped gables, a tower, and terra cotta and stained glass ornaments, a distinctive and different type of architecture on Main Street. The building was occupied after the Town Hall, further down Main Street, was deemed inadequate. The building displays the words “Town Offices” with the date 1884 A.D. as the town was sure to label the building as town offices over ‘town hall’ so they could retain the former town hall building after a deal with the First Congregational Church. The town sold the building to private owners in 1960 and has since been used as commercial space.
The Town of Stockbridge, MA was incorporated on June 22, 1739. After that time the town held meetings and conducted business in the First Congregational Meeting House until 1840 when this Greek Revival town hall building was erected on the church’s property as a gift. A stipulation was made that if the Town government constructed or moved to a new town hall building, the property ownership would revert to the Church. The town outgrew the building and constructed a new building toward the center of town, but named it Town Offices, a cheeky way to retain ownership of this building. Eventually, that building too was outgrown, and the town hired Pittsfield-based architect Harry E. Weeks to modify and enlarge the building in 1903, in the Neo-Classical style to compliment the original Greek detailing. As expected, the town moved again in the 2000s to a former school, on Main Street, but again retained the building.
Stockbridge, Massachusetts was settled by English missionaries in 1734, who established it as a praying town (an effort to convert the local Native American tribes to Christianity), for the Mohican tribe known as the Stockbridge Indians. The township was set aside for the tribe by English colonists as a reward for their assistance against the French in the French and Indian Wars. From this, a Yale-educated missionary, John Sergeant began converting native people to Christianity, essentially stripping them of their own religious culture and practices. Although Massachusetts General Court had assured the Stockbridge Indians that their land would never be sold, the agreement was rescinded. Despite the aid by the tribe during the Revolutionary War, the state forced their relocation to the west, to New York and then to Wisconsin. The village was then taken over by British-American settlers who created the township.
The first congregational church here was formed by Sergeant in 1734, and later succeeded by Jonathan Edwards, another minister. During his time in Stockbridge, Edwards wrote his masterpiece, Freedom of the Will, which remains one of the most studied works in American theology. Edwards later left the church to become the President of The College of New Jersey, now known as a little school by the name of Princeton. The first church was built in 1739, later replaced by a second church building that stood from 1785 to 1824. The present brick building was built in 1824 in the Federal Style. The space was occupied for town functions until the 1840s, when an official town hall was erected next door, demarcating the separation of church and state. The stunning church marks the immense influence religion had in the early colonial days of New England and the impact it had on native peoples (for better or worse).
Similar to the Charles Leonard House a block away, the Colton House on Main Street in Agawam remains as a historically and architecturally significant Federal style home in Western MA. The home was built in 1806 for Rufus Colton (1776-1862), a couple years after he married his first wife. The home was likely constructed by a local builder who took inspiration from Asher Benjamin’s early plan books and Captain Leonard’s home nearby. The house was later owned by Martin Luther who operated the home as a tavern for travelers along the route from Hartford to Boston. It was later owned by Isaac Cooley and documented under the Historic American Buildings Survey. Architecturally, the house features a stunning broad entry surround which incorporates a generous elliptical fan-light with leaded glass above a paneled door. Directly over the main entry on the second floor is a Palladian window with the side panels showing the urn and leaf pattern, seen only in high-style Federal homes.