Category Archives: Marblehead

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Marblehead (1714)

Located at 26 Pleasant Street in Marblehead, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is the oldest Episcopal church building on its original site in New England. Founded by a group of donors consisting primarily of sea captains, the church was built in 1714, with many of its original materials being shipped from Great Britain. The original square church was expanded by one third in 1728 with a new roof. During the Revolutionary War in 1776, patriots raided the church and removed the British royal coat of arms. Many of St. Michael’s members at the time were Loyalists who fled to Canada. As related in Historic churches of America (1907), by Nellie Urner Wallington:

In the course of time, as one by one the families of the communicants died or removed to distant localities, the parish was so depleted that in 1818 funds were no longer forthcoming for the support of the church. The church building was closed, and the glebe sold to pay off the debt of the parish. In 1833, however, vigorous attempts on the part of the Congregationalists to secure possession of the church edifice roused the whole Episcopal church of the United States, until parish after parish contributed aid and old St. Michael’s was once more set upon its feet.

The church‘s current stained glass windows were installed in 1888.

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Marblehead Lighthouse (1896)

The first lighthouse to be constructed at the northern end of Marblehead Neck (called Lighthouse Point) was built in 1835. There was a 23-foot white tower and a brick keeper’s cottage, attached to the tower by a covered walkway. The original cottage was replaced by a wood-frame keeper’s house in 1878. In the 1870s, large summer houses were being built on Marblehead Neck, obscuring the lighthouse from being seen at sea. To deal with this situation, a light was hoisted to the top of a tall mast near the lighthouse in 1883. The original lighthouse was demolished and a taller tower was finally constructed, which was first illuminated on April 17, 1896. Instead of a brick tower, a 105-foot cast-iron skeleton tower was erected, the only lighthouse of its type in New England. The iron tower was most likely selected because it cost only $8,786, instead of the the $45,000 required for a brick tower. Chandler Hovey, a well-known yachtsman, purchased the land around the lighthouse and in 1948 donated it to the town for use as a park.

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John Prince House (1761)

According to the sign on the house at 24 State Street in Marblehead, the house was built in 1761 for Capt. John Prince, a blacksmith. In the twentieth century, it was the home of Charles Gilbert, a carpenter.

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Benjamin Ireson House (1808)

The house at 19 Circle Street in Marblehead, built before 1808 and perhaps as early as 1758, is famous for being the home of Benjamin “Flood” Ireson, subject of the 1857 poem, “Skipper Ireson’s Ride,” by John Greenleaf Whittier. Captain Ireson, of the fishing vessel Betty, had supposedly refused to assist the sinking schooner Active during a gale in 1808. In retribution, a group of sailors and boys had tarred and feathered him. Whittier later heard the story, by which time the name of the captain had been corrupted to “Floyd Ireson” and he elaborated the story so that the tarring and feathering was perpetrated by the women of Marblehead. In his book, The History and Traditions of Marblehead (1881), author Samuel Roads defended Ireson, who had actually been innocent of the crime for which he was tarred and feathered. Whittier sent a letter to Roads expressing that he was pleased the true facts had come out, but the poem’s success perpetuated the Whittier version in the public imagination. The Ireson House would remain a notable Marblehead landmark and be the subject of postcards well into the twentieth century.

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Herreshoff Castle (1926)

There are a number of interesting castles in Massachusetts. Herreshoff Castle, at 2 Crocker Park in Marblehead, was built in 1926 by artist Waldo Ballard and his wife. Ballard restored many old houses in Marblehead. The castle was originally called Castle Brattahlid and was intended to recreate Erik the Red‘s castle at Brattahlíð (“Steep Slope”), in Greenland. In 1945, the Ballards sold the castle to L. Francis Herreshoff, son the yacht designer Nathanael Herreshoff. After Herreshoff died in 1972, he left the castle to a longtime assistant. The present owners bought it in 1990 and operate the castle‘s similarly Gothic-style attached carriage house as a one-unit bed & breakfast.

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Old Town House, Marblehead (1727)

This is the 500th Post for Historic Buildings of Massachusetts!!! The Old Town House in Marblehead was built in 1727. The upper level contained the town hall and the lower level was originally used as a market. The building is sometimes called “Marblehead’s Cradle of Liberty” because of meetings held there before the Revolution where such leaders as Elbridge Gerry and General John Glover debated independence. The building‘s lower level, originally at ground level before the addition of a granite foundation to the structure in 1830, served as the town’s Police Station from 1853 to 1961 and is now home to the Marblehead Police Museum. The second floor also has a Grand Army of the Republic meeting hall maintained as a museum.

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Hearth and Eagle House (1750)

In the 1940s, historical novelist Anya Seton‘s research into her ancestry led her to Marblehead, and she based her 1948 novel, The Hearth and Eagle, on the history of the seaside town. She set the novel in the Hearth and Eagle Inn, based on the house at 30 Franklin Street in Marblehead. The house was built c. 1715-1721 by the father of Elbridge Gerry and was enlarged in 1750. It was owned by the captain in command of Fort Sewall during the War of 1812 and soldiers were billeted in the house.

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