Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Isaac Mansfield House (1721)

Isaac Mansfield was a joiner who built his home in Marblehead in 1721. He may be the same person as Capt. Isaac Mansfield (born 1695 and died 1760) [there was also an Isaac Mansfield, Esq., born in 1722, and another Capt. Isaac Mansfield, born in 1750]. The house was rebuilt in 1810 by housewrights John & Eben Harris. Built on Mechanic Street, which was then a cow path leading to Brimblecomb Hill, the house is now the Brimblecomb Hill Bed & Breakfast.

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The Amos and Solomon Towne House (1804)

One of the earliest Federal-style mansions on Chestnut Street in Salem was built in 1804 for two brothers, a schoolmaster and a ship-master, Amos and Solomon Towne. Notable for its fine entrance porch, the house was jointly owned until Amos sold his half in 1807. Solomon sold the house to merchant James King in 1821. While Amos still occupied the house, there was “a school for misses” held there where Sarah Gould taught “reading, English, grammar, geography, embroidery, tambouring, needlework in its various branches, drawing, painting and paper fancy work.” The house has been expanded on the sides and to the rear by later owners.

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First Church in Cambridge (1871)

Merry Christmas from Historic Buildings of Massachusetts!!! Today, Let’s look at a church with a long history. The current church, or meeting house, of the First Church in Cambridge, is the congregation’s sixth and was built in 1871. The first meeting house was built in 1632 at Mount Auburn and Dunster Streets. This congregation eventually left for Hartford, Connecticut under Rev. Thomas Hooker and a new congregation was gathered in Cambridge in 1636. A second meeting house was built in 1650 in the center of Harvard Square and was replaced by the third, at the same location, in 1706. The fourth was built at the corner of Church Street and Massachusetts Avenue in 1757 and was used until 1829, when there was a split in the congregation between Congregationalists and Unitarians. The Congregationalists, taking the name of the Shepard Congregational Society, built their own separate fifth meeting house (the Shepard Memorial Church), at Mount Auburn and Holyoke Streets in 1831. Outgrowing this, they built the current church, at Garden and Mason Streets, in 1872. In 1899, the two churches agreed to be separately known as the First Church in Cambridge (Congregational) and the First Church in Cambridge (Unitarian), now called the First Parish Cambridge. In the 1920s, a Parish House with a chapel, offices, classrooms and meeting halls were added to the Congregational Church. The church has a brass cockerel weathervane, which was made by famed coppersmith Shem Drowne in 1821 for the New Brick Church, known as the Cockerel Church, on Hanover Street, Boston and was purchased for the Cambridge church in 1873. (more…)

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The Gideon Tucker House (1809)

The Gideon Tucker House, also known as the Tucker-Rice House, is at 129 Essex Street in Salem. It was built in 1808-1809 for Gideon Tucker who, according to Old Time Ships of Salem (1917):

was born March 7, 1778, and built and occupied the house on Essex street opposite the Essex Institute. He was clerk for Joseph Peabody and afterwards a partner in that noted shipping firm, which he left to establish a business of his own. He died February 18, 1861. “A venerable man of exact habits and strict integrity.”

Tucker’s house, designed by Samuel McIntire, once looked very similar to the McIntire-designed Gardner-Pingree House across the street, but the Tucker House was significantly altered in 1910. As described in Cousins and Riley’s Colonial Architecture of Salem (1919):

Because of their spaciousness and large number of rooms, the three-story square houses of brick built during the early nineteenth century lend themselves admirably to adaptation as semi-public institutions, and several splendid old mansions have been so utilized. Thus in 1896 the Father Mathew Catholic Total Abstinence Society, organized in 1875, purchased the Tucker-Rice house at Number 129 Essex Street for its headquarters, and considerably remodeled it. [...] Much of the handsome interior wood trim remains, but the splendid elliptical porch, one of the best proportioned in Salem, was removed to the garden of the Essex lnstitute for preservation, where it may now be seen with a contemporary three-piece door from the Rogers house on Essex Street and glasswork of attractive pattern.

In more recent times, the house has been converted for use as condominiums.

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The Pickering House (1651)

One of Salem‘s most interesting buildings is the Pickering House at 18 Broad Street, which is the oldest house in the United States continuously occupied by one family. The earliest section, on the east, was erected by carpenter John Pickering, Sr., around 1651. The house was later expanded to the west in 1671 by his son, John Pickering II, and in 1751, Deacon Timothy Pickering raised the rear lean-to to a full two stories. A two-story ell was added in 1904. The front, with the new addition of two cross gables, was adapted to the Gothic Revival style in 1841. The fence also dates to this period. The house‘s most prominent resident was Timothy Pickering, the arch-Federalist politician (serving as a cabinet member, Senator and US Representative), who had been an aide to Washington during the Revolutionary War. Boston architect Gordon Robb, who also restored the Witch House in Salem, restored the interior of the Pickering House in 1948 and it was opened to the public in 1951 by the nonprofit Pickering Foundation.

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The Smith-Crosby-Endicott House (1789)

The house at 359 Essex Street in Salem was built in 1788-1789 by Benjamin Smith and Capt. Nicholas Crosby. They later divided their property and Crosby built his own house next door. From 1815 to the 1880s, the Smith-Crosby-Endicott House was owned by Capt. Samuel Endicott and his descendants. The Greek Revival-style entrance to this Federal-style house is a later addition.

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Vilna Shul (1919)

The Vilna Shul is an Orthodox synagogue on Phillips Street on Boston‘s Beacon Hill. It was built for a congregation of Eastern European immigrants, primarily from Vilnius, Lithuania. The Anshei Vilner Congregation was founded in 1893 in the West End and moved to the north slope of Beacon Hill in 1906. Vilna Shul, designed by Boston architect David Kalman, was built in 1919. The Jewish community had mostly left the neighborhood by the 1980s and there was a debate over the future use of the building. Vilna Shul, the last remaining purpose-built immigrant era synagogue in downtown Boston, was restored to become a Jewish cultural heritage center. (more…)

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