Master Armorer’s House, Springfield Armory (1833)

When the Main Arsenal at the Springfield Armory was completed in 1851, it was flanked by two houses, both built earlier: the Paymaster’s House, to the south, and the Master Armorer’s House, to the north. Both of these residences were relocated around 1880. The Paymaster’s House was eventually demolished, but the Master Armorer’s House has survived. It was relocated about 300 feet north of its original site and was rotated and placed on the opposite side of the street. The house was built in 1833, during the tenure of Lt. Col. Roswell Lee as superintendent of the Armory. It later served as an infirmary and as officers’ quarters. The building lost its rear section by the start of the twentieth century and was remodeled by the WPA in 1937.

Commanding Officer’s House, Springfield Armory (1846)

Maj. James W. Ripley became superintendent of the Springfield Armory in 1841 and soon initiated an ambitious building program. The first structure to be completed was the Commanding Officer’s Quarters. He had demolished an earlier Commanding Officer‘s House on the site where the new Main Arsenal was to be built. To replace it, he constructed a fine new CO.’s residence, begun in 1845 and completed in 1847. There were many who opposed Ripley’s reforms of the Armory and he faced much controversy during his tenure. Some considered his new residence to be too extravagant. A series of investigations led to a military court of inquiry in which a major complaint was that he was wasting government funds, but Ripley was eventually exonerated. The house is now used as administrative offices for the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

Main Arsenal, Springfield (1847)

It’s Springfield Armory Week!! This week, we’ll be looking at some nineteenth century buildings on the grounds of the Springfield Armory. First up is the Main Arsenal, built in 1847-1851 at the west end of Armory Square. Established in 1794, the Armory was the primary center for the manufacture of small arms for the United States military until its closure in 1968. A number of important buildings on the Armory grounds, including the Arsenal, were built during the tenure of Major James W. Ripley as superintendent (1841-1854). Maj. Ripley oversaw a revitalization of manufacturing operations at the Armory and a significant construction program that began with a new Commanding Officer’s Quarters and continued with the Arsenal. The imposing structure’s purpose was to store the weapons manufactured in the neighboring Armory buildings. Only minor alterations have been made to the building since it was finished. The Springfield Armory National Historic Site was established in 1974 and the Arsenal now houses the Armory’s Museum and archives. Springfield became a city in 1852 and the Main Arsenal is featured on the city’s seal The above picture shows the west-facing side of the building. See below is the east facing side: Read More

Salem Custom House (1819)


The last in a series of 13 custom houses built in Salem since 1649, the Salem Custom House of 1819 is famous for being featured in the introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s The Scarlet Letter (1850). Hawthorne worked in the Custom House for the U.S. Custom Service as Surveyor in 1846-1849. The building housed offices and an attached warehouse, the Public Stores, which contained bonded and impounded cargo. The structure was designed in the Federal style by Perley Putnam, a Weigher and Gauger for the U.S. Custom Service. A wooden eagle, carved by Salem craftsman Joseph True, was placed atop the Custom House in 1826. It was was replaced with a fiberglass replica in 2004. The Custom House is now a part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

West India Goods Store (1804)


Typical of the waterfront commercial buildings of early nineteenth century Salem is the West India Goods Store on Derby Street. Now a part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the Store was built sometime between 1800 and 1815, probably around 1804, by the merchant, Captain Henry Prince, Sr., when he lived in the Derby House next door. Prince probably used it as a warehouse, its first documented use as a store being in 1836. The store actually sold goods from all over the world, the term “West India Goods Store” being a generic term for a store selling international goods. The building was altered many times over the years, being moved at one point from the left of the house to the right. It was restored by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in 1928 and was acquired by the Park Service in 1937. Today the Store sells items similar to those it would have sold in the nineteenth century.

Elias Hasket Derby House (1762)


The Salem house of Elias Hasket Derby was built in 1762 and is the oldest surviving brick house in Salem. It was built by Richard Derby for his son on the occasion of Elias Hasket’s marriage to Elizabeth Crowninshield. Richard Derby had made his money through fishing and trade enterprises. During the Revolutionary War, Hasket converted many of the family’s cargo ships into privateers which preyed on British shipping. Wealth amassed from these activities later funded Derby’s involvement with the East India trade, which would make him America’s first millionaire. The house was sold in 1796 to another successful merchant, Captain Henry Prince, Sr., who built the West India Goods Store next to the house around 1800. After the Prince family left the home in 1827, it had other owners and was used as a tenement house for a time. In the early twentieth century, it was purchased and restored by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities and in 1937 was transferred to become part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

Benjamin Hawkes House (1801)


The Benjamin Hawkes House is located off Derby Street in Salem, between the Custom House and the Richard Derby House. The house was originally planned by Samuel McIntire as a home for Elias Hasket Derby in 1780, but was then abandoned in 1782, when Derby moved to a house near the center of town. Left unfinished for almost twenty years, in 1801 it was acquired by the shipbuilder, Benjamin Hawkes, who reduced the building’s size and altered it to accommodate two families. Today the Federal-style building is used as administrative offices by the Park Service for the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.