Last week was a very busy time of transition. I have completed my six-year chair term and am going back to full-time teaching, which means four classes, four totally-overhauled syllabi and four first classes–for which I am always a tiny bit anxious, even after twenty+ years of teaching. But in the middle of the week I found myself up in Newburyport, an hour early for an appointment. This free hour was late in the afternoon, not quite the golden hour, on a bright and sunny early September day, so I took a short walk on several streets of Newburyport, where the inventory of seemingly perfectly-restored historic houses of every style seems endless, with more in transition. We’re always in transition in September, it seems, so you’ve got to grab a moment, or an hour, whenever it comes along.
The century-old Classical Revival mansion in nearby Swampscott which served as the “Summer White House” for Calvin and Mrs. Coolidge in 1925 is not long for this world, as just last week the Swampscott Historical Commission agreed to reduce the requisite demolition delay ordinance period to just 90 days in return for its purchasers’ agreement to salvage and reproduce significant architectural elements as they transform the estate into 18 condominiums. Looking at all of the old photographs of White Court, which was designed by architect Arthur Little and built near his family’s summer home on Little’s Point, “reproduction” seems unlikely; I can’t speak to salvage. In any case, the mansion will be demolished, and along with it will go a material reminder and symbol of a notable era in Swampscott’s history, a golden era when the residence of the President drew many eyes to this seaside town.
The Coolidges were welcomed warmly and seen about Swampscott and surrounding towns occasionally: according to the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation blog, the President worked from an office in Lynn, sailed on the presidential yacht Mayflower docked in Marblehead, and attended services with Mrs. Coolidge every Sunday at the Salem Tabernacle Congregational Church. There was not a lot of entertaining, as the Coolidges had lost their sixteen-year-old younger son, Calvin Jr., just a year previously. There were many strolls around the six-acre seaside property, white collie alongside, apparently: we only get to see one such stroll, right after the Coolidges arrive when the press were clearly on hand to see them settled into their summer home. Their smiles come and go; this is a dutiful walk—I’d like to see them on a more casual stroll but I’m glad the photographers were not enabled to intrude for too long. We have many photographs of their activities off the estate however: this was a well-documented presidential vacation!
Leslie Jones photographs of President and Mrs. Coolidge at White Court, Swampscott, 1925, Boston Public Library; the Coolidges attend the Tabernacle Church in Salem, July 1925, Blackington Collection, University of Massachusetts.
I felt like I was intruding yesterday morning when I drove over to Little’s Point to see the condemned mansion, which was very much in the midst of a construction zone. It didn’t seem possible to walk down its long entry lane (which was also marked private) to snap a photograph, so I have no “now” to contrast with all of my “then”. The last time I was on the premises was a couple of years ago, when the mansion was the main building of Marian Court College, a Catholic commuter college operated by the Sisters of Mercy from 1964 to 2015. There were institutional additions to its exterior, and I did not see the interior, but the core of the building looked pretty much the same as it did in that spotlight summer of 1925. But apparently its foundation has deteriorated beyond repair, and so White Court must cease to exist, come September.
The drawing room of White Court in its residential era, Historic New England; an exterior view by Leslie Jones, Boston Public Library.
Appendix: Thanks to Jonathan for informing me that White Court was the site of Northshore Magazine’s “Best of the North Shore” awards just last year: great photographs of the mansion below and more here. Also, in return for their reduced demolition delay period, the developers have agree to document the house thoroughly, so we will (at least) be able to see detailed architectural photographs at some point.
Our anniversary falls on Memorial Weekend so this past Friday we celebrated it with drinks and dinner in Newburyport, after which we walked around the foggy old town and came across a pirate ship, with a party on board. This was El Galeón, a Spanish reconstruction of a sixteenth-century galleon, which is apparently sailing up and down the eastern U.S. coast this summer. Somehow we didn’t know she was going to be in Newburyport, but there she was, and quite a sight to see. This is a ship from my period, so I was thrilled, and determined to make it back to see her in daylight. The weekend was busy, and so I didn’t manage this until late yesterday. In broad daylight El Galeón was still pretty impressive in its details, and bigger than I thought such a ship might be, but perhaps not quite as magical as she appeared on Friday: much less fog, no costumed party-goers on board, and I suppose alcohol might have colored my previous view a bit. But I had wanted to head north to Newbury and Newburyport anyway, to explore some Moses Little territory as a follow-up to my last post, and these towns are so packed with beautiful old houses they are always worth a trip, even on a busy holiday weekend.
Driving through Newbury, I always stop to admire the Knight-Short House (built c. 1723) with its brick sides.
El Galeón in port, day and night. Then I was off to see more houses.
I tend to romanticize architects and the practice of architecture. When I first went to the house of my now-husband, who is an architect, I expected it to be Monticello-like, with a study in which a drafting table took center stage, surrounded by lovely hand-drawn renderings on whitewashed walls. My vision was not realized, and of course he is generally bent over a computer rather than a drafting table. It’s impossible to romanticize his work now that I know much more about it, so while I maintain a wifely interest in his business and projects, I also tend to drift away, back, towards architects who lived in ages past, who can easily engage and distract me. Just yesterday I walked over to take a picture of a Salem house which was built and occupied by a very prominent horticulturist and landscape architect, Harlan P. Kelsey, about whom I wanted to write a post (it is spring after all, even if it is a frigid spring, and so time to turn to gardening). But the more time I spent looking at the house, the less I was interested in its occupant and the more I was interested in its architect. And so I forgot Kelsey (for now–I’ll come back to him because he is pretty amazing), and began to focus on Ernest M. A. Machado, the likely architect of One Pickering Street and a man who is very easy to romanticize because he died relatively young, very tragically, and with much apparent promise.
Fortunately Machado’s life his well-documented: he seems to come from a family that wanted him (and all of its members) to be remembered: there is a nice genealogy and some pictures here, and the family donated his own photographs of completed projects to his alma mater, MIT. Ernest Machado was born just up the coast in Manchester-by-the-Sea to a Cuban émigré father and a North Shore mother who was orphaned but nevertheless connected. Juan Francisco Machado and Elizabeth Frances Jones met and married in Massachusetts, returned to Cuba for a decade, and then settled in Massachusetts permanently to raise their large family, first in Manchester and later in Salem. The Machado house is one of my favorite in Salem: a stunning brick Federal on Carpenter Street. Ernest attended Salem schools and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating from its pioneering architecture program in 1890. After working for at least two prestigious Boston architectural firms, he established his own practice in partnership with his future brother-in-law Ambrose Walker, with offices in Salem (on Church Street), Boston and Ottawa (where his brother was an established banker). In the later 1890s he seems to be working feverishly, with commissions in several Boston suburbs, Salem, and all along the North Shore. This pace continued in the new century, all the way up to his death by drowning in Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire in September of 1907: he was 39 years old and had just completed his most challenging commission: the 14,000 square foot brick mansion of Governor Charles B. Clarke on Portland’s Western Promenade.
The Kelsey House on Pickering Street & Machado family home at 5 Carpenter Street.
Machado’s mark on Salem is not hard to find. Besides the Kelsey house and a few other residences in the McIntire Historic District and the Phippen house on the Common, he supervised substantial renovations to the Salem Club and the Bulfinch Bank on Central Street. He rebuilt the Salem Lyceum on Church Street, and as a testament to his versatility, designed both a commercial building on Washington Street for the dry goods retailer Charles W. Webber and the Blake Memorial Chapel in Harmony Grove Cemetery. Yesterday I trudged over through driving rain to contemplate the chapel, and then walked up the hill to his grave, part of a family plot of elegant markers which apparently he also designed (and unfortunately very wet by the time I got there).
Machado in Salem: 16 Beckford Street and Four Carpenter Street; his own photograph of the Webber store on Washington Street, from the MIT Machado Archive; The Blake Memorial Chapel at Harmony Grove Cemetery and the (very wet) Machado grave(s) at Harmony Grove.
Looking at his Salem work as well as the portfolio of North Shore commissions (lots of residences and clubhouses for both the Salem Country Club and the Manchester Yacht Club) in the digital archive at MIT, it’s hard to discern a distinct Machado style: there are Colonial Revival houses in both the classical and Tudor traditions as well as lots of Shingle residences reflecting contemporary trends. But remember, he was a young architect, just establishing his practice and business and no doubt catering to the desires of his clients. Who knows what he would have achieved over the next thirty or so years of his working life? He could have maintained and expanded his practice as a Gold Coast residential architect, or he could have rebuilt Salem after the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Or both.
Machado’s photographs of his own work at the Machado Archive at MIT: the Agge, Allen, R. Wheatland, and Sanden houses, and two unidentified houses (one of which looks just like a house in my hometown, York Harbor, Maine); a Tudor house in Lynn, from American Architect and Building News, 1906.
Appendix: you can stay in Machado’s recently-restored Clarke “Manor” (below) in Portland via airbnb; My Machado-obsessed day ended appropriately with a birthday party at one of his buildings: the Salem Lyceum, now Turner’s Seafood.
It was a very busy weekend in Salem and Essex Country, encompassing the first seventeenth-century Saturday of the season, the Salem Arts Festival, Shakespeare on the common, open houses and garden tours, an ice cream social and a cider launch party, among other happenings. The weather was absolutely spectacular, sunny, dry, and in the low 80s, enticing “this is why we live in New England” comments everywhere I went. Salem was packed with tourists: I also heard many languages. I was outside all weekend and am paying for it this morning, with sunburn, itchy bug bites, and lots and lots of work to do–but I don’t care. After I plant the beautiful herbs that I purchased up in Salisbury in my garden, I’ll lock myself in my office!
Scenes from my first June weekend: hula hoop canopy and fish at the Salem Arts Festival, Derby House herb garden, something’s finally happening at the “Crotchet House”, launch party for Salem-made cider (really good–much dryer than other varieties of hard cider that I have had here in the U.S.), the Herb FARMacy in Salisbury, Massachusetts, and the Dole-Little House in nearby Newbury.
I was searching for springtime in Salem on canvas yesterday, as the real season has failed to arrive (not unusual for New England). Clicking around artnet, avoiding all the other things that I have to do during this busy time in the academic year, I found a new-to-me “Salem” artist: Sidney Raynes (1907-1968). I’m using the quotation marks because it is quite apparent that Raynes did not live in Salem, but she painted several very interesting Salem scenes in the 1930s or 1940s. A Massachusetts native who was trained at the Art Students’ League in New York, Raynes was part of the Rockport artists community on Cape Ann and a lifelong member of the Rockport and North Shore Art Associations. I looked for as many paintings of hers as I could find on the web, and from this small sample of her work it looks to me like she was more inspired by the streets and buildings of Gloucester and Rockport than the shore: this might explain the appeal of Salem. Both of the paintings below, Salem in Springtime and Salem Street Corner, are appealing to me, but I’ve become quite fixated on the latter simply because Idon‘t knowwhereitis.
Sidney Raynes, Salem in Springtime and Salem Street Corner, oil on board and oil on masonite.
This house might be long gone–it looks like it is on its way out here. But I took a walk to see if I could find it, armed with the two major clues the painting provides: the pediment-topped doorway and the corner quoins (as well its corner location). Lots of houses in Salem have doorways like this, and many have quoins, but very few houses have BOTH and are located on a corner.The boarded-up first story with additional entries indicates that this house served some sort of commercial purpose in its past, eliminating houses in residential areas, although shops and residences were more closely connected in the past than they are now. I narrowed it down to two houses: the Captain John Hodges House (1788) and the Timothy Orne House (1761), both on Essex Street. I’ve featured both of these important houses several times on the blog and I know their general histories: I’m pretty sure the Hodges house never had a storefront. So that leaves us with the Orne house, which has gone through quite a few transformations in its long history. It has the corner quoins (hidden under siding in the 1970s Bowman’s Bakery photograph below) but the last photograph by Frank Cousins (c. 1900) shows a doorway that is decidedly not pedimental.
Captain John Hodges House and Timothy Orne house today, mid- and early 20th century.
So I’m stuck. If Sidney Raynes’ relic house on the corner still exists, I’m not sure where it is. Awaiting suggestions!