Selection of signs of the times, May 2020. Gloucester, Ma.
Signs of the Times seen March 25, 2020
Susan Dalton shares a vintage postcard image and message from Magnolia that
Dierdre Savage’s message of the bells was shared. Pastor Abram Kielsmeir-Jones confirmed that the Union Congregational Church, Magnolia will particpate in the bell ringing event 10AM Easter Sunday.
Like Dierdre, Susan explains that she’s originally from New York and “wanted to mention that Magnolia’s Union Congregational Church was missing from the group of photos on your GMG Post.” She lives near that “sweet church” which completed a “recent re-shingling project on their vestry.” Thank you, Susan, for this happy update which also gives me a chance to underscore that the first post included some places of worship in Gloucester, not all. Enjoy photographs of a few more below.
Look forward to hearing the ringing of the bells which is an international effort now. “Tuscany and beyond!”
“…Coughlin said the building, which was built in 1969, needs to be updated but is in good shape structurally and will not be demolished. “It’s too good of a building (to demolish),” he said.”– John Coughlin Gateway Realty Trust quoted in Gloucester Daily Times, Paul Leighton article 1/7/2020
What a beautiful spot! The building was designed by architect Donald F. Monell for the Beverly Newspaper Offices and Factory in 1968 (built 1969) and consolidated with the Salem News in 1995. Monell worked and resided in Gloucester Massachusetts and designed residential, public and busieness projects including the Gloucester Daily Times (1956), Newburyport Daily News buildings, Sawyer Free Library addition, and the Cape Ann Museum.
photos – winter views January 2020
photos: Spring views
Excerpt from a prior post I wrote about Donald F. Monell back in May 2019 with photos of extant designs both residential and commercial:
“Donald F. Monell ( 1917-2002) earned multiple degrees: Bowdoin (BS, 1937) , Royal College of Edinburgh (1938), Tekniska Hogskolan in Stockholm (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), and M.I.T. (MS in city planning,1941 and MS in architecture, 1950). He was a research assistant in City Planning at M.I.T. (1940-41), and a Research Associate in solar energy at M.I.T. from 1949 to 1951. During World War II he served as a Captain with the 333 Engrs. S.S. Regiment in the US Army Corp of Engineers from 1942-46. Prior to setting up his own firm in 1952, he worked as a community planner in Tennessee and for various architectural establishments. His son Alex Monell said that his father declined positions with larger international firms. “He preferred working on a smaller one to one relationship with clients.” Monell’s tenure at M.I.T. coincided with I.M. Pei and Buckminster Fuller; Monell set up his eponymous business two years prior to I.M. Pei. I asked Alex if his father worked with architect Eleanor Raymond. She built her home in Gloucester and had similar interest in sustainable design. She is credited with designing one of the first solar heated houses in 1948 “I know he worked with Maria Telkes (who invented a means to store heat in melted crystals that stored more than water could) on one of their solar homes and now that I looked her up I see the home was designed by Eleanor Raymond! So they knew each other.”
Monell was licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York and was NCARB certified. He was a member of AiA and Boston Society of Architects. He served on Gloucester’s Civic Art Committee beginning in the 1960s. He was a trustee of the Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, an incorporator of AGH and Cape Ann Savings Bank, and a Vice President of the Cape Ann Museum (then Cape Ann Historical Assoc.). Monell’s office was located in the Brown Building, 11 Pleasant Street. His son remembers visiting his dad on jobs and admiring the hand made scale models. Local residents may recognize the names of Monell hires: Kirk Noyes who preserved Central Grammar and other award winning developments, was a draftsman, and Craig Toftey helped Monell
Don Monell and Lila Swift, co-founders and collaborators of their own wrought steel furniture design firm in 1950, Swift & Monell, husband and wife, architect and artist, were the Charles and Ray Eames* of Gloucester for a time. Original examples of their woven leather, metal and enamel stools, tables, and bins are rare and placed in collections. The furniture was exhibited at Current Design (now ICA) and Furniture Forum. They operated the business in upstate New York when Monell worked for Sargent Webster Crenshaw & Folley. They built a studio for their business in their home when they moved back to Gloucester in 1952. Initial prototypes and editions were inspired by touring Lawrence Mills with Monell’s brother in law, who worked in the textile industry. Alex clarifies: “I do not know what mill my father’s brother in law was involved in or to what capacity, I just remember my parents toured it and found the source of leather. A Cambridge firm sold them for awhile. And later my parents gifted them as wedding presents to close friends and relatives. Ray Parsons a blacksmith from Rockport often made the frames and later I made some at Modern Heat.”
*footnote- Ray Eames in Gloucester: Before Hans Hofmann (1880 – 1966) settled into teaching in Provincetown, he was invited to teach summer classes at the Thurn School of Art in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1933 and 1934. Thurn was a former Hofmann student. Ray Eames studied painting with Hofmann in Gloucester and was a student of his for years. Decades later (during an interview with Ruth Bowman, who I knew, was wonderful, and friends with Rita Fraad who had a great Hopper) Eames mentioned 1940, a later date, for when she first learned about Hofmann. On an architecture timeline- Charles and Ray Eames were born in 1907 and 1912 respectively, and Monell in 1917. They were married about a decade before Monell & Swift and west coast rather than east. Yet they were contemporaries. Art & Architecture case study homes began in 1945 (Eames house, 1949) Eames lounge chairs were manufactured in 1956 (after years of prototypes). Gropius House in Lincoln , Mass., landmark Bauhaus residence now museum was built in 1938, same year as MoMa Bauhaus exhibition. The Graduate school at Harvard designed by Gropius was a TAC (The Architects Collaborative) build in 1950. TAC was founded in 1945 with the clout addition of Gropius who continued with the firm until his death in 1969. Original 7 founders were Norman Fletcher, Louis McMillen, Robert McMillan, Ben Thompson, Jean Fletcher, Sarah Harkness and John Harkness. Twenty years later, Monell’s Plum Cove elementary school design in 1967 was leveraged by partnering with The Architects Collaborative. Gloucester’s Plum Cove school is a TAC build. Wikipedia lists several commissions. The school could be added…”
Read my full piece here and see more examples of his buildings. “Many of his commissions are heavenly sites where buildings serve the surroundings, whether built or natural.”
Writing for the Gloucester Daily Times, Paul Leighton wrote that Salem News was looking for a new space because the operations no longer required such a big building. Various production and departments had already been relocated by this time. You can read the full February 2018 story here. The article mentions that it’s a 60,000 square foot property. Recent descriptions indicate that it’s 37,000+. I’m not sure why; perhaps, the greater figure encapsulated the grounds.
“32 Dunham is a 37,502 square foot building on 6 acres of land. Zoned for industrial, research and office, with high visibility on route 128. Less than 30 minutes from downtown Boston and Logan airport.”
Salem News moving to Danvers article by Paul Leighton Staff Writer about the status of the building now
“The Salem News is moving out of its longtime home in Beverly and heading to a new location in Danvers. The newspaper will move into its new office suite at 300 Rosewood Drive in Danvers on Sunday, according to Karen Andreas, regional publisher of North of Boston Media Group, which includes the Gloucester Daily Times.
“The Salem News has been located at 32 Dunham Road in Beverly since merging with the former Beverly Times in 1995. The company moved its press and printing operations out of Beverly years ago and consolidated several other business functions, such as the finance and customer service departments, in the North Andover offices of its sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune. Therefore, Andreas said, the Salem News no longer needs a building of that size.
“This building is 37,500 square feet, and way too big for us,” Andreas said. “It doesn’t make sense for us operationally.”
“Gateway Realty Trust of Essex has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy 32 Dunham Road. John Coughlin, a project manager for Gateway Realty, said the company plans to preserve the building and lease it.
“Coughlin said Gateway does not have a tenant lined up yet but said the building, which has a mix of office and warehouse space and more than 100 parking spots, would be good for many types of businesses.
“Ideally it would be one tenant that would want to take the whole building, or we can sub-divide it,” he said. “It lends itself to a lot of potential users.”
“…Coughlin said his company, which owns several buildings on the North Shore, was attracted to the building due to its location next to Route 128. Dunham Road has been the site of several new office complexes built by Cummings Properties as well as a new manufacturing headquarters built by tech company Harmonic Drive. The road is also home to North Shore Music Theatre.
“…The Salem News building, which includes six acres of land, was listed for sale at $3.5 million.
Heading from Gloucester & Cape Ann to Concord makes for easy nature hikes and must see visits year round. Winter walks on mild days offer unobstructed views. It’s remarkable how many points of interest and preservation are within walking distance — or brief drives– from each other.
The Concord Museum expansion, the Little Women film impact, and Carol Thistle are featured in the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism Industry Update from January 2020 (MOTT). Read the full January 2020 news and stats here for inspiration. Nice to see North Shore highlighted.
“On behalf of the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, Happy New Year to our tourism colleagues around the world, as we embark on an exciting new year and a new decade here in Massachusetts. We are looking forward to a busy and productive year.
In-state initiatives on our horizon include Plymouth 400, the Restaurant Promotion Commission, a new Historic Women Trailblazers of Massachusetts initiative in honor of the 100th anniversary of the right to vote for women, and a major exhibit on King Tut coming to Boston in June. On MOTT’s international front, we have trade opportunities in Germany, Japan and South Korea in the coming months, as well as two of our most important tourism conferences, DNE and IPW. In this month’s MA Spotlight, we profile Concord Museum’s Marketing & PR Director Carol Thistle, who shares details about exciting new exhibits coming up in 2020 here.”
“…we are so excited about the Little Women film and we have already seen an increase in visitation to Concord because of it. Louisa May Alcott’s copper tea kettle that she used as a nurse during the Civil War is showcased in the Museum. Louisa almost died during the endeavor and was inspired to write her first published work, Hospital Sketches, which helped launch her remarkable and prolific career as one of America’s favorite writers.” – excerpt from Carol Thistle interview for MOTT spotlight Jan 2020
On exhibit at the Concord Museum through June 7, 2020 Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere
Special events featured here– save the dates!
“The $13 million capital campaign supported construction of the new Anna and Neil Rasmussen Education Center, which opened in fall 2018. What are some of the educational features? With this state-of-the-art Center, we host Forums on women’s suffrage, the abolition movement, revolutionary history, decorative arts and other topics connected to our collection. Since the opening of the Rasmussen Education Center, the Museum has served 14,000+ students through a variety of curriculum-based educational programs. Kids can explore the world of Henry David Thoreau, cook over an open hearth, and learn about Native culture through archaeology and so much more. In 2019, the Paul Revere’s Fund provided free bus transportation to the Museum and underwrote all program fees for nearly 4,000 students from Lowell, Lawrence, and Everett.”
“One of the greatest joys in my marketing and public relations career has been promoting so many incredible destinations in our state. Massachusetts has so much to offer local, national and international visitors with its natural beauty, seacoast and of course its history. In the past 25 years, through branding campaigns and strategic marketing, I have promoted some of Boston’s key icons, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the Boston Harbor Islands and the Museum of Science – as well as the cities of Gloucester and Salem. For the past 3 ½ years, I have been the Marketing Director for the Concord Museum as it has undergone an exciting $13 million dollar capital campaign, expansion and renovation. I’m also currently serving on the Board of the Concord’s Chamber of Commerce as well as the Advisory Board for both Discover Concord and the Town of Concord’s new Tourism initiative.” – excerpt from Carol Thistle interview for MOTT spotlight Jan 2020
Plan ahead because there’s so much in close proximity. It’s easy to park at one of these sites and walk to the others.
Concord, Mass. Emerson’s home of 50 years is situated across from the Concord Museum and a two minute walk from Alcott’s family home. The house belonged to his wife, Ellen Tucker who died of TB at twenty in 1831, just two years into their young marriage. Emerson supported Thoreau, Alcott’s father (Bronson Alcott) and Hawthorne because of spousal inheritance. He married Lydian in 1835 in Plymouth, Mass. They raised a family in the Concord home.
Gloucester – Concord connections: Emerson itemized “Gloucester” in his pocket journal entries because he came here for work and pleasure: as a Gloucester Lyceum invited speaker; with friends, most notably a famous walk here with Thoreau; visited Rockport in August 1855 and Pigeon Cove with family in 1856 (where he is remembered as the Inn in Rockport Mass most famous guest). Art fans aside: his ancestor, Thomas Emerson, built Arthur Wesley Dow’s house in Ipswich!
Founded in 1912 (!), the museum is the long time family home where Alcott wrote and set Little Women website Ralph Waldo Emerson backed her father’s work. Thoreau was her schoolteacher.
“When she was about seven her father enrolled her in a school taught by Thoreau, then 23. Thoreau often took his students out of the classroom into the woods. He taught them about birds and flowers, gathering lichens, showing them a fox den and deer tracks, feeding a chipmunk from his hand.
Sometimes he took the children on his boat, the Musketaquid, and gave them lessons as they floated down the Sudbury and Assabet rivers. As they passed the battlefield where the American Revolution started, he explained how the farmers had defended themselves against the redcoats. Louisa recorded her vivid memories of those field trips in Moods.” excerpt New England Historical Society
Gloucester – Concord connections: Alcott stayed on Rocky Neck when she visited Gloucester.
Concord, Mass. Don’t forget that Walden Pond is right here, too! Hike to the site of the Henry David Thoreau cabin which he built on Emerson’s land and stayed 2-2-2 (as in two years, two months, two days) over 1845-47.
“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, published 1854.
Combining this stop with downtown Concord underscores the scalability of his solitude and deep nature study, and how it was made possible with support from cherished family and friends. (Since it’s pretty much his back yard, no wonder he could walk home!)
Thoreau lived at 255 Main Street in downtown Concord from 1850 until his death in 1862. His former student, Louisa May Alcott, bought the historic house for her sister. She and her father lived there, too.
Gloucester – Concord connections: Walden Pond NPS Visitor Center designed by architect MaryAnn Thompson, same firm that built Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester, Mass. Thoreau came to Gloucester at least twice that we know of- in 1848 as an invited speaker by Gloucester Lyceum hosted in the town hall; and in 1854 as the penultimate stop of his north shore trek. Dogtown.
Lincoln, Mass. (Walden Pond/Concord line). A Historic New England property, Gropius House is a landmark Bauhaus residence now museum built in 1938, the same year as MoMa’s legendary Bauhaus exhibition. Marcel Breuer’s house 1 is down the hill.
Gloucester – Concord connections: Mass Modern trail and great buildings. Don Monell and other modern inspiration can be found on Cape Ann. The Graduate school at Harvard designed by Gropius was a TAC (The Architects Collaborative) build in 1950. TAC was founded in 1945 with the clout addition of Gropius who continued with the firm until his death in 1969. Original 7 founders were Norman Fletcher, Louis McMillen, Robert McMillan, Benjamin C. Thompson*, Jean Fletcher, Sarah Harkness and John Harkness. Twenty years later, Monell’s Plum Cove elementary school design in 1967 in Glocuester Mass was leveraged by partnering with The Architects Collaborative. Gloucester’s Plum Cove school is a TAC build. (Wikipedia lists several commissions. The school could be added.) This early 20th century history in Concord could inspire another movie.
*Jane (Fiske McCullough) Thompson and Deb Allen were co-founding editors of Industrial Design; Thomson had worked at MoMa for Philip Johnson. She married Ben Thompson in 1969. To my knowledge, no relation to architect MaryAnn Thompson who designed the Walden Pond visitor center.
The Marcel Breuer House 1 (1939) at 5 Woods End Road is essentially nestled into the Gropius hill property. Floor plans and interior photo published here are from the Marcel Breuer papers in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution collection. It was added to the National Historic Register in 1988. Minutes away conservation land was set aside thanks to 20th Century modernist architect, Quincy Adams. He served on the town’s conservation committee and donated hundreds of acres of his family’s land for green space.
Lexington, Mass. One could drive to Six Moon Hill after stops mentioned above, on the way back to Gloucester. It’s about 15 minutes from the Gropius House. Six Moon Hill is the nick name for an enclave of neighborhood homes in Lexington, Massachusetts, designed by the modernist architects of The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC) between 1948 and 1950. (The Gropius home was already optimally sited within the Walden Pond/Thoreau orbit. I’d wager intentionally so, a poetic and multidimensional nod to the natural and built environment and how to live. This dialogue among masters across centuries is another reason I believe Maryann Thompson’s visitor center is ideal.)
“Six Moon Hill is a community of twenty-nine Mid-Century Modern houses designed by members of The Architects Collaborative (TAC), beginning in 1948… The property was purchased by the TAC architects in 1947 so they could build inexpensive homes for themselves, their growing families and their friends, and express Modernist socially progressive ideals. A corporation was formed, creating by-laws affecting future development, maintenance and communal responsibilities. The parcel was originally part of a farm, and while the land was initially used for grazing, the steeper areas had reverted to forest at the time of the purchase. Most of Moon Hill is on a ridge with rocky outcrops, wooded with oak and conifers. The impact of construction has been minimized, leaving the site as natural and undisturbed as possible” read more from the historical survey here
Art historian Simon Schama resided on Moon Hill between 1981 and 1993.
Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm is a five minute or so drive from the Gropius house. Moon Hill Road is more like 15-20 minutes. Minute Man National Park and Decordova are here, too. There are ample and varied scenic treks to mix it up for repeat visits.
I noticed the open window because a bird hopped in. I didn’t stop to see what ensued but I was reminded about a GMG reader question: Who remembers Cher Ami and homing pigeons of Gloucester?
There’s a 2nd little pane missing on the Main Street side.
What’s in a name?
The 1810 brick building, Gloucester’s first, at the corner of 2 Main and 3 Washington Streets, now features Tonno Restaurant. The exterior has remained relatively unchanged since it was built in 1810 by Col. James Tappan. On the inside it’s been mixed use more often than not (various businesses, restaurants and lodgings). As a result it’s gone through a lot of rebranding: Puritan House, Tappan’s Hotel, Atlantic House, and Capt Bills are a few of the names associated with this historic structure. The Blackburn Tavern signs were added in 1978 for a restaurant.
The brick building at the other end of Main Street with Halibut Point Restaurant & Pub was Howard Blackburn’s actual tavern.
Fun fact: Col. Tappan taught young Daniel Webster.
Have you seen these festive lights December nights? Merry drives and cocoa Part 3 scenes all around Gloucester, Massachusetts, including a few extra GMG reader tips and requests:
photos below- Looking past Man at the Wheel on the left, through wreath, Beauport Hotel tower lit red and green
Merry drives and cocoa day 2019 (wreaths, traditional displays and/or mostly white lights) 12/13/19 here
Here are a few more twinkling neighborhood lights in Gloucester, Massachusetts, from December 2019, including a few GMG reader requests and tips following the “merry drives and cocoa” post part 1.
(you can double click the photos to enlarge and pinch and zoom)
There are plenty of local homes decorated with white lights only or candles in every window aglow with single color bulbs. I love these, too, but my phone camera not so much.
photo caption below- I’ve always been in love with holiday lights. Personal distinction or traditional inspiriation- I’m grateful for all creative cheer each year. Decades ago ca.1970s, this home and yard (on Lowell Street between Peabody and Lynnfield) was trimmed all in pink lights. Just pink.
photo caption below: Decorated Saugus condos just off Rt. 1 and homes off surrounding streets if you happen to be in that neck of the woods.
Merry drives and cocoa – daytime
It’s beautiful out here! Wreaths adorning decorated homes and businesses make for merry daytime drives throughout Gloucester neighborhoods and Cape Ann.
Twofers- bonus night illumnation for many!
Merry drives and cocoa – part 1, nights Holiday lights: here
Merry drives and cocoa:
If you’re wondering about holiday lights near you, in addition to the city’s beautiful seasonal trees and festive sparkle downtown, rewarding drives through Gloucester neighborhoods abound. These local homes were shining last week. Can you guess which street was most lit up? Grab some hot chocolate and go!
With each new day, more merry lights brighten December nights. Did we miss a street?
Answer- Reynard Street is dazzling and concentrated. (See if you can spot the back fence illuminated with fish shapes when you go. Neighborhood kids could set up a hot chocolate stand 😉 easy. Walk or drive with the great complete street work by the City DPW.) Other streets with decorated homes: Maplewood, road into Annisquam (coming from Gloucester look off to second story star shining off Goose cove), Rt. 127, Abbott, and)
Combine it with Middle Street Walk! Mark your calendars: December 14th
370 Main Street adds into the blue architectural character downtown Gloucester
photos: 2019 AFTER above; and BEFORE 2017 and 2015 below. Jason Burroughs repurposed the Action Inc mural incorporating Cole Herbst’s original commission that had faded. This sunny location is hard on paint.
What’s in a name? For these front row cottages it’s the charm of Long Beach all the way. What would you use?
Compare with April 2017 see 74 Long Beach front row cottages in less than a minute slowed down version “Coastal Living: Long Beach walk combines ocean view, front row cottages and beach” here
This photo chronicle begins with scenes from the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library 2019 Annual meeting, including views of the concept proposal for renovation and addition intended for the library as they appeared in the feature presentation that evening with some brief analysis. The second part of the piece provides background about the American architect, Donald F. Monell, and visual context regarding his designs for the library expansion built in 1973 and largely ignored through this current new build consideration. Links to several reference documents relevant to this process are collected and provided at the end. (This update is part of an ongoing series published on GMG.)
About 85 people including Trustees with guests, library personnel, and marketing and architectural representatives were present for the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library’s Annual Meeting on May 20, 2019. (click individual photos to see full size)
Mayor Romeo Theken, Library Dir. Deborah Kelsey, and Trustee Chair John Brennan welcomed the public. Brennan thanked several Trustees for long service and welcomed new ones.
Deborah Kelsey presented the Mary Weissblum Smith Volunteer Award to Susan Oleksiw and Christy Park in recognition of their curation and management of the Matz Gallery rotating exhibitions over the past five years and their notable careers. Ironically, in the new concept plans, there is no Matz Gallery and limited art space. Read more about Matz’s philanthropy and work in Gloucester here. The major works from the art collection continue to be off view and similarly unaccounted for in future plans.
The library’s treasurer explained that the Annual Meeting financial reports always illustrate the prior year rather than the one just completed. So for this 2019 annual meeting, the report reflects May 2017- May 2018. He explained next year’s will represent the year 2018-19 and will show red and depletion of the 6 million endowment. Former board members asked about expenses to date, related to the new build, and itemization of the Trustee expenses line item, which was not in use when they served. A trustee explained that a title more accurately reflecting those expenses would be helpful. Reports will be shared.
Architect’s renderings / Oudens-Ello (with Dore & Whittier for library and MBLC)
The 25 million+ quoted for the concept plan does not include preservation of the original heart and soul of the library, the Saunders building, or any mention of the library’s fine art. A recent estimate for potential Saunders preservation begins at 3 million– which would be in addition to any work done elsewhere with the library.
Design inspiration did not come from Saunders or Monell. (I asked.) One of the stated goals was striving to continue to make the library accessible for all, although in my opinion since the first presentation years ago, this design undercuts that aim.
Because of gentle switchback steps, currently there is technically no “accessible for all” direct entry from Dale to the Main Floor, or from Middle Street. The accessibility option from Dale curves around to a side* and back entrance. If that level is not the destination, patrons continue to the elevator.
Increasing all of the buildings’ gateway capacities is a fantastic goal. I do not understand how a concept with such tremendous staircase emphasis will remedy that expression of accessibility for all, or ease patron flow. The monumental scale of the three-story glass central stairwell takes up the transition volume between the original Monell and concept addition, and looms larger than the current Monell atrium. In this concept, children’s and teen spaces will be on the top floor. Crowd flow of all ages will need to access the elevator from the ground floor near the back entrance. Once upon a time the children’s wing was on the top floor of the Saunders building and intentionally moved to a space on the ground level. Currently, children’s services is on the ground floor. Friends and librarians using Reading and Salem libraries are not fans of children’s spaces on the top floor.
*The side entrance was sealed off this year due to safety concerns which can be helped by architecture and staff. The new security officers received the biggest applause of the night.
Glass staircase design statements — stacked cantilevered and floating– are common features in malls, retail, and transportation (airports!) hubs, often with escalator options, and ample budgets for cleaning staff. They’re not super kid friendly or easy to clean. For this concept, the staircase massing can be greatly reduced and favorably impact the footprint, cost and siting. I’ve written about the odd flow of moving the library’s busy children’s services up to the top level in this proposal. Just one of Christy Russo’s daily programs may bring in 20 to 80 kids and their grown-ups!
Moving to elevator and stairs with or without strollers will increase flow inefficiency dramatically, and be a disservice to an evergreen and engaged population. Children’s could be flipped back to the ground floor, with or without a separate teen space on this level. Research and multi use rooms requested for “21st century programming needs” could be dispersed throughout the expanded upper levels. Safety issues and bathrooms can be addressed on any floor. The librarians have been patiently awaiting remodeling and interior update and upgrades on the ground floor since 2012. The build out goal of 2026 or later is too long! They need more space, a functioning and better test kitchen, and major bathroom renovations (yesterday!).
ETA library tentative opening 2026
SFL Library atrium, architect Donald F. Monell
Monell building, top floor, no artificial light, no filter: looking across atrium with presentation underway on Main Floor as this space was being described again as an uninviting dark hole.
Design inspiration and high bar – Saunders House and Monell
For nearly 190 years, the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library has played a key role in the cultural life of the city of Gloucester and the Commonwealth. Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library features not one but three iconic buildings. Investment in building projects with such inspiring history, pedigree, assets, materials and form are indeed a rare and enviable opportunity. Any library build should feature both Saunders and Monell. We are so lucky to have them!
There was worry about the Saunders and Monell buildings, the Stacks, and the Rando Memorial garden when the proposed new building first dropped and as this process continued. Thankfully, a Saunders stewardship committee has been reestablished and the Rando Garden will remain. (There was pushback that the “21st century building” left the community with less green space, not more.) It’s only since last week that razing Monell was taken off the table. And it’s only since February 2019 that the architects began to emphasize green design as they had not realized how valued such criteria was in Gloucester. A workshop was held at the library.
Still, no one involved in the new process was discussing Monell, his inspiration, or influence. Regarding the library 2019 green visionaries—Monell may be more important to them than they realize. After all, he was ahead of his time incorporating wind and solar design into public buildings and homes. I’ve been thinking more and more about Monell, his studies and business ventures, his devotion to Gloucester.
Donald F. Monell earned multiple degrees at Bowdoin (BS, 1937) , Royal College of Edinburgh (1938), Tekniska Hogskolan in Stockholm (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), and M.I.T. (MS in city planning,1941 and MS in architecture, 1950). He was a research assistant in City Planning at M.I.T. (1940-41), and a Research Associate in solar energy at M.I.T. from 1949 to 1951. During World War II he served as a Captain with the 333 Engrs. S.S. Regiment in the US Army Corp of Engineers from 1942-46. Prior to setting up his own firm in 1952, he worked as a community planner in Tennessee and for various architectural establishments. His son Alex Monell said that his father declined positions with larger international firms. “He preferred working on a smaller one to one relationship with clients.” Monell’s tenure at M.I.T. coincided with I.M. Pei and Buckminster Fuller; Monell set up his eponymous business two years prior to I.M. Pei. I asked Alex if his father worked with architect Eleanor Raymond. She built her home in Gloucester and had similar interest in sustainable design. She is credited with designing one of the first solar heated houses in 1948 “I know he worked with Maria Telkes (who invented a means to store heat in melted crystals that stored more than water could) on one of their solar homes and now that I looked her up I see the home was designed by Eleanor Raymond! So they knew each other.”
Monell was licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York and was NCARB certified. He was a member of AiA and Boston Society of Architects. He served on Gloucester’s Civic Art Committee beginning in the 1960s. He was a trustee of the Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, an incorporator of AGH and Cape Ann Savings Bank, and a Vice President of the Cape Ann Museum (then Cape Ann Historical Assoc.). Monell’s office was located in the Brown Building, 11 Pleasant Street. His son remembers visiting his dad on jobs and admiring the hand made scale models. Local residents may recognize the names of Monell hires: Kirk Noyes who preserved Central Grammar and other award winning developments, was a draftsman, and Craig Toftey helped Monell with the Sawyer Free library.
The new building planners describe the need for a 21st century library. What does that mean today? Back in 2012, technology was the big discussion point and the library a possible tandem option for schools. (Elementary school libraries were shuttered and/or volunteer run, and school librarian positions cut.) Since then, libraries in schools became “Learning Commons” with a tech focus. By 2019 Gloucester Public Schools have a 1 to 1 student computer initiative. There was a desire for grounds improvement, since completed and well received with the Rando Memorial. I was asked about helping with a public art comission and how it might work as a play structure, too. Mayor Romeo Theken reminded us of the homes and neighborhood playground where the Monell addition and parking lot were built. Community input suggested opportunities for more outdoor spaces would be welcome, not less. Library design trends recommend co-work and makerspace options so the library is a community center. (Sawyer Free has been a community center since its founding.)
One thought regarding “21st Century” library tech goals: partnerships with M.I.T., Harvard, and Bowdoin could be fruitful and shored up by honoring Monell. Perhaps they’d help facilitate subscriptions to specialized libraries. Coordinating public access to resources like MatLab as one example would enhance “accessibility for all” in a 21st century sort of way.
Monell’s son, Alex, shared a section from M.I.T. President’s Report, 1951, with a reference to his father: “Mr. R. Buckminster Fuller, visiting lecturer, who contributed significantly to this conference, worked this year with the third-year students in architectural design and presented his concept of the “comprehensive designer” in a program emphasizing the relation of structure to design. In August, I950, occurred the five-day symposium on “Solar Energy for Space Heating,” under the auspices of the Godfrey L. Cabot Fund, attended by about 900 persons who were mostly visitors to the Institute. Mr. Donald F. Monell, research associate, was responsible for organization. Speakers included staff members and outside authorities in this field. Professor Lawrence B. Anderson was one of the contributors.”
Don Monell and Lila Swift should rightly be included on any Massachusetts #MassModernism trail. Monell and Swift, co-founders and collaborators of their own wrought steel furniture design firm in 1950, Swift & Monell, husband and wife, architect and artist, were the Charles and Ray Eames* of Gloucester. Original examples of their woven leather, metal and enamel stools, tables, and bins are rare and placed in collections. The furniture was exhibited at Current Design (now ICA) and Furniture Forum. They operated the business in upstate New York when Monell worked for Sargent Webster Crenshaw & Folley. They built a studio for their business in their home when they moved back to Gloucester in 1952. Initial prototypes and editions were inspired by touring Lawrence Mills with Monell’s brother in law, who worked in the textile industry. Alex clarifies: “I do not know what mill my father’s brother in law was involved in or to what capacity, I just remember my parents toured it and found the source of leather. A Cambridge firm sold them for awhile. And later my parents gifted them as wedding presents to close friends and relatives. Ray Parsons a blacksmith from Rockport often made the frames and later I made some at Modern Heat.”
*footnote: Ray Eames was in Gloucester. Before Hans Hofmann settled into teaching in Provincetown, he was invited to teach summer classes at the Thurn School of Art in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1933 and 1934. Thurn was a former Hofmann student. Ray Eames studied painting with Hofmann in Gloucester and was a student of his for years. Decades later (during an interview with Ruth Bowman, who was wonderful, and owned a fabulous Gloucester Hopper) Eames mentioned 1940, a later date, for when she first learned about Hofmann. On an architecture timeline- Charles and Ray Eames were born in 1907 and 1912 respectively, and Monell in 1917. They were married about a decade before Monell & Swift and west coast rather than east. Yet they were contemporaries. Art & Architecture case study homes began in 1945 (Eames house, 1949) Eames lounge chairs were manufactured in 1956 (after years of prototypes). Gropius House in Lincoln , Mass., landmark Bauhaus residence now museum was built in 1938, same year as MoMa Bauhaus exhibition. The Graduate school at Harvard designed by Gropius was a TAC (The Architects Collaborative) build in 1950. TAC was founded in 1945 with the clout addition of Gropius who continued with the firm until his death in 1969. Original 7 founders were Norman Fletcher, Louis McMillen, Robert McMillan, Ben Thompson, Jean Fletcher, Sarah Harkness and John Harkness. Twenty years later, Monell’s Plum Cove elementary school design in 1967 was leveraged by partnering with The Architects Collaborative. Gloucester’s Plum Cove school is a TAC build. Wikipedia lists several commissions. The school could be added.
The Monells were friends with many artists and Gloucester residents. They were best friends with Sarah Fraser Robbins which is another rich “green” connection for Sawyer library. The Monells were married at her house and living there when their first son came home! Eventually they built their dream home in Gloucester designed to maximize its stunning natural setting, all granite and ocean views. Their family and business grew. Lila’s art and home are inspired by wild nature, especially birds and insects, often the subject of her prints and photographs, and even wardrobe embellishments. (More than one person recalled a striking faux brooch or embroidery like adornment that was actually a coiled live centipede.) Domestic animals and wild birds were part of the family. There were always pet crows and birds. “Our mother raised geese and guinea fowl,” Alex continued, “Mainly the birds we had were ones she brought to rescue from oil slicks and other calamaties. She was well known as someone to bring an injured bird to.” Lila wrote an article in the Mass Audubon newsletter about two cormorants which she had a permit to raise. “Sarah (Fraser Robbins) had an old lobster boat, never used as one.” Alex recalled. “They used it for fishing. Our families were quite close. We’d head to Norman’s Woe and bring back seagulls. You know, rescue babies, and help teach them to fly.” He said he got them comfortable being tossed like a glider. “They’d come back again and again ready to launch!” It was easy to imagine some glimpse of his childhood in this idyllic setting. His delight brought to mind My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Driftwood Captain by Paul Kenyon. Sea and stone. What a playground!
Monell completed many commissions in Gloucester and elsewhere on the North Shore, New Hampshire and New York. Any renovation and remodel at Sawyer Free is an incredible chance to celebrate his work and honor his legacy. After considering examples of Monell’s architecture it is easy to find his personal design in the work he did at Sawyer Free Library. He was trained as a landscape architect as well which helps to imbue his projects with great sensitivity and gentle passages. Many of his commissions are heavenly sites where buildings serve the surroundings, whether built or natural. His designs are better because of this reverence for context.
(Note on images- double click to enlarge)
Monell designed numerous private residences and additions [e.g. Dotty & Lawrence Brown (1957), Laight (1958), Despard (1959), Boyce (1961), Foster, Nydegger, Marietta Lynch, Judy Winslow, Bob and Libby French (1967), Featherstones, John Hays Hammond Jr, and Phil Weld (many)] in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. Several clients were repeat customers. The Brown home is one example. Alex writes that “the residence was altered by my father in the late 70s to accommodate a library when they moved there year round.” Much of the big collection of books were cookbooks. “Dotty was a great cook and good friends with Julia Child.”
Within a few short years of moving to Gloucester, Robert and Elizabeth ‘Libby’ French expanded their art collection, he was elected Mayor, and they commissioned Monell to design their home and property in 1967. caption: video shows interior/exterior and was published in 2016. I don’t know when it was filmed. Small lovely moments – note the interior staircase railing, and exterior deck and bridge to glacial boulders. Clearly some modifications since it was designed in 1967 and perhaps since this video.
Besides the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library commission, Monell government and public buildings include the Beverly Newspaper factory and offices, Eastern Point Retreat, Plum Cove School, and the Cape Ann Historical Society. Elements of his signature architecture resonate strongly with the work he did at the library.
Eastern Point Retreat House, Dorm & Dining Halls 1960
For the Gonzaga project, Monell joined two buildings and built a cafeteria and dormitories. Recently his original work at the entrance, connector and dormitories was razed. The historic photos BEFORE illustrate his artistry and display a strong connection with the design Monell established at the front of the library on the stacks building between Saunders and the expansion.
BEFORE / AFTER – dorm, far left (ocean side)
BEFORE / AFTER – dorm (parking side)
Microphone were set up to amplify sounds of the ocean (white noise) within the dormitory
BEFORE /AFTER – cafeteria low glass ceiling (ocean side) remains
Plum Cove Elementary School 1966
Monell subcontracted/collaborated with TAC for build
Beverly Newspaper Offices and Factory (now Salem News)
Gloucester Daily Times (1956)
Cape Ann Museum (formerly Cape Ann Historical Society) 1968
Circa 1967 plans for property by Grant Circle
Cape Ann Savings Bank
Monell’s work at Cape Ann Savings Bank has been altered at least 2x since his commission. Here are a couple of placeholder “before” snapshots until I obtain better examples. Before (courtesy photos)/After example – Note changes like the Monell staircase design vs replacement and office additions vs open floor plan. The arch window motif remains.
Signature elements – arches, contrast in materials, rectangles, winding paths
Monell was concerned with getting it right. You don’t have to know about Monell, his body of work or the history of architecture to be moved or respond. His slow designs are considerate of their surroundings, integrating connections with the natural and built environment. Thanks to his gentle, contemplative approach, it feels as though there’s more than enough space even when there isn’t much space to be had.
Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library
When reviewing Monell’s body of work, it’s clear to see that Gloucester’s landscape, history, art and architecture inform his designs. The library’s connector and entrance are signature Monell motifs and beautiful. It’s no accident that the symmetry of the windows at the back of the building echo the five bays of the firestation,
or that they were inspired and reference City Hall, 1867.
No matter which approach one takes to the library, Monell’s consideration of the building and its surroundings is intentional and graceful.
Special thanks to Alexander Monell for sharing his time, knowledge and inspiring family history. Photos are mine unless noted “courtesy”. Those are extra special as they were culled by Alexander Monell in loving tribute to his father and family that he kindly shared and even granted permission to publish here. More to come!
-Catherine Ryan, May 2019
Gloucester, Mass.- Great teacher at Gloucester High School, Shaun Goulart, creates a local history scavenger hunt trivia game for his 9th grade students that takes place weekly for 6 weeks. We’re taking the challenge one week after the students. Good luck!
ANSWERS TO SHAUN GOULART’S LOCAL HISTORY TRIVIA WEEK THREE
How did you do? Week three was all about some famous Gloucester FIRSTS and there were many locations. Stop here if you prefer to go back to see Week 3 questions only.
Principal Albert Bacheler CENTRAL GRAMMAR
PURITAN HOUSE built in 1810 by Col. James Tappan* is a historic house at 3 Washington Street and 2 Main Street. Also known as: Tappan’s Hotel, Gloucester Hotel (“Tappan’s Folly”), Atlantic House, Mason House, Community House, Capt Bills (1960s-70s), Puritan House & Pub (1977), Blackburn Tavern (1978-00s) *Tappan was taught by Daniel Webster
Excerpt from prior GMG post (read it here) about scenic tours by bike 1885: “And now let’s take our wheel for a short run along our harbor road to East Gloucester, and note the many points of interest on the way. The start is made at the Gloucester Hotel–the headquarters of all visiting wheelmen in the city–at the corner of Main and Washington streets; from thence the journey takes us over the rather uneven surface of Main street, going directly toward the east. In a few minutes we pass the Post Office on the left, and soon leave the noisy business portion of the street behind us, then, e’re we are aware of it, we reach and quickly climb the slight eminence known as Union Hill…” This brick building at Main and Washington now features Tonno Restaurant. Notice the chimneys and same stairs as when it was the Gloucester Hotel. The Blackburn Tavern sign was just marketing; this building has no connection. Blackburn’s Tavern is now Halibut Point restaurant at the other end of Main Street.
“RIGG’S HOUSE” 27 Vine Street (Annisquam) Thomas Riggs House purchased in 1661
oldest house on Cape Ann, Gloucester, MA
Look under the year on cenotaph surrounding Man At Wheel
Our Lady of Good Voyage – read more http://gloucester.harborwalk.org/story-posts/sp-20/
Subshop with a view- through Destinos window
1644! – 103 Centennial Drive – top of Centennial Drive near the train bridge