1890 Boston Globe historic houses article features White Ellery #GloucesterMA

Then and Now

woodcut illustration for 1890 Boston Globe article | photos: c. ryan, mostly 2021

The first Massachusetts home featured in this Boston Globe historic house article was Gloucester’s “Ellery house”, as a classic First Period saltbox:

OLD HOMES, OLD FAMILIES. Houses in New England, Each of Which Has for Three or More Generations Sheltered the Same Race. Romances Drawn from Wood and Brick

The Sunday Globe begins today to publish stories and pictures of old New England homesteads which have sheltered at least three generations of the families now living in them.

This is not so endless a task as some may suppose it to be. New England, no doubt, contains a greater number of old houses than any other division of the country, but it is rare indeed to find one among those that has been long in the possession of the same family. Such a shifting of ownerships may reflect the growing prosperity of the original occupants who perchance have built greater homes than those of their fathers, but often the disappearance of the inheritors of these ancestral houses signifies either the utter extinction or the scattering and breaking up of the family.

The sketches in this series opening today appeal, therefore, in a peculiar way to the public curiosity, and the Sunday Globe would thank any of its readers if they would call attention to any houses within their own knowledge which may be occupied by a family who have possessed the property through three or more generations continuously or otherwise.

There are various periods in the history of Gloucester house building, each marked quite as distinctly to the architectural student as the different strata of the earth’s crust indicate to the geologist the various periods of formation. In the case of the old houses of note it may be said that they all belonged to the upper crust.

The houses of the first settlers of Gloucester, with rare exceptions, have long since been replaced by others of more elaborate design, and the few remaining in the suburbs are small one-story edifices of no particular architectural pretensions.

In common with Boston, Salem, Newburyport and other colonial seaports, Gloucester once owned a large fleet of ships, brigs and barks, that sailed to foreign ports, exchanging the products of the town and of the county for Spanish gold and Surinam molasses, which was converted into New England rum.

These merchants built commodious residences and dispensed a hospitality commensurate with their position as leaders of the social and intellectual life of the town.

The most historic edifice in town is the Ellery house, which stands just below the old meeting house green on Washington street in Riverdale, a suburb of the town.

It was built by Rev. John White shortly after he came here in 1702 to minister to the spiritual wants of the First Parish, receiving a grant of land from the town on which to build his home. At that time the main settlement was in that portion of the community, but the necessities of commerce and fishing made it convenient for the inhabitants to remove nearer the seashore, deserting their first habitations on what is now known as “Dogtown Common,” where the remains of their cellars can still be traced today.

The type of architecture is well portrayed by the accompanying cut. On the projection which overhangs the lower story in front there were four balls pendant, a style of decoration of the times, which have long been removed.

Inside, the old-fashioned low studded style of room is at once apparent, and the antique furnishings and general air of the place make one realize more vividly the age of the house and fixtures, which are of a nature to bring joy to the heart of an antiquarian.

Some of the furniture in the parlor is about 200 years old. The house was bought in 1710 by Capt. William Ellery, and it still remains in the hands of his direct descendants, the occupants being John Ellery and his wife. Thus it will be seen that it has been in this family 150 years.

The purchaser of the house was a son of the original settler, William Ellery. The Ellery family were prominent in the social and intellectual life of the place from the first, being leading merchants. Hon. Benjamin Ellery, called in the family “Admiral,” was the eldest brother of William. He went from Gloucester and settled in Rhode Island and was the father of Deputy Gov. William Ellery and grandfather of William Ellery who signed the Declaration of Independence, the signer being a grandnephew of the first owner of the house.”

Boston Globe 1890*

Read the full article (PDF) to see the other Massachusetts homes selected for the article.

The Declaration of Independence connection was artfully slipped in. Fast facts on the signers from the National archives here.

*For current information visit Cape Ann Museum

The White Ellery House is part of the Cape Ann Museum collection. There are inaccuracies in the 1890 nutshell above. James Stevens and the tavern he operated is absent. The rum trade is acknowledged; any NE slave trade economic connections are not. [Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery. Vermont was the first to abolish (VT 1777 vs. MA 1783).] The article predates the build out of Rt. 128 which rallied a preservation relocation.

Maybe CAM might commission a set of woodcuts of the historic properties as they are now by various local artists.

Beautiful improvements on the grounds of Cape Ann Museum

note: pinch and zoom or double click to enlarge photos.

Prudence Fish presents Oldest Houses in Gloucester January 9th 2021 – See all the wonderful upcoming events at Sawyer Free Library

Sawyer Free upcoming January 2021 events are highlighted in a wonderful newsletter:

Prudence Fish lecture on January 9th

Learn more about Gloucester homes from your home!

Author and authority on antique houses, Prudence Fish, is a 2021 invited speaker at Sawyer Free Library. Her lecture about the oldest houses in Gloucester, showing Saturday, January 9th, from 2-4pm, is sure to be informative and entertaining. Because of Covid-19, the library has specially pre-recorded the event in order to bring a fresh, new talk directly to you. More about Pru Fish here

Cook a Book – January 12, 1pm

Matz Gallery Exhibitions- January 2021 Carol Dirga

Sawyer Free proposed building in the news | annual meeting Monday

Sawyer Free exterior_20190517_© c ryan.jpg

Gloucester Daily Times article Sawyer Free trustees eye renovation by Ray Lamont here

Glouceser Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library 2019 Annual meeting Monday May 20 6-8PM

SFL annual meeting 2019 invite.jpg
SFL annual meeting 2019 (*note to SFL- please consider returning to Valerie Marino type posting days — with real people rather than clipart advert photos of children)

 

Prior post Febrary 4, 2019 with some questions

Besides the local new Cape Ann Museum build I’ve mentioned, here is a another recent comparable. Bowdoin’s new Roux Center for the Environment is approximately 30,000 ft’. The planning phase took 9 months. The build out took 14 months and the project cost less than 15 million (seeded with 10 million from the Rouxs). The Sawyer Free project is more than double that cost and the planning phase is many times past.

The community has been consistent about addressing the bathrooms for sometime. In 2014, the “immediate objectives will be working with the library’s board, staff and volunteers to review the library’s collections for relevance; revamping the building’s public and staff spaces; overseeing installation of a modern heating and air conditioning system, and mentoring staff in their professional development…”

Round up of new library building coverage prior to November 2018:

Prior post with 1973 brochure ed. Joe Garland

 

Sawyer Free proposed build in the news | annual meeting Monday

Sawyer Free exterior_20190517_© c ryan.jpg

Gloucester Daily Times article Sawyer Free trustees eye renovation by Ray Lamont here

Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library 2019 Annual meeting Monday May 20 6-8PM

SFL annual meeting 2019 invite.jpg
SFL annual meeting 2019 (*note to SFL- please consider returning to Valerie Marino type posting days — with real people rather than clipart advert photos of children)

 

Prior post Febrary 4, 2019 with some questions

Besides the local new Cape Ann Museum build I’ve mentioned, here is a another recent comparable. Bowdoin’s new Roux Center for the Environment is approximately 30,000 ft’. The planning phase took 9 months. The build out took 14 months and the project cost less than 15 million (seeded with 10 million from the Rouxs). The Sawyer Free project is more than double that cost and the planning phase is many times past.

The community has been consistent about addressing the bathrooms for sometime. In 2014, the “immediate objectives will be working with the library’s board, staff and volunteers to review the library’s collections for relevance; revamping the building’s public and staff spaces; overseeing installation of a modern heating and air conditioning system, and mentoring staff in their professional development…”

Round up of new library building coverage prior to November 2018:

Prior post with 1973 brochure ed. Joe Garland

 

Sawyer Free Library new building presentation Tues. February 26

architecture of Sawyer Free Library Gloucester MA_comprised of three buildings_winter 20190224_©Catherine Ryanphoto caption: three buildings of Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free public library, winter 

UPCOMING MEETINGS

Note schedule change – architect presentation with new building committee and library trustees is Tuesday February 26.

  • ON Monday February 25, 2019 Saunders House Stewardship Committee, 10:30AM-noon
  • ON Tuesday February 26, 2019 there is a Library (new) Building Committee meeting 5:30 PM sharp – 7:30 PM. Please note schedule change, again. The monthly meetings announced were said to follow the traditional schedule of meeting on the last Wednesday of each month at 4:00 pm, but that has not happened as meetings have been combined with Trustee meetings, etc. Do confirm ahead: 01/30/2019, 02/27/2019 02/26/2019, 03/27/2019, 04/24/2019 LOCATION: confirm SFL location if Friend Room or one of two rooms upstairs/downstairs in Saunders. There may be other informal ad hoc meetings.
  • ON Wednesday February 27, 2019 the fundraising committee for the new building may be meeting but I’m fairly certain it’s not at 4-5am– just a little typo on the events calendar. Maybe it’s 4-5pm

Fundraising committee.jpg

Catch up (click link to select)

 

Sawyer Free new building plans, Prudence Fish weighs in, and public meeting for net-zero green sustainability concerns Feb 5th 2019

Besides the architectural firm, library staff, and library Trustees (including those serving on the New Building committee and the Saunders House committee) there were just a handful of people present for the January 30, 2019 Sawyer Free Public Library new building presentation. There will be monthly Building Committee (“BC”) progress meetings as follows: 2/27, 3/27, and 4/24.

 

sparsely attended presentation mostly architectural firm_ library trustee_ new building and saunders committee members_20190130©catherine ryan
photo caption: Sawyer Free Public Library, Matt Oudens presentation, January 30, 2019, Options 3 & 4 (quite small audience included members of the library Trustees, new building committee, Saunders House committee, and a few residents)

 

The architect stated that the current building was horrible and doing nothing for us, that the new building would improve the look, mediate between old and new, and most importantly provide a strong presence on Dale Avenue. Indeed, The driving goal stated by the Trustees and building committee is to make a statement building that claims a greater presence on Dale Avenue.

I feel that Sawyer’s impact via Saunders and from Dale Avenue (and the back) are elegant. Do we need another City Hall? The library already has a strong individual design identity and at different scales. There’s a possibility for enhancement, but I’m less confident with examples presented by this team. They continue to describe the library in negative terms. They did not consider honoring or determining the delirious, exceptional qualities of this library’s already enviable assets, civic center balance, and Gloucester.

New building projected to cost 30 million + and is All staircase / books begone

Preliminary plans Option 3 and Option 4 were touted. Unlike prior reveals, these plans do include and illustrate the cherished historic Saunders House, the beloved Rando Memorial Garden (described as “the random garden could be preserved”), and a setback from the street (Dale Avenue). One allowed preservation of the north side space that’s there and sensitively sited by Monell.

However, the new options continue to put forth a three story building dominated by an unwieldy progressive or processional staircase  (“usable bleacher seating”) and the children’s services on the top floor with an “occupiable terrace”– an absurd design flaw roundly dismissed by patrons, corporators and experts since first iterations were presented late 2016.  Since they’ve been working on this for years, and options 3 & 4 are only slightly different than what was initially proposed (the “components” were shifted but still there) why aren’t all the plans readied? The earlier plans* had the progressive staircase along the South side of the Monell building. *see below

The efficient Monell building can welcome and disperse 150+ guests for a lecture or presentation on its main floor without any elevator crush. Just as with homes, aged or injured appreciate that the main floor embraces a one level plan. The current entrance steps are few. Existing accessibility options are sufficient for any population. Similarly, bustling children’s services programming — like caregiver laptime– have multiple access options. There is never any stroller traffic jam at the elevator or entrances. We used to line up our strollers outside. As a mother of twins, access to the outdoors (North side and Dale) was a most welcome part of programs and sometimes necessary for “family time” (e.g. swift exit for overtired bawling!) Navigating a rooftop green space terrace and a purposeless overgenerous statement staircase with toddlers and a double stroller would have been my idea of a nightmare. I’m not sure patrons or staff would be excited to bring a group of toddlers on a roof or staircase for serious running around & playtime, but that’s not a problem on the ground floor. Prior to 2014 a couple of Trustees had spoken with me about a climbable public sculpture commission to enhance that outdoor space. It’s funny to hear it being described as dispensable.

Also confounding was the idea behind a glassed in children’s extra room: it would afford adults choices for seating or reading outside the space with the option of observing their charges signed up for some children’s programming. I found that a)creepy because it also underscores welcoming observation by anyone and b)depressing as it misses the point entirely of literacy and building community. I sought library programming to experience with my children and friends and foster connections. (I suppose it could be some type of babysitting amenity??)

  • New Sawyer library building preliminary plans _20190130_ options 3 and 4 not markedly different than options shown 2017 © catherine ryan

 

scituate mom carrying kid on stairs.jpg
photo caption: Scituate was one of two libraries (the old one “very dated and ugly inside not unlike this one…similarly required aerating”) shared as model examples. Note the mom carrying the kid on the dominant staircase. The second model example was Webster which looked similar to the new hospital builds in Burlington.

Prudence Fish reflects on the meeting

I wondered what others felt about the meeting. Prudence Fish writes:

“The meeting of the building committee last week concentrating on a rebuild plan for the Monell building initially gave the audience a certain amount of confidence and relief that a decision had been made to proceed with a plan that would retain the Monell building and bring it into the 21 century. Our bubble burst when the committee was asked if this meant demolition was off the table and were told that nothing was off the table.

This process has gone on for over two years. It will still be years before they break ground and even more years before a ribbon cutting. This process has become a painful never ending ordeal. Throughout this time the projected costs have escalated. The money spent on plans with no immediate end in sight is increasingly extravagant.
It goes without saying that the building should be as green as is possible. However, this is in a local historic district and is also in a National Register District. It is unlikely that the National Trust for Historic Preservation would ever approve or endorse the demolition of an existing 40 year old building in order to build a net zero or green building replacement.

It’s time to cut to the chase and move things along with common sense and a plan that is affordable and meets our needs within the walls of the Monell building.” – Prudence Fish reflecting on the January 30, 2019 meeting

Some Q & A from 1/30/19

*I think the consultants should transcribe the meetings and collect & consolidate prior feedback so as to avoid misstating comments such as no knowledge of the community’s green concerns or that the north side from their understanding is not used. The library Trustees can provide accessible links on the website and print outs for the meetings.

Question  Are nimble renovations, major adaptive reuse, or tear down more green? Is keeping the building the same size more green? Of plan options 3 & 4 which is more green? How about leaving the building pretty much the same? Why is there so much emphasis on more windows if green goals are desired? How can you talk about net zero when you demolish one building to build another? In the effort to meet programmable needs can sustainability needs be met?

Answer- According to the presenters, because the architectural firm is now realizing just how important green building is to the community, they encourage us to join the building committee for a public meeting Tuesday February 5, 2019 to delve into these questions. The architectural firm announced that it had not realized just how concerned Gloucester was with green builds and as such brought on a consulting expert to join their team. Emphasis on green design was a huge concern two years ago during every public meeting.  There will be a meeting about the new building and green design Tuesday February 5, 2019. 5:30PM

Question- Does plan 3 have more parking? Can a parking lot be added to the North side? (“North” side is the space between Central Grammar and the library. The few people present said please preserve this green space corridor which is consistent public feedback.) How does designing for more cars line up with green concerns?

Answer – Maybe. “We need to study everything further; The plans are very preliminary.”  (Three guests expressed preserving the North side green space.)

Question: What is the size of the new plan?

Answer- 26,000 to 27,000 but again these plans are preliminary. They believe the plans are within what’s allowable, but “no matter municipal amendments overrides zoning.” *known as Municipal Dover amendments

Question: Do the plans require more staff? Do the plans require more janitors?

Answer: staffing will likely be the same operationally. A new building will cost less to run and may require less staff by design. (Wait– more staff has been requested and is there proof to support those claims. More building can cost more…)

Question-Does presentation of plans 3&4 mean that tearing down Monell is off the table?

Answer. No. This process will take 3 or 4 more years and we’ll work with the architectural firm through each option in detail. Furthermore the building committee and architects stressed that a renovation would most likely be more money so the options presented tonight may be a moot point. Approaches of adaptive reuse (like options 3 & 4 presented at this meeting) “may be significantly more money!”

Question- where are deliveries, storage, trash and behind the scenes work accounted for in the plans? (I’d add where are archives, digitization crowd source options, etc).

Answer – the plans aren’t granular at this stage.

Question-Is the feasibility study due in May or June?What exactly are we fundraising for if the plans aren’t decided? What will be the demonstration for donors?

Answer- We do have to begin fundraising. (A fundraising firm has been contracted.) The building is estimated to cost more than 30 million based on the timeline.

 

 

Further questions

Where has the art gone? Can we bring the art back?

How will Saunders House be integrated and featured?

Are there any women on the new building committee? Do any of the members have children under 18 years of age? under 14 years of age? Have any of them had experience with managing an architectural build of this scale, one that’s open to the public and boasts enviable assets including historical properties, archives and collections, green space, and specific security concerns?

Where has the emphasis on books and literacy gone? Have the Trustees, committees and architects seen Once Upon a Contest selections from Cape Ann Reads initiative? Cape Ann Reads was co-founded by Library Director Deborah Kelsey. It’s my understanding that the trustees are driving this new build.

The most frequented and photographed library spaces at the Boston Public Library and New York Public Library continue to be the classic reading rooms. Retired New England patriots player and new children’s book author and program developer Martellus Bennett was inspired by the classic wrap around library as depicted in Beauty in the Beast, and Harry Potter fans of all ages admire its enviable repository environs. Is there something to learn from the Cape Ann Museum proposal for a new building targeting one year and under 5 million? Can a design competition be opened up, requiring build out completion in less than two years and under 5 million? Can immediate expansion and attention to bathrooms, renovation and expansion of children’s services, new staff hires, and maximizing lovely Saunders happen ASAP? What are the possibilities for any beneath ground (or beneath parking lot) solutions or connections as with the underground walkway between the National Gallery buildings?

You can peruse the library new building plan options offered on the architect’s website (when the staircase was on the south side). The architect is keen on pillow seating options on a wide staircase (dated High Line-esque without any presentation spot or view).

Matt Oudens selling Gloucester build on his site now

old plans
first options, big statement building with big staircase with pillows

Since 2013 How much money has been spent

  • on marketing
  • on the Saunders House
  • on the main building
  • on the new building pursuit