William Allen House, Agawam, Mass

The William Allen House on Main Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

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The William Allen House is one of several similar houses along Main Street, including the Rufus Colton House and the Captain Charles Leonard House.  All three houses were built around 1800 (this one is a little older, having been built around 1795), and all three may have been designed by, or were at least based on the designs of noted architect Asher Benjamin.  The most distinctive feature on the houses is the Palladian window above the front door, but the Allen House is a little different from the others because of its gabled roof, as opposed to the hip roof on the Colton and Leonard houses.

The Allen House, like the other two, was built for a militia officer, Lieutenant William Allen.  By the time the first photo was taken, it was the home of Frank E. Campbell, a farmer who grew tobacco in his fields behind the house.  The fields have long since been subdivided and developed into houses, but the old farmhouse still stands on Main Street, without a whole lot of changes in the past 120 years.  The only major change was a 1960s restoration, which returned the house to its early 1800s appearance by, among other things, removing the Victorian-era front porch.

Chapin House, Agawam, Mass

The Chapin House on Elm Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Elm Street was built around 1850, and is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic style of architecture that was popular in rural and suburban American houses in the mid to late 1800s.  The only noticeable change from the first photo is the porch, which once wrapped around from the right side to the front door.  I’m not sure whether this porch was original to the house anyway, and in either case this house is well-preserved and is a contributing property in the Agawam Center Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rufus Colton House, Agawam, Mass

A view of Main Street in Agawam from the corner of Elm Street, with the Rufus Colton House in the distance on the left, seen around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The scene in 2015:

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Built in 1806, the Rufus Colton House is architecturally similar to the nearby Captain Charles Leonard House, which was built a year earlier.   Both are believed to have been designed by Asher Benjamin, and like the Leonard House it was built for a local militia officer, Lieutenant Rufus Colton.  Beginning around 1830, it was owned by Martin King (not Martin Luther King, just Martin King), who operated a tavern here for some time.  Main Street was once part of the Boston Post Road, connecting Boston to New York and points south, so it is likely that a good part of King’s business was from travelers on the road.

Today, Main Street is busier, with paved streets replacing the dirt roads of the 1890s, but the Rufus Colton House remains well-preserved after over two centuries.  It may or may not have been designed by Asher Benjamin, but either way it is an excellent example of Federal architecture, and it retains many of its original elements, including the hip roof, the fan window over the door, and the Palladian window in the center of the second floor.  In 2001, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Agawam Center Historic District.

Congregational Church Parsonage, Agawam, Mass

The parsonage on Main Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Main Street opposite School Street was built around 1850 as the parsonage for the Agawam Congregational Church, which is located a few hundred yards south of here on the opposite side of Main Street.  The church building that it once served was several decades older; it was built in the early 1800s and was demolished in the 1960s, when the current church was built on the same spot.

Today, the parsonage is partially hidden by trees from this angle, but it is still there, with some alterations.  It appears to be a multi-unit apartment now, with additions in the back of the house where the barn once stood in the 1890s photo.  The area around the house has also changed; the house to the right was probably built in the early 1900s, and later on the land behind the parsonage was subdivided and Raymond Circle was developed.  Despite the changes, however, the building is a contributing property in the Agawam Center Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Captain Barnes House, Portsmouth, NH (2)

The Captain Barnes House in Portsmouth, NH, on March 19, 1937, immediately following its conversion into a gas station. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

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The building in 2015:

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As explained in the previous post, this building was once a 1808 Federal style mansion, owned by two different Portsmouth sea captains in the early 1800s.  However, in 1936-37 it was converted into a Sunoco station, leaving very little of the original structure.  However, in a way the renovated building has become historic in its own right, as an example of a 1930s service station.  There have been some changes since the 1937 photo was taken, though.  The shingles have been replaced with vinyl siding, and the gas pumps are gone, along with the windows on the right side and the garage door to the left.  The building now has additions to the left and right, and it is no longer a Sunoco station, but it is still in use as auto repair garage, with a restaurant in the addition to the right.

Captain Barnes House, Portsmouth, NH (1)

The Captain Barnes House on Islington Street in Portsmouth, on May 14, 1936.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

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The same building in 2015:

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Although the term “adaptive reuse” didn’t exist in the 1930s, the Captain Barnes House would certainly be an extreme version of that concept.  It’s hard to tell today, but the auto repair shop in the 2015 photo is the same Federal style mansion from the 1936 photo, just altered beyond recognition.  The house was built in 1808 for Samuel Chauncy, one of the many merchant ship captains who lived in Portsmouth in the early 1800s.  In 1813, he sold the house to Lewis Barnes, a Swedish immigrant who was also the captain of a merchant ship.  Barnes, for whom the house is named, lived here until his death in 1856, and the house remained in the family until 1908.

Between 1908 and 1936, the house changed hands four times, steadily falling into disrepair in the process.  The sign out front advertises “Rooms for Tourists,” but given the condition of the building at the time, these would have likely been very low-budget rooms, hardly comparable to more reputable hotels of the time, such as the Rockingham Hotel.  By the time the first photo was taken, the building was probably already a candidate for reconstruction, because within a year it was completely gutted, cut down to two stories, and converted into a Sunoco station.  Today, it is an auto repair shop, with post-1930s additions on either side of the building.  Thankfully, the house was carefully documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey prior to its conversion, and a number of photos and architectural plans are available here through the Library of Congress.