He lived in a small house at 15-17 Kent Street, way too close to the Caldwell Distillery, not exactly a well-to-do neighborhood. When I read at the Newburyport archive room the house number where he lived, I went over to take a picture; I had to run back to the Library to double check if I had read wrong! This was the great builder? No offense, but his home is nothing to look at!
This is where the man lived who built the massive Globe Steam Mills and the Tannery. This is the man who built City Hall and the Immaculate Conception Church with its gorgeous interior and the Central Congregational Church. Who built some lovely brick row houses on Munroe Street for the Mill workers. His brick handiwork in fact is spread all over Newburyport.
This was the man who was Mayor during a turbulent time just before the Civil War from 1859 to 1860. Who, when the North Church (Central Congregational Church) burned down by the hand of an arsonist, rebuilt the church in just nine months.
His handiwork is felt even today as City Hall does its government business and his mills have been turned into commercial and residential housing.
But as his fame as a mason and contractor grew (He was no architect as Greg Colling constantly points out.) he ended up becoming quite an extensive landlord – in fact, he bought up the row houses on Munroe he had built and re-rented them out.
He also went on to serve on Beacon Hill as a state representative.
His prosperity and influence grew until he moved into the Boott Mansion just up the street at 21 Kent.
We may split hairs over his architectural qualifications, but when it came to being a hands-on builder, he was unbeatable. It is a proud statement that one of the first buildings to be restored under the Community Preservation Act was his masterpiece on Pleasant Street.
And I might add, unlike the buildings of today; he built them to last!
J. J. Currier, History of Newburyport 1764-1905, Vol. I and II, reprint, Newburyport, 1977.
Newburyport, 2011, City of Newburyport Vision Appraisal Online Records.
Newburyport Historic District, www.newburyporthistoricdistrict.org, Historic Survey of the National Register of Historic Places, 1984.
“Movin on up”, P. Preservationist Blog, March 27th, 2011
Mayors of Newburyport, Newburyport Library Archive Center.