Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Francis Cousins at Yale

(This post is part of a series about my research of Fitchburg architect H.M. Francis)

Last week, I was sifting through stacks of H.M. Francis & Sons building specifications. I was looking for building dates and addresses that corresponded to images of houses I had found in a few books about Fitchburg. In a neat orderly stack at the end of the table was a set of papers with "YALE UNIVERSITY" typed across the top. These papers referenced building projects at the Ivy League university involving dormitories and campus grounds. I quickly looked through them looking for a name or date and finally came across Sidney Houghton Francis.

I had heard of Sidney last year when I was doing my initial research on H.M. Francis. Sidney was born in 1877, one year after H.M.'s second son Albert. Sidney was the son of Alpheus K. Francis, brother of H.M.
Interestingly enough, when I went to the Lunenburg Public Library on Saturday to try and find information about Alfred Wyman, I found some information about Sidney and his father. The Ritter Memorial Library in Lunenburg was designed by Sidney's father Alpheus and completed by Sidney in 1909. Alpheus was an accomplished builder in Lunenburg with Sidney following in his footsteps.
Sidney graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1900 and was employed by the firm Carrere & Hastings as a superintendent during their construction of the New York Public Library.

Fig. 1: Biography entry about Sidney H. Francis
Among the paperwork for building projects at Yale, there was an application from Sidney seeking a type of architectural license. In the application, he mentioned his W.P.I. graduation as well as being a superintendent of construction at Yale.
Reading this application piqued my interest, specifically because I recalled in Albert Francis's obituary it mentioned Albert's tenure as resident architect and superintendent of construction at Yale from 1927 to 1932. After reading that application, I wanted to try and find Sidney in a New Haven city directory, and possibly also find Albert.

I was able to find the page in the directory with Sidney and I believe I found Albert as well. I had looked for Albert in the 1930 Census in both Fitchburg and New Haven and to no avail. I had a sneaking suspicion that Albert may have boarded with Sidney in New Haven and also worked with him at Yale. While I was unable to find Albert in the census entry with Sidney, I think I found him in the city directory.

Fig. 2: A page from the 1928 New Haven City Directory
Sidney is listed as: "Francis, Sidney H. construction supt YU r 89 Trumbull" The "r" is a typical abbreviation for "residence" and I had found 89 Trumbull to be the residence of Sidney on his license application.

The entry that I believe is Albert, is listed as "Francis, Albert F h 1175 Chapel" I'm not sure what the "h" abbreviation corresponds to. But 1175 Chapel is relatively close to the campus of Yale.

I'm hoping to do have time to read through the stack of Yale University papers to see if I can find out what projects Sidney and Albert worked on together while at Yale.

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