Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nearing the End

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

Today, I was able to complete the list of drawings and blueprints. 
The total number of unique buildings and homes that I was able to identify was precisely 200.
Each list will be sorted by year and address before being consolidated for the overall inventory.
August will be spent cross-referencing data (dotting I's, crossing X's, minding P's and Q's) and researching more biographical information.
Fig. 1: The Francis Home on Rollstone Street (formerly Lunenburg Academy)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Lamps for the Library

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

In 1917, Frederick and Albert wrote to The T.F. McGann & Sons Co. in Boston to inquire about new lamps for the Wallace Library on Main Street in Fitchburg. T.F. McGann & Sons specialized in bronze and brass sculptures and was based in Boston.
Fig. 1: Letter from T.F. McGann & Sons Co. to H.M. Francis & Sons (courtesy of the Fitchburg Historical Society)
T.F. McGann & Sons wrote back to them and enclosed four photographs of cast bronze lamp brackets that they had recently fabricated under contract with the government. They informed the Francis firm that since these were under contract, they wouldn't be able to duplicate the exact same models but they could make very similar ones.
At this time, it is unknown if these lamps graced the front of the Wallace Library but their craftsmanship is stunning nonetheless.
Fig. 2: One of the attached photographs to the McGann letter. This bracket would individually sell for $337.50 in 1917. (photo courtesy of the Fitchburg Historical Society)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rounding 2nd Base, Looking to be Waved Home

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

I made considerable progress today and have inventoried all of the blueprints/drawings of Francis designed homes (save for a few stragglers that found their way into other organized collections) and have begun going over the plans for commercial/public buildings. 
I'm back on track to have this part of the overall inventory completed by the end of July. 
When that is finished, the month of August will be spent doing things like: double-checking notes, writing a narrative, writing a bibliography, writing an accompanying guide to the inventory and maybe even

....preparing for my senior year of college.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Testimonial to H.M. Francis

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

I looked through a small magazine published in 1890 called "Leading Business Men of Fitchburg."
The magazine is a well developed collection of business profiles with information about clientele and kind words of their expertise.

Fig. 1: H.M. Francis listing in Leading Business Men of Fitchburg (courtesy of the Fitchburg Historical Society)
About Francis:
"What we particularly wish to do is to call attention to the advantages gained by enlisting the services of such an architect as Mr. Francis, when it is proposed to erect an ordinary dwelling-house; or more properly, a dwelling-house of moderate cost which will not be "ordinary." To begin with, by so doing you get a house "designed to order." It suits you, embodies your views, has an individuality of its own, and is especially adapted to the lot on which it stands...The cost of the services we have sketched is, by no means, alarming, and we have yet to learn of a man who ever repented the expense incurred by employing a really competent architect."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Secret Society, Eh? (Town Talk)

Fig. 1: Call for information about Secret Societies in Town Talk
Caption: [This part of our paper will be devoted to matters of general interest to secret society members. Secretaries and others are requested to send us anything connected with the society that will interest absent members or others. To insure publication the same week, it must reach this office not later than Thursday noon.]

Some of Frederick's Artwork

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

Two weeks ago while I was sifting through pieces of the Francis archive, I came across a manila folder of hand-drawn pencil sketches. These were drawn by Frederick Francis while he was in Europe in 1891.
Fig. 1: "Statue of Antinous, Capitoline Museum, Rome" by Frederick L. Francis, dated April 7, 1891.
Here is a photo of the statue:
Fig. 2: Photograph of the statue that was the basis for Fig. 1 drawing

Monday, July 11, 2011

A "Capitalist" By Trade

I've been going through many U.S. Census records and have frequently noticed "Capitalist" being listed as an occupation.
I started to wonder exactly what being a Capitalist was all about. My first guess was that it was simply someone who had their hands in many different institutions and did not derive a single income from a single occupation, but then I thought maybe that was too vague and confusing for old Uncle Sam.

A quick Google search led me to 200 Years of Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990.
Fig. 1: Cover illustration for 200 Years...
Here was my answer: "Report a person who receives his income, or most of it, from money loaned at interest, or from stocks, bonds, or other securities, as a 'capitalist'."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Once More to the Plans

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

On Wednesday, I began the long process of inventorying the architectural blueprints and drawings of H.M. Francis & Sons.
I'm expecting this process to take most of July to accomplish, but it is to be the last part of this year's inventory.

After this part is finished, more biographical research will be done about the Francis clientele as well as finishing touches to make the inventory accessible for all interested people.

One of the things that I pleasantly rediscovered was a very small collection of hand-drawn artwork by H.M.'s first son Frederick.
During 1890 and 1891, I believe Frederick was in Europe with his class from M.I.T. (he graduated from the institution in 1892).
Europe would've been the perfect place for Frederick to view iconic architecture and practice his drawing and painting skills.

As I spend more time examining these drawings and blueprints the more I feel them becoming alive.
I'm looking forward to writing more about my research throughout the summer.
Fig. 1: H.M. Francis with his young son Frederick (photo courtesy of the Fitchburg Historical Society)

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Tragedian Comes Calling (Town Talk)

From the December 13th, 1890 issue of Town Talk:
The first frame's caption reads:
"ALLEGED TRAGEDIAN: I have come again; I thought perchance, there might be an opening."
The second frame:
"MANAGER: (touching button) There is!"

Frederick Fosdick, 9th mayor of Fitchburg

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

One of the more interesting books I've read in the past few years is The Alcoholic Republic by W.J. Rorabaugh. The book focuses on many of the American temperance movements leading up to the Prohibition era. Many temperance movements began as grass-roots organizations in small cities and towns before blossoming into large organizations that spread nationwide. A Fitchburg citizen named Frederick Fosdick, who served as Fitchburg's 9th mayor, was an active participant in the temperance movement in a state and national level.
Fig. 1: Frederick Fosdick from a Fitchburg Sentinel article in 1892.
Fosdick was born in Groton in 1850 and came to Fitchburg at the age of twenty. He was a deacon at the Rollstone Congregational Church (a very early design by H.M. Francis). He was elected mayor of Fitchburg in 1886 under the Citizens' Temperance Party and later served as a chairman for the Massachusetts Anti-Saloon League.
His obituary listed an interesting admiration for Theodore Roosevelt, "...Mr. Fosdick headed the Massachusetts delegation to the Bull Moose convention at Chicago which nominated Col. Roosevelt with the presidency in 1912."

The house designed for Fosdick is of the Queen Anne style and located on Pleasant Street.
Fig. 2: Frederick Fosdick House (photo courtesy of

S.W. Huntley & F.F. Woodward

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

Though I've lived in Fitchburg for ten years, I'm still developing a map of it in my head. As with many people, I frequent certain roads for most of my travels and typically do not go exploring off my beaten-path while cruising through town. One of the first big houses I remember seeing often is situated on Bluff Avenue near my old high school. It's a purple house with large windows and multiple porches.

Fig. 1: Purple house on Bluff Avenue (photo courtesy of
I never knew much about it as a high-schooler, other than it was big, purple and very interesting to look at from the road. When I began researching H.M. Francis at the Fitchburg Historical Society, I was eager to discover it was indeed one of his designs.

The house was built for S.W. Huntley sometime around 1877. Huntley was an agent with the Old Colony Railroad.
A very small write-up in the Fitchburg Sentinel in 1883 described Huntley's sale of his home to F.F. Woodward, also of Fitchburg. At the time of purchasing the home on Bluff Avenue, Woodward was a cashier for the Safety Fund National Bank.
Fig. 2: F.F. Woodward in uniform. (photo courtesy of the Fitchburg Historical Society)
Frederick F. Woodward, born in 1842, enlisted in Company A of the 53rd Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia on August 23rd, 1862 and was mustered out on September 2nd, 1863.  According to an 1892 Fitchburg Sentinel article, Woodward spent most of his military term in Louisiana. Woodward was also a prominent businessman selling wholesale grain. He was a member of the Fitchburg Grain Company and also Washburn & Woodward, Flour and Grain which later became F.F. Woodward Grain.
Fig. 3: F.F. Woodward from Fitchburg Past and Present.
In addition to his business pursuits, Woodward was also the President of the Fitchburg Historical Society from January 1907 through December of 1909. The 1910 U.S. Census lists Woodward with four daughters and one son. His daughters were named, Stella, Ruth, Margaret and Helen. His son was named Richard.