Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your Name in a Book

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

Today, I spent the majority of my time going through the Fitchburg City Directories.
Fig. 1: A picture of the main shelf of Fitchburg City Directories at the Fitchburg Historical Society.
The directories are a great wealth of information about the residents of Fitchburg in that a person's residence and occupation are listed. It almost reads like a brief year-by-year census report without some of the finer details.
Fig. 2: Up close view of the 1942 Fitchburg Directory's spine.
You will not find information about citizens' ages or their children and it is rare to find a listing for an unmarried woman.

The purpose of the city directory sleuthing is to confirm dates, residences and full names of the Francis clientele.
While bouncing around from one bound snapshot of Fitchburg to another, it can sometimes be frustrating to constantly look for a single answer to a single question. 

Fig. 3: An open City Directory and my open notebook.
Oftentimes, and consistent with historical inquiry: one question will only lead to more questions rather than answers. However, I believe the constant run-around and question-asking makes the answer-finding much more rewarding. The time between the question and the answer allows time for reflection, consideration, humility and reaffirmation of purpose. 

For me, I know that I can never transport back to early 1900s America, but to research the lives of people who were there is very humbling. Beyond my own fascination with H.M. Francis and the buildings he designed and the architectural legacy that is now a part of Fitchburg; I am trying to tell a story. The story of H.M. Francis can only be told by he and the people who knew him. As a researcher and budding historian who is far removed from that circle, the best that I can do is tell a story about H.M. Francis.

And I intend on doing my best.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Trip to Historic N.E.

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

On Wednesday, I took a field trip to Historic New England, specifically the Otis House on Cambridge Street in Boston.
The house was designed by Charles Bulfinch and was situated in one of Boston's early elite neighborhoods.

The purpose of my visit was to view their collection of H.M. Francis drawings and add them to the inventory of known structures he designed.

Some of the highlights included:

A design for Monadnock National Bank in East Jaffrey, New Hampshire
A design for the Baxter-Whitney Mill in Winchendon, Massachusetts (see image below)
A design for a bank on Miller's River, possibly in Miller's Falls, Massachusetts
A design for a commercial block in Somerville, Massachusetts

A student drawing by Francis as well as a design for a house for Charles Harding made it into the Historic New England book, Drawing Toward Home which was published in 2010.

It was a real treat to talk to the curatorial staff at Historic New England and share in their curiosity for Francis drawings. Although Francis is often thought of as a Fitchburg-centered architect (which is true) it's beneficial and important to understand that his body of work extended past the Nashua River and into other communities.

Fig. 1: Drawing of the Baxter-Whitney Mill in Winchendon, MA. Image from the American Architect and Building News magazine.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cellphone Photos, part 2

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

A few more photographs from my cellphone:

Fig. 1: Entryway to the Wallace Building (razed in 1979)

Fig. 2: Some drawings waiting to be processed.

Fig. 3: Cover sheet to specifications for the Model Training School in Fitchburg.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cellphone Photos

(This post is part of a series about my research of Fitchburg architect H.M. Francis)
I was recently able to transfer some photographs from my cellphone to my computer.
These three are some of the more recent photographs of some intriguing Francis ephemera:
Fig. 1: This is a stamp design found on many of the drawings to ensure the architect's ownership.

Fig. 2: A small business card found amongst the drawings.

Fig. 3: A drawing for a proposed Cleghorn school house.