Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pine Knoll expansion 1880

This week I discovered a document that helps me understand changes made to "Pine Knoll," the old Nichols homestead at 98 Preston Street in Danvers. I've long known that the Pine Knoll home was started as a cottage in 1861, and significantly expanded in 1880. I often visited in the 1940's-1960's, but never had any sense of which parts of the house were original, and which rooms were added later. To my young eyes, it all looked old, very very old, and unchanging. It seemed a sort of museum, unchangeable, though cousins and great aunts were living there.

Now I have a composition by one of those aunts, Mary Eliot Nichols, also known as "Aunt May," recalling the changes she witnessed in HER childhood. She was 12 years old when the house was extended. She lists all eight children born in that house; seven of whom were still alive in 1880, and lived there for many more years. (Aunt May and her younger sister Margaret were still living there in the 1960's!)  The house expansion was financed by funds inherited after the death of a grandmother, and required in part by the need to provide housing for an unmarried aunt (who also contributed inherited funds and property to Pine Knoll).

Aunt May's composition was later typed by another relative, who added sketches to show the layout of the house before and after the great remodeling of 1880. Unfortunately I do not know the date of her composition, nor the date of this typed version. Nor do I know the accuracy of the sketches, though the drawings on the left side (first-floor rooms) make sense to me, matching my memories.

Click on image to enlarge

I am not the first person to consider Pine Knoll a museum, nor to comment about the blending of old and new sections. A visitor in 1881, soon after the expansion of the house, titled his report "Nichols Museum" (published in the Danvers Mirror, May 7, 1881). He wrote, "we made a call at the cottage among the pines at the corner of Newbury and Preston streets, occupied by our friend Andrew Nichols, the civil engineer, who when asked last fall what he was doing to his house? replied that, he was building on an ell, as he found after nearly twenty years' trial that his house was too small for the wants of his family, --now consisting of ten persons."

"Over the wide doors to the spacious parlor hangs a coat-of-arms of the Appleton family of Ipswich, made by Margaret Appleton, a great-great-grandmother of its present owner. Upon the walls of this room hang the portraits of seven generations. All the furniture of this room, with one or two exceptions, has been doing good service for a long time in the family."

"Mr. Nichols has made many plans of houses built by others, and made all the plans and attended to the construction of this “house of seven gables;” and as he wished to have a house unlike any other, we think that he has accomplished his object, and so well is the old and new blended that it is hard to tell where old and new unite."

"The outside is shingled with fancy sawed shingles (done by his boys in their summer vacation) down to the second floor, then clapboarded. Nathan T. Putnam did the carpenter work, H. McGaughlin the stone, Frank Flint the brick, Charles F. Aiken the plastering, Sylvester Trask the painting, George H. Little of Peabody the steam piping, and Caskin & O'Connell the plumbing."

For the full Danvers Mirror article, see

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