|~ Captain Chester F. Smith House ~|
20 Pleasant Street
South Dartmouth, Massachusetts
|“Historic Captain’s home with rooftop “widow’s walk” view of harbor; easy stroll to Padanaram Village. 5 fireplaces, 2 staircases, gracious foyers and hardwood floors throughout. 3 spacious bedrooms on 2nd floor, each with private bath, additional 1st floor bedroom/office. Enjoy summer breezes on large screened porch and wrap-around deck. Finished attic includes extra sleeping space, storage and large cedar closets. Oversized detached 2-car garage. Motivated Seller has priced this home expecting your personal updates."|
|~ ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION & HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE ~|
Located in historic Padanaram Village in Dartmouth, the house at 20 Pleasant Street was constructed in 1853 for whaling ship captain, Chester F. Smith, Master Mariner. The house is a stunning example of later Greek Revival architecture, popular during the mid-nineteenth century. The Capt. Chester F. Smith house is a contributing structure within the Padanaram Village National Register Historic District.
The Capt. Chester F. Smith House was constructed in 1853 in the Greek Revival style of architecture. This style was the dominant fashion from about 1830 to 1850, during which its popularity led it to be called the National Style. The final years of the eighteenth century brought an increasing interest in classical building forms to the United States and Western Europe. Archaeological investigations of the early 19th century emphasized Greece as the Mother of Rome, and interest turned to the Greek models. An additional factor that enhanced the Greek influence in this country was Greece's involvement in a war for independence against the Turks (1821-1830), which aroused much sympathy in the newly independent United States.
The first examples of Grecian forms in American architecture appeared in Philadelphia, such as in the Bank of the United States, built in 1818 by William Strickland. The style spread rapidly into the other urban centers of the U.S. and into more rural communities through carpenter's guides and pattern books. The waning of this popular architecture was very gradual, for while urban centers began to utilize other romantic styles in the 1840's and 50's, the wealthy leisure moving to more rural areas continued to build primarily Greek Revival structures until 1860.
While the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was the period of the greatest building activity in Padanaram (due the successful shipbuilding and salt making in the Village, the second quarter of the nineteenth century also brought continued construction, much of it in the Greek Revival style. The stately Capt. Chester F. Smith House, also known as the Baker House (Padanaram National Register nomination), is one of the more exemplary examples of the Greek Revival in the Village.
The Capt. Chester F. Smith House is a two and one-half story dwelling with its front gable end facing the east, onto Pleasant Street. The house is built upon a granite foundation, and is sheathed in wooden clapboards, painted pale yellow. The house is capped by a pitched gable roof which is pierced by three red brick chimneys. The roof is capped by a white-painted widow's walk with balustrade.
The house's front-facing gable is three bays wide, with the front door located on the southern end of the facade. The doorway is contained under a flat-roofed portico with heavy lintel, supported by columns of the Ionic order. The doorway itself is framed by pilasters and three quarter sidelights around the paneled door. The second story of this facade contains three windows, and the third story pediment frames a triangular fanlight window in the attic.
All of the house's windows are six-over-six paned, double hung sash, and are capped by simple lintel ornaments and framed by painted black shutters. All of the corners of the house are adorned with white engaged pilasters, typical of the Greek Revival style, as is the continuous broad trim band, painted white, located below the cornice.
The south facade of the house is pierced with windows on the first and second stories, and there is the addition of a single story, twentieth century additional that echoes the stylistic details of the main house block, and is itself capped with a low balustrade. The north facade of the house is also pierced by six-over-six windows, as well as having a two story bay window projection built onto it.
The rear, or west facade, of the house is dominated by a large porch complex. On the north end of the west facade, an enclosed porch wraps around onto a portion of the north facade. On the southern side, a large open patio area extends from the house, overlooking the landscaped grounds.
The substantial grounds adjoining the house are landscaped, and the property is surrounded by wood and granite post fence on the Pleasant Street side and stone walls on the Summer Street border.
On June 10, 1853, Joseph A. Bailey, a mariner and Gentleman of Dartmouth sold to Chester F. Smith, of Dartmouth, a mariner, a tract or parcel of land in Padanaram Village for the sum of $200. The land was located along what is now Pleasant Street, which had been laid out in 1810.
Only five days later, on June 15, Smith bought another tract or parcel of land from Bailey, located to the south of the first lot, for $250. Altogether, the two lots that Bailey sold to Smith was a combined lot measuring 16 rods by 11 rods (264' by 181.5') about 1.1 acres. The lot was bordered on the north by the land of heirs of Prince Allen, and on the south by Paul Baker's house lot.
Capt. Chester F. Smith built his large Greek Revival house on these lots of land sometime during the following year. In 1856, the house is shown on the 1856 Map of Dartmouth, as the house of C.F. Bailey. Smith was an incredibly active whaling master who had worked his way up from crewman to captain. Born in 1814 in Lee, Massachusetts, his Seaman's Protection Papers record that he was five feet, nine inches tall, had light hair and complexion, and had brown eyes. At the age of 17, he sailed on the bark Forrester of Dartmouth, going out to sea from March 5, 1831 to August 2, 1833. Upon his return, he sailed on the bark Cora, out of New Bedford, from September 25, 1833 to November 24, 1835.
Upon his return from his voyage on the Cora in 1835, he did not sail again for two years, living in Dartmouth during that period. However, he was hardly inactive since on February 28, 1837, he posted his intentions and later married Phoebe H. Nickerson, also of Dartmouth. (Dartmouth Vital Records, Vol. 2) After a summer ashore as a newlywed Smith left his new bride on August 25, 1837, sailing on the bark Octavia out of New Bedford, and he did not return until April 12, 1839. Once he did return, his stay ashore was short, as he sailed out on the Bank Winslow, out of New Bedford on July 13, 1839, and he returned May 6, 1840. By this time, Smith was serving as a mate on board of the vessels on which he sailed, with increased pay and share of the profits. He was promoted and served as Master of the Margaret Scott of New Bedford on a voyage that departed on January 9, 1841, and returned on April 15, 1844. As Captain of that vessel, his lay or share of the profits, was 1/17 of the total profits, a very substantial one.
On June 9, 1866, Chester F. Smith and his wife Phoebe sold the entire lot of land with buildings thereon, (consisting of a dwelling house and out buildings) situated in Dartmouth and containing an acre and an eighth. Capt. Smith died only a short while later, in South Dartmouth, on August 10, 1866, at the age of 51.
The new owner of the house at 20 Pleasant Street was Archelaus Baker. Jr., another Master Mariner. Baker bought the large lot and house for $3,000, (the increase in value of the property in only 13 years indicates an exceptionally fine residence by 19th century standards).
Capt. Archelaus Baker was another whaling master, a third generation mariner (and ship's master) from Dartmouth. He was born in 1815, and married Lydia W. Winslow of North Bridgewater, Massachusetts, on June 6, 1841. Following in the family tradition, he sailed in 1846 as made on board the ship Hibernia of New Bedford, which returned in June of 1849. By 1854, Baker was serving as a captain, sailing on the H.H. Crapo of Dartmouth in 1854, the John A. Robb of Fairhaven in 1857, the Canton Packet of New Bedford in 1862, the Vigilant of New Bedford in 1867 and the bark Hercules of New Bedford in 1871.
It is interesting here to note that the current owner of the home (only the fourth in the chain of title) was able to research some of these vessels and, with permission of the famous New Bedford Whaling Museum, was able to locate, frame and hang pictures of the whaling ship Vigilant and the Junius sister ship to the Canton Packet both sailed and captained by the second owner of the home, Capt. Archelaus Baker. In a fascinating chapter, Capt. Baker lost one of his whaling ships in a storm at sea and all aboard save a cabin boy and was rescued by a passing English steam ship. A famous pen and ink painting of this dramatic rescue at sea was created and a copy of it now hangs alongside the pictures of the Vigilant and the Junius in the home. An extremely rare bit of dramatic history still exhibited in the home.
Upon his death in 1898, Archelaus Baker willed the land and house to his daughter Sarah H. Baker. The land stayed in the Baker family until September 27, 1905, when Sarah H. Baker of Dartmouth sold the entire lot for one dollar and other considerations to Caroline Stone of New Bedford.
Caroline Stone later married J. Delano Wood, and she lived at the house until her death. Her heirs sold the property through the executor of the will, Francis Stone, Jr. on June 8, 1955. The buyer (and only the third owner of the house since its construction) was Charles V.F. Demailly of New Bedford, who bought the house for a sum of $32,000.
The Demailly family sold the house on June 27, 1975 to Richard J and Cecilia B. Ward of Potomac, MD. Cecilia Ward passed away on June 19, 2005 and Richard J. Ward, retired Dean of the School of Business and Industry at UMass., Dartmouth, the spires for which can be easily seen from the widow's walk, passed away October 9, 2010. The Ward family currently owns the Capt. Chester F. Smith House, and they are continuing to keep the house in excellent repair and to show much concern for its historic integrity.
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