#3 - 30 High St., Methuen, 1879

Ornate house looks built for leisure

Few people know that there are French Second Empire Victorian homes in the heart of the Merrimack Valley. But just such a structure stands at 30 High Street, Methuen, a stone's throw away from the Red Tavern.

Victorian is a term loosely applied to houses built after the Civil War. French Second Empire refers exclusively to those copied from structures built in the French style during the reign of Napoleon III, 1852 -1870. Passersby first notice the Mansard roof, an idea imported from France - its steep slope allows a usable third floor while preserving the appearance on the outside of a two-story house. And the trim, large and massive, is applied to the outside of the house like decoration, with bands above the windows, brackets at the eaves, circular windows, and columns. The effect of weight and importance is softened by the addition of the delicate vertical boards at the porch and west bay eaves. And while the shape of the building seems at first to be rectangular, on every side the box has been broken. It is altered by the tower, the side bays and porches, and the projecting front bay even breaks through the roof line.

This house invites leisure. It speaks of owners climbing the tower to view the countryside, having tea on the side porch, sitting in the bays to the south or west in the winter sun and watching the neighborhood. The front entrance itself, large and gracious, is set three flights above the street, not a no-nonsense straight run. It is a place to see and be seen. The whole house is an extravagant use of space and material reminiscent of the voluminous use of cloth in the clothing of the time. It represents a very different life from the stark simplicity of the center entrance colonial of 1720, our previous Sunday Drive.

Note the line under the photograph: Built in 1879 by Samuel H. Harris, a Methuen druggist. Photo was taken in 1916.

The architect was George C. Adams, from Lawrence.

No comments: