William Morgan: An architectural gem and a mysterious postcard


It is amazing how much history we can glean – or maybe imagine–from a postcard (in this case, one purchased for $3 in an antiques shop in Chatham on Cape Cod).

The back of the card reads: "Sept. 17. Hope you are getting along all right at home. Hope to get along the road quite a piece today. Will write again tonight. Anna''


The card was sent from Kingston, N.H.,  in 1906 to a family member back in Everett, Mass. Anna, the writer, promises to write at the end of the day. Where is Anna going? She has only been 40 miles or so from home, yet she feels the need to report on her progress into the New Hampshire borderlands. Is the addressee, Mattie Colline, a sister who is holding the fort with an invalid or maybe alcoholic parents? Or perhaps Anna has eloped?

The postage is but a penny, and the stamp rightfully memorializes the U.S. Postal Service's  founder, Benjamin Franklin. Anna is secure in the belief that wherever she is that night, the post office will efficiently get her next missive off to Everett.

While Miss Anna is able to get a lot of message on the front of the postcard, she exhibits no curiosity at all about Kingston (supporting our theory that she was just passing through). The attractive village was named for King William III, who gave the town its royal charter in 1694. It was also the home of Dr. Josiah Bartlett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (One suspects that Anna Colline was not the kind of lady to search the local cemetery for such an ancient notable's final resting place.)

Neither Anna nor the postcard says anything about the Nichols Memorial Library (above) itself. Built in 1898, this architectural gem is one of many small New England book repositories that paid homage to the late great Boston architect, Henry Hobson Richardson. Some of the most satisfying works by the designer of Trinity Church in Copley Square were his Romanesque-style libraries in Quincy, North Easton, and Woburn. 

The architect here was important in his own right. Joseph Everett Chandler was an authority on colonial architecture, and is best remembered for his restoration of such early Yankee landmarks as the Paul Revere House, the House of Seven Gables, and the Old Corner Bookstore. But there was so much more, as Prof. Timothy Orwig has catalogued more than 500 projects by Chandler, and as the Nichols Library attests.

Joseph Everett Chandler.


Providence-based architectural historian William Morgan has written extensively about New England buildings. Among other books, he has published The Cape Cod Cottage and Monadnock Summer: The Architectural Legacy of Dublin, New Hampshire.