PLEASANT STREET, GLOUCESTER, MA
The post is a continuation of the previous story of the ancient Warner house on Mineral Street in Ipswich. This second post tells the remarkable story of the Warner houses occupied by this family in Gloucester.
Meanwhile, back to the Warner family and Philomon Warner, the blacksmith, who left Ipswich for Gloucester. The Warner family settled right in the center of what is now the modern business district on the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets, the location of the new Bank Gloucester. His blacksmith shop was just down the street from his house.
I am presuming that his house probably burned in one of the several devastating fires that occurred here during the 19th century when the business section of Gloucester was devastated by at least two terrible fires when Main Street was pretty much obliterated.
Elder Philomon Warner died in 1778. He is buried in the ancient First Parish Burial Ground, one of the oldest buriel grounds in the country, with this long epitaph. The title "Elder" meant that he was an elder of the church.
|The grave stone of Elder Philomon Warner|
Philemon Warner, the son, built his Gloucester house in the mid 18th century right behind his father's house, a short distance back from Main Street on a side lane now know as Pleasant Street. There is some record that even this house received damage during one of the fires so it's easy to believe that this is when the father's house disappeared, being right in the path of the fire.
Elder Warner's house had a gambrel roof as did most of the houses built in the Harbor Village in the mid 18th century. And like most of the houses in this part of town and frequently throughout New England, it faced south. In this case it faced the water of the inner harbor on the south, not because of the view but because of the southerly exposure.
|Here is the Warner house in Gloucester when it was intact and looking like many other fine houses in the|
neighborhood dating to the mid 18th century. This photo is from the Cape Ann Museum collection.
At this time the left or south side of the house was sold. What happened next must have stunned the residents on the north side of the house and probably the entire community. The new owner, a printer, tore down his half of the old house! The north side of the house stood there with it other half missing. In its place the printer built a brick commercial building and attached it to the side of the more than one hundred and fifty years old Warner house. Now the old half of the Warner house bulged out of the side of the new brick building like a strange wart.
|Here is what is left of the Warner house after half of it was removed and left it attached to|
a new commercial building. This photo is also from the collection of the Cape Ann Museum.
That was not the end of the dismembering of the old Warner house. The first floor eventually became a commercial space. Its strange appearance was further exacerbated when it became a Christian Science Reading Room with huge plate glass windows located on a 20th century angled, somewhat modernist facade. Part of the old fencing seems to have become a balustrade on the new flat roof.
|At this time there is a mostly new first floor with a slanted facade|
beneath the overhang, The roof balustrade seems to be the
original fencing from the former front yard.
It became a curiosity. It was even written up in Preservation Magazine, the publication of the National Trust on Historic Preservation. Each issue of this magazine contained an example of outrageous alteration in a monthly column called "Yikes!" So what was left of the Warner house became nationally publicized on the Yikes page of Preservation Magazine . We now sometimes refer to the house as the "Yikes house" and friends always know just what house we're referring to
After the Christian Science people closed their doors the house was sold for private residential ownership. The new owners turned the space, including the intact rooms on the second floor into an unbelievably stunning home with a tiny, secluded garden in the rear; all right in the heart of the city. There are even two remaining working fireplaces left from the old house to give the space a period charm. It is a magical space.
To the throngs of shoppers that pass the front of this building daily there is no hint of the serene, secluded and gracious living space that lies beyond the threshold of that recessed front door. Once inside the hustle and bustle of the city is left behind in the peace and quiet of this special dwelling.
|The old house clings to its brick neighbor.|
These buildings are now in the very heart of the central city. Passersby don't always look up but when they do this fragment of an 18th century house surprises them. What they see is truly one of the curiosities of Gloucester, America's oldest seaport.
|Every inch of space has been developed. This samll store front occupies what|
was once what was left of the tiny front yard of the right hand side of the duplex.
|Attached brick building burns|
|Commercial building now rebuilt after a devastating fire.|
In spite of so much turbulence, two out of the three early Warner houses are miraculously still standing and providing extremely attractive and comfortable shelter to their occupants. They are the ultimate survivors!
Thanks for reading.