Thursday Doors – Braintree Part-II

French House
French House Door

When I swung through Braintree, MA last week, I was hoping to find at least one historic door to share. I wasn’t expecting to land smack-dab in the middle of the historic district and I wasn’t expecting to get sucked into the history of one very interesting man. General Sylvanus Thayer played an enduring role in the history of Braintree, MA. Valedictorian of his graduating class at both Dartmouth College and the US Military Academy at West Point, General Thayer served as superintendent of West Point and remained committed to education, even after his death.

Last week I featured the house in which General Thayer was born. It’s not the oldest house in Braintree, but as we will see today, it might be the oldest house that kinda-sorta looks the way it did when he was alive. To help put this all in perspective, and to satiate my need to draw a diagram, I thought it might be helpful to include a map of where I was.

My Tour of the Historic District
My Tour of the Historic District

Last week began at the little smudge that represents my car. As you can see, I didn’t have to go far. Today, we’ll pick up on the corner opposite where I was parked, at the Asa French House.

Asa French was the Braintree Town Clerk as well as the Treasurer in the early 1800s. The original house was built by Thomas French in 1699. Much of the house was rebuilt in 1820. The house served as the Town’s first post office in 1825, during the time that Asa French lived in it. The French family owned the house until the 1970s. According to the Historic Commission:

Little of the original structure of the house, besides the chimney, still stands. The house was donated to Thayer Academy in 1976 and then in 1999 the Academy turned it over to the Braintree Historical Society.”

I walked behind the French House to get a better view of the Carriage House. Little did I know that I would find Braintree’s Central Firehouse. The firehouse was built in 1931 as the town began to modernize its firefighting operation. The firehouse is still operational. The bell from an earlier firehouse on Hollis Ave is now mounted in front of the Central Fire Station. The bell serves as a memorial to all Braintree firefighters.

Diagonally across the intersection from the French House is Thayer Academy. General Thayer established this school in his will, in 1871. The Main Building was completed in 1877 and they began teaching a class of about 30 students in 1877. One of the students was the son of Asa French. Today there are almost 700 students in middle and high school grades. One item that I found interesting was that General Thayer included a provision in his will allowing Thayer Academy to operate as a coed institution from its inception.

The buildings featured in the gallery include: The Main Building, which houses the administrative offices, language labs and a few classrooms; Glover Hall, which is the math and science building and Frothingham Hall for music and visual arts.

This post is part of Norm Framton’s fun Thursday Doors series. If you want to participate in Thursday Doors, hop on over to Norm’s page and click that Linky thing – after looking at Norm’s doors, of course.

66 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Braintree Part-II

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    1. Thanks Teagan. A crew was working on a similar doorway at the other end of the building. I imagine it takes a lot of work to keep these doors and windows in good shape. Give it whatever fancy name you want, it’s still a high school and, at that age, kids aren’t known for being careful.

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    1. Thanks! The rest of the town looked like any other New England suburb, but I was glad to see the attention to history in this section. These are the things most people up here take for granted, only paying attention when there’s an infusion of funds required to keep the buildings standing.

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  1. A great piece of history and I am completely in love with the main building entrance. Sometimes I think I was born a bit too late, I should’ve been here in 1600s and 1700s and 1800s when all these great structures were being built around. I would have loved to see them being constructed right in front of my eyes, unfortunately, today I only get to see giant glass-monsters (skyscrapers) springing up like a wall that blocks the view of the sky. I know you love the modern style buildings as well, but I am madly in love with old buildings, antique cars, and everything that’s at least a century old.

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    1. Thanks Sharukh. I love these old buildings too. The Main Building did have a problem. The center tower was in danger of collapsing at one point. I think I read that they tore it down and rebuilt it, but that it’s 5″ shorter than the original tower.

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    1. Thanks. HE did seem to be ahead of the curve. I think the actual language said it could be coed if the trustees decided it was appropriate, and I guess they did, right from the start.

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  2. The door to Frothingham Hall could easily be mistaken for the entry to a church and I agree about the door to Glover Hall. The door itself is cool, but also love the pane glass above it. That’s a unique set of buildings, Dan, thanks for sharing them and for another history lesson.

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  3. I’m throwing in another vote for Glover Hall. You hit the motherlode on this visit to Braintree.
    I was particularly taken with the comment that General Thayer made provision in his will for the Academy to be coed. That was very forward thinking for the time!

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    1. Thanks! We seem to be in broad agreement about Glover Hall. He definitely was ahead of the curve on coed education. It’s also impressive when you consider all that he donated to the town, for educational purposes/

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  4. I can see why you wanted to post more pics from Braintree, Dan. Quite a collection, I must say. All that brickwork is really appealing. Hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll go with the Frothingham Hall entrance. And we even got one of your patented diagrams! I guess videos are next, huh? Give the people a real you-are-there experience …

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    1. Thanks Paul. If I don’t draw a diagram every few weeks, I get antsy. I don’t know about video, I need to sharpen those skills. Most of the videos I have are of Maddie. I could give you the experience of walking an Irish Setter, but you might be OK just imagining that :)

      Although, Rod Serling had a couple Irish Setters, so I’m in good company.

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  5. What a great bunch of buildings! I love that brick-and-stonework, but the shingled buildings are very appealing, too. I suppose the bulk of the town is filled with just regular buildings? I’d love to spend a week boarding in the Historic District!

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    1. Thanks Marian, and thanks for the tweet. I think there’s one more district with some historic buildings in Braintree, but this was the motherload. Visit Boston. There are tons of historic buildings there, and this historic district is a couple of minute walk from the T stop, so you can hit that for a couple bucks and (guessing) 35 minute ride.

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  6. The French House and the Carriage House are just wonderful, Dan! Once again, that’s the kind of buildings I’d expect/want to find in Braintree. I love that old brick red paint, and the fact that it’s peeling. And I always like to see window trim accent painted too. I would absolutely hate to ever see them slap some vinyl over this place. And the Frothingham Hall doors are very impressive. But I wish they had mimicked the doorway arch with little arched windows instead of those plain rectangular ones. Really would have set them off nicely!

    All in all, these are some of my favourite pics you’ve featured. So glad you could make a stop in this historical little town, Dan!

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    1. I am so glad you enjoyed this little series Wendy. I got very lucky on this stop. I wasn’t going to include Frothingham Hall, until I realized it was for Visual Arts. Then, when I walked around the side, I saw that door. The front of the building has had a modern glass gallery building added onto it and it isn’t all that impressive.

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    1. Thanks Kate. I wasn’t very interested in the history they taught us in school. It seemed like an endless list of “important” dates and names, and you lost points if you misspelled “Thayer” or some such stuff. I love knowing how the people, places and events of the past are connected and, of course, I love seeing buildings that were built without the aid of a CAD system and a computer, let alone modern tools. My brother was a history teacher, and talking to him, I began to gain a real appreciation for the past, particularly in this country. He would explain why you should know something, not just the bullet points of the past.

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      1. I loved social studies, but hated history, because I am terrible with dates and numbers memorized. I didn’t even begin to like it until a couple of college courses. Then I learned to love the stories…. When I can ground it in place and form, it has much more meaning for me.

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  7. I like all the doors and the details you shared about them. I enjoyed looking and studying the French House doors. I really like the faded look to the wood on this house, with the age allowed to be displayed. I also felt it was a unique color for them to have chosen. Sometimes French means a light blue door with white or cream house. Just seems that the ones who choose this are looking at only French Provincial coloring not overall like this one, seems to be Country French in origin. I am sounding like I know a little only because of how I have drawn homes, I get asked to do various styles but not always do I really know a lot of the background, Dan. :)

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    1. Thanks Robin. I was torn between the old wooden houses in this area and the massive old stone buildings. I’m glad people seem to like them all. It was a fun little walk and well worth the the detour.

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      1. It was a truly wonderful place to visit and a “gold mine” of doors! I usually like the stone ones, since they give the majestic and have details in the stonework, but this French door was my favorite today. Take care and Happy Memorial Day weekend, soon! :)

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