Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Captain John Potter House, Storrowton Village, West Springfield, Massachusetts

I consider myself pretty handy. I know how to turn a wrench (lefty loosey - righty tighty). I can hang a picture almost straight. One time I ran a fence that stayed up for awhile. But people like Captain John Potter amaze me. We all know one: That person who can do everything. Like they were born with a comprehensive 'how to' manual seared into their brain. Sheetrock, small motor repair, obscure plant identification, gourmet cooking...they got it all up there (tapping temple for emphasis).

John Potter of North Brookfield was such a person. Clockmaker, carpenter, cooper and cabinet-maker. Silversmith, soldier and surveyor. Blacksmith and farmer and prolific pro-creator, father of fifteen. John Potter was an 18th century renaissance man. Born September 12, 1746, in the northeastern Massachusetts town of Ipswich (which, in an interesting aside, was known as "Agawam" to the local native Americans way back when), John Potter was married twice and died once, on October 20, 1818, in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, where he lies at rest today.

And 'tis a well deserved rest, indeed.

Around 1775, John Potter began building, intent on expanding his current living quarters. Every nail and newel, pilaster and panel used in the construction were wrought from John's hands and intelligence. The house on the corner of South Main and Ward Streets, in the middle of the little village of Brookfield's 'North Precinct' (incorporated as North Brookfield in 1812), grew into a work of art as John followed his vision and created a masterpiece. A true patriot, John's labor of love was for a time interrupted by the calling of the American Revolution, during which he suffered the miseries recorded well at Valley Forge.

Nearly two centuries after his passing, Captain John Potter's craftsmanship lives on, the house he so meticulously wrapped around his expansive family like a warm blanket or hug from a father's arms, moved in 1929 to Storrowton Village on the Exposition grounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts, as benefactor Helen O. Storrow followed her own dream of replicating a quaint New England village for the education and entertainment of folks from far and near. To this day, Storrowton succeeds in that mission.

Here are some photos of the Captain John Potter House, taken in 1983 as part of the federally-sponsored Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and found on the website of the Library of Congress. Better yet, take a peek in when you visit the Eastern States Exposition, which began September 12 and runs through the 28th.

Captions are from the HABS.


Exterior, General View, West Side.


Exterior, South Elevation.


Exterior, Detail of Central Portico, Southwest Entrance.


Exterior, Detail of Windows, Southwest Elevation.


Exterior, Detail of Pilaster Capital Carving, Northwest Porch.


Exterior, Detail of Plaster and Cornice.


Exterior, Detail of Entrance Porch, Northwest Side of House.


Interior, West End Room on First Floor, Detail of Fireplace and Paneling.


Interior, Ballroom from West Corner.


Detail, Fireplace, Paneling and Frieze.


Interior, Dining Hall, View in West Middle Room, First Floor, Fireplace and Cupboard.


To learn more about Storrowton, the Potter House and the Eastern States Exposition (the Big E), visit thebige.com, the website that has it all. A previous post here on EWM, 'Photos: The Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, Mass., September 1936,' might be worth taking a look at, as well.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Photo 1: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-5
Photo 2: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-1
Photo 3: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-2
Photo 4: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-4
Photo 5: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-6
Photo 6: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-7
Photo 7: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-8
Phot0 8: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-9
Photo 9: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-10
Photo 10: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-12
Photo 11: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-13
Photo 12: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Digital ID: HABS MASS, 7-SPRIFW, 3-11




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4 comments:

NBMelissa said...

Hello, I currently live on the land Captain Potter had his house. Do you have any pictures of him? Please reply to me in an email.. just_here2009@yahoo.com.
I can verify I live here and I have my reasons for asking for his picture. Please get back to me ASAP.
Thank you,
Melissa

Mark T. Alamed said...

Hi Melissa,

I'm afraid I don't have any images of Potter. Perhaps if you searched a genealogy site, you might find descendants of his with more information. Good luck!

Mark

Anonymous said...

I saw his picture in the book 'Springfield Present and Prospective' pub. 1905

Mark T. Alamed said...

The portrait in 'Springfield Present and Prospective' is of Dr. A. K. Potter, a Springfield Baptist minister from the late 1800s era. But thanks for the suggestion!