Rufus Sargent was in residence at 8 Harris Street in 1884. (Then it had a 4-1/2 Harris Street address) Though Rufus Sargent had an office here and also lived here, it is not confirmed that he actually built the house which was constructed in 1880. More than likely since the High Victorian Italianate style incorporated into the buildingis quite unique.
For example, there is a slight twist in which more accent is made toward a Romano-Tuscan mode of the Renaissance Revival with heavy lintels over the long villa-style windows. In contrast, the building lacks the detail and form that would be characteristic of a full-blown Italianate Victorian style.
A carpenter turned architect and engineer, Rufus Sargent was the seventh generation descended from original settler William Sargent. Born in Amesbury, he eventually made Newburyport his home and designed a number of houses and civic buildings, as well as in the neighboring towns of Peabody, North Andover, Salem, and Methuen. His first work was the Unitarian Universalist church in Newburyport, and his career in architecture lasted nearly half a century, through the town’s pre-Civil War building boom and beyond. He designed the Peabody Library’s Eben Dale Sutton reading rooms and the Peabody Town Hall, both of which are now Registered Historic Places, as well as St. Anna’s Chapel and the State Street bank in Newburyport. He designed the O’Brien Building for the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and it was their main bank building until they moved across the street to their present location.
He is known to have designed commercial and residential buildings in Peabody, Methuen, North Andover and Salem, Massachusetts as well as in Exeter, New Hampshire. His work included residences, public buildings and commercial structures.
In l87l, Sargent was responsible for the design of the Institution for Savings Bank at 93 State street and the following year designed the Kelley School. Outside of Newburyport, Sargent’s other known business block designs include the Merrill Block in Exeter, New Hampshire. Completed in 1874, the Merrill Block is Italianate in style although it shares certain similarities with the Five Cents Bank building including various window treatments, a wide façade with a horizontal massing and granite trimmings.
Though he was much desired as an architect in his day, his status as an acclaimed professional in his field did not come about until the last two decades of the twentieth century. His commercial and residential designs have recently been acclaimed for revealing a very sophisticated pallet.
It is obvious that his contribution to Newburyport has been in the shaping of the downtown. His masterpiece on Pleasant Street is one of the most photographed in New England. He has certainly made his architecture identifiable with Newburyport.
Dying in 1886, his building was passed on to various owners until 1925 when Harold A Eldredge, a bond salesman in Boston, purchased it.
Almost in keeping with the original intent of the architect, the house still has two apartments and offices on the first floor.
A Joseph Mannix purchased the building in 1975 and in 2005, Joyce Abugov has obtained it for $740,000.
1872 – Map of the City of Newburyport, D.G. Beers & Co.
1884 – Atlas of Essex County, D. G. Beers & Co.
Assessor’s Records, City of Newburyport
1884, 1924 City Directories.
Woodman, Betsy H. Newburyport‘s Rufus Sargent: an architect rediscovered. Newburyport, 1987.