As you pull off the Gillis Bridge, your eye can’t help to catch the corner of this impressive house. Federal yes, but with a stylish flair that is striking. I can only attach that design accent to a very prominent owner of the house.
It wasn’t William Bartlet who built the house for his son in 1804. His lovely and stately mansion on Federal Street reflected a wealthy and well-heeled merchant. His son, on the other hand, became very well-connected in his own hometown. Born in 1775, Edmund Bartlet was very concerned about the well-being of Newburyport. His concern was not to the sea but to the exciting and dynamic world of the industrial revolution. He focused on producing woolen yarn and cotton batting. If you have ever toured the Lowell National Park and walked into their still-functioning belt-driving weaving machines – the factory noise was deafening and the working conditions awful.
Let’s face it; the face of the industrial revolution was an ugly one. I think it was this cause of visual poison that he focused earnestly in converting the mall at the top of Green Street into a beautiful park that we see today. At the time, the frog pond was being used to water cattle and a long rope-making building laid parallel to High Street. Stockyards full of cattle could be seen along Pond Street.
Just as the City Beautiful Movement fueled parks across America, I could see Colonel Bartlet was motivated to provide a place of refreshment for the citizens after a hard day in the Mills. He invested his own money and did what he could to create the lovely place we call today, Bartlet Mall. He indeed fashioned it with a long line of elm trees and fashioned it after the Pall Mall in London, hence the pronunciation, Maal.
You can see his classy sense of style in the house. The doorway is a combination of the classic semi-circular fanlight over the door and flanked by pilasters. But it’s the 5-bay front that’s makes this house so beautiful. Instead of just window lintels and stone belt courses, everything is splayed out with a fancy keystone motif. The cornice is done in a “beehive” molding which is well-preserved.
Edmund died on May 9th, 1854 and it passed into the hands of Mrs. Hannah B. Atkinson and was in the prominent Atkinson family (notice the park theme of Atkinson’s Common) until 1923 when it was sold to Harriet Lunt. It had a short quarter century spate as the Moose Lodge (Lodge 1601) from 1925 to 1962 when they sold the house and moved to a location on Route One.
Somewhere in the 70’s it was turned to a four-apartment rental facility but one tribute has to be made to the past and present owners of the building. When this home was in its glory, it had two beautiful trees in its front and due to the terrible tree blights of the twentieth-century, they were lost.