Almost unnoticed on Attleboro’s main streets, in the neighborhoods of Dean, Peck, and Bank streets, there are more than 70 homes of historic and structural significance, as nearly two dozen guests discovered during the Attleboro Historic Preservation Society’s Saturday morning walking tour.
Even before the tour began, guests were perusing the association’s brochures detailing the addresses of 75 homes and their respective architectural styles, while many were surprised by the listing of the number of homes that drivers traveling on the main street could not see at a glance. roads.
A simple statement from a guest named Diane Garvey of Attleboro seemed to sum up the consensus of the rest of the attendees: “I never knew these places existed.”
They were described as “non-walking neighborhoods” by volunteer Rachel Killion, who led one tour group, while fellow volunteer Jerry Turcotte served as tour guide with another group.
In the 1870s and early 20th century, when the city’s industrial power was in high gear, the means of commuting or getting around the city consisted of horse-drawn carriages and one’s own feet.
The “walkability” of downtown Attleboro still exists today, Killion told the tour group.
Carrying a large folder with detailed descriptions of each house, including several old paintings showing the original structures from when Attleboro still had dirt roads, Killion drew attention to the architectural style of each house and the intricate features therein.
The Greek Revival period from 1825 to 1860 featured front Greek columns, as can be seen in the East Attleborough Academy building. The Italian period from 1840 to 1885 can be described by longer eaves turns – these are distinctively symmetrical roofline brackets.
Additionally, the Victorian era from 1860 to 1910 has three distinct divisions: Second Empire, Queen Anne, and People’s Victorian.
An example of Queen Anne style is 54 Bank St. Built in 1905, it is also known as the Edward L. Gowen House.
The number of historically and architecturally significant houses on Dean Street alone stunned the tour group.
“I never realized that this street has so much history!” cried Diane Garvey.
What could really be seen from the sidewalk, or slowed down while driving, were smaller structures like 57A and B Dean Street that were converted into apartments.
Originally these were carriage houses for wealthy residents with their own horses – “Basically a city barn,” Killion told the group.
Another example of this was the “Hobby Cabin” on Bank Street and the adjoining house partially obscured by a large tree.
Many of the stately homes belonged to prominent Attleboro families of the era, such as Bliss, Hayward, and Sweet.
While many of the houses on the tour were renovated, some still retained their original features, such as the sills on the skylights and the pillars over the front door.
Killion cited a house on Peck Street as an example.
“One of the great things is that the homeowners[during the renovation]found and restored the original detail of the bay window,” Killion said.
As the group made their way back to East Attleborough Academy, the oldest building on the walking tour, built in 1842, many of the attendees were surprised to find themselves on Foster Street, looking directly into Kirk Yard. Behind the Second Congregational Church.
Here, Killion pointed out a dilapidated switch tower that was clearly visible inside the cemetery, telling the tour group that the community was “desperately” trying to save the tower, even though it wasn’t in a location conducive to visits. from the train tracks.
At the moment, the future of the keytower is uncertain because, as Killion explained to the tour group, the city, Amtrack, and MBTA “couldn’t get on the same page.”
“It’s one of the last of its kind, but in a dangerous place,” Killion said.
When the tour ended at the Academy, the band members praised the historic presentation.
The “sleeping porches” of some homes were ideal in the summer before air conditioners came into existence.
Diane Garvey described the tour as “a complete revelation” of beauty and knowledge.
“(My husband and I) have been living here…how many years? And we were not aware of the beauty and the architecture,” he said.
Proceeds from tour tickets benefit the ongoing restoration of East Attleborough Academy.