The Hand of the Small-Town Builder

A pre-development Ocean Point cottage remodelled with Gothic features in the cottage building boom. Photo courtesy of Tad Pfeffer.

A pre-development Ocean Point cottage remodelled with Gothic features in the cottage building boom. Photo courtesy of Tad Pfeffer.

Photographer and summer house researcher, Tad Pfeffer, will give a talk and slide show at the museum on August 27 at 4 p.m. on his newly-published book, The Hand of the Small-Town Builder. The book deals with northern New England summer houses designed and built by local builders between 1870 and 1935, rather than by “name” architects following cultivated architectural styles. Three of the localities he photographed for the book between 2002 and 2005 were Ocean Point, East Boothbay, and Squirrel Island, which will be featured in the presentation. Sections of the book are also devoted to other summer colonies in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

As publisher David R. Godine wrote in a passage describing the book, “Middle-class families could afford to build homes, and since their budgets precluded “name” architects, the need was answered by native builders, talented craftsmen familiar with the local resources who could draw the basic lines, muster and supervise a building crew, and meet the needs of clients. These weren’t the fancy summer “cottages” of Newport or Bar Harbor, but simple structures erected on modest budgets for comfortable summer living. Many were, and still appear, very beautiful, and the best examples are shown in this striking survey of houses built by self-taught architects whose work survives as testaments to their skill.”

This 1897 Ocean Point cottage was built in the Queen Anne style and survived unchanged until it was torn down in 2007. Photo courtesy of Tad Pfeffer

This 1897 Ocean Point cottage was built in the Queen Anne style and survived unchanged until it was torn down in 2007.
Photo courtesy of Tad Pfeffer

Tad Pfeffer is a geophysicist, teacher, and photographer at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a Fellow of the University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. He has photographed architecture and landscapes in New England, Colorado, Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, and Arctic Canada, often focusing on the historical imprint of people through architecture and alterations of the landscape. His photographs have been exhibited and published throughout the world.

Those attending will be able to purchase books for $40 each. The 200-page hardcover book has an average of two beautifully shot and reproduced photos per page, the majority in color. Tad also spoke at the museum in 2005 while working on the Boothbay section of the book.

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