From the King’s Broad Arrow to a restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Eastern White Pine trees have long been utilized for ship masts and bowsprits, and now a sculptor has created a fine modern-day example of the latter.
Architect Steve McHenry recently completed “Sandy Debris,” a masthead depicting a woman with her hand over her heart, for the exterior brick wall of Martingale Wharf restaurant at 99 Bow St. Weighing 500 pounds, the 9-foot figurehead is a tribute to the building’s namesake, an 1800s sailing ship that was blown into the building during a storm, according to local lore.
“We duplicated the history with the maiden, like what would have been on the ship,” says business owner Mark McNabb, who commissioned the sculpture.
The masthead isn’t an official project of Steve McHenry’s architecture firm. It’s a passion project he worked on in his spare time. In the 1970s, he made his living as a wood carver, and now those skills have come in handy. McHenry glued together 2-inch-thick white pine boards to create a large block of wood, and improvised carving tools from what he had on hand. It took him about a year to finish the sculpture, which gets its nickname from all the sanding required in the process.
The bowsprit represents a fun callback to one of the most famous stories in Eastern White Pine history. Tallest of the pine species in North America, Eastern White Pine was especially prized for shipmaking because it’s light, strong, decay-resistant and abundant. “Masting” became New England’s first major industry and Eastern White Pine was in high demand, especially by Great Britain.
Read more about The King’s Broad Arrow and Eastern White Pine
You can see more photos of the sculpture at SeaCoastOnline.com.
As the style of New England Colonial architecture continued to evolve into the eighteenth century, certain settlements made their own modifications, developing variations that are particular to those locations. These shifts in things like materials, window style, roof pitch and overall proportions might be influenced by the local economy, climate or contact with people from other parts of Europe. In Massachusetts, the classic and unpretentious farmhouse outgrew its English Gothic origins and became a vernacular of its own.
Written in April 1916, Volume II, Issue II of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs takes a look at how this particular region adapted its farmhouses through the latter part of the 1700s. For example, the authors note that although builders broke from Gothic tradition to pitch roofs at a more Georgian proportion, it wasn’t really a stylistic choice. They needed to ensure that coastal rain was properly deflected from the sides of the houses, and make use of the shortest and smallest rafters they could get away with.
Being purists primarily interested in the least compromised forms of Colonial architecture, the Monograph authors typically turned their noses up at any Greek influence, but here acknowledge that the first blending of Greek revival style with English architectural traditions “produced such beautiful and dignified results.”
This issue explains how factors like growing prosperity caused changes over time, like rapid expansions that led to houses growing until they “ran slam into the big barn itself.” Check it out for lots more details and over a dozen beautiful black-and-white images of historic structures, including some that still stand today.
Setting a standard for farmhouse architecture in New England to this day, these early dwellings of Massachusetts bearing simple pitched roofs, economical lines and pleasingly uncomplicated proportions were ideal for the working Colonial classes. Though they became less popular by the end of the 18th century as communities grew more prosperous and landowners’ houses decidedly more grand, these unpretentious homes remain a distinctive part of the region’s architectural history.
This issue of the historic White Pine Architectural Monographs traces these early farmhouses from their humble beginnings, as they began to expand and grow more complex in later years. This often included additions, with the houses rapidly changing and growing new service wings “until it often ran slam into the big barn itself.”
“This was the almost invariable method on the farm, where land was plenty and the living requirements of the family itself changed but little from generation to generation… in the Colonial village or town, however, so simple an ‘addition’ met neither the needs nor conditions that were most likely to exist.”
See how these distinct approaches to adapting architecture for new needs over time varied at the White Pine Monograph Library.
The versatility of white pine lends itself to all sorts of architectural applications, from crisp modern beach houses and complex ceiling designs in gymnasiums to its more traditional uses in rural New England-style farmhouses and barns. Here are some examples of the latter via Keystone Barns, a Pennsylvania company specializing in custom barns with beautifully finished interiors.
Many of these barns are built using Eastern White Pine, including gorgeous tongue-and-groove boards that give each structure a warmth and comforting sense of simplicity. Some are left unfinished for a more rustic look, while others are just as lovingly crafted as full-scale houses.
And if you love the look of barns so much you’d like to claim a livable version as your own abode, Keystone also builds homes with barn-inspired aesthetics. Options include car garages, lofts, apartments and lean-tos as well as barns and sheds designed specifically for livestock purposes. See more at KeystoneBarns.com.
Continuing the centuries-long tradition of classical New England craftsmanship, Massachusetts furniture maker Bostonwood offers unfinished real wood furniture products made of Eastern White Pine. All of the furniture is built locally, with the workshop located just a few miles from the retail stores, and use sustainable materials grown in the region.
“Being an environmentally aware company we proudly produce our products using eastern white pine which is harvested from sustainable sources in New England,” says the company. “Each of our suppliers is a member of the Forest Stewardship Council, an International non-profit group that supports responsible forestry management. This means you can rest assured that the piece your are purchasing is not the result of irresponsible clear cutting forestry such as many of the import hardwoods in use.”
Bostonwood even donates the sawdust created by its tools during the furniture making process to local farms for bedding. They also recycle the small pieces of wood cut off from the ends of large boards for things like step stools and small drawers, or give them to local elementary schools for craft-making.
Stotham, Massachusetts is celebrated as an “unspoiled New England Village” in this 1920 issue of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs. It’s a decidedly humble village, but a longstanding tradition of restrained, conservative building that’s particularly characteristic of the region has been followed for centuries and can still be spotted there today.
“The terms typical and unspoiled are used advisedly, as a reference to the illustrations will show,” writes author Hubert G. Ripley. “There are, possibly, no especially striking or far-framed structures, no wealth of fine carving or ornamental detail, no grand estates or mansion houses, yet from its early simplicity, and quality of chaste primness, the village has slowly developed, until, as it now stands, a characteristic chapter of New England endeavor lies spread out on the gently undulating plain, lapped by the salt waters of the inland cove on one side and stretching out by the fertile meadows of the river on the other.”
As they usually do, this issue of the Monographs goes deep into the history of the town, starting with its earliest founders, explaining how the architecture came to be built and passed from one generation to the next. One particularly notable anecdote refers to the Rogers Mansion, better known under its local title as the “Haunted House,” or the “House of Buried Treasure.”
Read more at the White Pine Monograph Library.