Save on Gas and Walk Through History in Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Gifts from Henry Huttleston Rogers
A walking tour in the center of Fairhaven, Massachusetts will provide you with historical facts and an architectural tour with visions of Europe. The town was home to Henry Huttleston Rogers and his wife, Abbie Palmer Gifford Rogers. Together they gave the town: the Rogers Grammar School, the High School, the Town Hall, George H. Taber Masonic Building, Unitarian Memorial Church, Tabithia Inn, (now Our Lady’s Haven) the Millicent Library, and the town’s water and sewer system.
Six of the seven buildings are within walking distance of the Fairhaven Visitors Center.
The visitor’s center is located in Fairhaven center on 43 Center Street. Parking is free and available on most streets. Make the office of tourism your first stop. They are closed on Wednesday and Sunday and open the other days from 8:30 to 4:30. If you have a choice, try to go on Thursday. Chris Richard narrates a 90 minute walking tour called the, ‘Henry Huttleston Rogers Tour.’ He will amuse you with humorous, factual and original tid bits of early Fairhaven. You will visit some of the architectural delights of Fairhaven and the legacy left by Rogers. After your informative walk go back and revisit the following with an eye for details.
Taber Masonic Building
The George H.Taber Masonic Building is on the corner of Main and Center Streets. George Taber was a boyhood mentor and former Sunday school teacher of Mr. Rogers. The building was built in 1901. Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest fraternity. The third floor was the meeting place for the Lodge. Today the first floor is home to the best Yarn and Knitting shop in the area.
Ornate Town Hall
Two blocks east is the town hall. It was built in 1892 and became part of the National Historic Register in 1981. The French Gothic structure was designed by Charles Brigham, a name you will hear often as Rogers’s favorite designer. The interior has huge English oak paneling, solid brass fixtures, leaded and stained glass window. The outside tower has a four faced clock. The broken ashlar granite on the West side is from St. George, New Brunswick. The outside terracotta brick is called Delmonico Brick. The town hall was the second building to use this shade of red.
Directly across the street is the Millicent Library. This amazing building of Italian Renaissance was also designed by Charles Brigham. The outside is ornately decorated with molded terracotta and a slate roof. The large stained glass window, 16 feet high was crafted in London in 1891. The face on Millicent Rogers is seen on the lower center with angel wings. Millie was a sickly, weak young child. She just liked to sit, sketch or read. She often told her father, she wished Fairhaven had a good library. She died in 1890 at the age of seventeen. The library is a lavish tribute to their daughter.
Unitarian Memorial Church
The Unitarian Church with its 185 feet bell tower is a sight to behold. The Gothic cathedral was designed by Charles Brigham. It was dedicated by Rogers to the memory of his mother, Mary Eldredge (Huttleston) Rogers. The granite came from local quarries near FortPhoenix. The limestone came from Indiana. Master craftsmen from Europe created faces to adore every corner and any place one could fit. The faces are said to be likenesses of towns’ people. The bronze doors were inspired by Gilberts’ Doors at the Duomo in Florence, Italy. The sanctuary windows represent the Beatitudes and the 12 apostles are depicted along the aisles. Tours are held during summer months of July and August. They are scheduled on Thursday from 2 to 4. The tours are free and donations always accepted. Another good reason to plan your tour on a Thursday.
The Tabitha Inn is an Elizabethan style hotel. It was designed like the inn of Shakespeare’s England. It is shaped like the letter U. This was not to be a gift from Rogers. It was a place to accommodate visiting friends. The towns’ people called the hotel the Fairhaven Inn, because they did not know what Rogers was going to call it. On a shield over the entrance to the building, the initials T I were carved. The people again guessed, Town Inn, Turn Inn or Taber Inn. Finally Rogers explained the hotel would be named for his maternal great grandmother, Tabithia (Crowell) Huttleston. In 1929 the inn was sold to Barney Zeitz and operated as a hotel until WWII. Then it housed the Coast Guard Cadets. In 1946 the building was purchased by the Fall River Diocese of the Catholic Church and used as a nursing home. The name was changed to Our Lady’s Haven.
Rogers First Gift
The Rogers Grammar school built in 1885 is made of terracotta bricks. It was designed by Warren R. Briggs. There is a huge auditorium on the third floor. The original building had living quarters for the custodian. Five years after the school was built, the bricks began to discolor. Rogers had them all removed and replaced. The school did not have electricity. In 1890 it was wired with lights. The grammar school was the first gift given to the town.
Castle on the Hill
Once back in your car, drive North to Huttleston Avenue. Cross the four lane highway and find another free parking space to visit the High School. The Elizabethan influence is seen in Charles Brigham design of the ornate building. The inside has marble floors, oak paneling, stained glass windows, carved wooden gargoyles and beamed ceilings. The original gym was octagonal shape which housed the first indoor basketball court in an American High School.
Fairhaven has much more to offer. The visitor center has a brochure titled, “Fairhaven, Massachusetts Places to Visit.” This brochure has a map and brief description of several other places you should visit. Most are free and well worth the trip. See you there.