By Steven Chan
When it comes to premier real estate on the SouthCoast, Fairhaven is often overlooked. With centuries of historical provenance, it could be considered one of the epicenters of the country’s founding.
Fairhaven was one of the earliest settlements carved out of the massive landscape formally known as Dartmouth, which was purchased from the Wampanoag Tribe by the English.
In 1659, explorers began homesteads in an area known as Cushnea, located at the entrance of the Acushnet River which spills into Buzzards Bay.
Its position (directly across from New Bedford with a shared harbor) allowed it to become part of a vibrant center of trade and commerce.
With substantial activity taking place in the colonies followed by lucrative returns on investments, the British soon realized the area was a flashpoint for putting down the resistance and discovered it was time to stake a claim in the community’s riches.
Fairhaven was the site of the first battle to take place from the sea at the onset of the American Revolution; it was at Fort Phoenix—on May 14, 1775—where the first cannonball was hurled to the shore in a declaration of war.
In 1778, nearly 4,000 British troops burned and pillaged neighboring New Bedford, only to later march on Fairhaven. While the organized columns of soldiers made it to various locations within the town, the English army was repelled when Major Israel Fearing (who arrived from Wareham with his brave militia) pushed the fighters back to the sea and salvaged Fairhaven Village.
Whaling followed as a primary wealth-builder for inhabitants along the shore; it was an economic powerhouse for approximately 200 years. In fact, Fairhaven was the second largest whaling port in the country, and it was from there that author Herman Melville, who wrote Moby-Dick, left port on the ship Acushnet in 1841.
The location of this month’s featured home is only steps away from where many of the shipwrights, chandlers, coopers, and sailmakers, worked and built ships for year-long journeys around the globe.
86 Fort Street is also a stone’s throw from the center of town where one of its most notable residents settled. Henry Huttleston Rogers, who had a central role in the behemoth energy company Standard Oil, and founder of the Virginian Railway, created and contributed the wealth required to build many, if not all, of the most elaborate and visually strikingly buildings found in this coastal town.
From churches to schools, even modern water and sewer systems, Fairhaven was many years in advance of towns similar in size and location, due to the generosity and forward thinking of the Rogers family.
With progress came celebrity. Many notable figures of the period would visit the Rogers family while they enjoyed Fairhaven, including Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), Booker T. Washington, and Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan.
Today the Fort Street area is quiet and peaceful. It’s a walking community and one that is neighborly.
The Victorian, multi-level home sits proudly on a parcel which extends from the street to the water. It is protected by the storm gates and dike at the entrance to the harbor so that it isn’t in a flood zone, and
the views from the property are dramatic.
The exterior details are what would be found in a home of the period (1879), but the condition is excellent. From an aerial photo, the near floor-to-ceiling window and two bump-out features on the south side of the dwelling, complemented by lush plantings around the perimeter, allow the home to radiate a sense of pride and value.
Carefully maintained to hold its original flavor, work completed has been limited to keeping with the architectural values of the structure. Naturally, the kitchen has been updated with modern appliances, including a five-burner gas range.
At the front entrance, according to the owner, “five layers of heavy Victorian wallpaper were removed, and painted walls—resembling paneled moldings—were found.” With this discovery, a decision was made to replicate the design and replace them with authentic wood which matched the original newel post on the stairway going to the second floor.
The home’s solid and durable parquet and traditional wood flooring complement the high ceilings and intricate moldings on the main level and instill a feeling of importance.
Other work accomplished by the owner was moving the center-of-the-room fireplace (in the formal living room) to the north wall. In doing this, the expansion allows the space to be separated into two distinct areas for relaxing or entertaining, adding to its elegance.
Adjacent to this room is the sophisticated yet comfortable dining room with easy access to the kitchen. It’s noticeable that the remolding design and concept are professionally composed—as it should be, since the owner is a noted interior designer with exceptional skill and taste.
Two features found in this home, but often missing from newer properties, are a reception room at the front of the house and a sunroom off the kitchen.
The parlor or salon could be used for a variety of options—perhaps a home office or library. It can be closed off with a door at its entrance, or with a traditional pocket-door that separates it from the formal living space.
Off the kitchen is a glorious sunroom which runs along the side of the house. Enclosed in glass and exposed to water views, Sunday breakfast and three or four newspapers will turn into an all-day affair of peace and enjoyment.
The second floor where the sleeping chambers and office space are found is cozy and inviting. With too much to list, it will require those with interest to view the entire house in person.
The maintenance for this property is minimal, and the hidden, two-and-one-half-space garage makes it self-contained for today’s lifestyle.
This prized home is a must-see for those looking for character and comfort. Listed at $699,000, 86 Fort Street is a just reward after a day of work when you slip off your shoes, pour a beverage, and become part of the legacy of Fairhaven.
The unique property is listed by Timothy Evans of Howe Allen Realty. For additional information or to schedule a viewing of this property, call Tim at 617-416-5436 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up for a free digital subscription to SOCO magazine. Click on the cover below.