Architecture and Preservation

Photo credit Michael Malyszko

Photo credit Michael Malyszko

The Sargent House was built as a small yet visually impressive mansion; it continues to delight visitors today.The exterior displays classic Georgian symmetry–a porticoed entry flanked by stately windows, contained by heavy pilasters at the building’s corners. The exterior also features a double-hipped roof, a modillioned cornice, and wooden quoins. The interior has long been noted for its remarkable paneling and decorative woodwork.

Photo credit Michael Malyszko

Photo credit Michael Malyszko

Foremost is the central entrance hall with its magnificent stairway supporting an undercut spiral newel post, two types of spiral balusters, and a dramatic arched window at the landing.

The carved cornice found in the entrance hall is repeated in the parlor. Conceived of as the showcase of the family, the parlor is dominated by an elaborate fireplace with a broken-pedimented mantel and overmantel and a double level of columns. Arched recesses are found on either side of the fireplace and the paneled dado is complimented by original pocket-shutters on the windows overlooking the front yard.

Photo credit Michael Malyszko

The dining room of the house exhibits blue and white French wallpaper given by portraitist John Singer Sargent in the early 1920s.

In 2002, The Sargent House Museum completed a restoration of the roof of its 1782 building. The project was made possible by a generous grant from the Preservation Projects Fund of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and by the support of individuals and businesses who contributed to the museum’s Restoration Fund in recent years.  The work included the restoration of two chimneys and the installation of a new wood shingle roof.  It was overseen by preservation consultants Finch & Rose of Beverly, Massachusetts.

Currently the Museum is undergoing  another major restoration aimed at stabilizing the building and preserving the exterior. In fall, 2010, the exterior will be repaired and repainted and structural piers in the basement will be rehabilitated.  Drainage issues will be addressed and humidity and temperature controls will ensure the preservation of the collection.

“This work will ensure that the building is “tight and dry,” the first step in the long-term preservation of any historic building.”

Work done on the Sargent House provides the public with a real example of preservation standards in practice. Adherence to these preservation principles ensures that the Sargent House will remain an important icon in Gloucester’s cultural and maritime history.

Support for this extensive project is provided by the Cultural Facilities Fund of the Massachusetts Cultural Fund, the Tower Family Funds , the Dusky Foundation and hundreds of individuals who treasure this house and its connections to Gloucester.