Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Kragsyde: The original

This isn’t Architecture Wednesday—that comes later today and is a completely different house than this—but this house is, without a doubt, my favorite house. Ever. One that existed, then it didn’t, and then it was resurrected.

This is Kragsyde, built on Smith's Point at Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts in 1883 and demolished in 1929. It was commissioned by George Nixon Black, Jr. and built by Peabody and Stearns, and is generally regarded as the zenith of "Shingle Style," a subtype of American Queen Anne architecture. Rambling, haunting and evocative, the beautiful house set high on a dramatic headland was famous in its day and was published several times both in Europe and America. Nixon and his family occupied the house every summer from May until October to the end of their lives.

Kragsyde's footprint followed that of broad "V", with the massiveness of Kragsyde hidden, its broadest facades facing the ocean. Peabody and Sterns did this to not only allow for the view, but also to capture the cool sea breezes within the house.

Service rooms, and the kitchen, were located on the ground floor; the main floor contained the parlors for entertaining and the dining room. Adjacent to the dining room was a service pantry and stairs to the kitchen; food was raised to the pantry via a dumbwaiter system. Leading from the parlor and dining room were broad porches and decks. Separating the service court from the front of the structure was a wing dominated by a massive arch. Within the arch was an entrance into the house on one side, and access to a billiard room on the other. A single room, with windows on three sides was situated above the arch along with a private loggia. Stairs from the loggia led down to the property below helped to add length to the structure.

Kragsyde was, gulp, destroyed in 1929. But then came resurrection.

Goodrich & Beyor
Jane Goodrich first saw Kragsyde in a book when she was a child. She found it again, in the same book, as an adult, and showed her husband, Jim Beyor, a builder. They became ‘fascinated with that era of seaside life’ and set out to find the house, only to discover it had been demolished. That was when they decided to build a replica.

Luck was with them; they found that the blueprints for Kragsyde in the Boston Public Library, where they had been deposited by a professor at Northeastern University, Wheaton Holden, but they needed his permission to see the plans.

Jane Goodrich: “I called this man at 6:30 in the evening from the library basement. I said, ‘I’m going to build Kragsyde.’ He said, ‘Fine.’

Even with plans in hand, finding affordable seafront property proved difficult. A two-year search finally took them about 200 miles north of the site of the original, to Swans Island. The setting is correct for the style: a rocky shore with views of Mount Desert Island and the ocean.

Kragsyde’s twin is identical in almost every way, and is a large house by even today’s standards. It has 13 principal rooms and, like the original, the new Kragsyde will have a library with a reading porch; a large parlor opening onto a covered porch, or piazza; another piazza, this one open; a dining area; 4 large bedrooms; a kitchen; and 10 servants rooms on the third floor. Kragsyde is a 6,000-square-foot house with 4 chimneys and 13 fireplaces, and it is sheathed with the kind of shingles that named the style-about 130,000 square feet of them.

It is hard to say what such a house would cost to have built today; it would have cost some $800,000 [in 1988 dollars when the house was finished] by Goodrich`s estimates. But since Beyor is a builder, he and Goodrich took on construction of Kragsyde II by themselves, working on it nights and weekends for six years, and built the home for less than $200,000, which includes the cost of the two acres of seafront property.

Beyor’s skill and experience have made the construction of the house possible. He bought all the lumber from a mill, not from lumberyards, thus saving nearly half the cost, and personally milled it all himself; he also built all of the windows. He used no shortcuts; he used no structural plywood. Instead of using plywood in the floors, as is common, he used seven-eighths-inch boards.

A couple of differences? The floorplan was flipped; the exterior walls are 6 inches thick, instead of the 4 inches in the original. The foundation is poured cement, not stone as in the original, although it will be sheathed in stone.

Other than that, it’s the same glorious house brought back to life.
Kragsyde II


  1. I love, and have always loved Kragsyde. And that picture hooked me was back when I was ten and saw it in a Vincent Scully book.

    And it is always mentioned in study's of American Architecture as one of the most perfect compositions from that era.

    I want one for my very own and would build it if I ever hit the Power Ball.

  2. Anonymous11:12 AM

    Way cool!

    Queen Anne and Shingle Style are two architectural styles I very much enjoy.

  3. Anonymous11:56 AM

    I've never known about this home until today. It's quite stunning.

    If it were here in Cali? Oh, I think we'd be looking at a few million easy.

  4. I'm in love with the house (1 and 2)!

  5. This house males me feel like Joan Fontaine in Hitchcock's "Rebecca''.
    A part I'm willing to play...

  6. Anonymous2:53 PM

    Hello, I have never left a comment on a blog before- but am tempted to here.
    If you love Kragsyde, I might tell you a few other things about it which you will also love. The original owner of Kragsyde was also gay, and the house you so admire sheltered a 34 year-long loving committed relationship between George Nixon Black and his lover. The relationship ended only when the younger partner died at Kragsyde in 1918.
    How do I know this stuff? I am the woman in the picture above, hugging the bulldog.

  7. Colleen10:11 PM

    Amazing house, amazing people! Oh, also my friend.

  8. I too was amazed with this house. Such character! Such history and style, drama! I am an artist and I had to paint it, as I frequently do when I see an old postcard or photograph of architecture no longer with us. (What were they thinking!? by tearing down such a gem?) I tried to post it here, but this comment box wouldn't take a photo. So go to my website to view it. The original is still for sale as are the prints, if anyone is interested.

  9. Anonymous8:01 PM

    I meet jane in Vermont, she was 17, but way ahead of het time.... and then on to collage At RIT, and we built a relationship in , of and on creativity and love...we still share this affection today. WE shared a dream that lives on today in the minds and hearts of US, of those how appreciate the past, the love the craftsmen. Who am I? I am the bearded guy on the planks in the winter, under the ship's knees [support brackets]. cold i felt not. I am the love of her life, the builder of KRAGSYDE, for HER. She is, was to me a god send....28 years of my life spent in total bliss. a love story come true. what is possible is anything what captures your heart. you can count on it....james Beyor


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