House Profile: Henry Prophett's Twin Cottages
In prior posts, we've looked at the Prophett family, including William's undertaking and furniture-making business and Henry's career as a "tin roof" dealer, home builder, and real estate speculator. Today, we examine some of the homes that resulted from his real estate speculation.
The railroad's arrival in Bridgewater in 1846 spurred a rapid expansion of industrial development. These industries needed workers, who in turn needed housing. Observing this rising demand, Henry Prophett bought plots of land on Springhill Avenue (now Maple Avenue), Union Street, and Bedford Street to build workers' housing.
Most these homes are Italianate "cottages," with bay windows and bracketed overhangs that shelter their front doors. At least eight of them, including 64-74 Union Street and 113-123 Bedford Street, were built in pairs, forming distinctive M-shaped façades.
The "Bedford Cottages," which Prophett built just steps away from his own home, had additional Queen Anne flourishes, including ironwork along the roofline and decorative woodwork along the top of the shingled façade. In fact, the Bedford Cottages were so stylish at the time that they were one of only four homes illustrated in O.H. Bailey's 1887 map of Bridgewater.
Though the cottages have since lost some ornament, they provide largely the same view to passers-by that they did in the 1880s. As the Massachusetts Historical Commission wrote in 1984, they "enliven the...streetscape with the rhythmic progression of their steeply pitched gable roofs and projecting bay windows and porch hoods."