The Thomas A. Hill House

 

Home to the Bangor Historical Society, the Thomas A. Hill House is the heart of the organization’s collection–and certainly its largest object! A Greek Revival style home commissioned by Thomas A. Hill who was a lawyer, amateur architect (Hill was responsible for the design of the 1831 Penobscot County Jail) and speculator, the house was built and completed in 1836 by famous architect Richard Upjohn (see below). Other residents of the home include Samuel and Matilda Dale, who purchased the home in 1846. Mr. Dale served as Mayor of Bangor from 1863-1866 and again in 1871.

hill house pre 1918

The Thomas A. Hill House prior to 1918. The Colonial Hotel is seen almost surrounding the house. The Union Street side of the Colonial burned in 1918. Part of the structure remains today.

The Sons of Union Veterans bought the house in 1942 and named it the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial. During 1952 the Bangor Historical Society was allowed to use the house, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. In 1974 the house was deeded to the Bangor Historical Society.

This Greek Revival style home has several unique features. It is a five-bay central hall house with its original brick ell on the side and is encircled on three sides by an Ionic portico paved with granite slabs. The transition to the second story is made by pent roofs. During 1846, Samuel H. Dale combined the two rooms to the right of the front hallway into an elaborate double parlor separated by an archway supported by Corinthian columns. Dale replaced the original Greek Revival stairway about 1860 with a straight-run Italianate stairway. Another Italianate change Dale made from 1855-1860 consisted of double front doors with etched glass panels (originally there was a single paneled door with sidelights and transom). These doors have solid silver finials on the hinges. Dormers were added around the turn of the century.

The house originally had a cast-iron picket fence complete with iron gate, atop the granite wall around the house. There was also a gazebo on the property and flower gardens. During the age of the lumber barons, wood became an extremely popular building material. Brick houses such as this one were painted a light color in the hopes of making the bricks take on the appearance of wooden clapboards.

The cannon on the lawn is a Civil War Dahlgren 12 lb. boat howitzer, made in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Its gun carriage mysteriously vanished during the night more than 20 years ago. The two large trees are linden or basswood trees.

Thomas A. Hill

Thomas Adam Hill--lawyer, banker and speculator. He commissioned Richard Upjohn to design and build the home of the BHS.

Thomas Adam Hill–lawyer, banker and speculator. He commissioned Richard Upjohn to design and build the home of the BHS.

The Bangor directory of 1834 lists Thomas Hill as president and director of the Bangor Commercial Bank on Main Street, vice president of the Institution for Savings and a director of the Bangor Insurance Office. Assets listed in the city’s tax inventory show him to have been a man of property and enterprise. Present taxpayers may be interested to know that for all his affluence his total worth at that time was $27,903. He paid the city of Bangor $124.48 in taxes! Hill, however, suffered financial losses during the panic of 1837 and the bank foreclosed. The bank in Boston allowed him to stay in the house and pay the insurance, heat and taxes until the home was sold to Mr. Dale.

Samuel and Matilda Dale
Dale possessed a very different personality from that of Hill. He was a politician at heart and a social climber. From Salem, Massachusetts, Dale came to Bangor in 1833 as a sail-maker. Eventually he would own grocery and ship chandlery businesses downtown.

The Thomas A. Hill House before the current dormers and addition.

The Thomas A. Hill House before the current dormers and addition.

“Mr. Dale opened a Ship-Chandlering establishment on Broad St., doing business in the building which housed RICE & MILLER CO. until their recent removal to new quarters. Until recently Ships in full sail could be seen on the iron rim of that Building and I can remember when a child my delight in looking at those Ships, then picked out in Gold Leaf on a dark background. The memory of my mother goes back to when she was a child and the ODOR of Tarred Rope assailed the nostrils on entering the Sail Loft with its carved Figure-Heads and the profusion of Marine Equipment.” (From the records of Mrs. Antoinette Torey, who was Mr. Dale’s great-granddaughter)

Dr. James F. Cox lived in this house for 22 years. His examining room was located under the former staircase; this room is now used for storing the museum’s painting collection. In 1942 Dr. Cox died and the family left the house.

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The Thomas A. Hill House today.

Richard Upjohn
Best known for his design of New York City’s Trinity Church, Richard Upjohn designed the Thomas A. Hill House, Bangor’s Isaac Farrar Mansion– just across the street from the Thomas A. Hill House and home to the Bangor YMCA–and the original St. John’s Episcopal Church. He then designed Trinity Church in New York City. Upjohn was the founder and first president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

St. John’s burned in the Great Fire of 1911, but Upjohn’s grandson, Hobart Upjohn, designed its replacement which is similar in design to the original but built of stone.