Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2012 Preservation Award Winners
Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House • Gloucester

Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House • Gloucester

Rehabilitation & Restoration

Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House, is a dramatic two-story building overlooking Gloucester Harbor. Henry Davis Sleeper, one of America's first professional interior designers, began construction of Beauport in 1907 as a summer retreat, expanding it throughout his life. Owned by Historic New England since 1942 and open to the public, the house became a National Historic Landmark in 2003. Beauport is also notable for housing an important early collection of American antiques and for its influence on museum interpretation of American decorative arts. The house has its own unique architectural style, borrowing from Queen Anne and various revival styles, but it has the greatest affinity with the Shingle Style. The building has 6 large brick chimneys, 10 skylights, and 106 window openings with 249 sash and nearly 4,000 panes. The interior is a labyrinth of over 50 rooms housing nearly 5,500 objects. Today, the house and its rooms remain virtually as Sleeper left them.

Well-maintained over its 100-year life, Beauport, by the 21st century, was nevertheless suffering from a number of moisture-related problems due to the harsh coastal climate and to its architectural maze of intersecting planes and forms. The roof that had been installed in 1985 was beginning to leak, and the chimneys also showed evidence of leaks. Many window components were defective, and an improperly flashed exterior element installed in 1913—a brick veneer over stucco walls—was allowing water penetration, resulting in potential structural issues from deteriorated sills and framing. To stop the damage and protect the interior, Historic New England developed a comprehensive, three-year restoration plan with funding including a Save America's Treasures grant, a Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund grant, and Community Preservation Act funds. All efforts were made to retain historic fabric and, where repair or replacement was necessary, to match materials in-kind. The complex project included restoration and repair of windows and sash, restoration of all chimneys, full replacement of cedar roof shingles and copper flashing, historic paint analysis, and repair of the damage resulting from the improperly installed brick veneer. The project culminated in a two-phase restoration of the landscape, which included a new sloping entrance path to make the grounds more accessible.

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