The history of White Cliffs – Exterior architecture


The history of White Cliffs – Exterior architecture
Present-day White Cliffs (Photo/Geoff Wilson)

NORTHBOROUGH – Built in the late 1880s, the White Cliffs mansion is a “Shingle Style” architectural masterpiece. The architect for Daniel Wesson’s Northborough mansion was Benjamin Hammett Seabury. Mr. Seabury had a prolific career in the Springfield Massachusetts area with as many as 55 buildings listed as historic assets by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The website gives a very good review of this architectural style and was used as a reference for this article. This style was developed in New England between 1880 and 1900. It borrowed liberally from other Victorian styles. Architects handled proportion and details as if they were sculptural compositions. Exterior design elements include wood construction built atop first floors made of stone. Porches, balconies, and large windows encouraged an interaction with the out-of-doors. The design promoted informality and eclecticism as a clear expression of American individualism.


The history of White Cliffs – Exterior architecture
The White Cliffs mansion shortly after construction. (Photo/Northborough Historical Society)

The two photographs of White Cliffs were selected because they identify features that are representative of this architecture. The original construction photograph reveals the porches, towers and balcony that are all typical. In the 1960s the porches were enclosed, this resulted in protecting them from the elements over the past 50 years. The recent photograph shows different shingle patterns, asymmetric window placements, ornate brickwork on the chimneys and the first floor stonework. Clearly, much of the original exterior 1880s architecture still remains on this beautiful mansion.

To read prior articles about the history of White Cliffs, visit

This is one part in a series of articles on the history of the Daniel B. Wesson “White Cliffs” mansion in Northborough. White Cliffs is a longstanding feature in Northborough. Conversations regarding its future have continued after Town Meeting purchased the mansion in 2017. To educate the community as to its history, the Community Advocate is republishing Normand Corbin’s series in print and online.

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