Aldrich, Nathan C., House and Resthaven Chapel
The Nathan Aldrich House and Resthavel Chapel, a distinctive farmhouse built in the Greek Revival style in the town of Mendon, Massachusetts, is historically significant for its association with Catherine Regina Seabury, who used the property to the benefit of female factory workers in Boston. Constructed around 1830 with dressed granite masonry walls, the house is notable among the town’s distinguished collection of early 19th-century public and domestic architecture. Nathan Aldrich (1799-1866) was a Quaker, and the restrained design and ornamentation of the house aptly reflects the Friends’ principle of plainness. Aldrich was the fifth generation of his family to reside in Mendon. When his new large and distinctive residence was completed in 1830, along with its 130 acre farm, it reflected the wealth and status of its owner. Stone houses are rare in the region, although there were stone masons in neighboring villages. It is speculated that the tight-knit, self-supporting Society of Friends would have helped Nathan find a good mason, who could have been a Quaker. Nathan Comstock Aldrich died in 1866. In his brief will, he conveyed one-half of his real and personal estate to his widow and the other half to his daughter and grandson. The house passed from family to friends until Catherine Regina Seabury purchased the house in 1892 with the intention of making it a summer retreat.
Catherine Regina Seabury came from one of the most distinguished American Episcopal families, her great-grandfather being Samuel Seabury, the first appointed Bishop of the American Episcopal Church in 1789. Her father Samuel Seabury was an ordained Episcopal minister and was rector of the Church of the Annunciation on 14th Street in Manhattan from 1838 to 1863. Catherine was consecrated into “religious life” in 1846 at the Parish of the Holy Communion in New York City and was received as full Sister of the Holy Communion in 1854. She attended to the sick and the poor and served in the parish infirmary, which became St. Luke’s hospital in 1858. Through her efforts, a Shelter for Respectable Girls and a Babies’ Shelter were established in the parish. She was a teacher at St. Agnes’ School of the Episcopal Diocese in Albany, New York. She then taught Sunday school at the Church of the Ascension in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. Seabury established the Women's Mutual Improvement Society in East Cambridge in 1889 to improve the spiritual and recreational opportunites for working women, a time when organizations to aid female workers were uncommon. In her desire to find a vacation place for the members of the Women’s Mutual Improvement Society, Catherine Regina Seabury traveled throughout eastern Massachusetts. When she discovered Nathan C. Aldrich’s old farm in Mendon, her search ended. It had the unusual feature of a large and elegant stone house that would provide a comfortable residence for her and her family, as well as provide housing for the visiting women. Catherine Regina Seabury named the retreat Resthaven, and for the next ten summers she welcomed female factory workers for rest and recreation. Renovations to the house were needed for the Boston workers, with attic bed chambers and dormers. The women of Boston that came to Resthaven could not have afforded the luxury of the location without the Society.
Catherine Regina Seabury left her position at St. Agne’s School in 1912 and opened a school of her own in the stone house at Resthaven. She was assisted in this effort by her aunt, Sister Catherine, who had retired to Resthaven after over 50 years of service in New York, and other friends who had worked with her in the past. An addition was built to a small chapel built earlier. Much of the large house was also renovated during this time. The war forced the closing of the school in 1918, and while Catherine Regina Seabury always intended to reopen it, she was unable to achieve that goal. Efforts in 1924 were frustrated by a temporary bout of blindness. Before her death in 1929, she willed the property to her nephew Reginald S. Parker with a $2,000 trust for the preservation of the chapel.
The Nathan C. Aldrich House & Resthaven Chapel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 2006.
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