Mittell on Smith’s Bulfinch

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Norton Street Home, in Edgartown, by 2018 Bulfinch laureate Campbell Smith Architects.

My old friend and former Journal colleague David A. (“D.A.”) Mittell Jr. has written an account of the Duxbury, Massachusetts, firm of Campbell Smith Architects, which won a Bulfinch in the category of residential construction under 5,000 square feet in size. The Bulfinch Awards are sponsored by the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art.

Mittell’s column (Politicus No. 1,513) primarily ruminates over the life and career of the firm’s founder, Peter Smith, his friend and neighbor growing up in Duxbury. It has little to do with the Federal-style house in Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard, for which the firm, founded in 1980, is honored. Smith’s partner, Pamela Campbell, founded their marriage in the same year. The firm’s project manager, Christopher DeOrsay, designed the house. Mittell writes that its “Federal style persisted in places like Martha’s Vineyard after it had gone out of fashion nearer to ever-trending cities.” And that’s about it for the house itself, which is fine because it is better seen than declaimed.

Still, many readers are sure to enjoy Mittell’s fondness for anachronisms, vocabulary and literary cadence from the antiquarian vernaculars of New England. “Webster Road went up the sand-girt hill from Cedar Street” is one such locution in this essay. Girt is the past participle of gird, as in “gird your loins.” I don’t know whether the word itself is anachronistic or antiquarian, but its use by a writer in 2018 certainly is. Anyway, you can find more such gems in Mittell’s piece, which was written for the quaintly named Duxbury Clipper, by clicking on the link below.

A Visit With Peter Smith and Campbell Smith Architects Politicus 1513

Campbell Smith Architects’ achievement will be celebrated with that of seven other Bulfinch laureates at a gala on April 28 in the Harvard Club at 374 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Festivities begin at 6 and more detail and reservations can be found on the Bulfinch Page at the website of the New England chapter of the ICAA.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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