National architecture group will research downtown buildings

May 2, 2023

The Vernacular Architecture Forum, a nationwide group dedicated to the appreciation of historic buildings built by and for everyday people, will take a tour of downtown Wareham’s architectural treasures on Thursday, May 18.

The tour, entitled “From Iron Bog to Cranberry Bog,” will visit St. Patrick’s Church, Tihonet Village, the Post Office on Main Street, the Tremont Nail Works and Oakdale Street. 

After visiting historic sites in Carver, the tour will arrive in Tihonet Village at 11:10 a.m. 

According to tour organizer Sally McMurry, the chosen locations represent the history of industry, immigration and ethnic diversity in southeastern Massachusetts. St. Patrick’s Church was a place for Italian, eastern European and Cape Verdean communities to worship.

“The St. Patrick’s Church compound represents a notable 20th-century trend for parishes in heavily immigrant New England communities,” McMurry said. “The shift away from European styles to more pointedly ‘American’ ones.” 

The buildings in the historically Cape Verdean neighborhood of Oakdale, McMurry said, “tell a tale of exclusion, but also of resourcefulness.”

In the early 20th century, racial discrimination prevented Cape Verdeans from buying property on Sandwich Road. Instead, they acquired property between Sandwich Road and the Wareham River, building their own homes, a chapel and a social club. Residents sustained themselves through gardens and farms on their property. 

“In today’s Oakdale, lawns have replaced gardens” McMurry said, “and new development has transformed the neighborhood, but the history is there for those who learn to ‘read’ it.” 

The tour is part of the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s annual conference, which will be held in Plymouth this year from Wednesday, May 17 to Sunday, May 21. Every year, 150-200 architecture connoisseurs meet at a chosen location to conduct research.