Created By: New Bedford Preservation Society
172 Arnold Street, Harriet B. Beard; James E Reed, 1866 Octagon Style
In 1859, Harriet B. Beard bought a lot of land on Arnold Street. Harriet Beard was the wife of William A. Beard, but the land was not for their joint use; the deed specified that the property was free from the control and interference of her husband. William A. Beard was a master mariner in New Bedford, and he and his wife never lived in Arnold Street but resided instead on the more prestigious Union Street. She was the former Harriet B. Gust, and she married William Beard in New Bedford in 1842. The first known resident of the house was Luther Brownell, a harness maker, who bought the property in 1869 and was living there by 1870. He sold the house four years later.
James Reed, a well-known African American photographer, brought his spouse Anna Jourdain Reed to this house in 1892 where they were to raise six children. James Reed began his photography career in 1880 when he went to work for G.F. Parlow. In 1895, Reed opened his own studio and remained on 5 Purchase Street for nearly 20 years, until Purchase Street was widened and the photography studio demolished. Reed, at the age of 50, became the first photostat operator in the Massachusetts State Archive, a position he held until his retirement. James Reed contributed photos to history books in the area such as A history of the town of Acushnet, Bristol County, State of Massachusetts. He used cabinet card portraiture, including an iconic image of Frederick Douglass. Reed’s wife, Anna, studied at the Swain School of Design and learned how to colorize James Reed’s photographs. Anna Jourdain also worked on Tiffany style lampshades for the famous Pairpoint Company of New Bedford. James Reed died in the fall of 1939. Anna Jourdain and their daughters continued to reside in the house until their deaths.
The house at 172 Arnold Street is one of two octagon houses remaining in New Bedford; there are only about twenty such houses standing today in the state. Octagon houses were most popular in this country between 1850 to 1860, although this example was built slightly later. The structure is two-stories and of Italianate-style. The building has an octagonal plan and a hip-roof. This main entrance consists of a single door flanked by four-light sidelights and wood panel surround set beneath a broad entablature. Fenestration consists of single, six over six double-hung-sash windows. The original six over six pane windows are still intact, but later additions of asphalt shingles and a then step rail, door and awning of aluminum mark the original appearance of this home. Since one portion of the house was squared off to create an enlargement, the house today is actually seven-sided.
This point of interest is part of the tour: New Bedford Pathways: Tour #1 New Bedford, More Than Colonials