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from original pencil sketches of architecture (interior and exterior), 1869
Artist and architect, Frank Hill Smith was born in Boston, Massachusetts, 15 October, 1842, to parents who had moved from Maine to Massachusetts. He studied architecture in his native city with Hammatt Billings and John Thorndike. In 1869, he travelled to Paris, where he became a pupil at the Atelier Suisse, and studied painting under Leon Bonnet. A sketchbook survives from this period; the angel detail at the top of this page is taken from that.
Returning to Boston, Frank married Clara Montfort Fay in 1874. Four children were born in the next few years. The 1880 census shows him living in Boston with his wife Clara, age 36, and three children, Rosamond H. (age 5), Montford [sic] H. (age 3), and Francis F. H. (age 1). Frank's occupation is given as "Fresco Painter" and the family has two live-in servants. Clarence H., the fourth child, was born in 1881.
In 1876, Frank painted a portrait called "Lady in a Hammock" of Elizabeth Elliot Spooner Fay (Mrs. H.H. Fay) during her first summer in Woods Hole). [The oil was later given to the Woods Hole Historical Museum.] Elizabeth had married Henry Howard Fay in January of 1876; Henry was the son of Joseph Story Fay of Woods Hole.
Joseph Story Fay had given 40 acres of land to another niece, Laura Greenough Ripka (daughter of his sister Harriet Howard Fay Greenough). In 1885 a large house of wood shingles, raised wooden paneling, stucco and stone in the Shingle Style was built on this land, with a gardener's cottage and carriage house as well as its own windmill for drawing water; the house was designed by Frank Hill Smith. The estate was called "Cumloden" and was beautifully landscaped, probably by Andrew Ripka. Linden trees and copper beeches, which may have been progeny of Joseph Story Fay's Woods Hole copper beeches, were planted near the house.
Copper Beech InnFrank Hill Smith also redesigned a Colonial house at 105 Locust Street in Falmouth and transformed it into a shingle-style home. There are stories that his wife's sister Anne Maria Fay had been given the house by Joseph Story Fay for her lifetime use but it was to be left to Clara and Frank's four children (Clara predeceased her sister by many years). Frank wrapped the symmetrical five bay center hall Colonial in an asymmetrical skin with shingle style raised paneling, a pent roof, porches and multipaned large windows. It is now a bed and breakfast called the "Copper Beech Inn" after the large copper beech in its yard, probably another Joseph Story Fay tree. It is not clear when Frank Hillsmith did the redesign, but the Inn itself mentions 1881.
Frank Hill Smith's works in oil include portraits, figure-pieces, and landscapes. He worked in the style now known as "luminist." The portrait of his wife, Clara Montfort Fay, is a striking example of this. In the course of his studies in Europe he gave much attention to interior decoration, sketching many famous interiors. In the later years of his activity, he devoted himself especially to this branch of art. He decorated numerous public and private buildings in Boston and Cambridge and other cities. The Windsor Hotel and Opera House in Holyoke are often given as examples of his work, as is the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He was a director of the school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
In the Boston Directory for 1890 and in the Marlboro City Directory for 1911, Frank Hill Smith is listed as architect. His short biography is included in Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century and in Appleton's Encyclopedia.