Mystery shrouds the Robinson-Peach Duplex’ origins

There is a peculiar building located in the historic neighborhood of Reed’s Hill named the Robison-Peach Duplex.

While at first glance, it might look a little strange, what with it being split down the middle by different paint colors, looking into the history of this building, it becomes even more interesting.

The main mystery of the Robinson-Peach Duplex is a simple question: When was it built? Usually, this is a pretty simple thing to figure out – look at some old maps, look for an original deed, etc. But maps of Reed’s Hill are ambiguous, and the Massachusetts Historical Commission can only confirm the building’s presence starting in 1872. However, the first confirmable documentation of this building is in 1875, when Frederick Robinson conveyed the property to his daughter Clara Robinson Peach.

Robinson, originally from New Hampshire, was a well-off farmer and may have practiced law. To complicate the construction date of the building, Robinson acquired the property off Abbot Street, described as “Farm of Gamaliel Harris” in 1850.

In 1875, the property he transferred to his daughter is described as, “the southwestern house in a block of two houses, situate near Sewall Street, in said Marblehead and bounded on a street or way in front of said house…”

This means that the Robinson-Peach Duplex had been built by the conveying of property. 

But that is not where the strangeness of this building ends. The Robinson-Peach Duplex is an example of subtle Greek Revival-style domestic architecture.

The gable sides of each section have a porch with Tuscan-like square columns. If these porches extended fully across the building, it would resemble a temple house, another version of Greek Revival architecture.

Additionally, on the northeast side of the building, the gable features a full pediment. This style was popular in the U.S. during the early to mid 1800s (1820s to 1860s), which helps hone in on the time of the building’s construction. 

We will likely never know for sure what year the Robinson-Peach Duplex was built unless someone finds documentation about the construction. But what we do know about this building and other – how it looks, what neighborhood it is in, and who lived in it – can serve as hints and help us be architectural sleuths.

Correction: In the Historic Building of the Week about St. Michael’s Church, it was stated that St. Michael’s was Congregational in the early 1800s. While there was a push to make the church Congregational, it was never actually rechartered. Marblehead Weekly News regrets this error.