Description of Historic Place
The Richard A. Gross House is a two-storey Classic Revival residence with a lateral gable roof and ornate eave brackets. Built in 1842, this residence is located on Main Street in Hillsborough.
The Richard A. Gross House was designated a Local Historic Place for its Classic Revival architecture and for the role its builder played in transforming shipbuilding along the Petitcodiac River from a localized activity into a complex, globe-spanning industry.
This cleanly-expressed interpretation of a side-gabled Classic Revival residence was constructed by Richard A. Gross in 1842. He operated a ship brokerage and ship chandlery business from this site between 1850 and 1871. The clean lines and straight forward presentation of the building still convey the impression of stability its builder had sought to convey to his Albert County cliental nearly 170 years ago.
Richard A. Gross was still in his early twenties when he established himself as a ship broker in Hillsborough. His grandfather was Richard Gross, a successful ship builder who had brought modern construction techniques and ship designs to Hillsborough from Massachusetts in 1790. Sharing this grandfather was his first cousin, William Henry Steeves, the founder of the Steeves Bros. Company, which had parlayed its early financial success in lumbering into a ship brokerage firm spanning both sides of the Atlantic. Richard A. Gross’ wife, Maria, was also William Henry’s first cousin, but through the Steeves Family line. His mother was a member of the Edgett family, another of the early and successful shipbuilding and sea-faring Hillsborough clans.
By 1850, the cost of a ship had grown to a point where even the largest shipyard owner could not afford to finance construction or even retain a controlling interest in the completed ship. Shares were sold at various staged of a ship’s construction to finance the next stage. Albert County residence of every occupation invested their savings in shares, or fractions of shares in one of the steady stream of wooden ships launched each spring. Here in the first floor office of ship broker Richard Gross and Company, these life and death struggles against the merciless sea and the equally cruel commercial practices of that time were carefully translated into the dry arithmetic of profit or loss. A ship’s broker calculated the amount and delivered the cheque for the stock holder’s share of a successful voyage, or brought the news that a family’s investment lay shattered on a far distant shore.
Richard Gross and Company also acted as agents for ships calling at the ports of Hillsborough and Hopewell Cape. As well as acting on behalf of other vessels, Richard owned three ships outright: the 'Arno', launched 1857; the 'Ida Cutten', launched 1866; and the 'Meta', launched in 1869.
When Richard Gross passed away in 1871, his widow, Maria (Steeves) converted his office space into a haberdashery. Marie’s hat business flourished until 1898 when she sold the building to adjacent storeowner Watson H. Steeves. He converted his old home into a warehouse and continued to operate his store business until 1928. After his passing his widow, daughter Dora and son Omer continued to reside in this house. Dora used her father’s store building as a ladies millinery shop until 1932. Dora owned the residence until she passed away in 1988 at the age of one hundred and six.
Source: Heritage Hillsborough, William Henry Steeves House Museum, Local Historic Places files
The character-defining elements relating to the exterior of 2834 Main Street include:
- two-storey rectangular massing;
- moderately-pitched lateral gable roof;
- return eaves at the gable ends;
- evenly-spaced bracket under the eaves;
- inset Selkirk chimney;
- curved bay window with hipped roof;
- double-hung 9-over-9 windows with small entablatures and simple surrounds;
- pilastered entrance with transom window and narrow sidelights;
- wide entablature with evenly-spaced brackets above the entrance.