Josiah D. Richards House
It may look like an Italian villa, but it sits in the heart of North Attleborough at 204 Elm Street. This three-story Victorian Italianate mansion has sixteen rooms with three full baths. The exterior of the building is wood with terra cotta. Marble fireplaces are found in almost every room. Sliding shutters cover the windows and slide into the walls when not in use.
The story of this historic mansion began with Josiah D. Richards (1827 to 1890) when he married Harriet E Draper on June 19, 1848. The mega-wealthy Richards began building the residence for his bride in 1849 when he was only twenty-two. Construction continued for nearly a decade. Workmen were brought over from Italy and resided in the basement of the house during construction. Later, maids and other servants were brought over from Ireland. They had quarters in the attics of the mansion.
Josiah D. Richards retired in 1876 at the age of forty-nine. He spent most of his remaining years growing hybrid roses in his large greenhouse. On July 10, 1890, the 63-year-old Josiah was in a wagon on Elm Street, returning home from a hunting trip, when the wagon hit a bump causing the accidental discharge of a shotgun. The charge hit Josiah in his right side. He was dead in a matter of moments.
Josiah's son, Ira Richards (1852-1924), inherited the property which then consisted of the mansion and 1800 acres - virtually a third of the land in North Attleborough. Ira spent the rest of his life using up his father's money. By the time of his death in 1924, all but 27 acres had been given back to the town to settle unpaid tax bills. By 1930 the house was owned by the Howard family, who resided there for several decades. During that period it became known as the "Howard Estate."
In March 1973 the town rejected an opportunity to buy the Howard Estate - but by 1977 it was owned by the North Attleborough Housing Authority and became a drop-in center for the elderly. On April 29, 1979, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the 72-unit Elm Terrace elderly housing project, located directly behind the mansion. A steep hill separated the two buildings. An elevated walkway was constructed leading from the ground level of the mansion to an upper level of Elm Terrace. Today the mansion serves as the headquarters for the North Attleborough Council on Aging.