Father Kemp’s Place

Built in 1878, Father Kemp’s Place started off as a Second Empire cottage. As a result of extensive 20th century remodeling, it’s now the proud bearer of Tudor revival styling.

Robert “Father” Kemp was a shoe manufacturer who moved from Boston to Reading in 1853. He first built a house and farm down the street at 186 Summer Ave., and was a gentleman farmer there.

A much-beloved figure around town, Kemp founded “Father Kemp’s Old Folks” singing group, which toured in the US and abroad.

He sold his first home in 1868, briefly moved away, and then bought this lot in 1875, building the home three years after.

In July of 1879, Kemp sold his new house to real estate broker John Jacobs, who resold it two weeks later to Seth Rich, a Boston pawnbroker.

According to Rich’s obituary, he was one of the original 49ers that make the trek out west for the California Gold Rush — a journey that took 200 days.

After about a year, he returned east, and in 1855, opened a watch and diamond brokerage in Boston. He lived in Reading about 20 years after buying Father Kemp’s estate.

Rich, who has a sizeable art collection, also enjoyed horticulture and landscaping, with his grounds considered some of the finest in town. He and his wife, Martha, had three daughters.

After her parents died in 1893 and 1895, daughter M. Grace Rich lived there until 1900.

It was then sold to Charles Loring, who previously lived right down the street.

The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

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