Hello from beautiful Easton! The weather continues to play its cards like a true New England deck – warm one day, then showery and muggy, and today sunny but cool!
My father was a fine man, so it’s easy for me to have good memories of him as Father’s Day approaches. I encourage you to think of a special man who made a difference in your life, whether it was dad, a teacher, a coach, a neighbor, an uncle or grandparent. And men, let’s all be role models for the young ones who are looking up to us.
The Museum had a very busy and successful reopening last weekend! Both Saturday and Sunday found our place filled with lots of visitors stopping in to see the Morse car and new exhibits at the Museum. I look forward to our July and August open houses, and catching up with many of you as the summer unfolds.
Let me run a few numbers by you today. Can you guess what these represent:
44 of 46
These numbers belong to now retired Oliver Ames High School Girls Basketball Coach Elaine “Laney” Clement-Holbrook, who is being honored next weekend by her alma mater Bridgewater State University. She racked up 733 career wins, and is the winningest girls basketball coach in Massachusetts history; her teams qualified for the state tournament in 44 of 46 years of coaching; she won 19 Hockomock League titles; 4 Division 2 South Sectional Championships, 2 Division 2 Eastern Massachusetts Championships, 3 State Championships (2006, 2010, 2022); and is a member of 5 Halls of Fame (Dedham High School, Bridgewater State University, New England Basketball, Massachusetts Basketball Coaches, and the Oliver Ames High School Hall of Fame.) She was also the Head Coach for the East Team at the 2017 McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago. Other accolades include the Oswald Tower Award for Professionalism and Ethics, multiple All-Scholastics in regional awards, and she was the first female president of the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association. Don’t forget that through all of this, she was an excellent and well-loved biology teacher at OAHS!
Next weekend Laney will be honored by Bridgewater State University, Dr. Frederick Clark, President, during Commencement Exercises at Gillette Stadium. As one of four honorees (Dr. Carlos Santiago, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Presley, and Ms. Barbara Stevens are the others) Laney will be recognized as a “stellar student athlete at BSU who went on to a much-heralded coaching career” and whose “record of accomplishment and sustained excellence is unsurpassed.”* President Clark’s message about all of the honorees says “This year we recognize leaders whose life’s work, whether done in the hallowed halls of Congress, basketball courts across the country, in our colleges and universities or on the streets, recognizes the inherent dignity of all persons and has been dedicated to lifting up all people and contributing to a more just, inclusive and equitable society.”*
Please join me in congratulating Elaine Clement-Holbrook as she receives the Bridgewater State University Honorary Degree and Distinguished Service Award. It is a well-deserved honor. The image below is from the OAHS 2006 Yearbook and highlights Laney as well as the 2006 State Champions!
Until next week,
(*Source: Generations of Service: The Retired Faculty Club of Bridgewater State University magazine.)
Happy Saturday! And a special Saturday it is!
In the 1976 Led Zeppelin film "The Song Remains The Same" Robert Plant quietly voices to his bandmates, "All right, here we go!" And here we go as we celebrate fully reopening the Museum this weekend! We will be here today, Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and tomorrow, Sunday, from 1-5 p.m. Come in and see our new look, new displays, and our newest addition, the 1899 Morse Car! I am looking forward to greeting you as we "get up to speed."
Rear view of our Morse! The engine is housed in the enclosure right behind the canopy.
New exhibits include the Morse family and information on the Morse autos!
Friday morning we hosted The Victorian Society, a summer program for architects, and with Professor Richard Guy Wilson from the University of Virginia led the group of about 30 people in a tour of the Richardson buildings and Unity Church. This is the first tour we have done for them in three years because of Covid. Several people from Europe, as well as one from the Netherlands, were part of this outstanding group.
Wishing you all the best, and hoping to see you soon,
Happy Saturday, and happy Graduation Day! Please join me in congratulating the Oliver Ames High School Class of 2022 as they receive their hard-earned and well-deserved diplomas today. Best wishes to the entire class, and to those graduating today who worked at the Museum: Eagle Scout Abram Kempner, Hannah Murphy, Antonia Ginis, and Lauren Gilgan!
Paul Berry suggested this week’s topic and supplied us with a copy of the old image. From 1893 to 1946, this is what you would have seen in the area nearly opposite 250 Main Street. “Sheep Pasture” was the Easton home of Oliver Ames (1864-1929) and his family. Son of Frederick Lothrop Ames, the Harvard graduate had a very successful career in finance, and even at a young age was able to negotiate with some of the most powerful and influential financial giants of his time. When his father died unexpectedly in 1893, young Oliver was given the task of settling his father’s estate, a duty he carried out with excellence.
In 1891 Oliver began purchasing land on the opposite side of Main Street from his father’s “Langwater” estate, and in a few years, completed the purchase of the land that would become his own estate. Though Frederick Law Olmsted was brought in to design the grounds, Oliver himself laid out the estate plots and buildings as he wanted. The locations of the Gate House, carriage house, barns, kennels, and other outbuildings were carefully chosen to be convenient to, but out of sight of the main house.
As you can see from the old photo, taken around 1915, the house sat near enough to the road to be a dominant landmark. Designed by the firm of Rotch and Tilden, the half-timbered style mansion overlooked a meadow that swept down towards the lower end of Queset River. At one time sheep grazed in this meadow, giving the house its name. Oliver Ames married Elise West in 1890. The many rooms of the house provided space for a growing family of four children (Elise, Olivia, Oliver, and Richard) and stories of growing up there as children are told by Mrs. Parker (Elise, who married William Parker) in the book Growing Up at Sheep Pasture.
The house stood until 1946. Oliver and Elise had passed away by then. Son Oliver died a hero in France during World War I, son Richard, a musician, died in France in the 1930’s. Olivia married Henry Cabot, and Elise after marrying William Parker, moved into her great-grandfather Oliver Ames II’s house “Unity Close.” Following their mother's death in 1945, the summer home at Pride’s Crossing was sold. The property at Sheep Pasture stood empty, and the house was vandalized until finally being torn down in 1946.
There is one other important feature in this photo. The very large outcropping of granite on the left had a flagpole on top and at the base, a hickory tree stood for many years. Father Oliver would blow a whistle there and his children would gather for outdoor walks and rides. From a very young age, the children were taught to appreciate the outdoors, and they spent a fair amount of time with family and staff learning about local flora and fauna. This experience would lead to something significant in the years ahead.
You might also note, in the old photo, the trolley tracks in the street. One of the nice features picked up here are the cobblestones that held the tracks in place.
Today, standing opposite the old main gate, the scene is very different. The wall that defined the entrance to the estate is still standing. The gates are new, but are of the same design as the originals. Gone is the flagpole and hickory tree. The house has been gone more years (76) than it existed (53) though the once finely manicured outdoor terrace is a gathering place for events and photos, with its beautiful view overlooking the meadow, where the Queset River still flows serenely on its path through South Easton. Rhododendrons, here and elsewhere on the drives through the estate, are a lovely site each summer. Trees and brush now obscure the view of the giant rock. However, in 1973, Mrs. Parker made the extraordinary donation of the property to the Natural Resource Trust of Easton, so that the property could continue as a working farm. There, children and residents would have the same opportunity she had as a child to discover the natural world and develop the same love for it that she had.
Wishing you all the best, and again with congratulations to our graduates,
Happy Saturday Morning! Early morning showers won’t dampen our plans for the Memorial Day weekend.
Many thanks to all who responded to our request for help! We appreciate those who are able to help as we prepare to reopen the Museum on June 11 + 12.
Today our "then and now" photo features a prominent Easton landmark, the Soldier’s Monument. Located at the intersection of Center Street and Depot Street, the area was once known as Monument Square. In 1882 the area immediately adjacent to the monument was a busy area. On the northwest corner stood the Town Hall. Across the street, near the site of the current Center School, was the Town Poor Farm, and the original Centre School, now a music and antique shop. There were two churches in the area as well as parsonages. The Town Pound, a place for stray farm animals to be left for claiming, was also here. Depot Street was an important link in colonial times as it connected two early villages, South Easton and Furnace Village, as well as intercepting Bay Road which was one of the “King’s Highways” and a stage coach route. The location of the monument is also very near the geographical center of Easton and that was important once North Easton began to quickly develop with the arrival of Oliver Ames and the shovel company.
Following the Civil War, as people returned to their former way of life, the south was heavily devastated with the loss of cities, towns, plantations, railroads and shipping, and was left with a shattered economy. In the north, the physical losses were not so drastic, with a strong war economy and no loss of infrastructure. However, the effect on returning soldiers on both sides was equally devastating. Many suffered medical issues from wounds or sickness and could not perform their prior work. An untold number of soldiers suffered from depression, PTSD, or other emotional inflictions that could not be diagnosed and had no real treatment options. It took a generation to try to begin to heal the land. The assassination of President Lincoln left an open wound for many years that only added to the hurt felt by a slowly healing nation. In Easton it took almost twenty years before thought could be seriously given to erecting a suitable monument to commemorate those who gave their lives to preserve the Union.
On Memorial Day 1882 the Soldier’s Monument was dedicated in memory of the forty-seven men who gave their lives in the war, and in honor of all those who made so many sacrifices and survived. The dedication book records that some two thousand people were in attendance. For years platforms were erected as a parade viewing stand for veteran’s speakers, and other dignitaries, and today (excepting the pandemic when people could not gather) appropriate ceremonies continue to be held in remembrance of our Civil War dead.
In our old photo, we look at the monument and behind it Center Street running north towards North Easton. There are urban myths about Civil War memorials in the north, many of which feature a soldier. The myth is that the soldier’s look south to keep watch. A survey of Civil War monuments will show that is not entirely true. In Easton’s case, the monument is placed at the main road in the area and established a true center for government and civic activities, as well as overlooking the parade route from the G.A.R. Hall in Eastondale to the Town Hall.
Today’s photo, taken in front of the former Read house, has raised some questions! The entire length of Depot Street has been under construction for two years now, with relocation of power poles, the widening of a heavily traveled road, additional turn lanes, and sidewalks making up the bulk of the work this year. A major component will be the redesign of the intersection of Center Street, Depot Street, Purchase Street, and Porter Street. Maybe it’s my age showing, but traveling south on Center Street to Depot, and turning west, means turning my head nearly backwards to see oncoming traffic, a very uncomfortable experience. Traveling east can mean a lengthy wait for a break in traffic. Those turning in either direction from Purchase Street run into similar issues. In order to accommodate improvements to the intersection, the Soldier’s Monument will be moved some fifteen feet to the west, allowing Center Street to be relocated to better align with other streets. Lights and turning lanes will certainly be a welcome improvement. The scaffolding around the monument is the first step in preparing it for moving. Untouched since its installation in 1882, the process of moving our memorial will be a delicate one as engineers study how it was originally assembled, how much of it should be dismantled, and of course providing a proper footing and area around the base for viewing. In a few months this familiar spot will change form, and hopefully for the better.
Stay well, and enjoy Memorial Day,
Happy Saturday morning from historic Easton! The overcast sky and early morning rain will soon burn off as Easton looks to set a record for high temperatures today and tomorrow. Time to get out the fans and air conditioners!
On Sunday afternoon OAHS senior Abram Kempner will officially receive the distinguished rank of Eagle Scout. Abram’s project involved creating an online tour of historic spots one can see while walking around North Easton. He took photos, did research, and created this digital platform, which can be found on our website, and can be added to in the future. Working with Abram was a bright spot during the pandemic, and attending his Eagle Scout ceremony is something I am honored to be doing. Thank you, Abram, for a job well done and congratulations on an honor that is well-deserved!
We might travel by trolley to North Easton for today's then and now photo. Our picture today was taken just about 1900. If you were to stand on the sidewalk in front of what is now 11 Center Street, and look north towards the intersection of Center, Lincoln and Main Street, you would find yourself in the same location our photographer was standing one hundred and twenty-two years ago. The subject of the photo is clearly the young lad with the horn and cap gun, wildly happy to have his photo taken with his favorite toys. Unfortunately for us, we do not know the boy’s name, nor do we know the name of the photographer. As delightful as this photo is, there is a lot to be discovered in the background.
Your eyes might be immediately drawn to the trolley car. This is one of the Easton and Mansfield line trolleys, and the sign on the front indicates it is beginning its journey from North Easton center to Mansfield. You can see the track bed running along the east side of Center Street. The building on the right has a long history. First built around 1870, it was occupied for many years by Elijah Spooner, a tin ware dealer. The building was originally thought to be three stories high, though it is clearly two stories high here, and besides the tin and stove shop on the first floor, provided living space for the Spooner family until they bought a house further down Center Street a few years later. Once that happened, in 1882 the second floor became the home of the “Queset Club” of leading merchants and men in North Easton. The group met in nicely appointed rooms, complete with a pool table and newspapers, “for the benefit and amusements of the members,” of which Spooner was the first president. Various groups used the hall as well. The G.A.R. Post 52 of South Easton met there following a fire that burned their hall in the mid-1880’s. Other local clubs and organizations such as the Sons of Temperance met there too. When this photo was taken the building was occupied by Ryder’s Store, one of many small stores in the center. By 1903 George W. Swanson, a Swedish immigrant, ran a lunch room and pool parlor here, serving spirits as well, into the 1940’s. The building was occupied by the Betty Jean Shop for a number of years, and today houses a yoga studio. The top two floors were removed, possibly following a fire, and the building has been extensively remodeled several times over the past fifty years.
Just to the left of that building is a wood frame house. The location of the house in the photo is misleading. At first glance, it looks like the house is on the site of the former telephone building at the corner of Center and Main Street. It is actually across the street, near the site of the current Sundell’s Citgo Station. Owned in the early 1800’s by one of the Andrew’s families in North Easton, the house was home to the Waite family when this photo was taken. A careful look to the left of the trolley will reveal the water fountain that once stood in the intersection, and cupolas on top of the Ames Shovel Factories overlook the entire scene. If that isn’t enough for your eyes to take in, look at the amount of people in the photo. The period dress is always interesting. Can you find the bicycle hiding in this photo?
Today the location appears different, but still very familiar. The trolley tracks no longer run along Center Street, and the brick facade of Harry J. D. Sundell’s Gas Station reminds us of the advances in transportation that hastened the end of the trolley cars. The brick New England Telephone and Telegraph Company building, erected in 1941, now stands right at the corner of the intersection. You might remember it as being the telephone office, but most of us will remember the building as home of the North Easton (later Easton) Co-Operative Bank, which today is the Bank of Easton. The shutters on the building still retain the distinctive “Bell System” cutout, a reminder of what purpose the building was first built for. On the right is the heavily remodeled former Spooner tin shop and Betty Jean Shop, where we bought school supplies and gym uniforms – remember those?
Until next week, stay well, and stay cool!
Hello from sunny Easton! The sun is shining brightly this morning as children gather at Shovel Shop Pond for the annual Easton Lions Club Fishing Derby. Hopefully the fish will cooperate and provide fun and fodder for some good fishing stories and memories for these young outdoors boys and girls.
This week we venture back into the wilds of the area once known as “Poquanticut” as we take a look at Poquanticut Avenue yesterday and today. The road was accepted by the Town in 1763, and probably began life as a cart path as early as the 1750’s when there was a need to connect the early foundry industry at Furnace Village with supplies of bog iron and charcoal makers to the north and east of the village. The 1825 map of Easton clearly shows a well-developed road with a handful of houses stretched out along its path. One of these houses was built by the Harlow family before 1825. Called the Tisdale Harlow farm, the house was probably built by Reuben Harlow (1773-1823) who married Hannah Fuller before 1800. When their son Tisdale Harlow (1804-1883) was born there were two older siblings, so it is likely that the main portion of the house was built by that time. Following Reuben’s death, the house and farm were inhabited by Tisdale, then his son Tisdale Jesse Harlow (1860-1927). His son Tisdale Harlow (1904-1986) whom I knew for many years, told me that his great-grandfather Reuben built the old farm house on Poquanticut Avenue. The various maps of Easton (1825, 1855, 1871, 1886) all attach the name Harlow to the property. The 1895 map changes the name to William McLeod, who purchased the farm from the Harlow family and later sold it to the Wilbur family, who still owns and runs a farming operation there. When I was a kid in the 1960’s, the farm was called Clover Valley Farm, and was an active dairy farm for many years prior. I also remember a small meat packing plant there for a few years. Today, after a number of years boarding horses and operating a riding stable, the farm has returned to its roots with a herd of cattle populating the fields along Poquanticut Avenue and Chestnut Street.
This photo, taken before 1900, looks towards Chestnut Street which lurks just behind the barn. You can see the farmhouse on the right, and the dairy barn on the left. Dead center are two small storage buildings. Although they appear to be in the middle of the road, they are not, as the road takes a hard corner directly in front of them. One gets a good feel for the rural life in Easton that once permeated much of the Town. Picture, if you will, George White and his band of thieves galloping through here on a raid, or returning to their nearby hideout with stolen goods, through an area that was sparsely populated and already had a poor reputation. Picture if you will one hundred years later when men in cars, disguised in robes, drove their cars through here and the back roads of Mansfield in the years before the Great Depression. Their “hideout” was not far away either.
Today this area retains much of its rural beauty. The farmhouse is partially hidden on the right by growth along the road, but farmyards and fields on both sides of the road are evident that farming still proudly takes place there by hard-working people. The old dairy barn and a silo stand on the left, and you can see the later long addition to the barn as well. The two old buildings in the center were replaced by a cement block building in the 1950’s. That bend in the road caused a few headaches over the years as cars would not navigate the turn and run into the buildings. When the cement garage was built, several cars ran into the corner of the building, prompting the family to place a large boulder there. Unfortunately, at least one car hit the boulder so hard that it was pushed into the corner of the building. The farm continues nonetheless, and it is the last vestige of the many farms that once populated Easton. Hopefully that will continue for many more years to come.
Until next time, stay well,
Hello and a Happy Mother’s Day to all! This weekend let us take time to honor our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, mentors, and other women who were role models for all of us.
Today we take a look at that neat village called Eastondale. Nestled between Washington Street and the Brockton and West Bridgewater town lines, the Eastondale neighborhood has always been a close-knit community. Many years ago, besides homes and farms, you would find within the neighborhood a store, post office, church, social clubs, trolley service, and a railroad depot and freight house among other things. Today Eastondale is gently filled with handsome homes and nicely landscaped vistas. The post office, trolley and train may be gone, but fortunately we have a terrific photo that preserves evidence of two modes of transportation that were important to the neighborhood, and Easton.
The photo below, taken around 1910-20 by local photographer Webster W. Bolton, captures the moment a trolley passed below the railroad bridge in Eastondale. That’s right, there was a railroad trestle over Turnpike Street and an underpass for the trolley! A little explanation is required for this.
While train service had been established through Easton following the end of the Civil War, there were few connectors between main lines. As the demand for freight grew, connecting lines called “spurs” were established. One of these was a line from the main track in Easton to South Easton, through Eastondale, and into the Matfield section of West Bridgewater. Sometimes called the “Shovel Handle” route, it crossed Pine Street, High Street and Turnpike Street on its way out of town. This spur appears to have been in use in the very early 1900’s.
Meanwhile, a new mode of transportation was quickly growing across America. Trolley cars began appearing in Easton in the late 1880’s, and by the turn of the 20th Century there were four trolley car companies operating lines in and around Easton. One of these, the Taunton and Brockton Street Railway Company, began a route from the trolley car barn at West and Belmont Streets in Brockton in 1897. The route ran west along Belmont Street, turned south onto Washington Street at Morse’s Corner, turned east onto Depot Street, and then turned south along Turnpike Street. The tracks ran parallel very near the edge of the road or sometimes in the roadway itself. Trolley service provided more flexibility in travel. With trolley companies merging lines and providing multiple connections, one could easily travel by trolley to practically anywhere. Soon trolleys began moving freight as well as passengers, and even provided mail service three times a day. The competition for business did not sit well with railroads. Railroads did not allow trolley tracks to cross their own tracks. This created an expensive dilemma for trolley companies, who either had to go over or under the railroad tracks. So, along quiet Turnpike Street, an underpass was dug and a bridge erected to allow both rail service and trolley service to co-exist ( the trolley. The photo here shows one of the “Ghost Line” cars (so called because the off-white color cars created a pallor) in the underpass with the railroad bridge above it. You are looking north towards Brockton, and between Hill and High Streets. The railroad spur was discontinued before 1930, and trolley service gave way to the automobile. By 1932, neither train nor trolley ran through Eastondale, and by the end of World War II all tracks and the bridge had been removed and the street leveled.
Today, there is barely any reminder of either the train or trolley traffic that once served a busy neighborhood. This photo was taken near 107 Turnpike Street, looking north towards High Street which would be in the distance on the left. On the right near the center of the photo is a newer street called Marisa Drive, and it is here that the underpass and railroad bridge once inhabited the area. All that remains is a slight dip in the road, just at the intersection of Turnpike Street and Marisa Drive, to remind us of what was once a very busy and industrious neighborhood.
Until next week, stay well!
Hello from beautiful Easton! Driving to the Museum today I couldn't help but notice the natural beauty the Town has to offer. Daffodils, crocuses, and a variety of flowering trees are out in their glory, and all of the trees around town are beginning to show their spring tresses. As April comes to a close, May has its promise of bringing us all something beautiful.
Today is tinged with sadness as we announce the passing of Mrs. Esther D. Ames, wife of the late Senator Oliver F. Ames. A great supporter of the Society, she graciously opened her home “Langwater” for memorable Society events over the years, including a wonderful dinner for our 65th Anniversary, and a night to celebrate the success of the Friends of the Ames Shovel Works saving those buildings from ruin. Mrs. Ames was a most gracious host, and many times she shared important advice and words of encouragement with this curator, which were appreciated beyond measure. Please join me in sending our most sincere sympathy to her children, grandchildren, and family and friends.
Our original photo today looks a little forlorn, and if Currier & Ives were looking for a forgotten country lane, this one might be just the thing they would be looking for. Nothing in the photo below denotes anything of value worth photographing at all, yet someone with an artist's eye captured a timeless image of a road that was once an important part of Easton’s history.
This is Massapoag Avenue, circa 1910. This photo was taken very near the Archippus Buck House at 97 Massapoag Avenue. The Buck house was built around 1825, and on an 1825 map it appears with another Buck house in a no-man’s land between what is now Chestnut Street and Rockland Street. No road through that area shows on that map, but there must have been cart paths to those houses, and one of those paths eventually became a road connecting Easton Furnace to Sharon. In colonial times, bog iron was in demand by foundry owners. A source of that material was located in a large bog in Sharon, a few miles from the Easton border. Furnaces in North Easton could access the bog by way of Lincoln Street to Bay Road to Allen Road to Rockland Street (the very upper end of Massapoag Avenue was created as a connector from Rockland Street to the Sharon town line prior to 1825.) However, the iron furnaces at Easton Furnace had no direct route to those resources. By 1825 a road had been introduced to me that need, but was not accepted by the Town until a little later, which probably explains why the entire length of Massapoag Avenue is not shown on the 1825 map. This was soon resolved, and a direct link from Easton Furnace to Sharon was in use shortly thereafter. The great bog that provided that ore was turned into Lake Massapoag which gives our road its name.
The road runs through that section of Easton once known as “Poquanticut” and, along with Poquanticut Avenue, Chestnut Street, Mill Street and Rockland Street, defined a rather interesting area. As you can see from the photo above, looking east towards Poquanticut Avenue, there is very little sign of settlement. With the exception of a house very near Poquanticut Avenue, there was nothing but farm and field until you get nearer to where Mill Street crosses. The neighborhood seemed to be a great place to live if you did not want to be found or bothered by anyone. The area had a reputation that “nothing good happens there” during the 1700’s and well into the 1800s. Nearby was a hideout for a notorious gang of thieves, members of the Selee family who were feared of practicing the black arts, a mill that was supposedly run by imps, and charcoal makers (such as Quanticut Smith) who lived alone in the woods for months on end and tended to be rough characters. Even as late as 1910 one could get the impression from this photo that this was a good place to stay away from, especially after dark.
Taken from approximately the same spot two days ago, the photo below shows what appears to be a relatively rural area. Many of the once cleared fields have given way to forested landscapes, though stonewalls still mark where those fields once provided feed for cattle and crops. Indeed, one gets a feel for rural living driving along Massapoag Avenue today where there are still undeveloped stretches of land mixed with handsome houses. There are not many streetlights today along the road, so there are stretches where darkness still pervades the area. The horse thieves, charcoal makers and others have long passed into history. Still, in the late hours of night, a slow ride along Massapoag Avenue might send shivers up your spine. Perhaps in the darkest of night you might want to take the more travelled road, or take the advice of our ancestors and wait for daylight before risking a visit to old “Poquanticut.”
Happy Saturday Morning! A chilly start to the day reminds me that while spring arrived according to the calendar, there is still a way to go before planting gardens and other activities can fully be enjoyed.
Last week we took a look at the Ames homesteads on Main Street, and the creation of a beautiful streetscape. If you stood at that same spot and looked in the opposite direction, you would see your view for today. While a glance northward gave us a look at handsome homes and a developing neighborhood, a look southerly told a different story.
Taken about 1870, this photo of Main Street reminds us of what a working-class area looked like just after the Civil War. The focal point of the photo are the four nameless men captured in the forenoon of a work day. Posing for a photo had to be a big deal then and the men must have enjoyed the novelty of the whole process. You can easily see the clothing worn by the workers. I believe they all have beards too, and each sports a hat as well. The man on the right is using a “Johnson bar” or a J Bar for short. A long wood handle attached to an iron tongue and iron wheels made moving a heavy object much easier. Since that man appears to be somewhat better dressed than the others, he must have been a lead man or supervisor in the Shovel Shop. The item he is moving may be one of the dies used to form shovel blades.
Of course the real story here is the changing streetscape. Main Street is a well-maintained gravel road and wide enough to handle wagons and coaches, the usual mode of ttransportation. The original Easton High School building, erected in 1869 by the Ames Shovel Company, dominates in the background. The buildings on the left are associated with the Shovel business and other neighborhood enterprises. On the extreme left is the facade of what once was the location of the Ames Company Store. In another building just behind that was the location of the North Easton Post Office. The upper floors of these buildings were used either as a boarding house or as a meeting hall, one of a number of small second floor meeting places for various social groups. Just beyond that is a glimpse of the old cape house across from the current library. Called the Sampson House for many years, it dates to the mid-1700’s and may be the oldest building still standing in North Easton. Beyond that are two buildings that housed a bakery, store, barber shop, and other businesses over the years. Upper stories contained rooms for rent. Just in front of the school building, the road appears to split, with Main Street continuing to the left, and a turn to the right connecting to Lincoln Street. A small green space appears as well, which at one time was occupied by a small church building and a small school house.
The buildings on the right have an interesting history. The cape style house behind the tree is thought to be the 1795 Methodist Meeting House, and once stood on the corner of Elm Street and Washington Street (see a previous writeup on the Old Square Top Church for more information.) When the Square Top Church was built in 1830, this small building was moved to the rear of the church property, but by 1831 it had been sold to an English man named Trimble (possibly Trumble) who moved it to the spot it occupies in this photo. He and others used it as housing. Just behind this building in the photo is a faint image of a second building, once known as the “Honeymoon Cottage.” The house sat very near the road and in front of a large granite outcropping. It is here that future Governor Oliver Ames and his new wife Anna spent their honeymoon in 1860. The couple may have continued to live in the house until he finished his own home a few years later. The Ames Shovel Company owned the house at this time, and used it as a boarding house for a number of years. Both of these buildings were moved between 1877-79 to make room for the new Ames Free Library and Oakes Ames Memorial Hall. The Honeymoon Cottage was moved a short distance southwest to what is now 11 Lincoln Street, and continued to be rented out. Dr. Willis Stevenson lived there for many years in the early 1900’s. By the late 1930’s the house was sold into private ownership and was lived in by a Drake family, then for many years by the Albert Smith family. The former church meeting house was moved to what is now 85 Lincoln Street, where it was a company house for many years before being sold into private ownership.
Today the view from that same location is very different. Finished concrete sidewalks and a paved road have replaced the old gravel road. The former boarding house still stands on the left, and hidden just behind that is the old Sampson house. The fork in the road now turns around the Rockery, and the original 1895 Oliver Ames High School stands on the site of the old Easton High School. Visible on the right is Oakes Ames Memorial Hall. The Ames Free Library sits back and mostly out of view in this photo. An overgrowth of trees and other bushes hides a long stone wall. A barrier of large concrete blocks marks the location of a breach in the wall created by the collapse of the Flyaway Pond Dam in 1968. Here the Queset River quietly flows under Main Street and under the Shovel Shop complex, where it once provided water power in the early years of the company.
Until next week, stay well, and do great things!
Happy Easter and Passover greetings to my fellow history lovers! Today I have a triple treat for you. The three photos featured today (two period photos, one I took earlier this week) give a glimpse into one of the earliest documented landscapes being developed in Easton.
Our subject today is the area of 23 -25 Main Street, looking north from one of the entrances into the Ames Shovel Shops. If one stood on Main Street at the corner of the driveway just south of the current Ames Company Stable, you would be in the right spot. The intersection of Main and Oliver Streets would be about 500 feet to the north, or at the extreme right of these pictures.
In 1813 Oliver Ames, founder of the shovel business in Easton, erected a stately home on what would be 25 Main Street today. That house is featured prominently in the first of our photos, taken in 1855. The square Federal style house is the star of this image. Much larger than just about any home in Easton at that time, this handsome home must have been a welcome sight after a long day at the shops. By the time this photo was taken, Oliver had brought his sons Oakes and Oliver, Jr. into partnership with him, and was turning over the running of the business to them. The 1852 Long Shop had been built on what would become the new site of the shovel works. Oliver kept a closely held interest in the company, regularly walking through the plant to keep a close eye on things and make sure things were going to his liking. Siting his house almost directly across the street from the future factory site had to be a result of his forward thinking and vision for his business. One fact about the original house is that it was eventually divided into two separate living areas. Oliver Sr. lived in one side as he aged, and Oakes and his growing family lived in the other half of the house. Both entrances appear to be shown in this photo.
Also in the photo, attached to the rear of the house, is a two-story ell that may have provided a summer kitchen on the main floor, and a few rooms for the staff that the Ames family was employing at that time. We know from the diaries of Evalina Ames (Oakes Ames’s wife) in 1851 and 1852 that she had domestic help living there, a possible gardener/handyman on site, and also boarded one of the young female teachers who taught in the schoolhouse nearby. At the left is a brick extension that was the Ames Counting House. The house to the right was built by Oliver Ames, Jr. around the 1830’s and Oliver’s idea of a family homestead lot came into being. If you look at the landscaping, you can see neat white picket fences and lawns, trellises and plantings of trees. We often think of the work done by Richardson and Olmsted in the 1870’s and 1880’s as being the beginnings of beautifying North Easton, but it appears to me that the root of this movement was planted by Oliver Ames many years prior.
Our second photo shows a progression of both home and landscape. Taken about 1863, this photo bears witness to the continual development of the homestead site and the surrounding landscape. Again, Oliver Ames’s original house stands in the center of the photo (he died in 1863) but a number of changes have occurred in the eight years since the original photo was taken. On the left, the Ames Counting House has more than doubled in size, a clear indicator of the health of the company. It would also house two banks. At the right, Oliver Jr.’s original house has been replaced by a new Italianate style mansion which was built within a year prior to this photo being taken. “Unity Close” would become its given name once Unity Church was built in 1875. The grand house clearly shows the rapid development of the family’s wealth at that time, yet one gets the idea that some restraint was also shown. A disastrous fire at the original shovel shop site on Shovel Shop Pond in 1852 prompted the relocating of the new shops onto their current site. More importantly, the fire had an effect on the young generation of Ames's as every house erected by the next few generations were built of either stone or brick – except Oliver Jr.’s new house. He decided to stick with wood construction, even though his son and nephew had already built homes from stone. Just as importantly, the landscaping continues to develop and improve. The picket fences have given way to a nicely laid cut granite wall and stone columns that mark the entrance drive into the estates (an iron fence would later be installed on top of this wall, giving it the look it has today.) This may be the earliest wall of its kind in Easton, which had a number of stone walls built from field stones, but nothing as finished as this one was. Shade trees line the street, and manicured lawns and gardens would have been installed by this time. Besides being industry leaders, the Ames family was also leading the way forward in both architecture and landscape design, years before Richardson and Olmsted’s arrival here. By the way, the home formerly occupied by Oliver Jr. was moved around the corner to a site near 50 Oliver Street, where it served as company housing for a number of years.
Today, a photo taken from a similar spot reveals only a hint of what once was. Oliver Ames’s house was torn down in 1951, and a great lawn and wonderful copper beech tree grace the spot where his house and company counting house once stood. Barely visible through the growth along the street is “Unity Close” whose beauty still graces the area surrounding it. The granite wall and fence in front of the estate has been well cared for by subsequent owners. However, the area on the left has not been preserved or kept clear by its owners, and as such, hides what was once a beautiful streetscape.
With Easter and Passover wishes to all,
Curator: Frank Meninno