OLD HOUSES AND SITES OF HOUSES
We think very few would realize what a difficult subject in some respects this is to write upon. We have not the power of imagination as many have, that we can look back and describe houses that even the oldest inhabitant never saw; neither can we refer to the town histories, but very little having been written in regard to the early houses in Leominster. We have had to take a date from one place, some other reference from another place, perhaps something that has been told us, and weave it into a whole. We find conflicting opinions about some of these places, but after consideration, we have chosen the statement that seemed the most authentic. We have found no reference to the number of families in Leominster at the time of incorporation 1740. We have found between thirty and forty families who we know from one record or another were here at that time.
Rev. John Rogers is quoted as stating in 1749,—nine years after the incorporation of the town,—there were sixty families. In 1763, we find by the census of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, Leominster had 104 houses, 107 families, and 743 inhabitants; from that time there was a steady increase of inhabitants with an average of sixteen families a year, until we find in 1830, there was quite a little settlement of 282 houses and 1862 inhabitants. In 1840, just one hundred years after the incorporation there was a population of 2069.
All men love a home, and they must have some kind of a house in which to make a home for themselves and families; if in 1763, we find only three more families than houses, there certainly were not many tenement houses, and nearly every man had his own little home. Whether there were many log houses in Leominster we do not know, but we think not. At the period of our first houses, we find nearly all houses were framed houses, and we see no reason why our early settlers should build log houses. There was the primitive forest with plenty of timber at hand. Saw mills in Lancaster, where our first settlers could get their lumber sawed, and as early as 1740, Josiah White and Reuben Gates had saw mills, which seems to have been a necessity of the town, and as nearly all the timbers of a house were hewn by hand, we know not why the houses would not be principly framed houses. We have never upon the records found mention of but one log house,—John Bennet's, which stood in North Leominster, somewhere between the store and Pierce Street.
Some of the houses were low one story affairs; others were large and two stories; some had a lean to, while others were two stories in front with sloping roof at the rear. We think perhaps quite a number of the common houses had a chimney built of stone, as stones were plenty in the nearby fields; yet we find quite a number of the first houses had the large brick chimney, showing that bricks were brought from some other kiln. The spacious chimneys sometimes had quite a large space around them, into which, one entered through a door; we remember walking around a chimney with this open space. We have seen it stated, that they were built in this manner for safety from fire, for if stones or bricks were laid with clay instead of mortar, an air space was imperative. The timbers were of heavy oak; the rooms low studded. There was a well either in, or near, every house, a pump being unheard of.
In the humbler homes, many of the rooms were without plaster at sides or ceiling; boards being lain for a flooring for the loft above, leaving the heavy beams exposed to view, and the sides cased in wood, which as a rule was scoured to the last degree, as paint if not an unknown quantity, was little used either inside or outside. The paint was made from red or yellow ochre, which was dug from the ground and mixed with oil. At the lower end of Nashua Street, on the Sewell Tyler place, afterward owned by William Gurry, was a large quantity of red ochre, and Mr. Tyler prepared it frequently when he wished to use paint, as it was very durable. One seldom found a cellar under the entire house, the foundation of the greater part of the house being laid on top of the ground. The roofs were covered with slabs in some instances, and the sides with boards instead of clap-boards. The outside doors in the poorer houses were of plain wood not paneled, or paneled with two lights at the top, and with wooden hinges and a leather string to lift the wooden latch. All doors had a latch of some kind, the door knob of today being unknown. Some of the houses had at the windows wooden shutters, opening like a door. The stairways,—if any, the chamber or loft in many instances being reached only by a trap door in the floor,—were very narrow and steep.
The more pretentious dwellings had an air of comfort that is seldom excelled in the houses of the present day. So thoroughly built were these houses, they seem as enduring as if made of stone, particularly where they were well cared for. They had well built cellars, and strong foundation walls. They were built of thoroughly seasoned timber, scientifically framed. The skeleton of a house once set up, the whole was covered with some kind of sheathing either boards or clap-boards. It was always the best of material and workmanship. Each builder was his own architect. The house was made upon honor, and the builder could look upon it with honest pride. The roofs were with sloping roof at back, or square, or gambled, sometimes with a wooden balustrade around them; most of the roofs were shingled, for as early as 1740, surveyors were appointed for clap-boards and shingles. The rooms were large and airy, often wainscoted with high dados or wood surmounted by a chair rail; fireplaces large enough to bum a small load of wood at a time, with their adjoining brick oven, always remind us of the good cheer and hospitality which abounded in those days. The windows had sliding wooden shutters. The spacious hall, with its wide stairway gave its air of welcome. On some of the outside doors were the imposing brass knocker and latch. From the plain wooden door with the latch string, followed in succession, the paneled door, later the paneled door with either the one long light or five plain lights, or small "bull eyes," over the door. The door with the fan-shaped light overhead; the protruding porch usually without glass, but with more or less carving, or paneling; and the protruding porch with a plain entrance door, and seats within on each side, with the window of small lights or one large "bullseye" over the seats, which always appeals to us for its true hospitality; the crowning glory of all the doors, with the top and side lights of many and varied shaped lights, the most beautiful of pre-revolutionary doorways. This type you will find in the Wilder mansion at Bolton, also in Salem, Hingham, and other old towns; the doorway of the Alien house we find similar in style. The brick houses as a rule preserve their original features longer, it is more difficult to renovate brick and mortar, than boards and nails, and in the brick houses we often find the original fan-shaped windows, and plain paneled doors and small windows.
Around the outlying sections of the town .we find many indications of homesteads; depressions in the ground are yet to be seen in the west part of the town in the Notown district, where there are several signs of habitation; although there is not a house standing within that district; also in the north and east part, are evidences of quite a number of houses. On White Street near the railroad crossing are traces of a house, which from records of roads and of other records, we find was one of the earlier houses, owned by a Mr. White. Just above this toward North Leominster, opposite the C. A. Gates place, were traces of another house, once the home of Michael and Lois (Wilson) Wood. At the top of the hill on the Derby farm, stood the house of Thomas Houghton; a part of the old house we understand, is in the ell of the Derby Brothers present house. At the junction of Prospect Street and Brown Avenue was a house built we understand by a Mr. Gibson. The Methodist Society was formed in 1823, at this house, when owned by Nathan Stratton; the last owner was William Morse, who upon building the house in 1843, on the opposite side of the street, now owned by Mrs. L. W. Lewis, took down the old house. Nearby at the end of Page Avenue; stood the house of Noah Beaman, built probably in 1744. The house was later owned by Horace Rice, who upon returning home one day found the house in flames; just before going away, Mrs. Rice brushed the hearth, and it is supposed a live coal was left in the broom. We think the present house was built at that time. Near the junction of Prospect and Harvard Streets; at the C. N. Stone place stood the house of James Richardson built in 1734. About 1853 Benjamin Divoll having bought the place, the house was taken down and the present one built.
In the little triangle between Prospect and Harvard Streets; stands a house of particular interest; it was the first meeting house of the Methodist Society. It was dedicated December 1829, and was occupied by the society until January 1839, when they removed to the centre of the town, and the building was converted into a dwelling house. We notice the original windows are in the house, and there have been but slight alterations since the building was erected. Nearby was the parsonage, now owned by Mrs. Jennie M. Pierce, 414 Prospect Street. At Bonnie View Farm stood a house built probably about 1766, by Elijah Fairbanks. In 1863, Edwin Gates built the present house just in the rear of the old one, which was taken down. At the Wesley Haynes place stood a house we think built by Thomas Davenport about 1739; after his removal from town it was owned by William Taintor, and about 1790 this house was burned by means of a live coal in the broom, at which time Mr. Taintor built the present house around the chimney of the old one. We find that on the site of the bam at the Dennis E. Wheeler place stood a two story house with gable toward the road, and front door facing up the street; it was occupied for some years by Captain Luke Joslin, and after his death by his widow. As Mrs. Joslin was a Beaman, we think possibly this might have been the home of Joseph Beaman. In 1833, Luke Joslin, Jr. built the brick house; and about 1875, took down the old house.
Mr. Wilder states that in 1786, there were sixteen dwellings from the present Pierce Street to Whalom Pond, and in 1846 the number remained the same. Quite a number of the first settlers located upon this road. The Original house of Thomas Wilder, was about three houses from Whalom Chapel; this house burned ,and another house was built near the outlet of the pond; this house was occupied by succeeding generations of Wilders, until destroyed by fire October 12, 1896. The house on the site of Mr. Gist's house, was built about 1734 by Jonathan Carter; this was destroyed by fire April 23, 1898, and the present one built by Monroe Kittredge at that time. At King's Corner stood the house of Jonathan White, built about 1732; it was a large, square house with hip-roof and long ell extending towards Whalom. At this house the first town meeting was held. He was an Innholder, and we are told it was a very popular place for dances, so there must have been a dance hall. This house also was burned January 1,1890. Toward North Leominster stood a low one story house with gable toward the street; some may remember it by the lilacs in the front yard. This house I think was built previously to 1750 by Nathaniel Rogers. The house was removed to the rear of the lot, when Mr. Webber built the present house. The place we know as "The Maples" was originally the home of Major David Wilder, father of David Wilder, the Historian, who was born here; about 1845, the old house was taken down and the present one built. The place above No. 3 school house known to us as the Marshall place, was built previous to 1825 by Abel Phelps. In 1826, Hon. David Wilder moved to this place, and it is at this house the Leominster History was written. This side of Day Street stands the house recently owned by Arthur Lewis, Joseph Wheelock built the original house. Dr. Thomas Gowing built the present house. He came to the place in 1763 and we think the present house was built about 1790. At the place owned by Mr. De Onfro, Jonathan Carter built his house about 1738; about 1790, William Burrage bought the place, and soon afterward built the present house. The place opposite Pierce Street has been in the Richardson family since 1790, to the present time. From records we infer that John Bennet's log house was just below this place, but we have never been able to locate it.
Toward North Leominster from the Manson D. Haws house stood the low one story house of Jonathan Wilson. In 1796, Governor Benjamin Haws of Sherbom bought a large tract of land including the Wilson house, and a house into which he moved, which stood just south of Mr. Haws house. About 1815, Amos Haws built the house on the opposite side of the street, which was the birthplace of Manson D. Haws; soon after the erection of his house, Amos took down the old Wilson house and burned it. When Mr. Haws built his house in 1864, he moved the old Benjamin Haws house, where it stands today on the left side of Haws Street. The Manson D. Haws house now stands on the opposite side of Main Street.
As we go down Nashua Street, we come to the site of the Josiah Burrage house, built by Charles Ames before 1753. It was bought by Josiah Burrage in 1801, he living in it until 1845, when he built the house in North Leominster owned by Frank N. Fiske. There was but slight change from the original house, but the barns and sheds stood north of the house; in later years the barn stood south of the house, a long ell in which there was a bowling alley connecting them. This place was in the Burrage family until after 1900.In December 1913, the buildings were burned and have been rebuilt. Directly opposite this house is a road leading to the place known to some as the Deacon Emery Burrage place. The house was built by Joseph Derby 1754; it was sold to William Burrage in 1767. It was a long, low house; it was taken down in 1835 and the present one built. The place was in the Burrage family until 1871, when Deacon Emery Burrage moved to the Fiske house in North Leominster, and the farm was sold to T. Dwight Wood.
Near the railroad crossing on Main Street, stood the house of Ebenezer Houghton. We thought we had authentic information in regard to this house, but recently there have been conflicting opinions; however, like many other houses the timber was grown on the place. The roof originally ran to one story at the back, but later a story was added. The clap-boards are of peculiar style. The house was occupied by descendants until the death of Miss Louisa Houghton in 1893. We understand she used the fireplace to cook by during her life time. The house has been moved onto Houghton Court. There was a small, low house just beyond this house, which was occupied by the help. In recent years it has been moved to Mount Pleasant. As we continue along North Main Street, we come to the old "red house" we all remember. This house was in the possession of the Bobbins family until recently, although not occupied by a descendant for several years. We think without any doubt this house was built by David Robbins about 1741. While owned by the Robbins family it was a very interesting house; probably there are many changes at the present time. The house was two stories in front with roof sloping to one story at back. The timbers are hand hewn which are very noticeable, the comer posts being about a foot square at the bottom, and increasing in size as they ascend to the roof. The beams and timbers are mortised and joined together with wooden pegs about an inch and a half in diameter. There are no clap-boards on the house, but it is covered with boards eight or nine inches wide, one board over lapping the next like clap-boards. The chimney is an unique structure, being two distinct chimneys from the foundation, until within a few feet of the ridge-pole where they join in the form of a letter A, forming one chimney at the top. The house is entered by a plain ordinary door opening into an entry, with a narrow door leading to the cellar. A flight of stairs, about two and one-half feet wide with easy treads, lead to the rooms above. At opposite ends of the lower entry is a door opening into each front room; the south room contains its corner closet or buffet; in each front room is a projection of about five inches, allowing more room for the entry; a heavy beam extends along the room at the top with these projections at the sides; in the center of the house between the two chimneys, and directly back of the front stairs, is the buttery, or cheese-room, bricked on sides, floor and top, with a door leading to it from the kitchen. A bedroom and long kitchen extend the length of house at the rear. The kitchen has an outside door opening towards the south. The back stairs lead out of the corner of this room, with cellar stairs under them; these are built in such a manner as to form a circular partition, with stairs and cellar doors, between which is a tiny three cornered cupboard extending from floor to ceiling. The kitchen has a fireplace, a sink, and a large china or dish closet, as it was called, reaching the whole height of the room. The doors in the house are about two feet wide, some of them being only twenty-one inches. Originally the attic was the entire size of the house, but later a chamber was partitioned off, having a boarding over that and the entry. Several years ago an ell was added. Until Mr. Fair bought the house the well was in use, with its curb and windlass, unlike anything we have ever seen, and would have repaid one to visit.
Miss Tolman has given a fine description of the "Old Abbey." At the corner of Merriam and Lindell Avenues stood a house built by Timothy Kendall, about 1740. At the time Joel Crosby—who had been body-guard for George Washington, came to Leominster in 1796, and bought the place, the house was moved down the street, and is now the home of Mrs. William Rowley. It stands upon the opposite side of the street than formerly, and not having the present facilities for moving buildings, the house could not be turned around, and went onto the spot as it stands today, with the front of the house at the rear, and its back towards the street. Within two weeks of the 100th birthday of Miss Mary Ann Lincoln, who always took an active interest in anything pertaining to the town, she spoke of this house, and inquired if it stood as originally placed. Mr. Crosby at that time built another house upon the site of the old one. It was the regret of many when the beautiful house was taken down, that Harry L. Pierce might replace it with his Greyling Hall. The mantles and other furnishings were removed to the summer house of Mr. Pierce on the shore of Spec Pond. Another house upon the same street also stands with its back towards the street, the house formerly owned by Edward Harrington. We understand it originally faced towards the road, but from time to time.-that particular piece of road underwent several changes, until at last it stands quite a way back from Lindell Avenue; with the front of the house at the rear. The original house on the site of the B. W. Doyle house was built we think by Elisha White, Samuel Abbot bought the place in 1827. The Abbot house was destroyed by fire in 1867, and the present one built. We do not know if the house that was burned was the one built by Elisha White.
Another old house in this locality is the house on the upper part of West Street, known to some as the Sawyer Carter place; A part and perhaps all of the house was built previous to 1740, by Jonas Kendall, Sr. In later years it consisted of that house and another house, built at one side, and a little in front of it, only extending back far enough to admit of a door connecting the front corner of one house with the rear corner of the other. We do not know if both houses were built at the time, but we think perhaps one part was added when the son married and lived at home. In 1838, the front part was removed and stands today a short distance above on the same side of the street. Within a short time the old house has been removed by Mr. Merriam. About 1787, Hon. Jonas Kendall built the large colonial house just across the drive-way from his father. A long shed ran between the two houses nearly connecting them. For many years this house was used as a tavern, and until very recently known as the "Kendall Tavern." It had its dance hall in one part of the upper story, extending the entire width of the house, with an arched ceiling, raised platform for musicians, and lockers around the walls forming receptacles for the outer wraps, also affording seats.
Nearly across Maple Avenue from the old school house stood a fine, large house, built by James Simonds about 1740. It was known for years as the McSherry place. It was destroyed by fire August 23, 1896. Traces of the cellar can be seen today. Nearly opposite stood the house of Josiah Carter, Jr. built about 1770. The house was like many others of that period; being one story with a room each side of the front door. After Mr. Ulton brought the place he erected the present dwelling, the original house being taken down in 1871. Miss Tolman speaks of the J. Henry Johnson house, also the Gibson Tavern.
The "Garrison" house upon Carter Hill was built by Oliver Carter probably soon after 1738. It stood a few feet north east of "the cottage"—as it is called.—now occupied by Mrs. Constance (Chancy) Healy. This was the "Garrison" house for that section of the town; the house faced the south, as was the general rule in those days, which cause so many of the houses to stand at angles with the road. It was built of two inch plank on front and sides, a part of the back being five inches in thickness, with no windows; this was to prevent the arrows piercing the wall. The difference for this thickness was owing to a stockade—which was a large yard surrounded- by logs driven endways into the ground,—being built around a part of the back and three sides of the building. The house was two stories at front, with roof sloping to one story at back. It had a projection on the east side the width of a door, which opened into the kitchen. The large chimney was of brick, and the hearth was of tiles nine or ten inches square. After fear of Indians was past, a window was cut in the part of the wall that was five inches thick, but the wall being so thick, it was completed with great difficulty. The house was clap-boarded, and when taken down by Luke Richardson in 1862, at the time the "Cottage" was built; some of the clap-boards were so weather beaten they would crumble at the touch, although every timber was perfectly sound. At that time as now, it was the regret of many of the towns people, that the house was not preserved as a memorial of Indian times. The entry was perhaps five feet wide from the entrance to the stairs, which were two steps fully 4^ or 5 feet in width, then a broad stair as it was called,—today we would call it a landing, with one step on each side; one into the "west chamber" the other to the upper entry. There were two chambers finished, one a good sized room as we would think now, and the front room about 20 feet square; an unfinished chamber at the back with a sloping roof the length of the house. Under the stairs in the front entry, were fine cellar stairs of Monoosnock granite as wide as those leading to the upper story; while another flight led from the kitchen. Across the bottom of the cellar from one corner to the other were flag-stones, about 2 A feet square. Entering the front entry, one turned to the right to a large room 20 feet square, and from this room into another which was back of the entry, 20 feet long by 12 or 14 feet wide, called the "west room," a kitchen and bed-room were in the rear of these rooms. An attic containing a loom, spinning wheels and reels, was over the main part of the house. The brick house was built about 1773, and is constructed of brick made upon the place, stone quarried at the present quarry, timber cut and hewn on the place; the tiles 8x8 which make the hearths of the four five-places, were also made here. The ell was added about 1841; the belfry on it, and the bell which was used to summons the laborers to their meals, were placed there, when the ell was built.
On the other side of Granite Street stood the house of Josiah Carter built soon after 1745. The room which was used as parlor in more recent years, was originally the kitchen, and had the large fire-place. Before 1834, the house was altered to its present appearance. This house was in the Carter family until 1892-3. It is now owned by Russell Harris.
James Boutell about 1740, built a house just above Haynes Reservoir. The house stood just north of the house we remember. Afterward the large two story house was built. This house was burned a few years ago. For many years after Stephen Johnson, in 1753, located at the comer of Pleasant and Pond Streets there was no houses between him and the center of the town. In 1759 the old "Hills" house on Pleasant Street was built by Elias Carter, who sold it in 1774, to Smith Hills of Newbury, Mass. Farther up the street we come to the site of the Gershom Houghton house, and just beyond that the house built by Gardner Wilder in 1734. Just beyond Wachusett Street stands the original house, we think, of Stephen Buss built in 1743. Near Bartlett's Pond and Fall Brook Reservoir were several houses but space will not allow the mention of them.
As we go up Union Street, we find at the comer of Crown Street, an old fashioned house which was the home of David Wheelock. Nearly opposite Manchester Street, on the site of the home of the late Mrs. H. A. Boyden, stood the old "Tenney" house, sold to Captain Joseph Tenney by Nehemiah Clap, in 1798. This was a low one-story house, with door in middle of front, and also at south end. Sometime after the death of Captain Tenney in 1819, the main part of the house was taken down and conveyed to the center of town, and converted into a building, which stood for many years on the west side of Monoosnock Brook, just back of the Kendall brick block on Pleasant Street, and was used by Michael Damon as a comb shop. Afterward it was moved across the brook, and used by Frank Gates for a Machine shop. The ell of the Tenney house was used for quite a while by Luke Tenney, who had built a house just south of it, as a shop for finishing piano cases, but was also moved several years ago and converted into a small dwelling house on Wilder Avenue. Farther up the street stands the house which was the home of Miss Mary Ann Lincoln during her lifetime of one hundred years. A part of the house was built by her grandfather, in 1774 and the other part in 1782. This was a very interesting house, and it was the regret of many that the town, or some organization could not have bought it and preserve it m its original shape Just beyond the Lincoln house on the same side of the street, stood a low one story house with door toward the south. This was the old Oliver Hoar house built about 1753. After the town bought the place for the town farm in 1836, a new brick house also facing the south was erected, a long, open shed connecting the two houses; a part of the old house was used as a lock-up, and the rest by inmates who could not be accommodated in the brick house. October 12 1873 both houses were burned with all other buildings on the place A few years before this, the town had bought the Elias Joslin place —the present town farm,—farther up the street, and had moved all of the inmates there. This house was built many years before and was the home of Elias Joslin, Sr. The House was a large one very much the style of the present one. The building was burned in 1874, and the present house erected. Nearby on Grant Street stood the house known to many as the Elliot Boyden house originally the Jacob Bennett house, built before 1766, this house has been taken down and Charles Conrey has built another. Farther down that street was the house of Elias Joslin, Jr. who afterward sold it, and moved to his father's homestead. The house later was bought by Mr. F. A. Whitney.
Let us look around the south part of the town. The houses on Central Street, from Union to Litchfield Street, are comparatively new with the exception of one which will be mentioned later. Just below Litchfield Street, on the right is a very old house, as it will be noticed that the original house consisted of two rooms with loft above. On the site of the first house on the left as we go up Legate Street, stood the house of Nathaniel Carter, built about 1730; it was burned about 1787, and the present house built the following summer. Nearby stood the house of Joseph Polley, built by his father, Ebenezer Polley before 1740. It was moved in 1790, to the site of the summer home of Burton Legate, and joined to a house standing there. About 1843, it was taken down and earned to Clinton and converted into a dwelling house. The original house on the site of Elmer Legate house was a small, low house; sometime after 1765, Thomas Legate, Esquire; built a large two story house using this for an ell. The house was destroyed by fire January 31, 1884, and a house erected that summer by Franklin Legate. In 1927, this house was burned. On Litchfield Street, near the railroad crossing, more than a hundred years before the first steam train ran through Leominster, stood a small, low house, the home of Reuben Gates, built in 1740. In 1750, a large two story house was built just north of the old one; this remained upon the spot, until the farm being sold by the Gates family in 1852, the house was moved across the field to the Lancaster road, where the old "red house" was a familiar landmark for years. In the fall of 1901, when owned by the Viscoloid Company, it was partially destroyed by fire. The carpenter had 1750 painted on the front door. In 1907, the Viscoloid Company wishing to extend their plant, the house was moved across the street where it stands today, on the third foundation practically as sound as when it was built.
Wilder writes that from Monoosnock Brook to Lancaster line in 1780, there were but five houses. One of these was the house of Thomas Lincoln, which stood near the home of Miss Bertha Buss; it was a low one story house facing toward the center of the town, with gable toward the street, and two doors, one in front and one toward street. Bemado S. Nichols buying the place in 1845, the building was moved to Central Street, where it stands today, the home of Mrs. H. C. Cheney. Mr. Nichols the same year built the present house, which was one story, until about 1890, when Harrison B. Whitney raised it and built a story under it. On Lancaster Street just beyond Johnson Street stood a house built we think before 1780. This was the home of Asa Carter, later Reuben Johnson, and later Joseph Willard. Opposite the Catholic cemetery traces of a house in the public play grounds could be seen until recently. The first house was built by John Burdett, who came here in 1775. We understand there were four houses on this site. Many of us remember the last one, owned for years by Merritt Wood, father of N. G. Wood, and the place is yet owned by the Wood heirs. By Fall Brook bridge, stood a small, yellow house built by Paul Gates, about 1760, later there was a long ell, which was used for a shop; later as a dwelling house; this was taken down and the original house is not standing now. At the Piper place is a house built by Phineas Carter, about 1759.
Where the Unitarian Church stands, was the old tavern, owned and I think built previous to 1763, by Edward Fuller, innholder; later Joseph Beaman was landlord. Not far from 1800, Metaphor Chase bought the place which after his death, 1806, was occupied by his widow until the third church was built in 1823, when the buildings were sold at auction and taken down. Mr. Wilder describes it as a plastered house, Miss Mary Ann Lincoln, and others, described it as a "large square yellow house," and in the town records at the time of the society buying the land, it is referred to as a yellow house. For many years there was only one house from the Beaman Tavern to the Nashua River, the place bought of Charles Divoll by the town. It was the home of John Divoll, and the house stood on the site of the present barn.
If we could believe everyone who tells us they are living, or have lived in the "oldest house" in town, it would really be surprising how many "oldest houses" there could be. We often hear it stated that the house is "over two hundred years old" when in point of fact there is at the present time only one or two houses in town two hundred years old. We have at the present time, but very few of the earlier houses. Many as we have seen have been destroyed by fire, or taken down, or removed in the march of improvement; while in other cases the original structures of the old house is the ell of the present house, many of the old houses were not as large as the ells of today, and I think it would be quite a puzzle to the matron of the present day, to stow away the number who often gathered under one roof.
Leominster is a town in some respects peculiar to itself. We have no house immortalized by any distinguished person. We can boast of no Longfellow, Whittier, or Bryant; no Emerson, or Alcott; no President, nor General; not even a "Mary had a little Lamb house," like our sister town of Sterling. We only have a house which tradition says Lafayette stopped in over night, and General Avery occupied for a short time, and one house which is the birthplace of a U. S. Senator, once Governor of Massachusetts. Also a house which was owned by a body guard to Washington.
On the outskirts of the town we find few deserted homesteads, or dilapitated, unpainted houses. There is not the difference of the homes of the wealthy, and the poorer classes, that is noticeable in many large towns. A few years ago a friend came with a stranger to visit us for a day. We had taken her upon the several trolley lines, where she had seen the houses and the shops; had shown her the residential part of the town, and at last took her to Carter Park that she might obtain the beautiful view in the distance, and also look upon the roofs of the manufactories clustered in and around the valley below. There was a peculiar expression on her face, and she said: "Yes, but where are the houses where all these employees live?" We told her, "Why, everywhere! she had seen them in every direction." Still the same puzzled look, until our friend exclaimed, "Oh! I know what she means, she is looking for corporation houses." "Yes," she said, her idea of a manufacturing place was factories, with long lines of corporation houses around them, and she had been surprised at finding none through the day. It is something Leominster can well be proud of; although we have increased many times in the number of houses, and population, since the settlement of the town, yet today each owner takes an interest in his property, and we find the majority of houses and grounds well cared for.
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17 School Street · Leominster, Massachusetts 01453 · Tel. 978-537-5424
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