One of the earliest surviving structures on Hingham’s Crow Point, the house at 7 Merrill Street was erected around 1860, most likely as a worker’s cottage. This was shortly after Dorchester industrialist Samuel Downer (1807-1881) bought up most of Crow Point as the site for a proposed kerosene factory. After the Civil War, Downer took his real estate investment along Hingham Harbor in a different direction and opened Melville Garden, a Victorian amusement park, in 1871.
This changed the fortunes of the cottage as well. Its first recorded owner, Isadore Smart of Cambridge, appears to have rented the house as early as 1879 to a company, also from Cambridge, called “Frasier and Smith,” which manufactured felt covers for piano key hammers. Its main operations were located in Cambridge, but perhaps there was a good market for his wares in the music halls of Melville Garden.
By 1892, the house was also serving as a summer cottage for Daniel Frasier, owner of the firm, and his family. The families of Edwin Grozier and William Covill lived next door in the so-called “Jones Cottage.” Grozier, editor and owner of the Boston Post, had once been Joseph Pulitzer’s private secretary. Grozier and Frasier were active in the same Cambridge social circles. The three families had Merrill Street to themselves and could watch the steamboats come in to Downer’s Wharf from their back porches.
Along with a few similar cottages dotting its hillsides, Crow Point boasted four mansions by the 1890s. Living conditions were rather primitive, however: modern sewer service was not introduced until the late 1940s. During much of this period, Crow Point’s cottages served principally as summer rentals for Boston families.
Melville Garden was closed and dismantled in 1896. It might have been Daniel Frasier who moved on of the old Melville Garden pavilions to the north corner of the house at that time.
In 1897, Crow Point was surveyed and subdivided into residential building lots. The lots were small, and it appears that few were purchased singly. Amid this development, the property at 7 Merrill Street only reappears in Plymouth County title records in 1944. That year, it was purchased by George and Margaret Knight, who also purchased the adjacent Jones cottage . The Knights tore down the Jones cottage in 1956 and doubled the size of 7 Merrill the following year, making it a comfortable, modern year-round home.
A photo from 1956, just before the Knights began their renovations, shows the Jones cottage before it was razed. It was at the time similar in size and style to 7 Merrill, and, though it would be considered impractically small by today’s standards, no fewer than eight members of the Grozier and Covill families spent the summer of 1892 there together.
The Knights moved the main entrance to 7 Merrill to the driveway side to accommodate easier access from a car. The current owners have restored the entrance to the front of the house, where it was originally located, and added the portico and an extra chimney for symmetry. Also new is the extension to the living room overlooking Hingham Harbor and an inviting rear terrace.