Steppin’ Out

[The photos and text are from a 2011 exhibit put together by Mary Fitzmaurice and Suzanne Buchanan to showcase shoes, boots, and other footwear in our costume collection.]

After farming, shoemaking was the most common occupation listed in the 1893 Hingham Genealogy.  Like aprons and stockings, the shoes that people wore every day rarely survived. They simply wore out. That explains why most of the shoes on display here are in pretty good condition. They probably were worn only on special occasions or by people who could afford more than one or two pairs of shoes.

The well-worn working man’s shoe in the center of the bottom picture is the one exception to that rule. It is one of thousands of shoes that were hidden in chimneys and walls by New England families when they built new homes in the 1700s and 1800s. The origins of this tradition are murky, but shoes dating back to the 15th century have been found in the walls of houses in England, so we know that it came over with the Colonists. Some scholars think it was a way to bless the house or bring good luck. If you live in a historic house, you may have an old shoe in your wall, too.

First group 

  1. Light blue kid high-button boots, ca.1890, with a 1” Louis heel, ten milk-glass buttons, and scalloped button hole edges. COS-SH8
  2. Shoe box from T.E. Moseley & Co. of Boston, printed by August Gast & Co. of NY in 1887.  Gift of Mrs. Alfred Cushing.COS-SH23.
  3. Ivory kid high-button boots, ca. 1890.
  4. Red child’s shoe with ankle strap. Metal buttons center front. Made by Foster and Peabody of Boston, 1850-70.
  5. Green leather child’s shoe with metal buckles, 1890s
  6. Black leather girl’s shoe with 3 straps and bows, 1890-1910
  7. Child’s pink scalloped high-button shoes, c. 1900-20.  COS-SH33.  Gift of Wisconsin Historical Museum.

 Second Group

  1. Ladies’ black kid shoes with cut-out details and pink silk lining and gold chain stitching.  Made in Paris, Viault-Este, and sold in London by Thierry & Sons. c. 1850-1875.  Gift of Clara L. Barnes.  COS-SH26.
  2. Ladies’ bronze kid leather evening shoes with brown tie bows and vamp heel and a pink satin insert on each toe.  c. 1920-25.  Made in Paris by Viault-Este.  Gift of Mrs. J. Andrews. COS-SH29
  3. Ladies’ pale green satin slippers with gold and clear glass bead decoration over short, round vamps.  Ivory kid and cotton innersoles and lining.  Stamped on right innersole: Thayer McNeil  & Hodgkins, 41 Temple Place, Boston.  1890-1910.  Gift of Mrs. George F Bennett.  COS-SH21.
  4. Child’s black high-buttoned shoes with red leather lining, c. 1900-20.  COS-SH32
  5. Beige ladies’ leather tie shoes with silk ribbon ties, bound in silk grosgrain. c. 1810-1860.  COS-SH25.
  6. Child’s flat brown leather slippers with square toes and vamps.  From I.E. Moseley & Co.corner of Summer and Hawley Streets, Boston.  Late 19th century. COS-SH17.

Shoes Third group 

  1. Pair of men’s “gutta percha” shoes, an early type of rubber galoshes, c. 1840-50.  Gift of the Prudden Family.  COS-SH40.
  2. Men’s black leather shoes with square toes and brown shoe laces. c. 1810-1850.  Gift of Robert Hurley.  COS-SH31.
  3. Women’s wooden clog, or patten, with velvet strap and pointed toe.  “Willard” written on bottom.  c. 1700-1780.  COS-SH46.  Susan Barker Willard Bequest.
  4. Brown leather man’s shoe, c. 1750, well worn, found behind the chimney at 25 Ship St., which was built in 1753 by Jonathan Churchill.

Pattens-1

The pattens on the right side in the last picture deserve brief additional mention.  In days when streets were unpaved and a woman’s dress fell all the way to the ground, these wood or metal platforms lifted her feet and clothing above the muck.

A Crow Point Cottage

melville-gardens-thumb-550x367-49395

Clambake Pavilion, Melville Garden on Crow Point, Hingham

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.

daniel-e-fraser

Daniel Frasier

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.

 

1892-crow-point-map

The Frasier and Grozier cottages alone on Merrill St. in 1892.

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.

sailboat

Crow Point seen from Hingham Harbor c. 1900. 7 Merrill is visible behind the sailboat’s mast.

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.

pavilion

The hexagonal pavilion salvaged from Melville Garden, shown in 1956

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.

The house at 7 Merrill will be a featured stop on the Hingham Historical Society‘s 92nd Historic House Tour on Sunday, October 2, 2016.

7-merrill-street

7 Merrill’s mansard roof is one of the remnants of original construction. After the Civil War, the style became popular with rich and poor alike because it provided a full attic for living space.  The stately portico and fish-scale shingles are modern enhancements.

Glimpses of Huit’s Cove

Courtesy of George and Linda Luther Watt, the Society recently acquired a pair of watercolor drawings of Huit’s (or Hewitt’s) Cove—the site of the Hingham Shipyard—in early 1942.

Huit's Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Beatrice Ruyl, January 23, 1942.  Hingham Historical Society

Huit’s Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Beatrice Ruyl, January 23, 1942. (Hingham Historical Society)

The earlier drawing, dating from January 1942, shows part of the area prior to construction of the Bethlehem Shipyard. Hingham artist Beatrice Ruyl slipped into the area only weeks before construction began and captured a weedy winter landscape where only a few months later would stand an enormous industrial complex on almost all of the site’s 150 acres.

“Slipways” Watercolor and pencil picture by Beatrice Ruyl of the start of construction of the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard. May 2, 1942.

The second picture dates from May 1942, when construction of the shipyard was well underway. The artist titled it “Slipways.” There are cranes, tugboats, and, In the distance across the Cove, the Bradley Fertilizer Works.  Within a very short period, the shipyard was up and running.

Launch of a destroyer Escort, Bethlehem-Hingham Shiphard, 1944 or 1945.  (Hingham Historical Society)

Launch of a destroyer escort from Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, 1944 or 1945. (Hingham Historical Society)

Fewer than 10 years earlier, Huit’s Cove had been the site of an enormous costume pageant to celebrate Hingham’s 300th anniversary. Nearly 1,000 residents participated.

pbaggerph289

The cast of one scene in the Tercentenary Pageant–the “Ordination Ball”-in colonial costumes. June 1935. (Hingham Historical Society)

pbaggerph301

Spectators in bleachers built at Huit’s Cove for the Hingham Tercentenary Pageant, June 27-29, 1935 (Hingham Historical Society)

Prior to to that, a short-lived airfield called Bayside Airport occupied the site.

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit's Cove, Hingham.  (John Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Society)

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit’s Cove, Hingham. (John Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Society)

Going further back, into the 18th century, Patience Pomatuck was said to have gathered native and naturalized plants from Huit’s Cove, which she used for medicinal, herbs, dyes and other household uses. Patience made a living selling these plants to her English neighbors in Hingham. We have no record of which plants grew in the Cove’s many acres, but among them would probably have been rushes, which could be formed into baskets and rush lamps; wild gentian, for use as an emetic; and mullein, used as cough medicine.

Common_Mullein

Common Mullein

Fringed Gentian

Wild Gentian