From Plow Blades and Horseshoes to Automobiles: A Metal-working Skill Lived On

Earlier this year I was researching Hingham’s Irish immigrant neighborhood in preparation for the launch of a Hingham walking tour tied to the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail.   As described in Not All Is Changed: A Life History of Hingham (1993, Hingham Historical Commission), “by the 1870s, Crowe’s Lane, Hersey near Elm Street, upper Elm, Emerald Street, and Bates Court, were an Irish village . . . .”  I spent time reviewing pages about these streets in the Loring Notebooks in our Society archives. These “notebooks” actually are binders filled with historic details about Hingham streets and properties, assembled by local historian Julian Loring (1899-1978).  The description of a property at the corner of Lafayette and Elm Streets — in the heart of the “Irish village” intrigued me.  Daniel Hickey, a blacksmith, and his family, lived on this corner from late 1889 until around 1910. I did some additional digging and felt rewarded for the effort:  the multi-generational Hickey family story that emerged paints a vivid picture of life in Hingham, and America, in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Daniel Hickey was born in Hingham to Irish immigrant parents. And it was with his father John that a metal-working family tradition began.

Irish immigrant John Hickey, from Kilkenny, met Bridgett Hackett, of County Cork, on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. They arrived in Boston in 1832 and married there that November.  They had settled in Hingham sometime before 1835 when their first daughter, Mary, was born. John described himself as a laborer on his 1845 naturalization form but would soon develop far more specialized skills.

Howard Foundry at Hingham Harbor, 1896. Kimball Family Photo Collection, Hingham Historical Society.

The Hickey genealogy in the 1893 History of the Town of Hingham tells us that John and Bridgett found a place to live on North Street near the harbor. Successive federal and state census records tell us that by 1850, John was employed as an “iron melter,” a “furnace man,” then an “iron screener” and, by 1860, a “moulder.”  Although no surviving record could be found, almost certainly John was working at the Howard Foundry at Hingham Harbor.

John and Bridgett’s 9 children—5 daughters and 4 sons–were born in Hingham. (John died in 1866 and his wife Bridget in 1873.) Three of their four sons–James, born in Hingham in 1839; Thomas, born in 1841; and Daniel, born in 1851–followed their dad into hot metal work.

Their eldest son James became an iron screener and moulder as a teenager (likely joining his dad at the local foundry) and then took his trade into the Civil War, where he served in the 4th Regiment of the Massachusetts Cavalry—perhaps making cannon balls as well as horseshoes for his unit. After the war James married and moved to Canada.

Second son Thomas, described as a blacksmith when he joined the 1st Cavalry in 1861, later served in the 4thCavalry. His 4 plus years of service were eventful and admirable as related in The Town of Hingham the Late Civil War (1876, F. Burr and G. Lincoln.) He mustered out at the war’s end in 1865 as a second lieutenant. James and Thomas were among the 24 young men from Hingham who were in cavalry service during the Civil War.

Burr-Brown Tassel Factory, Fearing Road, Hingham, c. 1865. Hingham Historical Society

Thomas returned to the family’s Hingham home on North Street, where in 1865, he (aged 23) and 4 younger siblings were living with their parents. His 21-year-old sister Ellen worked at the nearby Burr, Brown Tassel Factory, a popular employer for young women from Irish immigrant families, and John Jr., 19, was a periodical dealer, perhaps selling reading material to commuters from the then-downtown train station. Thomas married in 1866. By 1879, records show that Thomas had a 2-man blacksmith business in Hingham. It is quite possible that the second blacksmith at Thomas’ shop was younger brother Daniel, who would have been in his 20’s by that time. By 1880, Thomas and his wife Mary Jane had a home on Cottage Street and three young sons. They moved to Quincy in 1883.

Daniel stayed in Hingham. In 1876, he married Margaret Hanley of East Weymouth, whose parents, John Hanley and Margaret Keane, were both Irish immigrants. John Hanley, a farmer, was born in Tipperary County. Perhaps Margaret met Daniel Hickey when he provided blacksmith services for her dad’s farm animals. After they married and started a family, the couple first lived on Ship Street. By 1892, Daniel and Margaret had 5 children — 3 sons and 2 daughters.

Detail from “A Bird’s Eye View of Hingham,” map published by A. F. Poole, Brockton, Mass. (1885). Hingham Historical Society

In November 1889, Daniel and his family moved to the corner of Elm and Lafayette, where the property included a barn suitable for horseshoeing. This excerpt from an 1885 illustrated map of Hingham shows the corner as it likely looked when Daniel bought the property in 1889, before the surrounding Maple Street neighborhood was developed, around 1900. Daniel also had a business location for his blacksmith business within walking distance, at 23 North Street. Daniel bought the corner property at 49 Elm Street from Alfred Howard, a carpenter and cabinetmaker, who may have built the home (c.1860) which still stands at this address. Alfred was the son of a blacksmith, Edmund Howard. Daniel had likely known the Howard family for years, as it was Alfred’s uncle, Charles Howard, inventor of the Howard Plow, who had started the Howard Foundry at Hingham Harbor.

A horse-drawn open wagon passes the Cushing House on North Street c. 1896. Kimball Family Photo Collection, Hingham Historical Society

The late 19th century was a busy time for livery stables and the blacksmith trade as horse and buggy was a primary means of transportation.  In the 1860 census there were 14 blacksmiths doing business in town, as related in a fascinating program on the history of transportation in Hingham researched and presented by archivist Bob Malme (and now available to view on the Society’s YouTube channel.

But times were about to change. The first automobile in Hingham, arriving in 1902 according to Not All Is Changed, was owned by Francis Willard Brewer (1846-1907), an affluent local “gentleman farmer.” By 1912 Hingham had acquired its first motor-powered fire engine, replacing one team of horses. That year, with their family now grown and local blacksmithing businesses gradually being replaced by auto repair shops, Daniel and Margaret downsized to a home at 37 Elm Street. But the family interest in horses, and in metal work, continued with their sons Daniel Jr. and Herbert.

Daniel Hickey, Jr., born in Hingham in 1883, and later living in Boston, was, at age 34, a riding instructor, according to his WWI draft registration.  He worked for a time at Boston’s Park Riding School, which was operated by a J. B. Ferry.  Daniel was also described as an “automobile driver”—which suggests he worked as a chauffeur in early automobiles, in addition to teaching students to ride horses.

Hudson Motors dealership, Summer Street, Hingham, 1926. Kimball Family Photo Collection, Hingham Historical Society

Indicative of the changing times, Daniel’s oldest son Herbert, born in 1878, moved to Detroit sometime after 1910, and had a long career in the fast-growing auto industry. For a time, he was an inspector at the Hudson Motor Car Company, which had an early dealership on Summer Street at Hingham Harbor. Hudson Motor Company, founded in 1909, merged in 1954 to become American Motors Corporation.  It was fascinating to learn how the Hickey family’s livelihood evolved with changes in transportation, while the skills in metal work continued through the generations.

The Farm Hills Civic Society

Individually we are ineffective, united we achieve results.

While researching my neighborhood around Peter Hobart Drive, I noticed that information about its history was limited in comparison to other parts of town. The road connects to upper Gardner Street, an area whose history extends to the early days of Hingham’s establishment. Various smaller streets branch off and create an entanglement of roads that forms our neighborhood community. My street was named after the Reverend Peter Hobart, one of the original settlers of Hingham and a pastor of the Town’s first church. However, the life of this neighborhood only stretches back to the early twentieth century, far later than the time period when Hobart lived.

The chicken barn that started the neighborhood c. 1963

Development began in 1938 with a chicken barn hiding behind an old bucket factory, and the rest of the houses were constructed throughout the fifties and sixties. To my dismay, much of Hingham’s historical research does not extend beyond World War II but rather focuses on the original era of English settlement. Although newly developed areas of town were not involved in Hingham’s establishment, they illustrate the pathway of change taken throughout Hingham’s existence.

The neighborhoods of upper Gardner Street have contributed greatly to the town’s politics and communal activities for the past few decades. The concern that initially brought the Farm Hills Civic Society together involved a proposal to extend Route 3 into the upper Gardner area. Residents worried that adding a busy highway in the middle of the neighborhood would  negatively affect the area’s character and interfere with the neighborhood’s tranquil and hospitable personality. In collective agreement that this proposal would create a great disturbance, residents collaborated to prevent the extension from being constructed.

Writing articles and calling meetings to present their views to others, the group achieved success in preventing the extension. This communal organization endures, still presenting their collective ideas for improvements to the neighborhood while fighting against town proposals that would threaten the area’s character.

Throughout the organization’s life, it has accomplished a variety of goals, both small and large. Creating a sense of community has been a principal goal of the Farm Hills Civic Society since it first began. One manner of accomplishing this has been hosting social events, such as annual Easter egg hunts and block parties. Involving neighbors in enjoyable communal activities enhanced the feeling of togetherness necessary for the FHCS to continue working for the benefit of the community as a whole. These events often catered to child residents, indicating the group’s desire to create a positive environment for families to raise their children.

According to an early resident of Peter Hobart Drive, Mary Thomas, many families moved from the Boston area to suburban towns, considered the “countryside” in the fifties, to enjoy the improved school systems, and today the neighborhood remains home to many families with young children. Consequently, many of the FHCS’s smaller goals centered on maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for children to grow up in. In the late seventies, the association prevented Pilgrim Arena from gaining a liquor license. This popular ice rink is often frequented by children for its exceptional activities and sports practices, and allowing such an establishment to sell liquor seemed inappropriate to the FHCS. The group also advocated for the preservation of safety in areas within the neighborhood where children often played. The same year as the ice rink victory, the society prevented an access road from being constructed through Kress Field. This plot was donated to the town to allow for a children’s playground to be built, and today it is a beloved part of the neighborhood’s child-friendly environment. In the early 2000s, they petitioned for the installation of a four-way stop at the intersection of Gardner Street, Winfield Lane, and Farm Hills Lane in order to preserve safety for families living near this area.

A 1969 newspaper article by Debra K. Piot in which the Thomas’s explain that they bought their home “looking for family roots in Hingham”

Just a few years after the FHCS was first incorporated, it faced a significant concern presented by the town government. The town provided the Selectman with permission to determine the relocation process of Route 228 with state officials. The six-lane highway would have cut through the Gardner Street neighborhoods, polluting the water supply with oil and salts while removing up to eighty-five homes around Farms Hills. To avoid the devastation this relocation would have caused, the FHCS united to defeat the proposal, which had been presented two separate times.

Gardner Street in a snow storm c. 1898

One of the Farm Hills Civic Society’s most notable accomplishments occurred between the years 1999 and 2000. A real estate company known as Mills Corporation of VA proposed a plan to construct a mega-mall where the South Weymouth Naval Air Station was once located. The development would have needed a connector road to be structured through the neighborhood, causing endless traffic on the surrounding streets. When the residents of the Farm Hills Area learned of this proposal, local town and state officials were already finalizing negotiations, explaining to the FHCS that the project was a “done deal.” However, neighbors rallied together, publishing newspaper articles to educate fellow townspeople about the issues this connector road would cause. With the tide turning in their favor, the FHCS called a town meeting, demonstrating the community support that their efforts had garnered and disrupting the supposedly “already decided” project.

The FHCS has seen incredibly dedicated presidents and members over the years. Notably, Stephen Kelsch served as president during the eighties, and members of his community remember and admire his efforts. He focused much of his attention on the effects of development in the South Hingham area, and current residents appreciate the enduring accomplishments he allowed the FHCS to achieve. Kelsch, sadly, passed in 2013, but his impact on the town’s politics remains apparent. Alongside the FHCS, he involved himself in multiple town committees and historical associations, including the Hingham Historical Society.

Current resident of Farm Hills Lane, Judy Kelley, has been an active member of the FHCS for many years. Her efforts in vocalizing the ideas and opinions of the FHCS have tremendously aided the accomplishment of many of the neighborhood’s goals. One significant issue that she helped the neighborhood overcome was the impending development of a substantial apartment complex near the upper Gardner area. Between the years 2011 and 2013, a development company known as AvalonBay planned to replace 18.5 acres of wooded area on Recreation Park Drive with an apartment complex comprised of sixteen buildings and one hundred seventy-seven individual apartments. This location was chosen to avoid specific town zoning regulations that inhibit crowded population densities. The construction of these apartments would have also required an access road leading into the neighborhood from Deerfield Road. This development would have resulted in multiple four-story housing complexes squeezing uncomfortably into the small streets of upper Gardner, inevitably increasing congestion on nearby roads and highways. Judy Kelley explained in an interview with Jeff Keating from WGBH News that the development would not have been accepted if the size of the land and the community were taken into greater consideration. Ultimately, with the help of the FHCS, the town selectmen passed a proposal to utilize the land for further development of the South Shore Industrial Park.

Gardner Street (with stone walls and chickens), c. 1900

Documents describing the accomplishments of the FHCS express: “Individually we are ineffective, united we achieve results.” This statement perfectly depicts the organization’s dedication to creating a supportive community and advocating for the best interests of the entire neighborhood. The community still remains politically active, with residents involved in various aspects of the town’s government, and the Farm Hills Civic Society continues to advocate for the good of the neighborhood under the current president, Ted Healy, who has served since 2014. Former residents believe that the group is more dynamic now than ever before due to dedicated leadership over the years.

The author, Ella Kennedy, is a member of the Hingham High School Class of 2022.  She participate in the Hingham Historical Society’s high school intern program during the fall term 2021.    

Escaping to Hingham

When we think of tourism in Massachusetts, examples such as Hull’s Nantasket Beach, Cape Cod’s Provincetown, or Martha’s Vineyard’s Edgartown immediately come to mind. Perhaps surprising to some, Hingham held a role as a tourist destination, possessing three resort hotels throughout the 19th century.

First built in 1770, the Union Hotel was constructed where the Hingham Post Office stands today. In the early 19thcentury, it was renamed the Drew Hotel and then later the Cushing House and underwent various renovations before it was torn down in 1949.

Next, the Old Colony House was built in 1832 on top of Old Colony Hill, close to what is now Summer Street, with grounds extending to Martin’s Well. Founded by the Boston and Hingham Steamship Company, it burned down in October of 1872.

Thirdly, in 1871 the Rose Standish House was constructed in what is now Crow Point. The hotel was part of Samuel Downer’s Victorian-era amusement park, Melville Garden, until the park was dismantled in 1896.

What were some of the factors contributing to Hingham’s rise in tourism?

While Hingham could be accessed by horse drawn carriage, the development of steamships and railroads during the 1800s was important to connecting small, rural towns like Hingham to Boston’s wealthy citizens, and later the general public, in order to grant quick access to the pleasures they had to offer.

Furthermore, with the increase in urbanization due to the Industrial Revolution, towns such as Hingham became places of escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. As cities grew, doctors and scholars began to associate the city with not only various physical diseases but also mental maladies. While sea bathing and the sea air were thought to possess healing properties, it was also considered salubrious to take a respite from the city itself. An excerpt from the research magazine Scientific American, published in 1871, discussed the medical benefits of a seaside visit for people suffering from a variety of ailments: from anxious businessmen, to people living in crowded towns, or to people recovering from illness or injury. The author stated

To these people it is not the sea air alone, nor yet change of air; but it is change of scene and habit, with freedom from the anxieties and cares of study or business, the giddy rounds of pleasure, the monotony of every-day life, or the sick room and convalescent chamber, which produce such extraordinary beneficial effects . . . .

With the development of a middle class during this time, more people could afford the time and money to engage in leisure activities and embark on day trips to Boston’s surrounding towns. From the naturalistic scenery of World’s End surrounding the Old Colony House to the dancing and boating at the Rose Standish House and Melville Garden, the escapist nature of Hingham’s seaside resorts provided urbanites a sojourn away from the city.

 

 

Hingham Community Band & “the old-time melodies which everyone loves”

“Sound drums and trumpets!
Farewell sour annoy!
For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.” – William Shakespeare

Once a dependable and generous keeper of time, William Goodwin’s bass drum, on display in the Kelly Gallery at Old Derby, is a charming keepsake of Hingham’s lively past. The drum is a sizable and early relic, cased in birchwood, balancing on the rope tension while exhibit lighting illuminates it’s face. The periphery of the double-sided calfskin head, where impressions of countless striking remain, reads “Hingham Community Band”. A uniformed, marching ensemble comprised of traditional woodwind, brass and percussion instrumentation, the Hingham Community Band was organized during the first decade of the 1900s.

It was somewhere between 1920-1930 when William Eleazar Goodwin (1891-1952) was the chief director of the rhythmic beats essential to the collective timbre of the Community Band. Goodwin was born in Foxborough, Massachusetts to Charles, a railroad conductor from Groveland, and Mary Lovett. By age 19 he was living in Dorchester where he married Elizabeth Daly of Boston, daughter of Irish immigrants, in 1915. He later settled with wife and two, school-age daughters, Dorothy and Elizabeth, in West Hingham where he was a meat purveyor in a grocery under his ownership at North and Thaxter Streets.

While the drum is light of weight, it’s bulky volume requires a party of two to maneuver if the player is not sized to carry it comfortably on his chest. Since all the instruments in a marching band are to be played while mobile, the sturdy leather handle on the outer front of the drum’s case would be held by another band member.

Frederick L. Lane | General Manager of the Nantasket Steamboat Co | Boston Post Sun 26 Jun 1921

Boston Post Sun, 26 Jun 1921

Led by musical director Frederick Leavitt Lane (1872-1943), the band appeared in parades and celebrations, civil and religious ceremonies and played at sporting events including boxing matches throughout Greater Boston and the grand opening of the Boston Garden in 1928. Each member of the band was a trained musician and resident of Hingham. At times there were 80 marching members with a range of ages from 16 to 72. As the Boston Herald noted in 1928, “The Hingham Community Band has specialized in the rendition of favorite compositions; the old-time melodies which everyone loves”. Lane was treasurer of the Nantasket Beach Steamboat Line under company president and Hingham native Ebed Ripley. Designated the oldest ferry company in the country, the Boston and Hingham Steamboat Co. was founded in 1831. After 50 years the firm restructured and was renamed Nantasket Beach Steamboat Lines. The service provided excursion passenger transit between Rowes Wharf, Boston and Nantasket Beach, the “Coney Island of Boston”, from the 1890s through the 1930s. Lane began with the company as a bookkeeper and quickly ascended to general manager and treasurer in 1912. Due to Lane’s authority, the Hingham Community Band would perform on the Steamboat company’s crafts including the legendary “Mayflower” where on the foredeck they held concerts during the summer months. MayflowerA steam-powered, side wheel vessel, the Mayflower was the lone survivor of a wharf fire that destroyed 4 other Nantasket Steamboat passenger boats in 1929. After over 40 years, she was taken out of service and while grounded on Nantasket Beach, lived nearly 40 more years as the nightclub “Showboat”. Frederick Lane was also the owner of the Pear Tree Hill Dairy, purveyors of high grade milk, cream and butter located on Main St. in Hingham. Lane passed away in Warner, New Hampshire in July of 1943. He is buried in Hingham Cemetery.

In 1952, at the age of 61, William Goodwin died in Hingham. Though remaining in Hingham until passing in 1980, his wife Elizabeth sold the property at North and Thaxter in 1954. Both are interred in St. Paul’s Cemetery.

Preserved in a delightful bass drum at the Heritage Museum is Hingham’s musical identity in the contributions of spirited and ambitious residents Frederick Lane and William Goodwin.

A Hurricane in Hingham

2016322-large-2On September 18, 1933, under the headline, “Railroad Tracks Washed Out During Storm Last Sunday,” the Hingham Journal reported:

Fully 500 feet of the New Haven tracks running from Hingham to Cohasset under the bridge of the Cohasset-Hingham new road were washed out and all trains held up during the height of the heavy gale and rain storm on last Sunday afternoon.

The break in the track was discovered by Daniel Magner, who told his grandfather, Thomas Magner, who in turn notified the railroad officials.  The last train over the line before it gave way was at 11:02 A.M.  The 2:52 P.M. from Boston carried just one passenger, who was transferred at the washout in an automobile. A downpour of water carried away enough roadbed to undermine about 50 feet of track.  Part of the track hung suspended in the air and part gave way. A full wrecking crew was called into action at once and work was continued all Sunday night. . . .  The force of the water took telegraph poles along with it, temporarily causing telephone disruption.  This was speedy repaired so that little inconvenience was caused.

The scene was viewed by thousands, police being on duty at the bridge to keep traffic moving.

440px-1933_Atlantic_hurricane_13_trackThe storm that took out the railroad embankment is not as locally famous as the Hurricane of 1938 or 1954’s Hurricane Carol, both of which devastated the Northeast.  Later named the “1933 Outer Banks Hurricane,” it travelled from the Caribbean up the East Coast and into Canada between September 8-18, 1933.  It was the 13th storm of the Atlantic hurricane of the season that year.  The 1933 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active recorded, with the highest aggregate combined accumulated cyclone energy score (a measure used by NOAA to express cyclone activity through an approximation of wind energy) from 1851 (when hurricane activity was first recorded) to date.

High-Wheelers in Hingham

These seven Hingham boys posed with three bicycles are witnessing the birth of modern cycling. Behind them are two older bicycles—so-called “high wheelers” or “penny farthings” (the latter nickname descriptive of the relative sizes of the two wheels). High-wheelers originated in England and became popular in the United States in the early 1880s. As this photo lets us see clearly, these early bicycles had a “direct drive” mechanism, that is, the pedals attach directly to the wheel, so that the cyclist’s motion turns the wheel directly. Enlarging the front wheel, therefore, was the only way to make the bicycles go faster–and this is what happened. Front wheels often five feet in diameter, with the cyclist perched directly over the wheel, meant an increased risk of the cyclist pitching headfirst from the front of his bike. Cycling in the era of the high wheelers was a sport for athletic young men.

By the early 1890s, however, “safety bicycles”—like the one lying on the ground in front of the boys—had been introduced and quickly grown in popularity. With two wheels of equal size and pedals connected to a chain that propelled the rear wheel, this direct ancestor of our modern bicycles had a lower center of gravity and was easier to ride. With these technological advances—and the pneumatic tires which smoothed out the ride, bicycling became a very popular past time, with men, women, and children all participating.

Hingham’s Unbuilt Highways, Part 2

As discussed in our prior post, Hingham’s Unbuilt Highways, Part 1, traffic has been an issue for the Town of Hingham for nearly 100 years.  This has been particularly true for Main Street.  Each time the State proposed a plan to solve the problem, though, concerned citizens have stepped forward to oppose what they saw as a threat to the town’s character.

When Route 128 was extended into Hingham (heading to Nantasket Beach) in the late 1920s,  increased complaints about traffic on Main and East Streets led the State, by the mid-1930’s, to promise a bypass route for traffic relief.  The route that it proposed followed Gardner Street, starting at Whiting Street, crossing Main Street, and eventually turning north through the less developed eastern part of town into Hull. Funding issues stalled any actual construction, however. In 1938, the State offered a “temporary fix,” offering to build a rotary in Hingham Centre at the intersection of Main, Short, and Middle Streets.

The Hinghamite, August 1941

August 1941 issue of The Hinghamite, a monthly newspaper published by Albert L. Pitcher during the 1940s

As reported in August 1941 issue of The Hinghamite, the rotary plan, which probably would have resulted in several historic buildings being torn down, was halted by the efforts of Mrs. David T. Whiton and Miss Ethel H. Studley, owners of some of potentially effected properties.  They gathered a petition of nearly 250 names and packed a public hearing which convinced the State to back down. The Town did agree to better signage, more traffic islands, and other measures to help ease traffic problems.

View of Hingham Centre from corner of Main and Short Streets, 9/8/13

Hingham Centre, as seen from the corner of Main and Short Streets in September 2013. Some of these buildings might have been torn down if the State’s rotary proposal had gone forward. Photo by Robert H. Malme

By the 1950’s and the dawn of America’s freeway age, renewed efforts were made to take traffic off Main Street, this time with a proposed relocated Route 128 expressway. Highway surveyors were for time a constant presence in several parts of town.  Leavitt Street resident Carl Burr (whose diary we have blogged about previously) mentioned being visited due to his property being in the potential path of the new highway. By the time the State got serious about the project in the late 1960s, the southern end of Route 128 had been pushed back to Braintree, and the route running through Hingham to Hull was renumbered Rote 228. On February 29, 1968 the State held a public hearing at Hingham High School to describe its proposal for a relocated Route 228:

Proposed Relocation of Route 228 in Hingham-Norwell-Hull

The State’s proposal was an 8-mile, four-lane expressway (250 to 400 feet wide) from Route 3 to George Washington Blvd. in Hull.  According to the State, this would fulfill three specific goals: to stimulate residential development and recreational activities for the towns along its route, to provide traffic relief to local streets, and to provide safety, comfort and reduced travel times to motorists. The State offered three alternatives for this proposed expressway’s route through the southern and middle parts of Hingham.

Proposed Relocation of Route 228 in Hingham, Norwell and Hull

The “Gardner Line” alternative began at an interchange with Route 3 in vicinity of today’s Derby Street Shoppes, taking the route across Whiting Street and south of Gardner Street, across Main Street then turning north in the vicinity of Prospect Street. The two other alternatives, the “Pond Line” and the “Webster Line” started at Route 3 in Norwell and ran north to Prospect Street.  From Prospect Street, all three proposed routes proceeded north along a “Common Line” running parallel to the border of today’s Wompatuck State Park.  North of Free Street (where an interchange was planned), three alternative routes were again proposed north to Hull.  Two of these proposed routes, the “Western” and “West Central” Lines would have required “relocating” Triphammer Pond and the Weir River.  The “Eastern Line” would have run east of Triphammer Pond but would have skirted Turkey Hill.

All three proposed routes intersected with Route 3A (with a large interchange) at between Summer Street and today’s Weir River Farm. Any of the alternatives would have condemned 17 to 26 houses and requiring those living in them to move and would have cost $12 to $15 million (in 1968 dollars).

View from Top of Turkey Hill

View from top of Turkey Hill–which would have been much different if the Route 228 expressway had been built.  Photo by Robert H. Malme, May 2015

Many Town officials were receptive to the plan, provided that the State chose one of the Norwell routes. The Selectmen even asked the State to add an interchange at Rockland Street in the event the Eastern Line was chosen. In the spring of 1968, however, Norwell rejected the proposed routes within its borders due to their proximity to the municipal water supply, and the State indicated that the Gardner Line would probably be its recommended southern alternative.

At a Special Town Meeting held on September 30, 1968, Hingham voters rejected the State’s plans by a narrow vote of 559-506.  (A second article, requiring the Selectmen to insist upon the Pond-Common-Eastern Line configuration if the State moved forward with a highway despite the Town’s vote, passed 422-231). Since neither Norwell nor Hingham would approve a southern route through their respective towns, no construction was started. By the early 1970s, with continued opposition and with overall sentiment for expressway-building waning in the metro Boston area waning (a trend exemplified by the cancellation of the Southwest Expressway in Boston), the State abandoned the plan.

Continued traffic problems on Main Street, however, revived the idea of building a relocated Route 228 in the early 1990s. Several frustrated Main Streets resident asked Selectmen to reconsider the State’s 1960s plan. This time, however, a large majority of town citizens and the town’s officials stood up against this idea. Their sentiments were best summed up in a letter which John P. Richardson wrote to the editor of the Hingham Mariner on August 8, 1993, arguing that any such highway would ruin one of the town’s gems, Wompatuck State Park.

richardsonletter8893

Letter to the Editor of the Hingham Mariner, written by John P Richardson on August 8, 1993.

The idea died quietly and has not been revived. Current sentiment with building new roads to solve traffic problems can best be summed up by the response of the Town Traffic Committee to the complaint of a frustrated Main Street resident, as reported in the July 29, 1993 Hingham Mariner.  When the Main Streeter asked what could be done for relief from the traffic noise, the response was, “Move to Plymouth.”

Hingham R.F.D.

Ervin Horton in his Stanley Steamer (1911)
This 1911 shot from our photo archives depicts Ervin Horton (1876-1959), at the time a Hingham mail carrier, in his Stanley Steamer automobile. When we reproduced the photo in Michael Shilhan’s 1976 local history, When I Think of Hingham, the caption read, “Ervin S. Horton and his red Stanley Steamer on South Street in front of the Post Office, July 31, 1911.”

Ervin’s son, Howard Leavitt Horton (1904-1983), memorialized the Hingham of his youth in letters, stories, water color paintings, and sound recordings, many of which are in our archives. Here, in a 1975 letter written to Historical Society President James W. Wheaton, an elderly Howard Horton remembers his father, the delivery route, and the car:

I remember driving around the Hingham R.F.D. mail route with my father in that old Stanley Steamer . . . . We started up Fearing Road and turned right past the old Cadet Field (now Derby) and then left at the foot of the hill by the harbor and over Otis Street then turned right on Downer Avenue passing the Crow Point Inn and to the Steamboat Landing. Then we took a very sharp left turn and up a very steep hill, Steamboat Lane. This was before 1915 and there were few automobiles in Hingham then and I doubt if any of them except my father’s Stanley Steamer could go up that hill after a sharp turn. The old Stanley Steamer just went up that hill puffing steam with no trouble at all. The Crow Point Golf Club was at the top of the hill and then we turned right and there was a beautiful view of Boston Harbour. . . .

In those days there was an old blacksmith shop as we turned right leaving Downer Avenue on Lincoln Street . . . Mr. Wing’s blacksmith shop and then Jerry Breen’s farm house and barn with a windmill which pumped water from a well for use on his truck garden. There were several of these farms in Hingham and they all drove over Lincoln Street early in the dawn to get to the market district on Hanover and Blackstone streets at Boston by daylight, these huge wagons requiring two horses and sometimes four. . . .

Crow Point Golf Club
This postcard dates from 1915, around the time young Howard Horton accompanied his father on summertime mail delivery trips up the hill to the Crow Point Golf Club, a 9-hole golf course located at the top of Paige Hill, off Howe Street.
Steamboat Hill

Steamboat Hill ran up from the former steamboat landing–where the Hingham  Yacht Club now has its pier:  the sharp left up the hill remains in place today.  The painting above, showing Steamboat Hill from the far side, was made somewhat earlier, in 1895–the year before Melville Garden was closed and development of Crow Point accelerated.

Hingham’s Unbuilt Highways, Part 1

For nearly the last 100 years, residents of Hingham have had to deal with traffic congestion in its downtown, the harbor area, and along Main Street. The recent effort by the town to survey residents about possible improvements to Route 3A and Summer Street is only the latest attempt to try to solve the town’s traffic problems. Documents from the John Richardson Collection and other materials in our archives confirm that the search for a solution to traffic problems has a long history.

Starting in the 1920’s the town asked the state to fund a project to take beach and through traffic away from Hingham Square. The state took the easiest solution and expanded Broad Cove Road and Otis Street to four lanes so that 3A could be re-routed away from the eastern end of Lincoln Street and North Street in 1932. Though successful, this action reduced the ability for non-automobile traffic to easily access the waterfront from that date forward. Around the same time, to further speed Nantasket and other traffic east of the Harbor, the state also built Chief Justice Cushing Highway, with the now infamous Harbor Rotary, and constructed George Washington Blvd. to Hull.

Looking North towards the Harbor Rotary in 1941:

Hingham Rotary and Harbor (1941)With the 1950s came the start of the freeway era in the country and Massachusetts. By 1959, the state had completed the 128 Beltway, the Central Artery, and the Southeast Expressway as far as Derby Street (later to be Route 3). Hingham officials saw the new expressway as an opportunity to attract tax-producing industrial and commercial development to South Hingham but also worried about what a potential residential population boom would do to the town. With these thoughts in mind, the Hingham Planning Board produced a report called the ‘1959 Town Plan Summary’ which projected Hingham’s population as 25,000 by 1980 and made a series of recommendations to best accommodate this growth while preserving the town’s character.

Cover of 1959 Planning Board Report:

1959 Hingham Town Plan Summary

The report made two recommendations to help increase recreational use of the Harbor. The first was to fill parts of it to connect the Harbor islands to the mainland and build a marina where the Yacht Club is now, as seen in the map below.

Hingham Harbor Plan (1959)

Second to ease waterfront access to town citizens, and to help solve many of the town’s traffic problems, the Board recommended building a pair of parkways (which, depending on costs, would be built as limited access expressways right away, or upgraded to them in the future) to take Nantasket and other through traffic away from the Harbor area and from Main Street (see Location A in the map below). The north-south parkway would take through traffic from Route 3A at the Back River Bridge southward parallel to Beal Street (by the Ammunition Depot, slated to close and holding out the opportunity for industrial development) and then further south along the western side of town to Route 3. The east-west parkway would then take southbound and Nantasket traffic east, following a route through the center of Town, north of High and Free Streets, and then across 3A to George Washington Blvd.

1959 Hingham Highway Plan

Neither of these plans got off the drawing board: they appear to have largely been an alternative to the state’s known plans for the Hingham area, which included, as can be seen referenced on the top left side map, the Shawmut Trail. The Shawmut Trail was a proposed expressway that would have run from Route 3 near today’s Braintree Split eastward across the Fore River (over a new bridge) to Route 3A in Weymouth just west of the Back River Bridge. It would then have continued into Hingham mostly along the path of Route 3A to end at the proposed Route 128 (later 228) Expressway near Turkey Hill (shown on Map C). As can be seen on the Location B and C Maps above, a portion of the Shawmut Trail route would have run directly from the Broad Cove Rd/Otis Street intersection to the Rotary. This would, as the report notes, involve running Route 3A “on a dike across the southern shallows of the Harbor cutting off the ponded areas from further recreational or boating use.” In other words, this plan would have prevented most of the current activities in the southern end of the harbor.

View of the southern end of Hingham Harbor from the Bathing Beach in 2014, a scene that would not be possible if the Shawmut Trail had been built:

View of the southern end of Hingham Harbor from Bathing Beach, 8/9/14
Photo by Robert H. Malme, 8/9/14

Needless to say, this plan did not impress Hingham’s citizens or town officials. By the end of 1968 the state relented and ended the proposed Shawmut Trail in Weymouth. In the early 1970s the state officially abandoned the plan. Though none of these proposal came to be, a plan to build a relocated 228 expressway came much closer to fruition. More about that in Part 2.

 

Carl Burr’s Hingham, Part 1

Thanks to the generosity of Hingham resident Gerry Bennett, the Historical Society has recently been loaned the diaries of Carl Burr (1884-1961), a seventh generation Hingham resident who lived his entire life at the family homestead at 61 Leavitt Street, across from today’s Hingham Public Library. I have just completed cataloging these diaries to make them accessible to researchers and others interested in this local history resource. Click on the link to read the full Carl Burr Diaries Finding Aid.

Photo of the Burr Homestead on Leavitt Street in 1885 and beyond. Taken by Charles Marble from the roof of Agricultural Hall:

Burr Homestead in 1885

Carl Burr was the eleventh child of Elisha Burr (1839-1909) and Mary Pratt Burr (1842-1940). He married Esther (Essie) M. Snyder (1889-1975) of Cohasset on June 15, 1910 and they raised two children, Alston P. Burr (1910-1979), who after 1940 lived next door at 67 Leavitt Street, and Constance (Connie) Burr Talbot (1915-1989) who spent her married life in Darien, Connecticut. He kept a daily diary for most of his adult life. The entries provide a window on a Hingham that was changing rapidly from a rural farm town in the early 1900s to the suburban community it is today. Changes that are evident through his diary’s descriptions of modes of transportation and use of open space.

Transportation
Carl Burr never owned a car. He didn’t have to travel far to visit family. Carl’s younger brother, noted decoy maker Russ Burr (1887-1955), lived next door at 55 Leavitt Street until his death in 1955, older sister Mary (May) Burr Ripley (b. 1878) and her husband William (Bill) Ripley (b. 1876) lived two doors up at the corner of Leavitt and Spring Streets.

Burr Homestead houses along 57, 61 and 67 Leavitt Street, 5/2/15

Burr Homestead houses along 57, 61 and 67 Leavitt Street. Photo taken May 2, 2015 by Robert H. Malme.

He was within walking distance of stores in both Hingham Center and Hingham Square. In his early years he was a plumbing and heating contractor and his entries list his extensive use of the local street railway system to visit clients throughout Hingham and neighboring communities.

Hingham Street Railway Car on Main Street near Pear Tree Hill:
Hingham Street Railway Company Car, Pear Tree Hill

He used the Nantasket and Old Colony railroad lines to take off-hour excursions to Nantasket Beach and Paragon Park or to travel to Cohasset to visit his future wife.

Nantasket Beach Railroad Train c. 1900 Nantasket Railway train heading towards Hingham near the Weir River around 1900, courtesy of the Hingham Historical Society.

Through connecting rail lines in other towns, he could travel far from home. He writes on August 15, 1909 traveling to Providence, RI via ‘the electrics’ for a dinner. In the 1920’s he became maintenance supervisor to buildings in Boston and started daily commutes via the Old Colony Railroad into South Station often returning home in the early afternoon. And like this past winter season, he noted several times when severe snowstorms prevented the trains from running.

Passengers board Old Colony Railroad train at Hingham Square Depot around 1930:

Hingham Square Train Station

As the years went on, particularly after World War II, however, the railroad started to give way to the popularity of the automobile. His entries refer to rail service starting to get cut back. On April 3, 1948 he notes he can no longer take a 12:30PM trip back to Hingham from Boston, but must now take a train to Quincy and then a bus. By the late 1940s, any late evening work would require his son Allston picking him up in his car from Quincy or the ‘rapid transit’ station at Columbia, today’s JFK-UMass station. After he stopped working in Boston in 1951, he started to rely totally on family, or friends, to transport him around town or elsewhere. Toward the end of his life, on September 8, 1959 he noted traveling on the new Southeast Expressway, its opening causing the end of railroad service in Hingham for nearly 50 years.

Hingham Square Train Depot being demolished in 1949:
Demolition of Hingham Square Train Station

Part two will discuss the changes the diaries chronicle in Hingham’s open spaces.