Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hawes' Clock

William K. Hawes and his Clock

Sometimes you come across a photograph and ask yourself the question "I wonder where that thing is now?" Here is an example from Canton's History that begs the question.

The photograph shows William K. Hawes standing outside his watchmaker and jewelry shop which was located on Washington Street. The Historical Society has documentation that suggests this shop was located between Neponset and Church Streets in the Wentworth Block. The Wentworth Block was originally three separate buildings that were combined in 1819 by Friend Crane. The block was destroyed by fire around 1900. 

To his left is his Grand Strasburg - an enormous clock that is twice as tall as him. And the details in this machine are amazing. It appears to show celestial and planetary movements. At the top is a host of moving animatronic people and fanciful angels or cherubs. The detail must have been amazing to behold. Hawes was apparently quite successful as a local businessman and he sold photographs and stereographic images along with clocks and jewelry. This image is dated to approximately 1885.

There are probably not many clocks still around that can be attributed to Hawes, I do know of one of Hawes' clocks and it is in the Canton Historical Society hanging to the left of the vault door. The clock is quite tall in a black wooden case and beautiful dial. I can still recall Ed Bolster the President of the "Histy" climbing the rickety ladder to wind the elegant clock with the banjo-style pendulum. I recently saw the clock just last week and noticed that it is in need of some minor repair and probably a cleaning, but it is a fine specimen of the maker.

Many times I wonder what became of this enormous piece. The carvings and the mechanisms appear to be highly detailed and there are few places that could have houses such a huge timepiece. Perhaps it was made for an exhibition or a World's Fair. Whatever the case, this is an amazing glimpse at life along Washington Street at the turn of the last Century.

This photo is a wonderful connection to our past and a reminder of the William K. Hawes, Watchmaker and Jeweler of Canton, Mass. Thanks to Patricia Johnson for deducing the location at the Wentworth Block.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Canton Dale

Canton Dale
Not distant far from Taunton Road, in Canton Dale is my abode.

These are the words penned by the American Patriot Paul Revere. Revere was referring to this fine home which was built in 1717 by Elijah and Samuel Danforth for "an HONEST miller".

The original use for this house was for the local miller and the grist mill would have been situated on the stream along with a barn. The Danforth Brothers were entrepreneurs that invested in creating the mill for the benefit of local villagers that would find it difficult to travel for two days to bring their corn to a mill and thus the hardship would vastly diminish their returns. And so the Danforth Brothers petitioned the Dorchester Selectmen for permission to build on the land and river at the place called Pacomit. So, on the banks of the Neponset River in 1717 began the earliest history of industry in Canton.

y the time Paul Rever had become familiar with this place it would be 1776 during the American Revolution. Revere was acquainted with Major Crane who had been powder-master during the Revolution, and Paul Revere had purchased powder from Crane while he was in command of Castle Island in Boston. In fact, Crane shows up on Paul Revere's books as a Superintendent of Revere's copperworks. (Peter Crane, Margaret Fuller's grandfather also had business arrangements with Paul Revere). During the first three years of the Revolution no other mill provided more powder to the provincial army. It was Crane's Powder Mill that provided ammunition that for the schooner "Langdon", the frigate "Boston" and in 1777, to "the Castle" into the hands of Paul Revere. The mill was blown to atoms on October 30, 1779 and Benjamin Pettingill died as a result of severe burns.

And so on March 14th, 1801, Colonel Paul Revere purchased the land, this house, a trip-hammer shop or slitting mill, and the "cole" house starting the first industrial copper rolling mill in America. The price was $6000.00 and Revere immed
iately sent to Maidstone, England for his rolls that would be of such perfection that his mill would be the finest for years to come. Risking his personal fortune of $25,000 with a personal loan of $10,000 from the U.S. Government Revere sought contracts that would assure him success.

From this modest country home Revere would command the industry. In the
image taken in the late 1800's you can see a small bell tower just behind the house. The tower would toll the start and end of the day of work and atop the tower was a small weather vane designed by Revere of a wooden fish studded with nails. Also, the train tracks to the left of the photo run through the barn next to the house. This railroad spur is said to be the first in America. Revere's son, Joseph Warren Revere was on the Board of Directors of the Boston and Providence Railroad and insured that in 1834 the Revere Copper Co. had direct access to the main line at Canton Junction.

While researching this place at the Canton Historical Society I recently came upon this photo (left) that shows a rare glimpse of the interior of the Revere House in Canton. It is, as far as I know the only interior photo of the house and it calls to mind a simpler time. A simple ladder-back chair, a roaring hearth and candlemaking equipment on the mantle.

For many in Canton there is confusion as to where the house stood, but it was squarely in the center of what is now Plymouth Rubber, Inc. There are no buildings where the house once stood, just asphalt paving. And, while there are two remaining buildings of the Copper Rolling Mill still standing at this site, they are threatened with demolition and may be doomed to become more ghosts of our history. The house that Revere called home was either destroyed by fire, or by neglect. It was standing in 1909, and was lost sometime thereafter.

For more information, visit the Paul Revere & Sons website that has being created to engage public support in protecting the remaining Revere Co. buildings.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Edwin Wentworth

E. Wentworth Home
In "South Canton" sits this stately home, set upon a hill and elegant against the sky. At least that is what this image seems to suggest. This is one half of a stereoview image that was taken in 1873. The house was built in 1852 and is on present day Walnut Street. The view is taken from the north facade-still intact in the rear yard. Of great interest in this old photograph is the fact that it shows the Cupola that was said to be once on the roof. According to the present owners the interior stairs that once led to the cupola are still intact.

It is always a great surprise to find that the house in the photo is still standing. So many of our oldest homes have been destroyed or altered beyond original recognition. This home was built for Edwin Wentworth (1805-1896) a prosperous Canton native who was a director of the Neponset Bank and a real-estate developer. In June, 1848, Edwin purchased most of the land between Walnut Street and Rockland Street and by 1853 Edwin had built this Italianate Style house which most likely had been designed by a trained architect who was quite sophisticated in his details and design. In fact, this is perhaps the finest example of a pre-Civil War estate house to survive in Canton with so many original features still intact.

Wentworth married Julia Crane when he was 22 years old and had two children a girl, Mary (whom died when she was 31) and a boy, Edwin who died in infancy. It is heartening to see all the children in the photograph, but none of these are Julia and Edwin's. Most likely these are two of young Mary's children (Helen & Edwin), for Mary had married Horace Mansfield in 1858 and died in 1867 - perhaps during the birth of her son. Whatever the case, the home had been enlarged for Mary and Horace and this photograph was taken six years after she had died. The senior Edwin Wentworth died in 1896 and the property was sold. The image is full of children and what would appear to be the owner in a tall top hat, in fact there are eleven folks in this picture on what must have been a momentous day.

This home still stands more than 155 years later and graces Walnut Street, where several other historic homes still survive. Next weekend, when out on an errand and you drive through Canton Center, take a short detour down Walnut Street, as you pass George Jenkins' house (on your left) look for the large white house set back from the street. You can still drive by and slowly you may see the stately old dame, the context has shifted, but the stories remain.