Saturday, October 25, 2008

Washington Street 1901

Washington Street - 1901
North or South? I have little idea as to which direction we are looking in this image of Washington Street. Over 100 years have passed since this photograph was taken and so much has changed along our main thoroughfare. On the left hand side of the picture are the tracks of the Blue Hill Street Railway. And, on the right hand side you can see an ancient fence set behind the youthful elm trees that would be gone fifty years later. 

Washington Street is our most ancient way, originally the King's Highway it stretched from Boston to Rhode Island. It ran through its present location as early as the middle of the 17th century, starting as a bridle path through the woods and then a cart path. It was first laid out in 1700 by the Selectmen of Dorchester as a road "three rods wide" approximately 49.5 feet wide. In 1703 it is called "the road leading to Billings' in Sharon" which then becomes the "road to Rehobeth" by 1707. At various times it was called he "Country Road" or "Road leading to Rhode Island".  It later becomes known as "the great road from Boston to Taunton" and by the early 1800's it was the "Great road" or the "Taunton road". All of this indecision ends in 1840 with a commemoration in the name of our first President and great Patriot the General George Washington. From Milton to the Sharon line our main thoroughfare becomes Washington Street. 

Along the way were the famous taverns that provided rest for horses and men who would travel this road.  Doty, Cherry Hill, and Cobb's to name just a few.  This is a great image where the streets are not paved and "rapid transit" was genteel. Long lazy afternoons on the porch in the shade of the broad leafy trees. We look back upon a street that is over 350 years old and still our "Main Street".

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hook and Ladder No. 1

Hook and Ladder No. 1 Parade

For me this is one of those images that help give a small glimpse into the past such that I can just about see this event in my mind's eye. The photo seems to have been taken from Neponset Street loking towards Washington Street - towards where the small convenience store is located (7-11). If you look closely the horses are pulling a hook & ladder and the fireman are marching in the rear in sparkling white uniforms. Note how closely the small buildings are next to Neponset Street and in the background you can see the building (17 Neponset Street) that now houses Harold Drake's Law Offices; with the lovely mansard roof. The first house is where Jack Spierdowis has his home and locksmith enterprise.

This is the kind of photo that makes fire buffs so very happy. To see the well ordered parade marching on a beautiful day, and the small children at the curb. What a sight in Canton's History. It turns out that the Hook & Ladder was purchased from L. M. Rumsey & Co. in 1885 and cost about $500 - at least this information comes to us from the February 27th 1886 Town of Canton Annual Report. L. M. Rumsey manufacturing specialized in fire apparatus, brass bells and hardware. They were located in St. Louis, Missouri and Seneca Falls, New York.

1885 was the year that newly professional fire department also purchased a new pumper as well. In fact, the department was so proud that they spent $125.00 for "Commemoration Day" to celebrate the organization and the pride of Canton. Local historian, Jim Roach has deduced that it may have been the August 7, 1885 "Observance Day". According to the Canton Journal the parade was to Assembe at Church Street.

The early years of the Canton Fire Department were full of frustration as the vote to "profesionalize" the department underwent considerable scrutiny. Allegations of deliberate arson on the Sherman Firehouse and unruly behavior were part of this shaky start. By 1884 the newly formed department was making plans for brick firehouse which would be built in Canton Center (where Walgreens now stands) and the purchase of several new pieces of equipment, including Hook & Ladder No. 1.

Hook & Ladder No. 1 was motorized around 1915 with the addition of a Kissel Car Roadster as an engine. Look closely and you will see the fire helmets in a basket atop the rig. The gear baskets on the truck were a fixture on fire trucks as late as 1943 and 1944 which allowed the fireman to quickly get to a fire with their safety gear already on the truck.

Folks like our former Chief Fitzpatrick and so many others will have more information on this photo, so watch for updates. In the meantime, when you drive up Neponset Street towards Washington Street take a moment to consider this photograph and see if indeed your minds eye can place this event.