Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Congregational Church

The Congregational Church 

When you look at this picture, it will be almost impossible to place this location today. Both the building in the foreground and the church in the background are long gone. The snapshot was taken in April, 1969 and the photographer is standing on Washington Street. The corner is at the intersection of Neponset Street where the small convenience store is now. 

The church is the Congregational Church and the classic structure was dedicated in 1860. The total cost was $6895.00 and in a large part the families of the community donated generously. Built by John Ellis Seavey whose family has a long and illustrious connection with Canton. 

Of interest is the fact that the interiors, pews and pulpit along with the top of the steeple  were all constructed by one man; Hugh MacPherson. According to the stories, MacPherson was simply visiting the town of Canton when the first loads of lumber arrived to build the church. A devout Baptist, MacPherson nevertheless assisted and soon became a deacon of the very church he helped to build. Thus is the power of transformation. 

As for our friend Hugh MacPherson, I have seen a series of photographs taken at Revere & Sons Copper Yard after they moved from Canton and the watchman was named McPherson - which is spelled a bit differently but it is believed to be the same person.  The photo to the left shows McPherson with his dog. A query to Jim Roache yields great additional information. Roache found the death record for Hugh MacPherson indicating that he died on January 22, 1924 and was born in Glascow, Scotland in 1836. In fact, in 1868 there are only two MacPhersons living in Canton; Hugh and David. Hugh lived on Church Street - around the corner from the new Congregational Church. David MacPherson seems very well off being taxed for 8 horses and nine carriages, but living at home. My sense is that it is likely that David was John's brother and lived here in Canton when John came to visit in 1860. David enlisted in the 24th Mass at age 21 (1861) as a Drummer, Appointed Pricipal Musician May 1863, re-enlisted Jan. 1864 and was discharged Jan. 1866. David was also born in Glasgow, Scotland (1844) but gave his place of residence when he enlisted as South Reading. 

But I digress, and now back to our church. There are a few vestiges of the original church as reminders to Canton. The organ was donated in 1958 by Mildred Morse Allen and is still in use today at the new church on Washington Street. Also, the four sides of the clock are still in town - and the clock itself and one face is proudly keeping time atop Memorial Hall. As you walk in the Canton Historical Society, immediately on your right is another clock face from the steeple.

In 1961 the church was renamed the United Church of Christ. After 103 years the church needed to be replaced. Largely the congregation had outgrown the church and families needed more space for programs and fellowship. By 1963 a new church was opened near St. Mary's Cemetery on Washington Street and the congregation moved to their new home. The church property was sold to the Mobil Oil Corporation in 1969 for $50,000 and was soon demolished. The parking lot on Neponset behind the convenience store is all that is left of the property. As is often the case, these are ghost images from another time, but in our place that still have bits and pieces connected to our town today.  (photo credit: Kelleher Collection, Canton Public Library)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Howard Johnson's 1941

Howard Johnson's 1941

Another classic from the film vault. The Howard Johnson's in Canton was located at the foot of the Blue Hills along Royal Street. There is a Dunkin Donuts in  what was the original building which was still used as a Ho Jo's until the mid 90's.  Here is a true piece of Americana - the roadside history that was the hallmark of the mid 20th century.  In fact, the Howard Johnson's in Canton was the prototype restaurant for the chain. Originally opening n the 1930's, by 1941 this location was the test design for what would become known as the "Canton-type". 

It would appear that Canton's Howard Johnson's was the test model for the expansion in the 40's and the style and interior and customer service efficiencies were all modeled at the Canton location. By October of 1949 new Canton-type Restaurants featured updated dining room furnishings including a new and innovative type of table that could be enlarged by a sliding panel. The table had a divider between the table opposite, and many family style restaurants continue this innovative practice still today. 

By the early 1990's after the Howard Johnson Company itself had been split apart, the Canton restaurant came to be operated by Franchise Associates Incorporated. The restaurant chain was in decline and Franchise Associates used the Canton location to make one notable attempt to create a Howard Johnson's of the future: again a new prototype restaurant in Canton, Massachusetts.  Among the new design features was a modern arch over the entrance with a logo prominently displayed. Also, half of the legendary orange roof was changed to gray and the cupola was removed. It closed in 2000.

The film clip shows several happy patrons - one in fact licking his fingers as he leaves with a smile on his face. Also, watch for the starched uniforms of the employees as they come out for a publicity walk.  All great fun and ushering in the early years of roadside dinning along Route 138 in Canton.  Share your memories of Howard Johnson's in the comment section below.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Comet at Canton Junction

The Comet at Canton Junction

The railroad has always been a major connecting point for the Town of Canton. It all began in 1834 when Joseph Warren Revere, the son of Paul Revere was a director on the fledgling Boston & Providence Railroad. Several routes were laid out for the connection between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, but the one that won out was a line that would run directly through the property owned by Paul Revere & Sons Copper Rolling Mill.

Building the railroad meant building over a 70 foot span of the Neponset River. To do this would require building a bridge, and so the Canton Viaduct was created. The engineering firm of Dodd & Baldwin was enlisted to design a granite structure that would stand the weight of engines and the test of time. Indeed, this had been done at a time with no heavy equipment and with the labor of Irish immigrants.  What stands today, still in use, is the Canton Viaduct. The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and is an engineering landmark.  

The film clip features a rare view of The Comet as it arrives at Canton Junction.  The Comet was built in 1935 for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad by the Goodyear Zeppelin Company. It was initially placed into service between Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island on a 44-minute schedule; later, intermediate stops were added at Back Bay, Boston and Pawtucket/Central Falls, RI on an advertised "44 miles in 44 minutes" schedule. It ran 5 daily round trips on weekdays, and was often used for weekend excursion trips. This service lasted until the beginning of World War II.  The train was scrapped in 1951. 

While this is a black & white film, the Comet was brightly whorled with a blue and gray enamel paint job. The front end had a futuristic bullet shape and this was a formidable looking train.

Also, as a bonus are a few shots of the Canton Viaduct which made the rail lines through Canton possible.  Rail fans will undoubtedly have much to say on this subject, so please feel free to post your comments on the history of this rail line. In 2010 the Viaduct will celebrate 175 years of service, I am sure we will find many people that will be willing to support the demisemiseptcentennial.