Historical Narrative

A photo looking south on North AvenueEarly Settlement in Weston

North Avenue was one of the earliest areas of settlement in Weston. In the 18th and early 19th century, the road was the main link between Boston and New Hampshire and Canada. Stage coaches used this route, as did farmers driving livestock to market. The location was also favored because of its proximity to Stony Brook, one of the tributaries of the Charles River.

Water power from Stony Brook was used by some of the small industries which sprang up during the 19th century. In addition to farming, commercial enterprises established in the North Avenue Area covered by this form include a blacksmith shop, wheelwright, carriage making shop, cider and vinegar manufactory, and, in the 20th century, stores for the sale of food and gasoline. The building of the railroad in 1844 enhanced the transportation advantages of the area; and by the mid-1850s, North Avenue was second only to Boston Post Road as a center of population in Weston.

The railroad made possible the location here in the late 1880s of the Hastings Organ Factory, the largest industry ever to operate in Weston. The main factory building was located just across Viles Street from the area covered in this form (see Kendal Green Area), but the social hall and many factory workers houses were located within the North Avenue Area. The organ factory was a major presence in the community until it closed in 1936.

Development of Weston

In examining the history of the area, it is clear that family connections were very important to its development, and that families remained here over many generations. Of particular importance are the Fiske, Garfield and Hastings families. The area exemplifies the 19th century evolution of Weston from a farming community to one with a more broad-based economy based not only on agriculture but also on small family industries and, later, on the larger organ manufacturing industry.

Since the early 1600s, North Avenue has been known by many names, among them Concord Road, Conant Road, County Road, the Lancaster Road or Turnpike, Great Road, and “the road leading to Waltham.” According to Lamson’s History of Weston, North Avenue was “the great thoroughfare” between Boston and New Hampshire and into Canada during the early years of town history. Large droves of cattle and hogs were driven to market in Brighton and Charlestown.

According to Badger and Porter’s Stage Register for the year 1830, there were 42 stage coaches a week passing over North Avenue, a number which decreased greatly with the advent of the railroad in 1844. Road traffic remained sufficient to encourage businesses such as blacksmithing and wheelwrighting that were established here during the 19th century.

Historic EstatesLooking south on North Avenue with 277 North Avenue

Garfield Homestead

In 1820, another Nathan Fiske sold George W. Garfield two acres on which he built the Garfield Homestead (277 North Avenue, ca.1821, Map #4, MHC 237). Fiske also sold Garfield an additional eight acre parcel across the road. George W. Garfield, who came from Lincoln, had married Rebecca Weston in March of 1819. In 1821, he was assessed for “One shop within or adjoining to dwelling house, two acres tillage land, three acres English mowing, and three acres pasture.” Garfield farmed the land and may also have earned additional income from the shop.

Garfield had three sons and six daughters. The three sons - George (1820-1905), Hiram (1929-1889) and Daniel (1833-1905) - remained in the area and are important to its later history. The house remained in the Garfield family until 1906, owned by George W. Garfield until 1852, by his son Hiram until 1859, by his son Daniel until 1904, and Daniel’s son Frank until 1906. The barn, originally located across the road, blew down in the 1938 hurricane.

Jonathan Warren House

A second early house in the area, on the site of the ranch houses at 237 to 257 North Avenue, was the Jonathan Warren house, which was torn down in the 1930s. The Garfield and Warren houses are the only two within the boundaries of this form which appear on the 1830 map.

Ebenezer Tucker House

The Ebenezer Tucker House (306 North Avenue, Map #7, MHC 304) was probably built shortly after 1838, when Ebenezer Tucker, a blacksmith, purchased the land from George W. Garfield. Tucker raised nine children in this house, and three of his sons served in the Civil War. There were two other buildings east of the Tucker house facing the road: a dairy barn and a blacksmith shop. At one time tools were made by hand in the shop for “Brecks,” a well-known flower and seed company. Both these buildings were torn down shortly after the turn of the century. In the early 20th century the house was owned by Henry G. Russell, who is listed in the 1909 directory as a farmer. Henry Russell had married one of the Tucker daughters; when she died he married a younger Tucker daughter.

George Garfield House

The George Garfield House (272 North Avenue, Map #11) was built about 1843 by the oldest son of George W. Garfield on land purchased from his father. The younger George Garfield was a wheelwright. He remained in the house until 1860. In 1876 the house was purchased by Henry Russell, son-in-law of Ebenezer Tucker.

Fitchburg Division

The 1852 map shows these two additional houses as well as the railroad line of the Boston and Maine Railroad (Fitchburg Division- called the Fitchburg Railroad on the 1866 map) with depot near the intersection of Church and North Avenue in the Kendal Green Area. The building of the railroad was certainly a factor in the increase in population along North Avenue. By that date, North Avenue was second only to Boston Post Road as a center of settlement in Weston, with houses located all along the length of the road.

Mid-1890s photograph of 269 North Avenue about 1895Hiram Garfield Homestead

Hiram Garfield, another son of George W. Garfield, purchased land from his father in 1852 and built the Hiram Garfield Homestead (269 - 271 North Avenue, ca.1859 - 1861, Map #2). The house was probably begun about 1859, when Hiram sold the family homestead at no. 277 to his brother Daniel, and completed by 1861, when the house first appears on the tax lists, valued at $600. Hiram Garfield is listed in early directories as a farmer and blacksmith. In 1885, he was assessed for one dwelling, three barns, one shop, and two parcels of land, 12 and 15 acres.

Hiram had three children: Walter, Alice, and Alfred. In 1887, Hiram sold the house to Hiram Bennett, listed in directories as a house painter. Mrs. Bennett built the wing to house a maiden aunt; later this portion of the house was rented.

Daniel Garfield and the Garfield Homestead

The third son of George W. Garfield, Daniel, was the owner of the Garfield Homestead at no. 277 from 1859 to 1904. Daniel also owned part of what was originally his father’s land across the street at 282 North Avenue, now the location of the Kendal Green Market. On this site was the large Garfield barn, said to date to 1820, used as a blacksmith shop and a cider mill combined. The deed gave the owner “flowage rights” and there was a dam on the brook with a sluiceway which, when opened, turned the undershot waterwheel that ran the presses for making cider. This operation continued under later owners until about 1915, when the cider mill was moved up closer to the street and combined with a small general store. Daniel is listed in the 1893 directory as a carriage maker, cider and vinegar manufacturer, and blacksmith. An 1889 photo at SPNEA shows “Garfield’s carriage shop on the Waltham Road, Weston.” The photo shows a frame building on the south side of the road, with large 2-1/2 story ell extending all the way to the edge of Stony Brook.

Small HomesteadView of 263 North Ave in the mid-1890s showing Samuel Patch Jr.'s barn and shop

Between 1860 and 1875, two additional houses were built in the North Avenue Area. In 1864, Lydia Small was taxed for two dwellings, one of which was probably the Small Homestead (248 North Avenue, ca.1860’s, Map #16), as well as a barn and 32 acres.

The house was assessed to Hanford Warner in 1869, and in 1888 was bought by Hiram Garfield. After Garfield’s death, his widow and children Alfred and Alice moved from no. 271 North Avenue into this house, where they lived until the death of the mother.

The Samuel Patch Jr. House (263 North Avenue, ca.1875, Map #1) appears to have been built in stages, with part of the house possibly dating about 1875, although the present appearance of the house was shaped by late 19th and early 20th century additions and alterations. Samuel Patch, Jr. first appears on the Weston tax lists in 1867, when he is assessed for one dwelling and five acres. In 1875 he is assessed for two dwellings at considerably higher value, as well as a barn and 4-1/2 acres.

In the last listing for Patch, in 1879, he is assessed for one dwelling, a shop, and 1/2 acre. The shop remains behind the house. By 1880 the house was owned by Henry A. Dwelle, a carpenter and builder who may be responsible for later changes to the house.

A photo of the Hook and Hastings Organ FactoryHastings Organ Factory

In the mid-1880s, the establishment of the Hastings Organ Factory brought major changes to the North Avenue Area. The factory was established by Francis Henry Hastings (1836-1916), a local resident who had grown up just outside the North Avenue Area at 199 North Avenue in a house built by his grandfather in 1823. (For more extensive information on the Hastings family and the organ factory, see MHC forms 14 and 16 and also the Kendal Green Area form).

At the age of 19, Hastings entered the service of E. and G. G. Hook Brothers, organ builders in Boston, where in 1866 he became a partner in the firm, later renamed E. and G. G. Hook and Hastings. In 1885, Hastings, now the sole proprietor of the company, built his own residence at 190 North Avenue (MHC 16) and in 1887, he commenced the west wing of a new factory on the south side of Viles Street just outside the North Avenue Area, on farm fields which had been in the family since the early 19th century.

130 and 126 Viles StreetView of Viles Street with Brook Road houses in the distance

In 1887, Hastings built three cottages on Lexington Street (MHC 183) and two double houses at 130 and 126 Viles Street (Map #18 and 19, MHC 184 and 185), the first to be built by Hastings to house workers at the factory, which was then under construction. A third house of a different style called the “Block House” (since demolished) was also located on Viles Street closer to the railroad tracks and had four, three-room apartments for factory workers. A long storage shed stood between Block House and Hastings Hall (demolished 1944), the latter built in 1889 as a combined clubhouse and hall. A spur track ran between the shed and the hall, which was very near the Fitchburg line tracks. 

In 1889 the organ business moved from Tremont Street in the Roxbury area of Boston to the Viles Street site in Weston. In 1891, the east wing was added to the factory, the gardener’s cottage was built at 189 North Avenue (MHC 17) in the Kendal Green Area and a reservoir was built in the woods on the west side of Cat Rock Hill to supply water to workers cottages being built on North Avenue, and also to Hastings Hall and existing workers houses on Viles Street.

Turn-of-the-century photograph of houses on White LaneNorth Avenue Cottages

In 1893, Hastings built the three North Avenue cottages (nos. 225, 227 and 231, MHC 186-188, see Kendal Green Area) and also no. 6 White Lane, which was one of the row of houses on what is now Brook Road. By 1895, seven houses on White Lane housed factory employees (now 75 to 87 Brook Road, Map #21-28, MHC 189-195) One of these was purchased by Francis Hastings from its first owner, a Mr. Andrews, in 1895. The Andrews House is believed to be 81 Brook Road (Map #24). 

Francis H. Hastings and Hastings Hall

An early (undated) newspaper article written about the Hastings Organ Factory talks at length about the harmonious relations between Francis H. Hastings and the workers at his factory and how the community that grew up around the factory “represents almost the ideal of relations between man and man.” It describes how Hastings helped workers who decided they wanted to live in the Weston rather than commuting back to Boston on the train each night. He built the cottages, “renting them for less than you could get two or three rooms in the city” for rental periods of a one year duration. He purchased existing houses and rented them to employees. He also encouraged the men to buy their own land and build their own houses, thus becoming “resident proprietors.”Francis Henry Hastings built Hastings Hall as a community center

According to this article, Hastings laid out White Lane (now part of Brook Road) and sold the lots for a moderate price, asking only that houses be built within two years and that none cost less than $1,000. This stipulation was made “as much in the interest of the men as of Mr. Hastings, for the better the house, the more assured the value of the property.” Hastings helped with the building of the houses by grading the land and assisting with finding a water supply.

As the community grew, there was a need for a place to socialize. Hastings Hall was used for entertainments and lectures and had a reading room with daily and weekly papers, journals and magazines, a small library, and a room for games. Near the hall was a large playground. As a result of his concern for the well-being of his workers, the Hastings Organ Factory had good employee relations. 

Gilson House

The construction of the Hastings organ factory had a major impact on nearby North Avenue, as demand increased for worker housing.  The three houses at 256, 260 and 266 North Avenue were all built about 1889-1890 on land formerly belonging to Hiram Garfield.

In 1889, Alfred Garfield, son of Hiram Garfield, bought half an acre from his father and built the house at 256 North Avenue (Map #15) for rental purposes.  Francis Hastings bought the land at 260 North Avenue from Hiram Garfield in 1888 and, in 1890, he built the house now known as The Gilson House (Map #14) to house an employee of the factory. 

In 1909 this house was sold to Joseph Gilson, a mechanic who was also an employee of the organ factory, whose family remained there for several generations. Also in 1888, Hiram Garfield sold a parcel of land at 266 North Avenue (The Gowell House, Map #13) to Francis Hastings, who sold it to a Mr. Gowell.  This was probably Frank N. Gowell, an organ builder at the factory. Gowell ran into financial difficulties and had to sell the property back to Hastings before the house was finished. 

Mid-1890s photograph of the George N. Stevens House at 297 North Avenue287 North Avenue

In 1890, Alonzo and Nathan Fiske sold part of their family farm land on the other side of the street at 297 North Avenue (Map #6) to George N. Stevens (lot “C” on a plan drawn by F.P. Johnson in 1890). Stevens was another employee at the organ factory. The first house built here was destroyed by fire and the second house, the present well-detailed Queen Anne, was sold by Stevens to Andrew J. Winslow in 1896.

Guthrie House

The next year, the Fiskes sold lot “B” at 293 North Avenue to John Guthrie, also an employee at the organ factory. Guthrie was taxed in 1891 for one unfinished house and one acre of land. The Guthrie House (Map #5) remained in the Guthrie family until 1971.

James T. Blacksmith ShopThe J. T. Foote blacksmith shop

In 1901, Daniel Garfield sold the property at 282 North Avenue to William Foote, who sold it to his brother James T. Foote in 1903. This was the property where Garfield had operated the combined blacksmith shop, carriage shop, and cider and vinegar manufactory during the last half of the 19th century. In 1903 James Foote built a two-bay gable front house with porch on the edge of the property directly on North Avenue. This house was torn down in 1979 to make way for the present Kendal Green Market (Map #9). Early 20th century photographs on display at the market show Foote’s business as it evolved during the 20th century. The first photo, dated ca.1901, shows a frame commercial building with sign “J. T. Foote, Carriage Smith and Horse Shoeing.”

A black and white photo of the Foote's Gas StationFoote's Gas Station

About 1915, with the advent of the automobile age, Foote tore down the blacksmith shop and built a general store and cider mill nearer to the road. A second photo shows the 1903 house and newer commercial buildings. A little building between the house and store was used as an oil shed, selling kerosene and oil for automobiles. This photo also shows two gasoline pumps, the first in Weston. A third photo shows a long, one-story Colonial Revival grocery and ice-cream market, “Foote Brothers,” located where the filling station is today. This building was built after World War II, during the 1940s, and was operated by brothers Harold and Earle Foote. Sold to George Gordon in the 1960s, it served for many years as a morning meeting place for neighbors and regular users of North Avenue.

After Daniel Garfield died in 1905, the Garfield Homestead at no. 277 was sold to Jeremiah Cronin, who left it to his son Grover upon his death.  Grover Cronin, who owned the department store in Waltham that bore his name, sold it in 1921 to James Foote, and Foote’s daughter still lives there.

248 North AvenueThe house and barn at 248 North Avenue was the home of the Weston Dog Ranch

About 1926, Alfred A. Lederhos established the Weston Dog Ranch, a dog boarding kennel, at his home at 248 North Avenue. Lederhos was treasurer and superintendent of E.T. Ryan Iron Works, Inc. in Allston. He is credited with designing and manufacturing the arched metal gateway (Map #29, MHC 913, see inventory form) at the entrance to the property and also the metal gazebo. The property continued in use as a veterinary clinic and kennel until about 1992, under the auspices of Lederhos, Terrance Burke, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Lee Schulmann (1950-d.1970) and then Mrs. Leonard (Edith) Schulmann alone.

William Otto House

The William Otto House (276 North Avenue, Map #10) was built in 1927 by William Otto. Mrs. Otto was the granddaughter of Ebenezer Tucker, who built the house at 306 North Avenue in 1838; her father was Henry Russell. Mrs. Otto built 270 North Avenue (Map #12) as a retirement home in 1947. No. 273 North Avenue (Map #3) was built in 1930 by Earle F. Foote, son of James T. Foote. Earle and his brother were proprietors of the general store located across the street.