The Warren Avenue Area developed beginning in the 1890s as the location of important commercial and light industrial enterprises essential to the growing community. The growth was fostered by the opening of the Central Massachusetts Railroad in 1881, making possible the delivery of coal and supplies by rail.
The Weston Water Company and Weston Electric Light Company were established here in 1896 to provide water and electricity to the town. The area also evolved as a working class residential community for the town’s growing immigrant population. Some of these immigrants were employed on local estates, while others started thriving businesses.
Footes & Ogilvies
Two interrelated families are of particular importance to the Warren Avenue Area, the Footes and Ogilvies, both originally from Nova Scotia. Among George Foote’s entrepreneurial successes was the town’s only ice supply company. Foote harvested ice from Foote’s Pond on Warren Avenue, storing it in two large adjacent ice houses.
Beriah Ogilvie, an immigrant from Nova Scotia, established B. L. Ogilvie and Sons in 1919.
Ogilvie & Sons
Beriah Ogilvie and his family established B. L. Ogilvie & Sons, a prosperous supply company still located on Warren Avenue. Ogilvies distributed lumber and construction materials, coal, fertilizer and seeds, hay, and other items essential to the town as it evolved from a farming community to a residential suburb of Boston.
Warren Avenue Significance
What is now Warren Avenue does not appear on the 1875 or 1889 maps. Nor do these maps show any houses in the Warren Avenue Area. The area took on increased importance when the Central Massachusetts Railroad began service in 1881. The rail line passed directly north of the present Warren Avenue, making possible convenient freight delivery.
Weston Water Company & Weston Electric Light Company
In 1896, private investors formed two stock companies to supply water and electricity to parts of the town. They built the Weston Water Company and Weston Electric Light Company at 71 Warren Avenue (1896, MHC 218, Map #15), a small brick and frame building initially shared by both companies. Power for the steam generators and water pumps was supplied by coal unloaded at a nearby railroad siding.
The electric company operated here only until 1912, when it was sold to the Edison Electric Illuminating Company.The Weston Water Company was taken over by the town in 1921, and the building was used by the water department, until the public works division came under one Department of Public Works. In 2015, the Town re-used the building for affordable housing.
Percy Warren (1865-1917) was president and manager of the Weston Water Company, and his brother Harry (1876-1958) worked for the Weston Electric Light Company and its later owner, Edison Electric. Both were public-spirited men instrumental in introducing new services to the town. Percy graduated from Weston High School and Northeastern University and took postgraduate courses in engineering at MIT. In addition to running the water company, he served as Weston’s first superintendent of streets and developed a system of construction and maintenance that made liberal use of machinery to improve roads to modern standards. He built the Percy Warren House at 74 Warren Avenue (1905, MHC 1124, Map #14) across from the water and electric company headquarters. The house came under the ownership of the town and was occupied by the superintendent of the water department until 2007. The town, through its Affordable Housing Trust and working with the Historical Commission, restored the house in 2015. It is now a two-family apartment.
Ice House Road Houses
In 1905, the Waltham Daily Free Press Tribune reported that Percy Warren and William Whittemore, a farmer living at the corner of Central Avenue (now Boston Post Road) and what is now Warren Avenue, were building houses on the unnamed road to the pumping station, then known as Ice House Road but not yet formally christened: When these houses are finished there will be 11 dwellings, the pumping station and the ice house on this road. It is a much used road, but has not yet any name. “Water Street” has been suggested as appropriate.
Public sentiment apparently favored the name “Warren,” which was given to all three streets in the neighborhood: Warren Avenue, Warren Lane, and Warren Place.
Percy Warren was profiled in "Middlesex County and Its People," a 1927 four-volume history that included short biographical entries on well-known members of the community:
The picture that will ever remain warm in the hearts of his host of friends and admirers in Weston . . . is that of Mr. Warren driving his automobile through the streets, usually with a group of Italians going to or from work, or children whom he loved so well, or neighbors whom he was taking to their homes. . . . Few men have devoted their lives and activities to the general welfare of their community and for the promoting of the progress and development of their city as had Mr. Warren . . .
When he died in June 1917, he was remembered as “one of Weston’s best loved citizens.”
The 1911 directory is the first to specifically list residents as living on Warren Avenue instead Central Avenue. Except for Cornelius C. Foster, the engineer for the Weston Electric Light Company and Percy Warren, the superintendent, other residents were largely engaged in service occupations including the following: Luke Brenord (gardener), John W. Bartlett (jobber),William J. Bartlett (gardener), Edward Compton (hostler), Cherith M. Foote (teamster), Irad Foote (carpenter), William H. Foote (painter) Alonzo S. Hobart (employee, Weston Electric Light Co), George F. Jones (teamster), and Beriah Ogilvie (driver).
Two families of particular importance to the history of the Warren Avenue Area were the Footes and Ogilvies, immigrants from Nova Scotia. At the turn of the century, times were hard in the Canadian maritime provinces, and the children of farmers came to New England in search of jobs and a better life. Of nine Foote siblings, six brothers settled in Weston for at least part of their lives.
The 1908 Middlesex County Atlas shows a large property on Warren Avenue including two houses labeled as belonging to C. W. Foote and W. Foote. Cherith (also spelled Cherrith). W. Foote, built the Cherith Foote House at 25 Warren Avenue (c. 1900, MHC 1113, Map #3). He worked over the years as a florist, teamster, wood dealer, and milkman who sold milk in square glass bottles from his dairy on Warren Avenue. William Foote, who lived at 31 Warren Avenue (by 1905, MHC 1116, Map #6), was a painter and chair maker in Weston before moving to Waltham. His brother Irad (also spelled Ired) was a carpenter who boarded across the street at the Edward Compton House at 30 Warren Avenue (c. 1898, MHC 1115, Map #5), owned by a hostler who was originally from England.
George Albert Foote
Of the Foote brothers, the most successful was George Albert Foote (1867-1944), who, along with Percy Warren, was among the Weston residents profiled in "Middlesex County and Its People." George’s success as a dealer in coal, wood, ice, and building supplies began with his arrival in Weston in 1884. He purchased land on Concord Road where he set up a supply yard for off-loading freight from the Central Massachusetts Railroad, and where he later built a house. By 1915, his business had grown so large that he sold off the coal and building-supply dealership to the Waltham Coal Company and concentrated on supplying ice. Except for farmers and estate owners who cut and stored their own ice, Foote was the only local supplier. He “harvested” ice from Foote’s Pond on Warren Avenue, where the water level had been raised by damming the stream. Each year he cut one or two harvests, placing the individual ice cakes into the two wooden ice houses next to the pond. After the ice refroze, the children were welcome to skate on Foote’s Pond, which was a popular gathering place. The cutting and storage of ice on Warren Avenue continued until 1936, when the ice houses were destroyed by fire.
Marriage & Business Connections
The Footes were connected, both by marriage and in business, with another family from Nova Scotia who settled in the Warren Avenue Area. In 1900, Cherith Foote married Orinda Ella Ogilvie, sister of Beriah Ogilvie. In 1910, Cherith sold part of his land on Warren Avenue to Beriah Ogilvie, whose business still supplies the needs of Weston residents at the turn of the 21st century. He built the Beriah Ogilvie House at 39 Warren Avenue (1910, MHC 1119, Map #8, Photo #2).
Beriah Lemont Ogilvie
Beriah Lemont Ogilvie (1877-1951) was born in Kings County, Nova Scotia, the son of a sea captain. Like the Foote brothers, he had only a limited primary school education before coming to Weston in 1894. After working as foreman at J. Cushing’s feed store for 13 years, Ogilvie organized his own business in 1919. He began with teaming but an advertisement for B.L. Ogilvie’s in a Friendly Society program of 1925 illustrates the diversity of the business after only six years:
Contracts for lumber filled. Coal bins filled. Grain orders promptly attended to. Fertilizers and seeds to suit your needs. Hay, flour, lime, cement and bricks. Sawdust, shavings, straw and poultry litter. Equipment for all kinds of trucking. Oak wood and pine kindling. Biscuits and Kibbles for dogs.
The company acquired a fleet of trucks in order to plow Weston’s roads and driveways. By 1927 Ogilvie’s biographical sketch in "Middlesex County and Its People" reported that, despite postwar financial fluctuations, Ogilvie had made his business an “unqualified and lasting success.” He had increased the business from one truck to six, was employing 10 men, and had taken his place as “one of the financial leaders of this section.”
Beriah Ogilvie’s success was due in part to the hard work of his large extended family. In 1900 Ogilvie married Mary Elizabeth Arrington, a Salem girl who was working as a nursery maid for a local family. The couple had five children: Harold (1902-1965), Gladys “Dolly” (Mrs. Francis Whittemore Jr.), Delcia “Pearl” (Mrs. Julius Pickering), Myrtle “Vina” (Mrs. Vernon MacLeod), and Raymond (b. 1912). Everyone worked in the business. Bookkeeping was done by Mary Elizabeth and later by all three daughters.
The five presidents of the company have all been family members: Beriah Ogilvie, his sons Harold and Raymond, Dolly’s son Alden Whittemore, and Alden’s brother-in-law Kenneth Sutherland. Beriah’s nephew Frederick Foote was also one of the cornerstones in the business in the early years. In the 1920s and 1930s, members of the family built houses at 1 Warren Place (c. 1935, MHC 1135, Map #26) and 5 Warren Place (c. 1935, MHC 1136, Map #27).
To supply local needs for lumber, Ogilvie built a sawmill on the property at 75 Warren Avenue (Map #16) and cut trees from the family woodlot on Sudbury Road into rough lumber used for building. Farmers could bring their own logs to be cut to order. The sawmill was the closest to Boston and cut logs from as far away as Weymouth. Custom sawing proved a problem, as farmers would return when the store was closed on Sundays and take what they thought was their wood. In later years, the sawmill was discontinued and Ogilvie’s began supplying hardware and lumber.
Beginnings of Warren Avenue
When Beriah Ogilvie started on Warren Avenue, there was no store, just a barn where he kept horses for teaming and hauling. Beginning in 1928, the company had a yard and railroad siding at the end of Warren Avenue, now 75 Warren Avenue (c.1928, MHC 1125, Map #16) where coal and supplies could be unloaded. Hay, peat moss, and wood shavings were stored here in a cement-block garage. Later, when trucks replaced horses, Ogilvie took out the stanchions in the barn and put up pegboard for hanging farm implements. As coal furnaces became obsolete, the company began selling oil burners and heating oil. It became known for its “Blue Truck Delivery” fleet, driven by employees in blue uniforms. In 1953-54, B.L. Ogilvie & Sons constructed an office in front of the barn, and in 1975 the company tore down the barn and built a 5,000-square-foot hardware and garden building behind the office at 39 Warren Avenue (MHC 1119, Map #9, Photo #2-right). The large metal lumber storage building in the rear was constructed in 1992. Gradually, the business shifted from supplying farmers to supplying suburbanites.
Other Immigrant Families
Other immigrant families also established themselves in the Warren Avenue Area. Edward Compton came from England and worked as a coachman and hostler on the Paine estate on Highland Street. About 1900, Compton purchased the house at 30 Warren Avenue (c.1898, MHC 1115, Map #5), which was occupied by members of the family until 2016.
A French-born widow, Marie Subilia, purchased a lot from William Whittemore for $500 and built the Marie Subilia House at 16 Warren Place (1903, MHC 1140, Map #31). Mrs. Subilia taught French at the private Pigeon Hill School on Pigeon Hill Road in Weston and later managed a shop in Weston Center that sold dry goods, needles and thread, fabric and knick-knacks. The house stayed in the Subilia family until 1957.
John Edward Lingley
John Edward Lingley came to Weston from Port Williams, Nova Scotia, and initially obtained work as a chauffeur for General Paine. Over the years, the family members purchased land and built and/or occupied houses at 3 and 19 Warren Lane ( c. 1946, MHC 1127, Map #18 and c. 1938, MHC 1133, Map #24) and 43 Warren Avenue (c. 1925, MHC 1121, Map #11).
In 1924 John Edward bought a Model-T truck and started picking up rubbish door to door. People separated out garbage and table scraps, which were fed to pigs. Lingley dug foundations, took care of yards, cut ice for George Foote, and was reportedly the first to mow the town common with a power mower. His wife, Hilma, did ironing for Chandler Robbins. They had four sons - John, Ted, Henry and Harold - three of whom settled around Warren Avenue. Harold was a sergeant on the Weston police force and Ted kept a poultry farm at the end of Warren Avenue. Henry delivered coal for Ogilvie’s, worked in the sawmill, continued his father’s trash business, moved furniture, supplied wood, sold loam and gravel, and slaughtered livestock in the woods behind Warren Lane. As he was later to say, “If there was a nickel in it, we’d do it.”