The Tramp House

I stopped in Middleton yesterday to take some pictures of the Old Town Hall, an 1848 building, expanded in 1878, that I’ve long admired. I pulled into the parking lot behind the building to turn my car around and discovered the Tramp House, built in 1878 and recently restored. I didn’t know this building existed, and I’d never heard of “Tramp Houses” before, but a quick search on Google turned o

Tramp House
(Behind old Town Hall)
38 Maple Street
Middleton, Massachusetts

Text from Placque

In the decades following the Civil War, thousands of itinerant men, ‘tramps,’ followed the railrose to points north in search of work. By the 1870’s, the problem of coping with the increasing numbers of tramps prompted the town to purchase a plot of land from A.A. Averill for $25, and to contract with George B. Flint to build a lock-up or ‘Tramp House’ for $355. The Tramp House was completed in 1878, and was used to temporarily shelter these homeless men. In the early 20th century, as the tramp problem diminished, the Tramp House was utilized as a jail and briefly as the Police Station.

A Few Tramp House Links:

Memorial Marker Mix-up

Keniston Square: Beverly, MassachusettsI took this photograph of the Keniston Square marker on Cabot Street in Beverly, Massachusetts, last spring, and posted it on Flickr with this comment: “I wish these markers had more information about who is being honored: especially a full name and a birth and death date.” Memorial square signs like this are a pet peeve of mine — it’s not much of a memorial if it only gives the last name and no other information. If the person died in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or more recent conflicts, there may be people around who knew him and still miss him and know that memorial sign is there, but for those who died in earlier wars, the sign may be disconnected from anyone’s personal memory. Without details, descendants and other family members may never know that it’s there.

Healey SquareIt turns out that Beverly city officials share my concern, and are making an effort to upgrade the markers with ones that are more informative. According to an article in the Salem Evening News, “Mike Collins, commissioner of public services and engineering, wanted to research the history of each veteran and tell their stories, some of which were missing or incomplete.”

One of the markers simply said “Healey Square.” Collins and Veterans’ Agent Jerry Guilebbe checked a memorial listing Beverly veterans killed in action and found a Joseph E. Healey who died in the Civil War. They made the logical but erroneous assumption that this was the Healey for whom the square was named. On Veterans Day, the city held a rededication ceremony, showing off the upgraded marker which includes the full name and date of death of Joseph E. Healey, Navy Seaman, killed in action in 1862. Joseph Healey’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who had been unaware that she had an ancestor who died in the Civil War, came down from New Hampshire for the event.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong Healey. Healey Square was dedicated in 1976 in honor of Frederick D. Healey Jr. Square, who served in three wars and was commended for his bravery under fire during the Korean War. The original marker his initials on it, but it was replaced in the 1990s with one like the Keniston marker, with only the last name. A little more research would have saved the city from some expense and embarrassment here, but as librarians and family history researchers both know, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ve found the answer and moving ahead without adequate verification.

The best part of this story is the gracious response of Lois Healey, the widow of Frederick D. Healey, Jr. According the Salem News story, she called Collins a “lovely, lovely man” and said “There are no hard feelings on my end…It’s just a mistake that happened.” The city plans to replace the Healey Square sign with a new one properly honoring Frederick D. Healey, Jr., and to dedicate a square near where he lived to Civil War seaman Joseph E. Healey.

Equally gracious is Heather Wilkinson Rojo, the descendant of Joseph E. Healey who attended the dedication. She’s a respected genealogist and blogger who has written about this event in a positive and educational way, as an example of how we sometimes need to revise our family stories has new information becomes available that proves our earlier assumptions wrong.

The moral of the story is to check multiple sources and avoid confusing assumptions with facts. Also, document everything, and whether you’re creating historical markers or working with family photographs, be sure to provide enough information for others to follow: full names, places, dates, etc.

And when confronted with a mistake of your own or someone else’s, try to be as positive and gracious as everyone involved here seems to have been!


Rowe Quarry

Rowe Quarry

Rowe Quarry was on the Malden-Revere line, about ten miles north of Boston, just off Route 1 and visible from the highway. For many years, it caught my attention every time I drove by. I grew especially fond of it during the four years that I worked in Revere and drove this route to work every day. I loved the weathered wood, the wonderful angles, and the rocky cliffs surrounding it. I developed had a vague sort of ambition to draw, paint or photograph the site, an odd ambition for me since I can’t draw nor paint, and, in those days, I never took anything but family snapshots.

Rowe QuarryWhen I got my first digital camera ten years ago, I drove past this site occasionally and thought I ought to stop sometime and take a picture, but either I didn’t have the camera with me or I was in a hurry or both. One Saturday morning, I finally made a special trip down and took two pictures. I was pretty pleased with myself, and thought I’d take many more. I imagined myself taking pictures of the quarry in different seasons, in different weather, from different angles. It would be my special thing. Rowe Quarry and me! We’d would be like Rouen Cathedral and Monet!

Just a silly, secret daydream. I was unaware at the time that this rock crusher was soon to be torn down, and that the site would be redeveloped as Overlook Ridge. Nor was I aware of the environmental contamination issues present at the site, although now I wonder how I missed all the local news coverage. I was shocked shortly thereafter, when I drove by and it was just all gone.

I still drive up Route 1 frequently, and I still look over to the right at the Revere-Malden line, half expecting to see this old familiar site. I’m still disappointed every time. I miss it. I’m glad, though, that I took two photographs before it was gone. I’m pleased that they get a slow but steady stream of viewers. Nearly all coming from Google searches, so I know that there are some other people out there who miss it, too.

Worcester History Images from the Internet Archive

Ames Plow Company's Works

I love roaming around through the amazing collection of public domain books on the Internet Archive, but there’s no good way to search just the illustrations within the books. I have been copying some of the images and posting them to Flickr, linking back to the Internet Archive book record both as a credit and for more information.

Taylor's BuildingRight now I am working with James Arthur Ambler’s Worcester Illustrated from 1875, which has lots of pictures of commercial buildings, factories and more. The size and quality of my images vary as I experiment with using different versions of the Internet Archive files and different ways to make copies. I’m also fooling around with the files a bit, straightening and cropping them, doing minor color correction and adding borders. I’m not very good at this, but I’m not going to worry about it. I feel like I am making these images more findable and more shareable, and that even at their worst they are way better than noting.

I am putting these in a Flickr set called Worcester History Images along with some of my scanned old Worcester postcards. When I have time, I’d like to get these into a real database, put them on a Google map, do some then-and-now photographs, etc. But right now, I just want to get these out there so they can be search and found, so someone might find a picture of the factory where his great grandfather worked, or the school his great-great-grandmother attended.

Howard Street Cemetery: Salem, Mass.

Howard Street Cemetery: Salem, Mass.Salem is a city that values its history, if only as a salable commodity. But a visit to the Howard Street Cemetery doesn’t speak well for the community. This historic cemetery is right downtown, near the train station, near the Peabody Essex Museum, within walking distance of all of Salem’s tourist attractions, and it is, quite simply, a disgrace. Graves are overgrown, stones are tipped and some are broken, their pieces simply left lying on the ground. It’s full of leaves and litter, including a lot of old alcohol bottles.

The graves here seem to be mostly from the early 1800s, and as with all old cemeteries, you can’t help but notice how many babies and young children there are, often two or three from the same family.

Howard Street Cemetery: Salem, Mass.Perhaps this cemetery has received so little attention and care because by Salem standards, it’s not old enough. No Mayflower passengers here, no Salem Witch Trial judges here. And its location is unfortunate, sharing a long border with the old Salem Jail Complex, a historically significant site that has been empty for more than fifteen years, has become derelict and damaged by fires. The jail site and cemetery are included in tours of Salem’s haunted places, since supposedly people see ghosts here. The Jail Complex is scheduled for development, so perhaps the Howard Street Cemetery will get cleaned up as part of that effort. I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere.

But as it is now, the Howard Street Cemetery is a disgrace to the City of Salem.

Salem Jail and Howard Street Cemetery — More of my photographs