For this blog post, I’d like to cross the Charles River into Newton Lower Falls. But don’t think for a second that I’ve all of a sudden made this blog about Newton history! In fact, what I’d like to discuss has very strong ties to early industrial and commercial development of Wellesley Lower Falls. Furthermore, a complete understanding of Wellesley Lower Falls cannot exclude Newton Lower Falls because throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries the two villages were really thought of as just one large community rather independent of the rest of both towns.
The building I’d to focus on here is one I’m sure everyone is familiar with — the yellow three-story house at the corner of Washington and Concord Streets just east of the bridge over the Charles River. It’s known colloquially as the Baury House, named for the rector of St. Mary’s Church who resided there during the mid-1800s. However, its history goes all the way back to c.1755 when the dwelling was built by John Parker, a local farmer, for his son, Ezra. That being said, I’d like to focus almost exclusively on two owners of the house who were the most relevant to the development of Lower Falls: William Hoogs and Rev. Alfred Louis Baury.
William Hoogs, a ship carpenter from Boston, took ownership of the house in 1781 from his father-in-law (and boss), Aster Stoddard, who had bought it from the Parker family seven years earlier. Hoogs’s strong influence on the industrial development of Lower Falls began around 1788 when he and Edward Jackson, another local resident, constructed the dam to the south of the Washington Street bridge. (A dam further up the river near Walnut Street had existed since before 1718.) By 1794, Hoogs, Jackson, and three other partners had built a paper mill — known as the Nehoiden Mill — downstream from the lower dam on the west bank of the river just north of Washington Street in what is now Wellesley. Only five years later, Hoogs was the sole owner of this mill, which he soon bequeathed to his son, William Hoogs Jr., who owned it until around 1809. The Nehoiden Mill continued to manufacture paper until 1874, when Richard T. Sullivan converted it into a shoddy mill that extracted wool and was in operation until 1960. The entire factory complex (greatly enlarged by Sullivan) was razed in 1961. William Hoogs Jr. also briefly owned the Foster Mill, another paper manufacturing mill located opposite the Nehoiden Mill on the east bank of the river. That mill burned down shortly after 1892 and the land was soon taken over by the Metropolitan Park Reservation.
In addition to the paper mills, William Hoogs Jr. operated one of the first stores in Wellesley Lower Falls: Hoogs’s Tavern (on the north side of Washington Street where Wellesley House of Pizza now stands). Besides providing lodging for weary travelers and selling everything from boots to bandanas to geese, the tavern was also a well-known drinking establishment that was frequented by many from all over the region. It burned down in 1905.
As I mentioned earlier, Rev. Alfred Louis Baury of St. Mary’s Church is the other owner of the Baury House who is relevant to the development of Lower Falls. Now I’m sure some of you are wondering what a church rector has to do with this area’s development. Well, to answer that question, we need to go back to the founding of St. Mary’s Church during the early 19th Century. At that time, many mill workers and their families had settled in Lower Falls, but the nearest churches were miles away in the town centers of Newton, Wellesley (West Needham), and Weston. Therefore the Lower Falls population decided to form their own congregation. Because many of these residents had not regularly attended religious services and were not tied to any denomination, Episcopalians living in the surrounding towns convinced them to organize an Episcopalian Church, of which there were none in the area. The first services of what would become St. Mary’s Church were held in 1811 at a schoolhouse on the current site of the old Hamilton School. Only three years later, the church that now stands on Concord Street was erected. Unfortunately, it wasn’t smooth sailing for St. Mary’s during those early years. The situation greatly improved, however, when Rev. Baury served as rector from 1822 to 1851. Attendance soared and money was more plentiful. No doubt, the presence of a thriving church helped transform Lower Falls from a small community of factory workers into one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in either Wellesley or Newton. During his rectorship, as well as after his retirement, Baury and his family resided in the house that is the subject of this post and which had been bequeathed to him in 1825 by Samuel Brown, a creditor living in Boston who had invested in Hoogs’s paper mills and perhaps received the house as payment when the factories failed around 1812. The Baury family owned the house until 1916.
At this time, given all that I’ve mentioned, you might be interested to look at an 1880 bird’s-eye map of this part of Lower Falls (along with a present day view) — CLICK TO ENLARGE:
You can clearly see the Baury House near the center of the image. Just below that is St. Mary’s Church and to the right are the Nehoiden and Foster Mills along the Charles River. And at the top right-hand corner, you’ll see Hoogs’s Tavern (at an angle to Washington Street just to the left of the railroad tracks). The 2013 bird’s-eye view shows that all that remain from 1880 are the Baury House, St. Mary’s Church, and the Boyden business block (now the Lower Falls Wine Company located on Washington Street opposite Concord Street).
Beginning in 1917, the Baury House served as the headquarters of the Lucy Jackson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Years later, in 1971, after falling into disrepair, the house was sold by the DAR to the Newton Redevelopment Authority which restored its exterior, including relocating the house further from the road and rotating it ninety degrees so that its front entrance faced Concord Street rather than Washington Street. It was then sold five years later to Spaulding & Co. which converted the interior into office space. (Richard Spaulding of Spaulding & Co. was a co-founder of Spaulding & Slye Corp., which bought the Wellesley Inn in 2005, razed it the following year, and is now — seven years later — trying to sell the construction site. Needless to say, the Baury House renovation was a far more successful venture.)
Personally, I’m thrilled that the Baury House was restored rather than razed. Much of what was intimately connected to the development of Lower Falls is long gone. This might give the perception to some people that Lower Falls doesn’t have a rich history. In fact, it was only relatively recently that I learned that Lower Falls used to be an industrial hub. And I’ve been interested in Wellesley history for almost two decades! Therefore, all the more reason to give prominence to the existing historical buildings. I think the Baury House renovation did just that.
- Newton Historical Commission files: 2345 Washington Street; St. Mary’s Church
- Sermon, preached in St. Mary’s Church, Newton Lower Falls, on the fourth Sunday after Easter, 1847 being twenty-fifth anniversary of the incumbent’s first officiating in that church by Alfred L. Baury (1847)
- A History of the Early Settlement of Newton, County of Middlesex, Massachusetts by Francis Jackson (1854)
- The New England Historical and Genealogical Register: Volume 20 (1866)
- Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by Grand Lodge (1872)
- Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts by O.H. Bailey & Co. (1880) [Map]
- History of Needham, Massachusetts: 1711-1911 by George Kuhn Clarke (1912)
- Congressional Serial Set by United States Government Printing Office (1919)
- One Hundred Years of Paper Making by Clarence A. Wiswall (1938)
- Wellesley Townsman: 11 May 1961; 6 July 1961; 7 December 1972; 30 March 1975; 14 August 1975; 31 March 1977; 13 August 1981; 6 November 2012