Say goodbye to this old barn

This article appeared in the Wellesley Townsman on August 21, 2014.

Barn at 60 Cartwright Road Photo taken by Joshua Dorin in 2014

Barn at 60 Cartwright Road
(Photo taken by Joshua Dorin in July 2014)

If all goes according to plan, a 19th Century barn on the east side of Cartwright Road just north of the Wellesley-Needham town line (that is shown in the accompanying photograph) will be torn down soon. Not surprisingly, the two-acre parcel on which it sits will be subdivided so that a developer can construct two large houses for resale.

Although the precise age of the barn is somewhat of a mystery, a decent amount is known about the family that built the barn and owned the property for more than three quarters of a century.

The patriarch of this family was James Cartwright, who arrived in Boston from Herefordshire, England around 1855. It appears that Cartwright, like most immigrants who came to America during the mid-19th Century, was simply hoping for a more prosperous life for himself and his family. After all, for nearly twenty years prior to emigrating from England, Cartwright had tried his hand at an assortment of professions — prison guard, police officer, and crockery dealer to name a few — but never found great success.

Unfortunately, this pattern of mediocrity continued even after he arrived in Massachusetts, where he was joined in late 1856 by his wife, Elizabeth, and their seven young children.

The Cartwrights must have had a smidgen of good fortune, however, considering they were able to leave East Boston the following spring for (literally) the greener pastures of Wellesley/Needham where they had purchased a 55-acre farm from Joseph Russell for $2000. It was located on ‘Russell Place,’ which is now the southern end of Cartwright Road. (Only a small portion of the property was in Wellesley, which separated from Needham in 1881.)

Now they would at least be able to live off the land. But James Cartwright still refused to give up his pursuit to succeed in the crockery trade. That ended, however, in the early 1860s upon the suggestion of his wife, who convinced her husband to establish a nursery on their farm. This proved sage advice. He quickly became well-known in Boston for his flowers, most notably carnations and chrysanthemums.

Cartwright’s nursery continued to flourish even after his death in 1889 as several of his sons carried on the business. One of those sons was Elijah Cartwright, who acquired eight acres of his father’s estate that straddled the town line (including the property where the barn now stands). Here Elijah constructed his own greenhouse.

The Cartwright flower business was in operation until 1935, when Elijah’s son, “Del” Cartwright, who had taken over ownership of his father’s greenhouse and even built a second one adjacent to it, succumbed to foreclosure. The property then passed to another professional florist, Sidney Abraham, who ran the nursery through the early 1970s.

In 2004, the part of the property that included the greenhouses, which had long since fallen into disrepair, was sold and the structures were subsequently dismantled.

The barn, however, survived. But only for ten more years. Its own demise is rapidly approaching.

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2 thoughts on “Say goodbye to this old barn

  1. Interesting, as this barn was where my father Al Cartwright kept his beloved horse as a boy. He was Adelbert “Del”‘s son and worked in the greenhouses but his heart wasn’t in horticulture. Del lived next door at #419, now demolished, and moved in the Depression years to New York state, where he operated a florist shop for several more decades. He was florist to FDR’s funeral.

    I was told that the Cartwrights lost much of their land to a Dr. Wiswall who loaned them money and was described as unscrupulous. He operated a sanatorium in the area.

    Is there some character judgment in your comment on my great-great grandfather’s “mediocrity”?

  2. Along with Brian, I am one of “Del’s” three grandchildren. Thank you so much for the research behind this interesting article. The facts are pretty much in agreement with what I have been able to find out. However, I, too, take excepton to the use of the word “mediocrity”. The midlands of England in the 1850’s was a tough place to make a living no matter one’s abilities or education. James became the first constable in the town of Weobley near Hereford, but the town had difficulty maintaining his salary. Emigration would seem to be the most promising next step. His success surely proved that was true. To move is family to the US, amass $2000 (that was a huge amount of money then) and build up a flower business was pretty impressive.
    I had the good fortune to visit Weobley several years ago and when I told the neighbor to James’ house that I was his great-granddaughter, the neighbor began to tell me stories about what kind of man he was. Those stories have been a major part of the town lore for 115 years! The Cartwright men are a memorable bunch (down to the present day.)
    My dad, Walter Adelbert, also had to recover from the depression and my own near-fatal illness by taking whatever employment came his way until at last in 1956 he established a garden center and florist shop in Hyde Park NY. Eleanor Roosevelt was his most important customer and a good friend.
    Today I live in Raleigh, NC on a small lot that was part of a large, successsful dairy farm. Progress is inevitable but it is also sad to have to say goodbye to life as it used to be.
    Again, thanks for adding to what I know about my family.

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