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