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The History of 505 Main Street - Or, The Lynnfield Middle School Property

Thanks to former Lynnfield resident Ernie Hutchins for providing this local historical information.

Editor's Note: Ernie Hutchins lived in Lynnfield decades ago before moving up to Gilford, New Hampshire and more recently, to Washington State. He still keeps in touch with the folks in his old town however, and most recently, provided this website with a comprehensive look at the history of one of Lynnfield's well-known properties - 505 Main Street, which is now the home of the Lynnfield Middle School. Below is the full text of Ernie's research:

 

INTRODUCTION

This research was prompted by a conversation about an old home that once graced the landscape of Lynnfield Center. It was located at 505 Main Street. Now the address of the Lynnfield Middle School. I lived across the street from this home for almost 10 years. It was a beautiful old Victorian. My minds eye could picture it as if it were yesterday. Yellow in color, with a sweeping wrap around porch, and unique fieldstone foundation.

However, I could not remember who owned it, or anything about the history. Not a problem! Iʼll just call the Lynnfield town hall and someone will be able to tell me. Thats when I realized that there was a huge generation gap. I was in a time warp. Most of the current Lynnfield residents were not even born in 1951. It seemed like yesterday to me. It had in fact been a full 60 years since the home was demolished to make way for the first Lynnfield High School.

It was then I realized I needed to be talking with a few life long residents. Octogenarians or better would be preferred. That really narrowed down the field. Of course it did not help that yours truly had left town some 50 years ago. A lot of lost contacts. I was able to get some basic property information from the town as it relates to the original purchase for the school. My contacts helped with bits and pieces, sparking even more interest.

I also contacted the Lynnfield Historical Society;-- they have really great stuff there. Both they and the town recommended that I pack my bags and camp out at the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds. This turned out to be a unique experience in several ways. The first was how do you read a 150 year old deed? It was a good thing that I had studied a little surveying in a past life. Whatʼs a “Chain” and a “rod”? Oh yes, the other reason was how do I do this from 3,000 miles away? Turns out that the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds had won a Smithsonian Award for putting almost everything they had records for, online! Not only online, but in a very logical and sequential format. How UN-big government of them. Thank you Mr. OʼBrien. 

As I started the research, this little whim of mine became a monster. Way too much information for this 71 year old to absorb. Almost too much for the most avid reader of research work I would think. I am a sort of “just give me the hi-lights” person. So I have consolidated much of the information, and put it into dateline/outline order. Sort of a summary of important transactions and happenings during the period. I wish I had time to do some Genealogy work on some of the families. Might prove interesting. Oh well, maybe in a sequel. Lynnfield was truly a “Mayberry RFD” in the 40ʼs, 50ʼs and 60ʼs.

Lynnfield schools The first school in Lynnfield was erected in 1772. A tiny structure of just over 200 SF. It was located at the West end of the common. Prior to this date, classes were held in private homes. In 1800 a two-room school was built in South Lynnfield. In 1808 a second two-room school was built in the center of town across from the original library on the common. In 1856 two more classrooms were opened in the public library. 1871 saw the construction of the large two-story school at the corner of Salem and Summer streets in South Lynnfield. This school was remodeled and enlarged in 1912.

South Lynnfield School

1859-1885 The original tract of land in the area of the middle school was acquired over the years by Warren Newhall of Lynnfield. It contain some 120+ acres. A general description of the property follows. The rough boundaries ran from a point on Main Street near the middle school, west along main street to a point near or further west of the old Wirthmore Demonstration Farm, now Wirthmore Lane. It then ran in a southerly direction to the Newburyport & Danvers Railroad. Including portions of Reedy Meadows and Partridge Island.

Turned northeast and ran along the railroad. Then in a northerly direction past the property of Danforth, Bancroft/Nash and Wilkins, to a point on Main Street. A portion of this property along Main Street did have a barn and other outbuildings belonging to Warren Newhall. They were locate about 100ʼ east of Chestnut Street, on the South side of Main Street. (see plot plan & 1884 map)

1888 The town of Lynnfield officially names the major streets in town. Main, Central, Salem, Chestnut, Lowell, Howard, Arlington, Forrest Hills. Broadway, Walnut, South Common, Summer, Essex and Union. The tax rate was set at $9.25 per $1000.

1890-1895 There were several transactions (about 100 acres) between the estate of Warren Newhall Sr, and other family members including Warren Newhall Jr, Mary Newhall, and John W. Newhall, another son of Warren, Sr. These acquisitions mirror over half of the property owned by Warren Newhall, Sr., in 1885. The location of these lots are to the West and South of the middle school. About 15 acres were located on Lowell and Chestnut streets. There were some outbuildings mentioned in the deeds. Nothing that could be construed as a house.

In early 1895 John W. Newhall acquired six more parcels, some 40 acres, from family members and others. John got a mortgage for $1400 from the Wakefield Savings Bank for this purchase. Three of the parcels are a 25-acre lot with frontage on Main Street. A barn is mentioned being located in the NW corner of the property, about 60 feet from Main Street. This barn could be the one noted on the 1884 map.

On June 21, 1895, John W. Newhall sold the 25 acre parcel to Joseph Gafford and family for $1.00 and other considerations. The description of the property is the so called “Plains Pasture” and “South Emerson Field”. Bordered by walls and fences. Jessie and William Gafford obtain a mortgage of $4000 from the Wakefield Savings Bank. This property appears to be the land that now would encompass all the baseball field, tennis courts, part of the football field, part of the middle school and some of the land that is now Perry Ave. (see plot plan)

At this point, an assumption can be made that the home at 505 Main Street was built between June of 1895 and June of 1896. Probably by the Gafford family. It also appears that the barn may have been built at an earlier date. If tax records from the 1890s were available, I am sure that the exact date of construction could be documented. The town said they are long gone.

There were two other important happenings in town in 1895. The first long distance phone is installed in Russell's Store. Thomas Wellmanʼs History of Lynnfield is published. One family name (pertinent to this research) shows up in the book, Newhall. However, this is I believe, the South Lynnfield & Lynn branch of the Newhall family.

Lynnfield schools In 1895 Lynnfield was starting to send their high school students to Peabody (4) and Wakefield (3)

1896 On June 16, 1896, Jessie & William Gafford sold the 25 acres and buildings thereon to Frank L. Perley and his wife Marguerite and to Gustav Eisfeldt and his wife Caroline for $4000. Gustav was Frank Perleyʼs father in law. Frank married Marguerite in MN in 1894. It should be noted that Frank Perley was a well -nown theatrical producer in NYC and Boston. He was a principle in the Bostonian Production, CO. The 1900 US Census shows the Perley and Eisfeldt families living at 505 Main Street.

1902 Frank L. Perley and Gustav Eisfeldt sold the property to Frank E. Baldwin and his wife Alice of the Baldwin Realty CO. in Boston. The terms mention a total amount of $4000 and insurance on the buildings of $3000 to be kept for the length of the contract. Perley holds or co-signs the mortgage. The NY Times real estate section, mentions the sale as a country estate.

Lynnfield Schools In 1903 the new Lynnfield Center Grade School was built. It was a two-room school to begin with. Renovations and additions through the years enlarged it to ten classrooms by 1948.

1907 The Baldwins default on the mortgage. Perley (now living in CA) assigns an attorney to handle the public auction. On December 21, 1907, the property is sold at auction to Stoddard Taylor of Washington, DC and NYC and Hedley Thompson of NYC and Toronto Ont. CA., for an amount of $3000.

1915 Taylor & Thompson sold the property to Lyman B. Taylor of Lynnfield. It appears that the acreage in question is still about 25 acres. With the same description mentioned in the 1896 sale, including the buildings.

1919 Lyman Taylor sold a lot consisting of 3.5 acres, with house and barn, to Walter H & Edward Perry, farmers from Charlestown, NH. This lot is part of the NW portion of the original 25 acres. It runs NE along Main Street 300 feet then S 500 feet, then W 300 feet, then N 500 feet to the starting point. The 1920 US Census shows Walter Perry and family living at 505 Main Street. (see plot plan)

1921 Lyman Taylor sold another lot of 1.5 acres to Walter Perry. This lot is next to the 3.5 acre lot purchased in 1919. It runs E along Main Street to the Wilkins property, and includes a 50ʼ R.O.W. The depth of the lot mirrors the 3.5 acre lot. It appears that both lots run a distance of 450ʼ from W to E on Main Street, and contain 5 acres. The lots are noted as lot 1 & 2. Lyman Taylor sold the remaining 20 acres of the original 25 acres, to the Lynnfield Recreation Association.* The group built the baseball field, old tennis courts and put in the Playground access road. A R.O.W. though Walter Perryʼs property.

Lynnfield Schools In 1923 it was decided to send all high school students to Wakefield High School.

1926 Walter Perry buys 14 acres from Leonora Barnjum. This property is next to the West and South side of Walters property, and is bordered on the North by Main Street and the South by the B&M railroad tracks. It was part of Warren Newhallʼs property in 1885.

Lynnfield Schools In 1933 the town formed a study committee to look at the possibility of building a high school. A recommendation was made to build a Jr/Sr high school at a cost of $125,000. The town voters rejected this. As a result the high school students continued to attend Wakefield High School, as they had since 1923. A decision to reorganization the school system took place in 1934. Jr high school students attended classes in the town hall and a new addition at the Center School.

1934 Walter Perry subdivided the western portion of his property into 14 lots and Perry Ave. The lots range in size from a third to over a half acre. These lots are sold from 1934, until the 1950s, through the Perry Real Estate, CO. The first homes appear to have been built on this new street starting in 1937. (see survey)!Walter is also in the antiques business. He uses the barn on his property for storage and showroom.

1940s In 1941 the town of Lynnfield voted to buy, by Eminent Domain, Walter & Mary Perrys property, at 505 Main Street, for $10,000. A new school was planned. The deed was drawn up in March of 1941. Walter and his family move out of 505 Main Street to a home on Lowell Street. When the war broke out, the town put a hold on the school construction. The house was then rented, first to a Fred C. Winstel, and then Harry & Dorothy Jackson. Harry was a selectman in Lynnfield and Dot was a piano teacher. My mother wanted Dot to give me lessons. Dot felt that I was still a little young at the time. (Whew) As of this writing, Dot is 95 years old and living with family in Florida.

Lynnfield schools In the late 40ʼs the state condemned the old South Lynnfield school. In 1950 the new South Lynnfield school was built and the old school was demolished. The, Jr. high students moved into the new South Lynnfield School. Due to tremendous post war student growth, the town of Wakefield notified Lynnfield that they would not be able to except anymore 9th grade students after 1953 and 10th grade students after 1956. Note: Students in the 40ʼs and 50ʼs also attended kindergarden in private homes. In 1946 & 1947 many of the Lynnfield center students destine to become members of the first Lynnfield

High School graduating class of 1960, (as I) attended kindergarden at Hazel Hardingʼs, on Phillips Road, or Rhoda Buttrickʼs on Main Street. There were several others in town.

1951 On October 23, 1951, the original (1941) deed between the town of Lynnfield and Walter & Mary Perry was recorded. Another small parcel was purchased by the town from Susan B. Taylor. (widow of Lyman Taylor) The home and outbuildings at 505 Main Street were demolished in late 1951. The home was only 55 years old. Construction on the new Jr/Sr high school started. Classes started at the school in Sept of 1953. Grades 6,7,8, & 9.

1952 Ground was broken, and renovations started on the new Lynnfield Colonial Shopping Center. The building was originally Roundyʼs store and housed Lynnfield’s telephone office. Upon completion it was home to Rodhams Gulf Station, Lynnfield Jewelers, Marstens 5 &10, later the Pioneer Shoppe) Rumbolts Drug, Worthens Food Market, Louis B. Tuck Insurance & Northrup Real Estate, Kimball Law, a barbershop and beauty salon. Lynnfield is growing.

1955-1957 The town took by eminent domain 10 acres of land owned by the Rideouts, (previously Taylors) for the football field and new permanent Little League field. The, Sr. high school addition is added. (10th-11th-12th grades) The Summer Street School is opened in fall of 1956. Most importantly, the Village Room Restaurant opened. A great hang out for the new high school kids.

1960 Lynnfield High School has its first ever graduating class. 138 students. When you consider only about 70 students started the first grade in 1948, it shows just how fast the town grew in 12 years. The population in Lynnfield grew from 3,927 in 1950, to 8,398 in 1960. A growth of 114% in just 10 years.

The Huckleberry Hill school is opened. Lynnfield is assigned two zip codes. 01940 for Lynnfield Center, and 01944 for South Lynnfield.

1963 The town votes to build a new high school on Essex Street. Classes begin in the fall of 1965. Six classes (1960-1965) graduated from the original junior/senior high school at 505 Main Street. It was then turned into a middle school.

SYNOPSIS

Although it is possible, that the Perry home was built before 1895, nothing in the deeds indicate it. A map of Lynnfield Center in 1872 notes all existing homes at the time. There are no buildings shown at the 505 Main Street location. A 1884 map (enclosed) also shows the existing homes and barns. Nothing on the future Perry property. Sales prices based on mortgage amounts, (from all old deeds) seem to be appropriate for acreage only sales in the late 1800ʼs. $20-$35 an acre for the larger tracts of land. $50-$100 per acre for the smaller lots. That would put the value of the 25 acre lot at about $800. The only mention of buildings in any of the deeds, reference a barn on the NW corner of the 25 acre lot, (maybe the one near Chestnut Street) and “outbuildings” with a value of $200 on other lots. The first mention of “land and buildings thereon”, is in the 1896 sale of the property from the Gafford family to the Perley and Eisfeldt families. Then again in the 1902 sale between Frank L. Perley and the Baldwins. 

Considering a sales price of $4000 in 1896, one would assume that a home had been built. Building prices and construction costs varied quite a bit in those days. New homes in the suburbs of Boston were selling from $1500 to $2500+ in 1895.

It looks as if the property was used more as a summer country home from 1896 until 1915.

Most of the early owners appear to be people of means from all parts of the country. They appear to travel frequently. It was only a three minute carriage ride to the Lynnfield Center train station. The enclosed plot plan (by the author) shows some of the homes of Lynnfield Center starting in 1872 and going forward. The property boundaryʼs and ownerships were extrapolated from numerous sales transactions and deeds, between 1859 and 1956. The map is not to scale, and the boundary lines are approximate. The 1884 map is from the Essex County town plans area. I have blown up the area around the future Perry property for ease of viewing.

*REMEMBERING MEMORIAL PLAYGROUND

This property (as noted above in 1921) was bought by the Lynnfield Playground Association from the Taylors. In 1937 the town agreed to accept ownership of the playground from the association. In 1939 the town voted to name it Memorial Playground. In 1955 the town added 10 more acres acquired by Eminent Domain from the Rideouts. The park was right behind the Perry home, separated by a small group of Apple trees.

During the 40ʻs and early 50ʻs Memorial Playground, was host to many events. Most memorable were the great 4th of July celebrations. The day started with all the age old games like the egg toss, three legged races, and some kind of husband and wife games that escape me. There were always cut and paste (not like on the computer) games for the very young.

The local service clubs and church groups sold hot dogs, hamburgers, and home made pies. Cant forget the Ice Cream truck bellowing fog and steam from all the dry ice. There was always some kind of bicycle parade. Kids would decorate their bikes with streamers, flags, crepe paper, and popsicle sticks with baseball cards jammed into the spokes that made sounds that were supposed to be like a motorcycle. Howard “Smokey” Knowland and his decked out big Schwin (or was it a Columbia) was always a crowd pleaser. Why he had rhinestone studded mud flaps and side lights that would be the envy of any long haul trucker! Some of the vets wore bits and pieces of there uniforms. The few from WW I, always reminded me of my grand father who fought in the trenches in France.

At sunset we would have a bonfire. Built with old railroad ties in a massive log cabin style structure. It seemed to be a hundred feet high. It was filled with used cider barrels from Gerry's Mill, old Apple crates from Walkers Orchard, and debris from the many new housing developments in town. To make sure it got off to a good start, the organizers had a local oil company bring in a truck and douse the structure with fuel oil. Of course we always had a pumper from the fire department standing by. EPA? What a sight it was.

In some years the Lynnfield Town Baseball team would have an early evening game with Middleton, or North Reading. Who can forget those ragged old bleachers with splinters the size of railroad spikes. It was a left hand hitters ball park. 220ʼ down the right field line to the fence separating the houseʼs on Perry Ave from the field. A few missing shingles and broken windows over the years. The names of the players are long gone;--except a Newhall, playing maybe shortstop, or 3rd base? Yes, the same Newhall family who put this 25 acre field of dreams together many years before.

Thanks to a few Lynnfield (and expatriate) residents for information about the property. First, Jane Thayer (Perry) Friedman. Jane is the granddaughter of Walter and Mary Perry. She lived in the home at 505 Main Street for several years in the 1930s. The pictures of the old home were supplied by Jane and the Lynnfield Historical Society. Its estimated that they were taken sometime in the 1920s by her grandparents. 

Nan Hockenbury Lynnfield, MA Lynnfield Historical Society
Ernie Hutchins Anacortes, WA Formerly Hutchins Circle
Roger Lummus Lynnfield, MA Formerly Main Street
Marjorie Potter Lynnfield, MA
Dave Rodham Whitefield, NH Formerly Lowell & Main Street
Jeff Stevens Lynnfield. MA
Bruce Woodbury Reading, MA Formerly Howard Ave

REFRENCES

Essex County Registry of Deeds
Lynnfield Historical Society
Lynnfield Town Atlas
Essex County Town Maps Department
Lynnfield Tax and Plans Departments (Marie & Kathy)
US Census Reports
Ancestry.com
Thomas Wellmanʼs History of Lynnfield
Warren H. Falls Images of America-Lynnfield

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