History Corner: Where Is It Wednesday?
It’s time for the popular game, Where Is It Wednesday! The answer will be posted here and on the WHS Facebook and Instagram accounts on Thursday. Thanks to the Weston Historical Society!
Hint – as a young child, he hated the family business of farming and apparently disliked school as he ended his formal education at the age of 14. He left Weston to apprentice in Boston around 1850. One of his employers gave him this glowing reference, “…for honesty, integrity, and industrious habits and good moral principles I would cheerfully recommend him.” He was 19 when he joined a company to which he would eventually be named partner at the age of 30.
At the age of 49, he came back to Weston and built this house in 1885, which was designed by the Boston architectural firm Hartwell and Richardson and includes their trademark diamond shingle pattern.
++ Further Owl hint ++
The current resident of this house is the sister of one of the Owl’s Wellesley classmates/ sister rower for Wellesley Crüe, Iron Maiden. Yah, that will be elusive for some of you.
The answer to Where Is It Wednesday: Seven Gables, the home of Francis H. Hastings on North Ave.
It has been said that Francis Henry Hastings returned to Weston in 1884 so he could spend more time with his aging parents and also so his ailing son could live in country air to improve his health. Hastings built Seven Gables almost directly across the street from his family’s homestead and childhood home on North Ave. (extant). His additional land purchases along North Ave. became a major influence on the development of Kendal Green for the next four decades.
The labor unrest in industries across the country in the 1880s may have served as inspiration for Hastings to create a harmonious workplace and community. From 1887 to 1891, he built and moved the E. & G.G. Hook & Hastings organ factory from Roxbury to North Ave. As the new factory was being built, Hastings also built employee housing on Lexington St., Viles St. and Brook Rd. He also served as a mortgage lender for employees wanting to build their own homes. An 1893 news clipping said, “the modern Kendal Green with its organ factory, its pretty cottages and its handsome mansion was quite a revelation.”
An 1890 Boston Herald article outlined Hastings’s plan: “A Community of Labor: An Object Lesson for Employers and Employed – The Labor Experiment at Kendal Green.” It noted that Hastings took a personal interest in all his employees and regarded them as part of his family. He built a community hall for recreation and social activities, which held a 300-seat hall, library, reading room, and a game room. It was open to non-employees, too, and the Kendal Green village rivaled the Town Center in population, entertainment and services. In 1904, the company hosted a party at Seven Gables. Employees and their families were in attendance and the newspaper description said, “the friendship that has long existed was manifested in many ways.”
Hastings passed away in 1916. The factory continued in operation until 1935 and was demolished in 1936. When the factory closed, the silenced whistle, which also marked time for the community, also marked the end of an era.
This photo shows the factory with North Ave running behind it, Seven Gables to the far right, and Brook Road in the foreground and connecting to Viles Street on the right. Cat Rock, the Hastings Homestead and District School #4 can also be spotted in the background.
It’s the Viles mansion on Rt. 117, just East of Viles Street. Such a beautiful house!
Francis Henry Hastings house.Owner of the organ factory.