> Click here to view a MAP of this tour.    > Click here to view a BROCHURE of this tour.


E. P. Dodge Shoe CompanyTowle SilversmithsBartlet Steam Mills
Safford JewelersFirst Religious Society, Unitarian Church
Engine Company FiveHidden House and Post Office

E. P. Dodge Shoe Company

Portrait of Elisha P. Dodge. History of Newburyport, Massachusetts by John J. Currier.

Elisha Perkins Dodge (1847-1902) was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and learned the shoe trade from his older brothers. Mr. Dodge settled in Newburyport in 1867, and at the age of twenty, he began to manufacture ladies’ shoes on Pleasant Street, the building opposite of Inn Street, Tracy Place. Mr. Dodge had thirty employees and generated a profit of $5,000 in the first year of his enterprise. During the next twenty-two years, Mr. Dodge added buildings and additions to accommodate his growing business on Pleasant Street, Merrimac Street, and Tracy and Prince Places. Mr. Dodge’s shoe business became the largest manufacturers of women’s shoes and boots in the United States. He served as the twenty-fourth mayor of the city in 1890 and 1891. His family members included a son, Edwin Sherrill Dodge, the architect of Newburyport High School, the Ellen T. Brown Chapel at Oak Hill Cemetery, and buildings at Smith College and Harvard University.

[return to top of page]

Towle Silversmiths

View from Inn Street looking towards Tracy Place, the E. P. Dodge Shoe Factory and the location of Anthony and Edward’s silversmith business.

Anthony F. Towle (1816-1897) and William P. Jones (1827-1911) learned the silversmith trade from Joseph Moulton III and worked alongside his son, Joseph, IV. Mr. Towle and Mr. Jones acquired the wholesale trade from Mr. Moulton, and the new firm Towle and Jones opened for business at 8 Merrimac Street, where they continued to use the old methods to handcraft solid silver pieces. Mr. Towle and Mr. Jones continued to work together for sixteen years until 1873, when they dissolved their partnership. A son, Edward Towle (1843-1905), joined his father, and they opened their own firm at 19 Pleasant Street in E. P. Dodge’s shoe factory opposite Inn Street. Their shop was located on the corner of the building at the entrance to Tracy Place, now an alley. The Towles had many loyal customers and regularly shipped silver to some of the largest dealers in Boston and New York. Some of this silver was excavated from the Chipman Silver Mine, along Scotland Road in Newbury. Though the Silver Mine enterprise never came to fruition as everyone hoped, enough silver made it to the Towles that they were able to use it to craft pieces they marked "Newburyport Silver Mine," or "NPS," for "Newburyport Silver."

Chipman Silver Mine, Scotland Road, Newbury, Massachusetts. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

In 1880, a second son, William (1858-1937), joined his brother Edward and father Anthony. Their business was incorporated as Towle Manufacturing and soon moved to the large brick building on Merrimac Street once home to the Merrimack Arms and Manufacturing Company. Today it is still known as the Towle building. Although the business prospered, its investors could not agree on the direction the Towle enterprise should take, so the Towles themselves took their business into their own hands again. They reopened their business near Oakland Street and another in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Returning to Newburyport a few years later, Edward went to work as a retail jeweler at Moulton and Lunt; William returned to the Towle Manufacturing Company as a finisher; and father Anthony retired after nearly fifty years in the silversmith business.

[return to top of page]

Advertisement in the City Directory, 1874. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

Bartlet Steam Mills

Advertisement in the City Directory, 1874. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

Some of the earlier factories in Newburyport were located in the Pleasant Street area. Charles T. James, namesake of the James Steam Mill on Charles Street, came to Newburyport in the late 1830s during the early days of manufacturing. Mr. James, with a largely self-taught knowledge of mathematics and engineering, designed equipment and promoted steam mills in the smaller seaports that did not have the benefit of water-powered mills manufacturing textiles as nearby Lowell, upriver of Newburyport.

In 1837 Richard S. Spofford, Samuel T. DeFord, and John Chickering incorporated under the name of the Wessacumcon Steam Mills for the purpose of manufacturing cotton cloth. Land was purchased on Pleasant and Inn Streets east of the Unitarian Church, and brick structures were completed by 1842. In 1840, the name was changed to Bartlet Steam Mills, in reference to its largest stockholder, William Bartlet (1746-1841), one of the wealthiest merchants in Newburyport. During these years the town voted to lay pipe from the Frog Pond to Brown Square, then down Pleasant Street to Bartlet Mills to assist in the manufacturing process.

Pleasant Street looking east. Left to right, Alexander Building, Engine Company Five firehouse, Unitarian Church, and the Bartlet Mill buildings. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

The Bartlet Steam Mills was destroyed by an explosion and fire in 1881, with a loss of $150,000. Narrowly escaping the devastation was the Unitarian Church. Fire departments from Salem, Haverhill, and Portsmouth assisted in the fire. The mill structures were never rebuilt.

As in many communities, with the growth of the mill industry the need for a larger work force increased. In Newburyport, the introduction of the cotton mills and the Eastern Railroad brought an influx of immigrants looking for new opportunities. Local residents, an increased immigrant population, and freed slaves were all in competition for jobs. Although many of the wealthier townspeople were pro-slavery because their prosperous shipping and West Indies trade depended on a population of slaves, over time support grew for the local Abolitionist movement. Many African Americans settled in Newburyport, some descendants of slaves of the wealthy in the 1700s, others seeing an opportunity for employment or owning their own businesses. Free African Americans competed in the workforce with locals and the immigrant population, a conflict that all communities faced in this new era of industrialization and equal opportunity for everyone.

[return to top of page]

Safford Jewelers

Advertisement in the City Directory, 1853. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

For over 132 years the Safford family owned businesses in downtown Newburyport. In 1851, Samuel Safford (d. 1857) was listed in the City Directory as a cabinet maker at 10 Middle Street. His four sons, Augustus, Samuel, Charles and Ebenezer joined the trade and soon began the undertaking business. Augustus (1825-1888) and his wife had four sons including Edward A. who worked for the Waltham Watch Company, and William H., a watchmaker who partnered with John E. Lunt to purchase the Towle family business in the E. P. Dodge shoe factory building on Pleasant Street. William continued the watchmaking and jewelry business until 1918, when his youngest son, Deloid, who learned the trade from his father and Uncle Edward, carried on the family business as Safford’s Jewelry Shoppe. Deloid and his wife Mabel’s children, Donald and Helen, took over management of the store in 1945, on the corner of Pleasant Street and Hale Court opposite the Unitarian Church. One of the oldest family-run businesses in the area, Safford’s Jewelry Shoppe closed in the summer of 1983 after 113 years.

Advertisement in the City Directory, 1873. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

In 1896 gold was discovered in the Klondike, now known as the Yukon Territory just east of Alaska. Within two years 40,000 men and women had traveled to the town of Dawson where the actual mining claims were staked. About 4,000 fortune hunters did find gold, but only 400 really struck it rich. The Safford brothers, William H. and his younger brother Edward set out with friends for the Klondike in February of 1898. Their experiences were recorded by William in letters to his wife Lucy and four sons living at 5 Fruit Street.

Portrait of William Safford. Courtesy of Helen Safford.

After crossing Canada by railroad and reaching Vancouver, the Safford party took a boat north to the town of Skagway. In a letter dated March 13th, William wrote to Lucy about the required thousands of pounds of gear that they had to hike with over the mountains and through "canons" [canyons], but he appeared to be keeping his sense of humor: "...a fine morning a little cold. We are in a canon not over 200 ft. wide but the mountains are so high that the sun gets in only 4 hours a day. We are on the ice on the river and the water is running under us. Quite a good-sized stream. We have got to get out of here mighty quick. I have sacked about 300 lbs on my back, 50 lbs at a time up the canon about a mile. Wonder if I will be able to get up tomorrow. . . . We are packing today to the foot of Porcupine Hill. Tough work. If there is a muscle on my body that isn’t sore I would like to know which one it is."

Gorham Jewelers, Dawson City, 1899, where William Safford worked as a watchmaker during the Klondike gold rush. Courtesy of Helen Safford.

The Safford party reached Dawson City, and William worked in a jewelry shop while Edward mined for gold. The brothers stayed about one-and-a-half years, never realizing their dream of becoming rich. William and Edward returned home to Newburyport safe but poorer and wiser. The brothers opened a new business of watch- and jewelry-making. Read more about the Safford adventures in Tiptoe Through the Tombstones by Ghlee Woodworth, a local history publication about Newburyport in the 1800s, or visit the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center to read the entire set of William’s letters.

[return to top of page]

Unitarian Church, First Religious Society

A committee chose an area known as the Rock Lot, land covered in a rock ledge, on the newly laid out Pleasant Street to build a new meetinghouse. Built in 1801, the First Religious Society was initially known as the Third Parish Church, located in Market Square. It was the first church in the waterside district, later known as Newburyport. The Market Square meetinghouse was built in 1725, and led by the young Reverend John Lowell (1704-1767).

First Religious Society, Unitarian Church, 1935. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

There were many ministers who led the Pleasant Street Church throughout the 1800s, one of whom is particularly memorable. Pastor Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911), an Abolitionist, accepted an invitation to serve as minister in 1847. The longest serving minister, Reverend Lawrence Hayward, wrote: "...it was then the troubled period of anti-slavery agitation leading up to the war - a period the conflict and angry feelings of which, I suppose, none of us who are of a generation who did not immediately know them can realize. Newburyport, in spite of having produced William Lloyd Garrison, was a center of pro-slavery feeling, particularly the parish part of it, and Mr. Higginson soon showed that he was very much on the other side."

Pastor Higginson was known as an eloquent and effective speaker, but only two years later the young pastor resigned after pressure from the wealthiest members of the parish, although they numbered less than a dozen. Pastor Higginson wrote to his mother: "The case is perfectly simple. Mr. W. distinctly stated that they had no fault to find with me personally, they liked and respected me; they were always interested in my preaching, they had no complaint as to personal matters; the only thing he had ever heard mentioned was Slavery and Politics; my position as an Abolitionist they could not bear. This he admitted could not be altered; and he tacitly recognized that I had but one course to pursue."

Portrait of Pastor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Wikipedia source.

After two-and-a-half years, Pastor Higginson stepped down and moved with his wife to "Mrs. Curzon’s Artichoke Mills." They lived there next to the present Maudslay State Park for several years. Mr. Higginson, an advocate of girls’ education, taught classes to the factory girls and was a mentor to later well-known local teachers and writers: Jane, Emily, and Margaret Andrews, Harriet Prescott Spofford, and Louisa Stone Hopkins. He worked for women’s suffrage and temperance and criticized the poor treatment of workers in cotton factories. Mr. Higginson actively joined other citizens in the anti-slavery movement, among them the Butler family of Butler’s bakery, Charles Whipple who owned a book store in Market Square, William Ashby, owner of a hardware store, and Richard Plumer, a dry goods salesman on State Street.

After leaving Newburyport, Reverend Higginson ministered in Worcester and later served as a colonel during the Civil War as a commander of a Union regiment of freed slaves. He continued his lifelong advocacy for equality of opportunity for all and devoted his later years to writing.

[return to top of page]

Engine Company Five

Pleasant Street, left to right: City Hall, Alexander Building and Engine Company Five firehouse. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

In Wagon-Wheeled Fire Apparatus Houses and Companies of Ould Newbury-Newburyport, Stephen H. Bradbury, Jr., describes the first fire company presence on Pleasant Street prior to 1835. ". . . a group of men had a large cart stored under the porch of the Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street. They were then known as the 'Ragmuffin Club' and stored fire cloths, hooks, ladders and related fire equipment for the quick response to the call of fire. Rent was paid to the church, and records show that less than $20 per year was the fee." In May of 1835, the selectmen were authorized to purchase a lot of land next to the Unitarian Church and erect a suitable building for Engine Company Five, Hook and Ladder Company.

The three-story brick building on the corner of Unicorn and Pleasant Streets was known as the Alexander Block. Between the Alexander block and the First Religious Society, Unitarian Church, was a two-and-a-half story wooden building that housed the Engine Company Five, Hook and Ladder Company. In the early 1870s, the city purchased a new steam engine and named it "Little Mac. No. 1" in honor of Hiram P. Macintosh (1830-1907). The steam engine was housed at the Pleasant Street station and later moved to the Market Square firehouse. Mr. Macintosh held various positions within the fire department, serving as chief in the 1870s. He worked as a grocery clerk until he chose to pursue a career as a photographer and opened a business on State Street. Known to his friends as "Little Mac," he became one of the foremost photographers of his time. During the Civil War Mr. Macintosh photographed soldiers and their families for free in his studios.

[return to top of page]

Hidden House and Post Office

Where the United States Post Office building completed in 1928 is located now, was a large house last occupied by Edward S. Hidden, who owned the adjacent bakery shop and Star Theater, the first one in Newburyport. It opened in 1907 and seated four hundred people. The ticket booth was located on Pleasant Street. Silent movies of the old western picture thrillers were shown, as well as illustrated songs. Live entertainment was also featured, including shows by Mr. Hidden’s son-in-law Joseph Daley, who used to sing at the theater.

Brown Square looking east towards Pleasant Street and the Hidden house (center, right), now the location of post office. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

Mr. Hidden’s bakery was between his theater and home. On the other side of the theater the row of buildings were occupied by Henry Plouff, a barber, and by an African American, Schofield Baptiste, who ran a shoeshine parlor, the first of its kind in Newburyport. Later Mr. Baptiste’s shop was located on Mechanics Row, now Inn Street. Many of the young men would stop in for a shave at the barbershop, then get their "dogs" polished, take in a picture show, and complete the evening with a stop at Hidden’s bakery for some doughnuts and baked goods.

Mr. Hidden’s land was purchased by the U. S. government in 1919. The post office building, completed in 1928, is in the neo-Colonial style of the Georgian Revival. Characteristics include its rectangular-shaped profile, the hipped roof, arched windows, and the roof balustrade.

[return to top of page]

Copyright © 2012, Newburyport Clipper Heritage Trail. All rights reserved.