Historic Buildings

128 Maple Street
by Richard B. Trask

The following report was submitted to the Danvers Preservation Commission, at their request, to assist in determining if the commercial complex at 128 Maple Street was historically significant, in order to place a one-year delay upon the owner possibly wanting to tear it down. The delay affords the Commission and other interested parties time to find and present alternatives to demolition.

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The large, multi-attached commercial-industrial complex of buildings now under the umbrella address of 128 Maple Street has a long, complicated, and important role in the history and development of Danvers.

Click to Enlarge All Illustrations

Beginning in the 1830s into the 1840s the flat land running from High Street along Maple to the head of Locust Street began developing as a major market area in Danvers, due to important cross roads leading to Salem, Beverly, South Danvers (Peabody), and Topsfield. Several important shoe factories were established here, together with a well-known hotel and restaurant, and several general stores, all favorably attracting commerce.

1852 Map

That area of present Maple Street north westerly of Locust Street up to the intersection of Poplar Street near Lindall Hill (marked "Cedar Street" on the 1852 map) was not quite part of the commercial development of Danvers Plains until the late 1850s. Then about 1858 a large 3½ story Samuel Spaulding Shoe Factory was established at 1 Locust Street (currently the Lyons Ambulance Building). By the early 1870s on the west side of what is now Maple Street, north of the corner of Hobart Street, was located several residences, including of the Batchelder families and a short-lived shoe manufactory.

With the coming of the east to west Railroad line of the Danvers Railroad Company in 1854, eventually known as the Western Division of the Boston & Maine Railroad, and with a Passenger Depot at Maple and Hobart Street, the entire Danvers Plains area became the commercial center of Danvers. The area formerly known as Cedar Street in the 1850s became an extension of Maple, with mixed use of residences and shoe manufacturers being built on Maple Street between Hobart and Poplar Street. In 1878 a large lot of land on the south corner of the newly laid-out Putnam Street perpendicular to Maple Street included the newest church in town, the Seventh Day Adventist Chapel.

The area in about 1883

Around 1884 two new structures were built on the large lot containing the Adventist Chapel, east of the chapel and facing Maple Street. At the corner of Maple and Putnam Street a 3-story wood-framed building with basement was constructed for the Nathaniel Glover & Company Shoe Factory. The factory included space for offices, sole leather and bottoming, cutting and stitching, processing, and shoe packing. The building was heated by steam, and lighted with gas. This factory was torn down by 1897, while a new 4-story factory was built just to the west of its location in 1890 by the Danvers Building Association. Operated as the W. H. Burns Shoe Factory, the structure faced Putnam Street and was separated from the Adventist Chapel by a newly established short, dead-end street (now Putnam Court).

1887 Map

1892 Map

The other new building erected in 1884 on the former Adventist lot just to the south of the Glover Shoe Factory and also facing Maple Street was a new indoor Roller Skating Rink. In America during the post Civil War period many new recreational activities became popular, including lawn croquet and bicycling. Roller skates had evolved into more functional and simple footgear, and during the 1880s skates became mass produced in America, popularizing the pastime with indoor rinks established throughout the nation.

Roller Skating in the 1890s

Well-known local builder Allen A. Berry was contracted for the new building, and in early spring 1884 the rink began to be constructed, with lumber from Turner & Harrington, delivered through the nearby Boston & Maine Railroad line. The wood-clapboarded rectangular building had an almost 2-story hipped roof and 1-story side wings extending the entire length of the building. On April 19 the Danvers Mirror reported:

Rapid progress is being made with the work on the skating rink. . . . It is a large, substantial and good looking structure, and will be a good place for the rousing political meetings to be held this year. The floor will have an upper surface of yellow birch with lining of felt between that and the matched 1½ inch spruce floor beneath.

That same month the Danvers Skating Rink Association elected J. C. Campbell president and F. H. Caskin as treasurer. O. N. Fernald and John Hynd were directors, and the rink was dubbed “Maple Hall.”

In the May 3, 1884, issue of the Danvers paper an article described:

The new Skating Rink opens this evening with a grand concert from 7 to 7:30 by the Salem Brass Band of 18 pieces. Master Archie Deacon, called the ‘boy wonder’ on the rollers, will give exhibitions of fancy skating at intervals during the evening. There will undoubtedly be a large attendance and the performance will be well worth witnessing.

The new rink has 4,000 square feet of skating surface, is lighted with gas and heated by steam. Fred J. Quimby, a pleasant young man well acquainted with the business, has been engaged as manager, who with gentlemanly instructors will spare no pains to make this rink a popular and proper place for all to attend. The grand opening occurs this evening.

The next issue of the paper reported:

The new Danvers Skating Rink was opened last Saturday evening in a very successful and satisfactory manner. The audience altogether probably numbered 500 of whom about half mounted the rollers and glided over the surface to the inspiring music of the Salem band, while the other half occupied the chairs of observation and looked and listened delightedly. At 9:00 Master Deacon took the floor and gave an exhibition of fancy skating . . . .

Over time the large rink and its associated costs could not be sustained within the community, with other permanent and temporary rinks being developed elsewhere, so that the Rink Association looked for other appropriate uses.

In early 1891 over forty enthusiastic Danvers young men organized themselves into a militia company taking the name “Danvers Light Infantry.” Soon thereafter the unit was recruited into the Eighth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia with the company designation “K,” and under the captaincy of well known local resident Frank Clark Damon.

Needing a secure place to drill and store their equipment, the Danvers company was able to acquire the skating rink via rental and convert it into an armory. A full 2-story addition was created at the front entrance as the “Head House” encompassing a quarter of the original building, and with a “Drill Shed” being used for the other three-fourths of the building.

1897 Map

The dedication of the armory on August 26, 1891, was a festive affair. As reported in the Danvers Mirror on August 29:

Military men here and there, brass buttons, blue coats, red coats, epaulettes, gold braid, swords – all were indications on Wednesday evening of a great military event in the famous and patriotic town of Danvers. It was Co. K’s evening, the occasion of the dedication of the new armory of the Danvers Light Infantry, the flower of the Eighth Regiment, the pride of Danvers and the newest born of the state’s militia.

Military guests were feted with a fine dinner at the Berry Tavern at 7:30, followed by a public reception from 8:30 to 9:30 in the armory’s officers’ room, during which the Eighth Regiment Band gave a concert. A ball followed at 9:30 with waltzes and quadrilles being danced to by almost 300 guests.

The armory took advantage of the original layout of the 1880s roller skating rink and was fully described by the Mirror:

The large drill shed and the head house, although two distinct institutions, are joined by double doors, and each part is easy of access from the other. The drill shed measures 90 x 65, but the width of the drill surface is reduced about 17 feet by raised seating platforms on either side, which will furnish accommodations for 400 spectators at dances, prize drills or other features where the whole of the surface is utilized. The floor of the drill surface is the best white birch, laid in a superior manner . . . . On either side of the stage, facing the visitor as he enters the hall, are the gun racks. Bowling alleys and a shooting gallery will be provided for later.

The head house is two stories high, of 10 and 12 feet stud, respectively, finished with a hipped tin roof, and ornamental railing. A portico protects the entrance, which is in the centre. Over a circular window in the second story is displayed the name of the company, “The Danvers Light Infantry,” with the additional explanation, “Organized 1891.” A 24-foot white flag staff surmounts the whole. There are five rooms, exclusive of lavatories, in the head house, viz.: Officers’ headquarters, honorary members’, non-commissioned officers’, enlisted men’s room, and a uniform room. An entry-way 10 feet wide leads directly into the drill shed, and on either side are the entrances to the officers’ and honorary members’ rooms.

The officers’ apartment measures 16 x 23 and is finished in white wood, painted an ivory white . . . . The honorary members’ room is on the right of the main entrance, measures 16 x 16 . . . . Up stairs are the remaining three rooms. The non-commissioned officers’, directly over the honorary members’ room is of the same size . . . .

The enlisted men’s room measures 27 x 33, is finished in the natural wood. . . . Here will be located the pool and billiard tables, and such other articles as the tastes of the men may dictate, in the way of amusement. This room will be the general smoking room. It is pleasantly situated on the easterly side of the building and will make an attractive place. The uniform room, 22 x10, is connected with the men’s room by a slide, through the uniform will be passed.

Company K was in the center of the military and social life of Danvers during the 1890s, but these social aspects took on a serious nature as difficulties with the government of Spain escalated in 1898. On February 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine blew up in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, killing hundreds of sailors, and by April 21, President McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers. The Eighth Regiment was called up by the governor to become the Eighth Infantry U.S. Volunteers. In Danvers, Capt. A. Preston Chase and his officers recruited a full complement of soldiers and were ordered to report by train for active duty.

At 7:30 a.m. on May 5, 1898, Company K was given a tumultuous send off by the townspeople of Danvers. A platoon of police, the Holten High School Cadets, the Post 90 Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Veterans, as well as the citizens and school children escorted the company to the railroad station.

After a year of service and having participated in mop-up operations in Cuba, Company K returned to Danvers to a welcome home parade of April 11, 1899.

Around the turn of the new century the Burns Shoe Factory vacated the factory facing Putnam Street and was replaced about 1901 by the Danvers business Cream of Chocolate Company. The prepared product manufactured here needed no cream, sugar, or cooking. “Just add hot water, it’s ready to drink.”

In 1903 the factory was powered by steam and lighted with electricity. Automatic sprinklers were supplied by town water and a storage water tower was on the roof. Grinding, mixing, drying, storage, packing, and shipping were all accomplished within the factory.

Within six years, by 1909, both the chocolate factory and the armory had lost their former uses. The Armory had been sold and was now the Boston Incandescent Lamp Company which manufactured electric light bulbs, an industry important in Danvers during the early 20th century in several Danvers locations.

1909 Map

1916 Map

Meanwhile the chocolate factory facing Putnam Street had been taken over by the Standard Crayon Manufacturing Company utilizing the basement and first two stories with manufacturing, box making, printing, offices, and shipping area. The 3rd story was used by an underwear manufacturer.

By 1916 the lamp manufacturing had expanded with a large attached addition to the north of the original building. The business was now named the Boston Economy Lamp Division North Lamp Works of General Electric Company, much of the business dealing with refilling incandescent lamps.

Standard Crayon had also expanded with a new square-shaped 2-story independent building just to the east of their factory facing Putnam Street and used primarily for storage.

1930s

1950s

 

In 1891 Joseph Hoyt began a modest business in Lynn, Massachusetts manufacturing crayons. In 1904 this Standard Crayon Manufacturing Company moved to Danvers and set up in the former Burns Shoe factory. President Hoyt was joined by Danvers resident and Civil War veteran, Captain Henry N. Conway in 1904, who became assistant manager and quickly rose as a partner, assistant treasurer, and finally president in 1911. In 1925 Standard Crayon purchased the lamp factory on Maple Street. The company expanded to making chalk, and moved from hand manufacturing to mechanization. Its products and reputation soon made the company one of the largest manufacturers of crayons and chalk in the world, so that by the 1920s the company was manufacturing thousands of crayons each day, as machines rolled, counted, and labeled each stick.

By 1942 Thomas Laux became general manager as the company continued to expand, with a large Danvers workforce and economic benefits to the community. The crayon company was now manufacturing wax crayons for artists, schools, cotton and woolen mills, chalk, and other marking products, including those used by carpenters. The business had taken over the entire lot bordered by what was now North Putnam Street, Putnam Court, and Maple Street. Further additions had been made with all buildings either expanded and/or connected making up a rabbit’s warren of spaces.

In 1944 the large Easton, Pennsylvania manufacturer Binney and Smith, Inc. bought Standard Crayon Company, retaining it under its historic name of Standard Crayon as a subsidiary serving the New England market. By 1961 the Danvers operation ceased manufacturing and became a warehouse operation. Mr. Laux remained President till his death in 1965, after which Binney and Smith closed the Danvers operation.

1957 Map

Meanwhile another modestly begun, but eventual family powerhouse business had been established in 1952 by Danvers electrician Howard Lee. Eventually the firm took on the name “Hotwatt,” and successfully expanded its business of manufacturing small heaters for other manufacturers. Needing more room, in 1962 Mr. Lee met with Binney and Smith executives with a proposal to purchase part of the complex of buildings, including 128 Maple Street, while Standard Crayon continued to occupy space at the complex. After 1965 Hotwatt continued to expand its real estate in the neighborhood. [For a more detailed story of this business see the booklet Hotwatt History by Sandra Horwitz, written in 1998.]

Bill Lee with some Hotwatt products

Thus this large, empty lot of the 1870s, used as a staging area for the Seventh Day Adventist canvas tent revival meetings prior to the building of their Chapel in 1878, became a vibrant area of social and military activity during the 1880s and 1890s, and evolved into one of the largest, and best known series of manufactories during much of the 20th century.

Richard B. Trask

Town Archivist

October 2018

Bibliography

Hotwatt History, by Sandra Horwitz (1998).
The Standard Crayon Factory in Danvers 1903-1965, by Thelma Jenney (1981).
As the Century Turned, (1989), p. 130-135.
Danvers 1899 (1899) p. 74-76.
Danvers From 1850 to 1899, by Richard B. Trask (1996) p. 94-95.
Maps: 1872; 1884; 1887; 1892; 1897; 1903; 1909; 1916; 1927; 1957.
Street Poll Lists: 1895-1970.
Directory: 1899-1970.
Patriot Properties: 128 Maple (2013).
Danvers Mirror: 4/12/1884, p. 1; 4/19/1884, p. 3; 5/3/1884, p. 4; 5/9/1884, p. 3; 8/29/1891, p. 2.
Cream of Chocolate Archive file.
Standard Crayon Company Archive file.
Company K Archive file.
Archive photographic file.

Online beginning March 2019.

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