One of the more stunning homes and parks in Massachusetts is located in Easton, known as the Borderland State Park. Borderland was the 1,200-acre estate of Blanche Ames Ames, an artist, political activist, inventor, writer, and prominent supporter of women’s suffrage and birth control. Blanche Ames’ husband, Oakes Ames (of the Ames Family of Easton), came from a wealthy Massachusetts family that owned the Ames Shovel Works. Marrying in 1900, Blanche and Oakes (who were not related even though they had the same last name) constructed their stone mansion in 1910 and created a system of ponds and dams on their property. Blanche and Oakes, who wanted a fireproof house, became displeased with the work of their architect because of the challenges he faced with their design and engineering requirements. Dismissing the architect, Blanche took over the design and construction management of the mansion and hired the Concrete Engineering Company to draw plans according to her specifications. Also on the grounds is a hunting lodge with fireplace, overlooking the large pond on the estate.
Once the mansion was completed, Blanche set up a studio on in the house and developed a scientific color system for mixing paints. She became the sole illustrator of her husband’s botanical books (Oakes was a renowned authority on orchids and taught botany at Harvard from 1900 until his retirement in 1941). Later in life, Blanche became the co-founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts and the Treasurer of the League of Women Voters from 1915 to 1918. She also gained notoriety for her political cartoons depicting the struggle for women’s suffrage. In addition to these many accomplishments, Blanche was an inventor who, in 1939, designed a hexagonal lumber cutter. During World War II she designed, tested and patented a method for ensnaring enemy airplanes in wires hung from balloons. Remaining active her entire life, Blanche received a patent for a water anti-pollution device in 1969, a year before her death.
Located across the street from the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall and the Ames Free Library, the North Easton Savings Bank and Post Office building perfectly compliments the Romanesque Revival motif seen in the village. The building was constructed in 1904 in a Richardsonian Romanesque design with rough-faced granite ashlar walls with brownstone trim. The three-bay front façade contains centered entrances recessed behind a wide brownstone arch in the signature Richardsonian manner. The building was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, a Boston-based architectural firm which grew out of Henry Hobson Richardson’s office, where they completed many of Richardson’s unfinished works after his death.
There are few buildings that make you stop and stare in marvel at their perfect architectural proportions, detailing and design, the Ames Memorial Hall in Easton, Massachusetts is one of them for me! In the late 1870s, the children of Oakes Ames commissioned the great American architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design the Memorial Hall as a tribute to their father. Richardson, the architect of Boston’s beloved Trinity Church in Copley Square, responded with a picturesque masterpiece using his signature architectural elements of rounded arches, dramatic roof lines, and heavy masonry adorned with carvings. The building was provided to the inhabitants of Easton “for all the ordinary purposes of a town hall”. Oakes Ames (1804-1873) was partner in the family business, O. Ames & Sons, a U. S. congressman, an early investor in the Central Pacific Railroad, and, at the urging of President Abraham Lincoln, a prominent force in the building of the first transcontinental railroad. The Richardsonian Romanesque building stands on the solid foundation of a natural ledge, from the northeast corner of which rises the beautiful octagonal tower, on whose frieze are carved the twelve signs of the zodiac.
Oliver Ames began producing shovels in North Easton, Massachusetts at three pre-existing factory sites in the early 1800s. By 1852, O. Ames & Co., now run by Oliver Ames’s sons, Oakes and Oliver, Jr., was prompted to construct stone shops on the west side of the Shovel Shop Pond. In 1851, the original shovel shop was destroyed by fire. The company would soon rebuild, and by 1852 the first of the new shops, of fireproof stone construction had been completed. From 1852 to 1953 the company hired hundreds of men, women, and boys to make dozens of different kinds of shovels as well as hoes and, later, lawn and garden tools. Strong demand for shovels would continue in the mid 19th century, with the great expansion of railroads and later the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln personally asked Oakes Ames to supply shovels to the Union Army, and he obliged. By 1879, the company is said to have produced 60% of all the shovels in the world!! The Ames Shovel Company ceased production in Easton in 1952. After, the buildings started to suffer from neglect with only a few buildings occupied by commercial uses. Thankfully, in 2014, the complex was redeveloped into a local YMCA and apartments as the Ames Shovel Works Apartments!
This stunning Victorian home in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard was built in 1878 as a summer home for Oliver Ames (1831-1895), a businessman, investor and Governor of Massachusetts. Oliver Ames was the son of Oakes Ames, who is credited by many historians as being the single most important influence in the building of the Union Pacific portion of the transcontinental railroad. After his father’s death in 1873, Oliver Ames became the executor of his father’s vast estate and business dealings, and spent vast sums of money on properties in the places he lived including North Easton, MA, Boston and Martha’s Vineyard. He summered at this large home fronting the ocean in Cottage City, then a part of Edgartown. He decided to run for state senate in 1879, after he was unsuccessful in securing passage for the separation of the Martha’s Vineyard community of Cottage City, where he owned a summer house, from Edgartown. Winning election, he saw through the incorporation of the town (now known as Oak Bluffs). Ames served as the Governor of Massachusetts between 1887 and 1890, and continued to summer in his beachfront home during that time. The eclectic Victorian home blends many popular styles at the time from the Shingle style with the continuous shingle siding, the Stick style with the delicate stick-work at the veranda, to Queen Anne with its asymmetric massing and square tower.