The Ames Free Library first opened its doors in 1883. Under the terms of the will of Oliver Ames II, $50,000, in trust, was left for the construction and support of a library for the benefit of the inhabitants Easton. The library was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in 1877 and opened in 1883, becoming one of the finest public libraries in the region. The library is built of Milford granite with the same Longmeadow trim used on his famous Trinity Church in Boston. The very low cavernous arch over the doorway was used here by Richardson for the first time and became one of the most prominent and widely imitated characteristics of his style.
Located on Main Street in Easton, the Oliver Ames Jr. House exemplifies the romanticism of the Italianate style in the mid 19th century. Built in 1864, the home, known as “Unity Close”, was designed by George Snell, a Boston-based architect. Oliver Ames Jr. was a son of Oliver Ames Sr., who along with his brother, Oakes Ames, joined the family business at the Ames Shovel Works in town. The home has a massive garden at the side yard, originally designed by the Olmsted Brothers, John and Frederick, the sons of the great Frederick Law Olmsted.
I’m starting to see a trend in Easton, almost everything is named after the Ames Family! In 1893, Oliver Ames (1831-1895), a grandson of shovel company founder Oliver Ames and son of Oakes Ames, offered to fund the construction of a new high school building if the town would pay the cost of building its foundation and grading the site. While governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1887-90), Ames had hired Boston architect Carl Fehmer as consulting architect to the State for the extension to the Massachusetts State House, and it was Fehmer who secured the design contract for the new school in Easton. The refined Colonial Revival school building features a central pavilion with an entrance set within an ornate stone architrave with a Classical entablature with central pediment. The school was outgrown in 1957 and became the town’s middle school, outgrown again in the 1990s. The town sold the school to a developer with preservation restrictions and it is now used as apartments!
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.