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Ames, Oakes and Blanche, Borderland, Mansion, 259 Massapoag Avenue, North Easton, MA, info, Easton Historical Society

Ames, Oakes and Blanche, Borderland, Mansion, 259 Massapoag   Avenue, North Easton, MA, info, Easton Historical Society

More information on this image is available at the Easton Historical Society in North Easton, MA
www.flickr.com/photos/historicalimagesofeastonma/albums
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The development by Oliver Ames and Sons Corporation of the factory and village land use in a rather organic manner with a mix work-related classes created an integrated geographic network. The housing on perimeter edge with factories and business affairs in the center creating the village concept in North Easton. Other important concepts were the Furnace Village Cemetery, Furnace Village Grammar School and the Furnace Village Store, which explains Furnace Village and other sections of Easton.
source: Massachusetts Historical Commission
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History of Massapoag Avenue and Borderland Historic District below
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Mansion at Borderland
Like other members of the Ames family in Easton building estates with multiple parcels of land, Oakes and Blanche Ames acquired twenty-seven individual properties to create the seventeen hundred and eighty-two-acre estate. The parcels of land were divided by stonewalls, wire fences, open spaces and forests. Borderland got its name from the location of both ancient tribal borders and modern-day town lines. In 1878, Blanche Ames, born in Lowell, her parents, Adelbert and Blanche Butler Ames, encouraged Blanche toward a higher education and equal opportunity. Exploring brand-new opportunities in the Ames tradition, Blanche enrolled in Smith College, when few women attended college and gave the commencement address at her 1899 graduation exercises. In her address being attended by President McKinley, Blanche told the audience that we are fortunate to live in an age that, more than any other, makes it possible for women to attain the best and truest development in life. Blanche Ames’ husband, Oakes Ames, a member of the Ames family, owners of the Oliver Ames and Sons Corporation at 28 Main Street in North Easton. The son of Governor Oliver Ames, (1831-95) and his wife, Anna Coffin Ames (1840-1917), a great-grandson of shovel shop founder Oliver Ames (1779-1863), Oakes Ames was born in 1874.
In 1900, Oakes Ames grew up at 35 Oliver Street, married Blanche Ames, sister of his classmate Butler Ames of Lowell, two years after graduating from Harvard. On October 22, 1895, Oakes’ father, Oliver Ames, of 35 Oliver Street, passed away. In 1900, Oakes and Blanche Ames began their marriage by living at his childhood home at 35 Oliver Street in North Easton with his widowed mother, Anna Coffin Ames, his two sisters, Evelyn C., and Susan E. Ames. Later, Oakes and Blanche Ames were living at 355 Commonwealth Avenue, the former home of Oakes’ father, Governor Oliver Ames. Oakes and Blanche moved to 225 Bay State Road, also in Boston’s fashionable Back Bay neighborhood. While living on Bay State Road, they began planning for a country estate south of Boston.
In 1906, Oakes and Blanche Ames began their purchases and lived at the newly purchased Col. Israel Tisdale Farmhouse, at 697 Mountain Street in Sharon, located at the northeast of the existing Leach Pond. In 1906, Alice Buck Pratt, of 111 Rockland Street, sold the land to Oakes Ames in two parcels, on the northwest corner of Rockland Street and Allen Road. The first parcel consisted of sixty-nine and one-quarter acres that reserved the William Dean Cemetery – as it is right now walled in – and the right to pass to and from the burial ground to Rockland Street. The second parcel was a seventeen and three-quarter acres parcel on the south side of Rockland Street. According to Anna Buck, one of George and Marion Buck’s thirteen children, her records verify Oakes and Blanche Ames rented 111 Rockland Street, her father’s childhood home, to Anna Buck’s family after they returned to Easton in 1911. In 1910, residing at the formerly called Col. Israel Tisdale Farmhouse at 697 Mountain Street were Oakes, a botanist, and his wife, Blanche B. Ames, with their two daughters, Pauline, Evelyn, their two sons, Amyas, and Oliver Ames, with seven servants. By 1910, Oakes and Blanche B. Ames purchased surrounding individual parcels, including a place called – Borderland, – which they called home. There they raised turkeys, pheasants, mink, and cattle. In 1910, the construction of the Mansion started with the building of the library. Blanche calculated the engineering measurements for the causeways and dams built on the ponds surrounding the Mansion. Ames Mansion was constructed on the site of the Currivan farmhouse, which was composed of larger stones and are slightly square. The stonewall running along the original entrance easterly, right now a service driveway, continued across the lawn on the south side of the Mansion. Oakes and Blanche Ames used some of the field stones in the construction of the Mansion. Stonewalls in the other parcels were a rougher and round stone configuration. Blanche and Oaks, 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. In 1920, residing in the Mansion at 257 Massapoag Avenue were Oakes, a professor of botany, and his wife, Blanche B. Ames, an artist in her own home, with their two daughters, Pauline, and Evelyn, and their two sons, Amyas, and Oliver Ames, with six servants and two chauffeurs. Blanche Ames calculated the engineering measurements for the causeways and dams built on the ponds surrounding the mansion. Once the mansion was completed, Blanche set up a full-size studio on the third floor of the house and maintained a workshop in which she and her brother, Adelbert Ames, developed a scientific color system for mixing paints. Blanche became the sole illustrator of her husband’s botanical books, including a seven-volume treatise on orchids. Oaks Ames was a renowned authority on orchids and taught botany at Harvard from 1900 until his retirement in 1941. The rear of the Mansion had the tennis courts, rolling hills towards the fields and pool. The Mansion at Borderland featured landscaping around the immediate grounds. In 1930, living at 257 Massapoag Avenue were Oakes, a Professor of Botany at Harvard, and his wife, Blanche B. Ames, an artist in her Iron Studio, with their daughter, Evelyn, and their two sons, Amyas, and Oliver Ames, assistant manager at the Ames Shovel and Tool Company, Inc., with two servants. Plantings around the house include shrubs and shade trees and perennial flowers. A vegetable garden was located to the west of the house. The garden was bordered by raspberry bushes running along the tree line of the fields. Oaks and Blanche created a system of ponds and dams throughout their estate. The sculpted hedge along the circular drive was destroyed in the Blizzard of 1978, which was restored at the direction of Pauline Plimpton, Oakes and Blanche’s daughter. A formal rock garden, designed by Oakes Ames, was built to the north of the house, complete with stone paths, steps, and benches. In the 1970s, under the direction of Oakes and Blanche’s grandson, T. P. Plimpton, the rock garden was reconstructed with some of the original flowering trees. These include flowering crab trees, dogwoods, lilac, forsythia, and burning bush. The reconstruction was a recreation of the historic planting plan by Oakes Ames. In the center of the rock garden is a wooden trellis set on granite columns, on which climbs Borderland’s Great Wisteria. The circulation system of the Ames estate also remains intact, including the circular drive in front of the Mansion and several unpaved roads throughout the former estate. Oakes Ames was the youngest son of Governor Oliver and Anna C. Ames and was well known for his botanist and orchid expertise. At the age of fifteen, Oakes took an interest in orchids while studying in Easton on the origin of plant life in different regions or times. Following his graduation from Harvard in 1898, Oakes started the Ames Botanical Laboratory at Harvard, becoming a world-known center for the study of orchids and economic botany. In 1900, Oakes Ames started teaching in the field of botany at Harvard. Later, Oakes became Research Professor and Director of the Botanical Museum until his retirement in 1941. Blanche Ames; a scientific illustrator provided the illustrations for her husband’s book on orchids. Blanche Ames, was a multi-talented inventor and illustrator, who was involved in art, farming, engineering and politics.
Blanche Ames was a suffragist, an early advocate of birth control, and late in life Blanche wrote a biography of her father, Adelbert Ames. Blanche Ames was interested in farming working with the staff of the Borderland estate and devised plans for developing a larger, more disease-resistant turkey. Blanche was the co-founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts and the Treasurer of the League of Women Voters from 1915 to 1918. Blanche was well known for her political cartoons depicting the struggle for women’s suffrage. In 1939, Blanche, an inventor designed a hexagonal lumber cutter. In 1940, residing at 257 Massapoag Avenue were Oakes, a professor of botany, and his wife, Blanche B. Ames, with a son, Oliver Ames, a trustee, and one housekeeper. During World War II, Blanche Ames designed, tested and patented a method for ensnaring enemy airplanes in wires hung from balloons. It must be noted in history that Blanche Ames painted every painting in the mansion with one exception. In 1969, Blanche Ames received a patent for a water anti-pollution device. Borderland’s grounds were used in Massachusetts State Lottery commercials that showed men playing croquet on the lawn. Born in brand-new York City in 1927, George Plimpton, son of Pauline Ames Plimpton, who was the daughter of Oakes and Blanche Ames, spent summers during his childhood at Borderland. George had a sister, Sarah Gay Plimpton, two brothers, Francis Taylor Pearsons Plimpton Jr., and Oakes Ames Plimpton. During the formative years of Borderland becoming a state park, Oakes Plimpton was a frequent visitor to the park noting the progress from an estate to a passive state park. George Plimpton, co-founder of the Paris Review, was known for his efforts in sports with the Detroit LIons in – Paper Lions, – Boston Bruins in – Open Net, – Willie Mays in – Out of My League, – pro golf in – Bogey Man, – and fought Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson for articles in the Sports Illustrated. George was a classmate at Harvard University of Robert Kennedy and helped get the gun away from Sirhan Sirhan when Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. A television documentary about Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was filmed in the library of the Ames mansion. When Blanche Ames died in 1969, she left the seventeen hundred and eighty-two acres estate to her four children, who conveyed the property to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1971 following the wishes of the Ames family for a passive state park.
source; Massachusetts Historical Commission
source; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Conservation and Recreation
source; Borderland State Park
source: History of Easton, William L. Chaffin, 1886
source: Easton’s Neighborhoods, Edmund C. Hands, 1995
source; Massachusetts Historical Commission
source: Easton Patch, Michael Hardman, May 16, 2013
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Currivan Farmhouse at Borderland
In 1851, residing at the property, later known as the Currivan Farmhouse, at 257 Massapoag Avenue were Eliphalet, a shoemaker, and Ermina Randall Wilson, with their two daughters, Ermina L., Keziah F., their eight sons, Granville O., a shoemaker, Andrew A., a shoemaker, George H., a shoemaker, Edgar N., John B., Harrison Y., Eliphalet S., and Charles L. Wilson. On May 10, 1830, Eliphalet Wilson married Ermina Randall, daughter of John and Keziah Littlefield Randall in Easton. In 1850, residing in the neighborhood were Eliphalet, a shoemaker, and his wife, Ermina Randall Wilson, with their two daughters, Ermina L., Keziah F. Wilson, and their eight sons, Granville O., a shoemaker, Andrew A., a shoemaker, George H., a shoemaker, Edgar N., John B., Harrison Y., Eliphalet S., and Charles L. Wilson.
In 1851, Currivan Farm was built by Eliphalet Wilson at the location of the Mansion. Eliphalet Wilson, a lifelong resident of Easton and a farmer, used the land for cattle grazing and farming. In 1870, residing on the farm property were Eliphalet, a farmer, and his wife, Ermina Randall Wilson, with their son, Charles L. Wilson, working on the family farm. On April 26, 1875, Eliphalet Wilson passed away at the age of sixty-seven, with his burial at the Spring Brook Cemetery in Mansfield.
In 1886, Michael F. and Mary Dromey Currivan purchased the farm to be historically named the Currivan Farm. On November 12, 1863, Michael F. Currivan was born to Charles, a boot maker, and Catherine Currivan of Stoughton. On June 24,1890, Michael F. Currivan married Mary Dromey in the Immaculate Church of 193 Main Street by Father William J. McComber. In 1900, residing on the Currivan Farm were Michael F., a farmer and a grinder, and his wife, Mary Dromey Currivan, with their daughter, Mary, their four sons, John Joseph, Thomas E., William Lawrence, and Michael Francis Currivan, Jr. A historical image taken in North Easton with Thomas Currivan, his sister, Mary Agnes Rathbun Currivan, and their mother, Mary Dromey Currivan, at the Currivan Farmhouse. On July 16, 1904, records show Michael F. Currivan passed away. In 1906, the family of Michael F. and Mary Dromey Currivan sold the Currivan Farmhouse to Oakes and Blanche Ames.
In 1910, Oakes and Blanche Ames removed the farmhouse to build the Mansion on a solid foundation. The foundation for the old Currivan house can be seen at the northwest corner of the library and the edge of the rock garden. Currivan Corn Crib used to be located where the visitor entrance from the parking lot. Oakes and Blanche Ames purchased individual properties one at a time. Borderland is made up of several parcels of land, divided by stonewalls, wire fences, and forests. These boundary demarcations can still be seen today. Walls in the vicinity of the Mansion, associated with the Currivan Farm, are composed of larger stones and are slightly square.
The stonewall that runs along the service road to the west of the Mansion once continued across the lawn behind the house. Oakes and Blanche Ames removed this wall during the construction of the Mansion. Some of the stones from walls were used in the construction of the Mansion. Walls at other sites are of a rougher, round stone configuration. When Blanche Ames died in 1969, she left the seventeen hundred and eighty-two acres estate to her four children, who conveyed the property to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1971 following the wishes of the Ames family for a passive state park.
source; Massachusetts Historical Commission
source; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Conservation and Recreation
source; Borderland State Park
source: History of Easton, William L. Chaffin, 1886
source; Massachusetts Historical Commission
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Colonel Israel Tisdale Farmhouse at Borderland
The Colonel Israel Tisdale Farmhouse was one of the first purchases made by Oakes and Blanche Ames in 1906. Around 1635, John Tisdale was born to Thomas and Ruth Tisdale. In 1614, Thomas and Ruth Tisdale came to United States from Ripon, Yorkshire to live in Duxbury around 1637, Taunton in 1650. John Tisdale married Sarah Walker in 1635, with eight children between 1642 through 1658 including the father of Colonel Israel Tisdale. In 1843, John Tisdale joined a military company. From 1650 through 1658, John Tisdale was a selectman, a constable from 1655 through 1659, and Plymouth Court Representative, from 1674 through 1675. On June 27, 1675, colonial records show that John Tisdale was killed by the Indians. In 1775, Colonel Israel Tisdale’s parents were Edward and Ruth Harlow Tisdale, with his sister and brother, Betsey and Edward Tisdale, Jr. Israel’s father, Edward Tisdale became a private in Capt. Edward Bridge Saville’s company in Lexington, Colonel Robinson’s regiment. Edward came home to the town of Stoughtonham, (right now Sharon), following serving in Colonel Gill’s regiment at Dorchester Hill.
In 1706, Capt. Joseph Tisdale, Jr., eldest son of Joseph and Mary Tisdale, and great-grandfather of Col. Israel Tisdale, married Ruth Reed, with seven children including Ebenezer Tisdale. Capt. Ebenezer Tisdale was born in Taunton. In 1723, Ebenezer married Priscilla Drake, followed by moving to Stoughtonham, as previously mentioned, name changed to Sharon in 1783. Captain Ebenezer and Priscilla Drake Tisdale moved thirteen miles north on the future site at 697 Mountain Street in Sharon, of his grandson, Colonel Israel Tisdale. On April 19, 1775, Captain Ebenezer Tisdale was on the Lexington Alarm Roll, which marched from Stoughtonham. Captain Tisdale was an inspector during the Revolution and represented Stoughtonham (Sharon) for the ratification of the Federal Constitution followed by serving in the State Senate. In 1780, Colonel Israel Tisdale was born to Edward and Ruth Harlow Tisdale. Colonel Israel Tisdale was twice married as his first wife preceded him in death. On December 1, 1781, Colonel Israel Tisdale married Susannah Talbot, daughter of Deacon Josiah and Susannah Morse Talbot.
During the early 1800s, Colonel Israel Tisdale was well known for his farming and involvement in the militia movement. Colonel Israel Tisdale was a prominent and influential man in his neighborhood of Bay Road in Easton and Sharon. He did not reside on Bay Road, but half a mile to the west at 697 Mountain Street. Colonel Israel Tisdale created the Colonel Israel Tisdale’s Farm homestead. In 1810, Colonel Israel Tisdale started building a house on the property of Captain Ebenezer Tisdale replacing Ebenezer’s first house quickly going to decay.
Colonel Israel Tisdale spent years collecting lumber and material before starting to build the house. Colonel Israel Tisdale finished the house, with seven beds all neatly in place. Tisdale was having breakfast when he noticed a tiny fire in the north room. The carpenters lost all their tools and seven out of nine carpenters went home bareheaded. Israel was able to save his private papers, his whiskers being singed in the attempt. Relatives and friends encouraged Israel to rebuild at 697 Mountain Street. General Shepard Leach was framing his own house of the same size. General Leach gave him the frame, and the brand-new house was completed in six weeks’ time. On October 15, 1813, Susannah Talbot Tisdale passed away in Sharon. History has its own stories about the farming methods and products that earned Colonel Israel Tisdale the reputation as Sharon’s most successful farmer. The homestead remained in possession of the Tisdale’s family until 1906. In that year, the property right now known at 697 Mountain Road in Sharon was purchased by Oakes, son of former Governor Oliver and Anna Coffin Ames of 35 Oliver Street, and his wife, Blanche Ames. Oakes and Blanche Ames were looking for a country style estate in the country.
Although it is not part of Easton, the parcel was included in the Oakes and Blanche Ames Estate as it was associated with the Tisdale family. On May 15, 1900, Oakes Ames married Blanche Ames in Easton, daughter of Adelbert and Blanche A. Butler Ames. According to U. S. Census in 1900, residing on Main Street, right now, 35 Oliver Street were Oakes and Blanche Ames with Oakes’ mother, widow Anna Coffin Ames, with her two daughters, Evelyn C., and Susan E, Ames, and eight servants. Between 1900 and 1910, Oakes and Blanche Ames were residing at the home of Governor Oliver and Anna Coffin Ames at 355 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. In 1902, the Boston Massachusetts City Directory listed Oakes Ames residing at 355 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. Oakes and Blanche Ames added to the house adding two dormers on the second floor in the Colonial Revival style.
In 1910, residing at 697 Mountain Street in Sharon were Oakes, and his wife, Blanche Ames, with their three daughters, Pauline, Amyas, and Evelyn Ames, and their son, Oliver Ames, and seven servants. Prior to moving to 697 Mountain Street, Oakes and Blanche Ames resided in the summer – Bay View – in Gloucester and – The Whim – in Ormond Beach, Florida, both part of the estate of Blanche’s mother. Like other members of the Ames family, they purchased the surrounding parcels one at a time similar to Spring Hill, Wayside, Stone House Hill House, Sheep Pasture and Langwater. By 1910, Oakes and Blanche Ames owned seventeen hundred and eighty-two acres where they raised turkeys, pheasants, mink, and cattle. Oakes and Blanche started calling their country home – Borderland – during this time. Oakes Ames’ speculation had a second quarry exists in the area, maybe north of the Mansion or the land surrounding the Colonel Israel Tisdale Farmhouse. Land use ranged from subsistence-oriented farming at the Currivan Farm to more profit-oriented farming at the Colonel Israel Tisdale Farmhouse. Large, grassy fields, cleared in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the Wilbur, Tisdale, Smith, Currivan and Leach families, were consolidated in the 20th century by the Ames family. Oakes and Blanche Ames converted the farmland for horticultural and recreational purposes. Prior to Oakes and Blanche Ames owning the property of the Colonel Israel Tisdale Farmhouse, iron ore was mined from the swamp right now known as Upper and Lower Leach Pond by General Shepard Leach. In 1908, Oakes Ames stated in his diary that he had not found a quarry. Determination has not been made if he was writing about the Ames Mansion or Tisdale House. Around 1940, Oakes and Blanche Ames converted low lands west of the Colonel Israel Tisdale Farmhouse into the Upper Leach Pond spreading over twenty-five acres of land. In 1984, Colonel Israel Tisdale Farmhouse burnt to the ground. The foundation, front walk, the garden steps, and lawns of the farmhouse and the foundation of the barn can be seen on the property at 697 Mountain Street. Oakes and Blanche Ames protected the land interests of the family of wealthy horticulturists and nature-lovers. Also, Oakes and Blanche Ames preserved eighteen and nineteen century pastures and fields for their aesthetic and scientific value. When Blanche Ames died in 1969, she left the seventeen hundred and eighty-two-acre estate to her four children, who conveyed the property to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1971 following the wishes of the Ames family for a passive state park.
source; Massachusetts Historical Commission
source; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Conservation and Recreation
source; Borderland State Park
source: Easton’s Neighborhoods, Edmund C. Hands, 1995
source; Massachusetts Historical Commission
Source: Rich Eastman
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Borderland Historic District
The Borderland Historic District in Easton/Sharon, Massachusetts is a twentieth-century estate preserving eighteenth-century farmland, forest, and waterways. The district, right now largely Borderland State Park, includes several farm buildings, farmland, cemeteries and a 20th century estate, complete with mansion, pool (right now filled in), gardens, and lawns. Located on the borders between Easton, Sharon, and Stoughton, the area has changed from tribal land of Native Americans to farmland of early settlers to the country estate of Oakes and Blanche Ames. The district as it stands today is largely defined being open fields, man-made ponds, stonewalls, and other site features.
source: Massachusetts Historical Commission
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Further down the brook (from Puds Pond), General Shepherd Leach, owner of the Furnace Village Iron Works in South Easton, cut down a stand of white cedar and mined the bog-iron ore from the exposed swamp. In 1825, he built the pond that bears his name to ensure a steady water supply for his iron works three miles downstream
source; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Conservation and Recreation
source; Borderland State Park
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Massapoag Avenue
Massapoag Avenue extends from Poquanticut Avenue, past No. Six Schoolhouse, to the Sharon line. The part north of Rockland Street was laid out in 1824, and after some delay was adopted. The rest of it was finally laid out in 1834.
source: History of Easton, William L. Chaffin, 1886

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