This is the final part of a three-part series on the historic houses of East Main Street. This final article will focus on the section of East Main Street from Brook Street to South Street and Medfield Center.
East Main Street, from the area of the Peak House and the 1750 Eliakim Morse house down to the Baptist Church, is truly the “Gateway” into Medfield. It is the initial impression one gets when coming into Medfield along Route 109. It contains homes dating back to the Colonial Period and magnificent landmarks out of the 18th and 19th centuries. That historic stretch is one of the factors that makes Medfield, Medfield. It is a factor when people decide to move here, it is a part of the historic heritage that gives Medfield its historical uniqueness, and it is a factor that helps to preserve and maintain the property values we have in Medfield, no matter where in town your house is located.
The area is also not protected; it is not yet in an historic district, as is West Main Street. The town has been fortunate so far that most of those living along East Main Street appreciate the value their historic house has to the town, they have done a beautiful job in maintaining and preserving the historic characteristics of their house. But that has not always been true nor may it be true in the future. Demolition of two of these landmarks has already taken place and future demolitions, replaced by high density condominium or 40B apartment building and this unique historic gateway into town vanishes. The following are some of the historic homes in that section of East Main Street.
Cheney-Curtis House, ca.1780—419 Main Street
In 1994, a Curtis relative who grew up in the house reported that he had been told by his father that the house was built in 1780 and was at first located in Walpole. He said it was moved from Walpole to its current Main and Brook Street location. The Federal-style house has been altered only minimally since then. The twin brick chimneys, narrow doorways and saltbox roof are important architectural features. What we can prove is that around 1812 the house was lived in by Timothy Cheney, a blacksmith, who maintained his shop in the easterly corner of the front yard. In 1832, Bradford Curtis came to Medfield, purchased the house and ran his butchering business here. His second son, Joseph continued the business as a butcher and meat dealer. The property remained in the Curtis family through the early 20th century. Purchased by the Whitla family, the house and barn have been meticulously restored.
John H. Gould House, ca. 1886—420 Main Street
This Queen Ann/Shingle style house was built sometime between 1855 and 1886. It is not listed on the 1852 maps and is not in the 1855 Valuation and Tax Report. The current house is seen on the 1888 map and is listed as being owned by J. Henry Gould. The house, which included the rear barn/carriage house, is seen in detail on the 1888 Birds-eye View Map. The property itself dates back to the founding of the town and was part of the land grant given to Joseph Fisher, one of the 13 original families to settle Medfield. Gould owned Gould & Company which included a steam mill, grist mill, saw mill, grain elevator and coal yard on Park Street. Gould & Company specialized in flour, grain and coal and had one of the largest businesses in their line of trade in the entire region. Gould was one of Medfield’s wealthy entrepreneurs during the Gilded Age. He was elected to the state senate and was active with the Republican party. In 1893 he sold the house to Moses F. Clark. The Timmerman family were long time owners from 1956-1999. The Vancura family currently lives in the house, which has been meticulously restored and renovated. The Massachusetts Historical Commission states that “this house possesses integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and associations with the early history of Medfield. Its architectural form, age and well-preserved setting are important elements of its local significance.”
Hewins Houses, ca. 1888—421 Main Street & 423 Main Street
This lot was originally part of the 12 acres of land owned by Joshua Fisher, one of the 13 original settlers of Medfield. The 421 Main Street lot and the 423 Main Street lot were purchased in 1811 by Dr. James Hewins. Between 1876 and 1891, two houses with identical footprints were constructed on this property; 421 Main Street and the neighboring 423 Main Street. They were possibly built by Hewins as rental property. By 1909 Dr Hewins’ son, James, an attorney educated at Harvard Law School, owned both 421 and 423 Main Street.
John H Gould Carriage House, ca 1886—422 Main Street
This was built as the carriage house for John Gould and was attached to the property at 420 Main Street. It was later subdivided into a residence. It is a modest, although much altered, example of the Queen Ann style in Medfield, and one of only a small number of carriages houses still left in the town.
Edwin J. Keyou House, 1902—424 Main Street
This town landmark was built by Edwin Keyou for his wife, Nellie Curtis, as a wedding present. The design was selected from “Keith’s Home-Builder,” an early 19th century catalog of home design. It had a hot water heater and was wired for electric lights, one of the first in Medfield. Edwin Keyou, pharmacist, owned the Keyou Drug Store in Monks’ Block on the west corner of Main and North Streets. The garage was added in 1957 and the rear addition in 1958. It is a 3-by-3-bay, 2 ½ story house. It is clad with wood clapboards, with wood shingles in the gable ends and rests on a stone foundation. A square brick chimney rises from near the roof ridge in the western gable. It contains a deep front porch with six Doric columns. The main entrance to the house is reached from the east end of the porch. It consists of a wood-paneled door with a single fixed light with diamond stained glass. The house is an excellent example of the Edwardian Roman Revival style in Medfield. It has been home and cared for by the Gagliani family since 1955.
Daniel Adams House, ca 1811— 428 Main Street
The land for 428 Main Street was part of the original Joshua Fisher “home field” which was broken up in 1811. Daniel Adams took this lot with an unfinished house upon it. Daniel Adams is a direct descendent to the Presidential Adams of Braintree and Quincy. He graduated from Harvard and served as state representative to the Great and General Court representing Medfield. He had a law office on his land east of the house. The law office was later removed to 217 Main Street to become the David Meany (Meaney) house. It was moved still again to 40 Nebo Street where it is currently part of the Murphy house. The historic 428 Main Street house itself still contains immense chimneys and large oak beams. It is an excellent example in Medfield of a Federal-style home.
John Fisher Homestead, ca.1651/1750—435 Main Street
The present 2 ½-story, five-bay house with center chimney and center entry was built in 1750 by John Fisher. John Fisher was related to Joshua Fisher, one of Medfield’s thirteen original settlers. The ell of the present house may include a portion of the original 1651 structure of Joshua Fisher. The house was purchased in 1811 by Alex Peters, who in turn sold it to Dr. James Hewins in 1814. Hewins, a graduate of Harvard, was Medfield’s only physician for about 40 years until his death in 1846. The first coal ever burned in Medfield was brought by Dr. Hewins from Walpole and burned in a small fireplace grate before a gathering of neighbors and friends in the homestead. In the late 19th century, Colonial Revival-style updates were added to the house including the full-width front porch with Doric columns and the east ell. The house remained in the Hewins family into the 20th century. Recent changes have included its conversion into the present condominium complex.
First Baptist Church, 1838— corner of Main and South Streets
The old Baptist meetinghouse, located on West Main Street was built in 1772. It was sold in 1838 and the present house of worship was built on the corner of Main and South Streets. It was surmounted by a low spire and furnished with a bell. The body of the house forms the central portion of the present church. It was completely remodeled in 1874 with the current steeple added to its front. In 1905 extensive repairs were made to the interior of the church auditorium. New seats were installed, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Tilden and new carpet was installed, gift of Col. Edwin V. Mitchell, owner of the hat factory. Into the 1930’s, the church, in search of a new bell to replace their cracked one, obtained the bell from the Enfield, Massachusetts church when that town was flooded out of existence due to the building of the Quaban Reservoir. That bell still rings today. The church was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, one of three such nationally -recognized buildings on East Main Street.