News

Gould-Emerson House has long history

Friday, November 16, 2012

Historic Passages

By Fredricka Olson

The Gould-Emerson House on Main Street in Hollis has played many roles in its 200-plus years – post office, store/tavern, dance hall and apartment building, with one wonderful tenant who stayed a very long time.

One thing the Gould-Emerson House hasn’t played host to, however, is a ghost. But the owner still is hoping.

It is generally thought that this interesting old house was built by Ambrose Gould around 1806-08. A license for keeping a tavern was issued to Mr. Gould in 1806.

Town records show that Gould was postmaster from 1818-30. The first year there was a post office in Hollis was 1818, with a tri-weekly mail delivery brought by a stagecoach that ran between Amherst and Groton, Mass. Goods for the store/tavern, however, were brought from Boston, generally by an ox team.

Edward Emerson kept the store from the 1830s until he left town in 1860, and was postmaster from 1845-54. One of his clerks was William F. Bradley, who later gained fame as headmaster for 52 years of Cambridge High and Latin School.

In 1875, the house was purchased by the Worcester brothers, of Hollis, and to this day is owned by a sixth generation descendant of one of the Worcester brothers.

The Gould-Emerson house is a brick-end,
Federal-period dwelling with framework constructed of massive hand-hewn beams, with rafters fastened together with wooden pegs. The exterior of the front doorway has intricate carvings and the interior of the door itself has huge iron hinges that stretch the width of it.

The store was evidently on the north side, for the woodwork there is noticeably plain. In the early days, there was a small ell on the north end of the Gould-Emerson house. Edward Emerson had it moved away and supposedly it is now part of the Hardy/Whittemore home. The south side of the house served as living quarters with detailed carved woodwork in the front room.

At one time it was thought the dance hall was on the second floor in two north rooms; however, it is now felt the hall was on the third floor, which is accessed by a rather wide stairway and where there is a long room that at one time had an arched plaster ceiling. The basement of the Gould-Emerson House still has an interior privy, a well with a crank wheel and wooden bucket, plus the remnants of an old fireplace and bake oven. The house originally had eight fireplaces, and six remain.

Over the years, the tenants in this house generally remained for a good many years. And when I say a good many years, I mean just that. One lady, in fact, the lady who originally gathered much of the information for the history of this house and many other old houses in Hollis, lived in the Gould-Emerson house for 97 years. And what a fascinating lady she was.

Miss Deborah E. Lovejoy was born in the house in 1875. In 1893, she graduated from Cushing Academy and from Smith College in 1898. She became a teacher and spent three years at Lincoln Memorial University at Cumberland Gap, Tenn., a school for young mountaineers. After other teaching positions, she obtained a master’s degree at Columbia University in 1918. Not bad for a lady at that time in our history.

After teaching classics for 30 years at Wayneflete School in Portland, Maine, she retired in 1947. During all those years, she kept the apartment on Main Street, returning during school vacations. Then, after retirement, she lived there full time.

She was a charter member of the Historical Society and was, for many years, unofficial town historian. At the age of 97, her eyesight failed and she moved to a nursing home, and lived to be 101.

Miss Lovejoy held the Boston Post cane as Hollis’ eldest citizen. Plus, in 1976, she was the oldest living member of the Hollis Congregational Church (since 1888) of which her grandfather, Pliny Butts Day, was minister from 1852-69.

The Hollis Historical Society has the written history of most of the old houses in town, thanks to the past efforts of many DAR members. So, if you happen to live in an old house in Hollis and are curious about its history, give us a call at the Wheeler House at 465-3935 and leave a message. Or stop by and visit us at 20 Main St. We’re open year-round Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m.; plus other days and times by appointment. We have a wonderful selection of books, any of which would make a perfect gift. And don’t miss our Jane Stratton art exhibit on display through Thanksgiving.

Fredricka Olson is a member of the Hollis Historical Society, and can be reached at 465-3935.

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