It was some weekend evening in May, 2013 and there was a terrible rainstorm, nor’easter something something. Just above my front door, the ceiling began to stain quickly. I didn’t want to deal with it. “Really? I gotta deal with a leak?”. I protested and ignored, protested and ignored. At the time it just seemed like the worst thing. As the night wore on and the rain intensified, the ceiling stain grew, like an octopus. And then the ceiling began to bow and the wall next to the spot was dripping. I was going to have to do some repair work, for sure.
When the rain stopped, the ceiling looked like a steel drum, a pregnant belly, the meniscus. So I poked the center. It took nothing for the ceiling to open up and the water came down. The ceiling felt thin and there was horsehair insulation stuck to it. I’ve never seen that before. Emotional, feeling burdened and angry, I peeled off parts of the sopping ceiling in sheets. It felt like wall paper or like wet clothing – not like a ceiling. Inside I was surprised to find strong tongue and grove bracing with very little rot or water damage. Bonus! There were wires I needed to be careful of and so I grabbed step stool to complete the job.
My house was built in 1919. The land was purchased in 1909 from Elizabeth Hersey Corthell widow of Wilmot Cleverly a Norfolk County representative in the state legislature of the 5th district, and her living children. These families come from a long line of first settlers; Hersey & Fearing who include Cushing and Lincoln of Hingham. Also Pratt, Bicknell, Humphrey and Bayley who I JUST wrote about the other day. Back in this day, you had to be someone to own land and these people were the people.
6 days before she passed away and suffering from senility, Elizabeth Cleverly signed 7 acres of land away to D. Arthur Brown, a developer from Winthrop, Massachusetts for “one dollar and other valuable considerations”. She was 86 and her cause of death was a stroke. Brown bought the land around Whitman’s pond and it took him 10 years to organize a development plan and have have it registered with the county. Year 1919, plan 4475 shows the area of “Lakewood Grove” also referred to as the Birches or Lake Shore Park; a multi acre village surrounding Whitman’s Pond in East Weymouth. In the subsequent years, Brown would advertise his new bungalows for sale in local newspapers. He offered mortgages as low as $865 and as high as $1500 with 6% interest.
The first family to live in the house were the Wilkie’s of Portland, Maine. Fred Leslie Wilkie was born in 1895 in Nova Scotia, Canada and wife Ruth G. Mason born in 1897 of East Boston mortgaged the bungalow on a 6000 square foot lot in Lakewood Grove from D. Arthur Brown for $1324.00 in 1924.
It is likely that prior to this purchase, the bungalow was rented as a lake cottage. When the Wilkie’s mortgaged it, they still had an address in Portland, Maine which indicates they may have used the home as a vacation home until they were ready to move in permanently.
As I inspected the inside of the ceiling I saw something sitting inside the framing. It was dark brown and full of dust. I reached up and pulled it down. It was a cobbler-made leather shoe. A boy’s shoe. The pins in the soles were visible and the laces well intact. It was amazing! What is this shoe doing up here? I looked back up and saw another one sitting next to the place where the first shoe was. Full of dust, I pulled it down. This one was a girl’s shoe. A black, leather Mary Jane with a buckle. This shoe had more wear to it than the boy’s. When it was clear these were the only two shoes up there, I sat them on the towels I placed on the floor.
How. Totally. Cool! These shoes made the ceiling leak and threatening storm well worth it. What a surprise for a history lover. But why were they there? And whose shoes were they?