Monday, December 7, 2015

James A. Leonard House, Then & Now

The James A. Leonard House on Center Street opposite the present Sacred Heart rectory was built in the early 19th century and for a century and a half was a landmark in the neighborhood. James A. Leonard (1800-62) was a prominent shoe manufacturer of mid-19th century Middleborough.  In 1860, Leonard proposed developing the land to the rear of his house as thirty to forty individual house lots.  The sale of the lots by auctioneer Sylvanus Hinckley was advertised on September 8, 1860, and headed “Rare Chance.”  The land was described as being situated “on the high ground near the House of James A. Leonard, in about equal distance from the Four Corners and depot.” The Gazette opined: “No person who desires a building lot in this place on reasonable terms will fail of attending the auction.”

Following Leonard’s death in 1862, the house was owned by his son G. H. Leonard until 1876 when it was purchased by C. D. Kingman and Edson Ellis. That same year Kingman sold his share to Ellis who operated a marble yard on the property. In 1896, Dr. G. E. Ellis had the brick wall on Center Street constructed.

Shortly after the house’s demolition in December 1974, the Middleborough Antiquarian documented the later history of the home:

“In the memory of most of the older generation, the house recently demolished on Center Street, next to St. Luke’s Hospital, is known as the ‘Dr. Ellis House.’  Dr. George E. Ellis is listed as the owner in the 1884 Middleboro Directory, the earliest one on file at the Middleborough Historical Museum.  He was a very colorful character and can be vividly remembered pacing back and forth, hands behind his back, before the high brick wall that fronted his property….

“Dr. George E. Ellis came to Middleboro in 1879 and probably purchased the house at that time.  After his death in 1933, the property was owned by Mrs. William W. Wheeler, and to within a year’s time was owned and occupied by her son George E. Wheeler.  The house was demolished in December, 1974, and there are rumors that a professional building is to be erected on the site.”

James A. Leonard House, Center Street, Middleborough, photograph, c. 1900

James A. Leonard House site, Center Street, Middleborough, photograph by Michael J. Maddigan, November 30, 2015

James A. Leonard House, Center Street, Middleborough, photograph, 1930s

James A. Leonard House, Center Street, Middleborough, photographic half-tone, 1974

James A. Leonard House, Center Street, Middleborough, photographic half-tone, late 1974


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