Historic Building of the Week: A pleasant walk through the past down Pleasant Street

A drawing of the intersection of Pleasant and Elm from “”A Souvenir of Marblehead” c. 1895 (Marblehead Historical Commission) Photo by Emma Fringuelli

Historic Photos in Live Photos 11/18/22

It turns out that liking old buildings is neither new nor unique. To give a peek behind the scenes, so to speak, I find most of the buildings I write about by searching through various archives and seeing what catches my eye. 

I cannot tell you how many “boolean” data searches I have done, how many blogs I have read, or how many digitized old books I have flipped through. 

That last one — flipping through digitized books — is how I found this week’s spot.

In a copy of A Souvenir of Marblehead, circa 1895, it seems someone had the same idea as me. Between advertisements for F. T. Ward and Co.’s “Choice Provisions” and W. R. Arrington, dealer in paints, oils, and varnishes is an article titled “An Old Timer” and a drawing of a historic building. 

The picture shows a view from Pleasant Street at Dr. Sanborn’s residence, looking onto what then was seemingly a quiet intersection of roads. 

The article mentions a hand tub engine, the “Joe Bassett House,” and “the old Shauimut, where the lads and lasses spent many a jolly evening, dancing off the hours.” The tree, present in the drawing, has since been replaced by a monument.

The article also references the old Omnibus, which is said to have taken two round trips every day, though it does not say where. The driver was a man named Dr. Benjamin Pierce. 

The last couple of sentences in the article detail the writer’s astonishment with new modes of transport, which they call “electrics,” in reference to the Lynn and Boston electric system.

This system is most likely the Lynn and Boston Railroad, an electric streetcar that began service in 1859. 

The author seems to be more impressed with the streetcar than modern commuters are with the state of the MBTA, as they write, “It is about safe to say that one can ride nearly all parts of the globe in the electrics at the present time.” I would love for them to see the T nowadays.

It is not just the buildings in Marblehead that have changed. It is also the very landscape of the town that has transformed since its nascent days. Even the way that people move around Marblehead has changed– the “electrics” that you see around town today are not going to be streetcars, but electric cars. 

It is shocking (pun very much intended) how much one drawing and a short article can tell us about how both the town and its townspeople have changed throughout history.