Historic Building of the Week: 48 Hawkes St.

A photo of the Hawkes Street Shoe Factory in 1961. Photo by Marblehead Historical Commission

Not everything comes together at once. As the cliché goes, you have to take it one step at a time. This applies to buildings too.

According to the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System, the Hawkes-Blaney Shoe Shop/House, or “Ye Oldest Shoe Factory,” as a plaque states, at 48 Hawkes St. was not built all at once. But when it was is another question.

According to the plaque affixed on the building, its right side was constructed circa 1770 while the left side was built circa 1850. However, MACRIS notes, maps from 1850 do not depict Hawkes Street, and an 1856 map shows the street vacant. A map from 1872 shows the street and other buildings but not building number 48. Furthermore, the 1770 construction date for a shoe factory is early, as Samuel Roads Jr.’s account of the shoe-manufacturing boom in Marblehead comes more toward the mid-1800s.

Even murkier is the label of “shoe shop” or “shoe factory.” While a photograph in the Marblehead Historical Commission archives confirm the existence of a shoe shop on Hawkes Street, the exact date and location are unknown. In addition to the aforementioned discrepancy in the period of shoe manufacturing in Marblehead, all records point to the building at 48 Hawkes St. being a residence.

While the exact dates may be foggy, there is still some narrative to the building’s existence. An 1852 map of house plots show the location of 48 Hawkes St. This lot was part of a subdivision owned by brothers Joseph William Lindsey and Philip Bridgeo Lindsey, and financed by Benjamin Hawkes. This subdivision was the impetus for Hawkes Street.

In 1857, the brothers sold James Cahill the lot for $100 (a pretty good deal if you ask me). He then split it and sold the northwestern portion to Joseph Graves in 1863. In 1870, Graves sold the lot to Hugh Kiernan, the owner of 46 Hawkes St., at which time buildings had been erected. That same day, Kiernan conveyed the deed to Rosanna Watt. This deed described two dwellings and a shed.

The record does suggest that, in the first half of the 1800s, the building that ended up as 48 Hawkes St. may have been moved from some other area to the current location. The original location may have been an early, small-scale shoe shop. The record states, “​​during this early period shoes were stitched by hand and piecework in small heated sheds (known as 10-footers) and other somewhat larger buildings occupied by small crews of workers. Sections of the subject building could certainly have served this or a mix of work and domestic use in a previous location.”

That is not the only connection to shoes, though. Hawkes himself dabbled in shoe manufacturing – one of the first in Marblehead to do so – but later abandoned the trade. It is thought that it was one of Hawkes’ properties (he had over $41,000 worth of them at the time) may have been the alluded-to “shoe shop” that was moved to Hawkes Street and adapted to a residence.

The story of 48 Hawkes St. has a little bit of every Marblehead historical house cliché: moved buildings, a murky timeline, shoe manufacturing, and even fishing (Hawkes tried out fishing after shoemaking). The only thing it is missing is a Revolutionary War hero.