Where history hides in plain sight

The home at 18 Ballast Lane is a historic building hidden in plain sight. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Sometimes historic buildings are hiding in plain sight. They are not always plastered with plaques or located in a designated historic district. 18 Ballast Lane is one such unassuming historic building.

The house at 18 Ballast Lane was once known as the Eaton Family Summer Cottage. Built sometime between 1909 and 1912 in the Craftsman style, the house has a hipped roof, a porch, and two dormers on its front elevation. 

Like other houses located on the Neck, this property was part of a large tract of farmland owned by Ephraim Brown in the 1940s.

According to the Massachusetts Historical Commission records, “The trustees under Brown’s will conveyed numerous parcels for summer cottages until 1884 when they transferred title to Robert [Calder] Bridge and his brother Edward,” who were the sons of Mary Brown Bridge, Ephraim Brown’s daughter.

Edward died young, leaving control of the property to Robert. On this land he developed various properties, including rental cottages and the Nanepashemet Hotel. He also subdivided lots for sale. 

The property came to the Eatons when Bridge sold a 150-foot by 200-foot lot on the corner of what is now Ballast Street (then Harbor Avenue and Harbor) to a man named Charles S. Eaton – the owner of Thompson’s Spa in Boston who lived at 27 Ballast Lane.

At 18 Ballast Lane, Eaton built a house for one or more of his sons as a summer house. Thus, the Eaton Family Summer House was born.

The Eaton family was no stranger to the town. The eldest son, Ezra Samuel Eaton, was born in 1888 and raised in Marblehead. He then went on to graduate from Harvard University and serve in World War I before moving to Brookline and running Thompson’s Spa. 

In 1911, Ezra was set to marry a woman named Annie M. Vose in a double wedding with his brother Malcolm and his fiance’s sister, Mabel. However, in a tragic turn of events, Annie died a month before the wedding. Six years later, he married a woman named Aurora Kingman, with whom he had three children.

In 1926, Ezra gave the rights and title to both his father’s house at 27 Ballast Lane and the summer house to his brother Malcolm, who had also lived in Brookline in adulthood.

After his death, another Eaton brother, Charles, acted as a trustee and conveyed the title of the summer home property to Daniel W. McNulty of Marblehead in 1940.

McNulty divided the property, in the process creating 77 Harbor Ave. He sold both properties to Charity W. Kidd and Jane E. Stark five years later in 1945. From then on, the house has changed hands several times.

When driving through town, you never know when you may be driving past a piece of history even when you least expect it.