The 1870’s – The beginning of many changes to the Edmund Fowle House
For years, this house was known as the Marshall Fowle House. Marshall Spring Fowle (1785-1855) was the son of Edmund and was named for the respected local physician, Dr. Marshall Spring (1741-1818) who also treated men wounded at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Marshall Fowle was the last of the Fowle’s to own the house. He lived in it his whole life. It has been written that he was married in his parlor and that he never slept anywhere else. When he died in 1855, the house was left to his sister, Rebecca Bradlee. She sold the house and land to William, Charles and Jeremiah Russell, who owned many parcels of land in Watertown at this time. They, in turn, sold the house and land in 1871 to Stugis and Brigham, Architects.
John Sturgis and Watertown architect Charles Brigham were partners and designed many famous buildings, including the original Museum of Fine Arts in Copley Square and the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill. When Sturgis died in 1888, Brigham went on to design the extension of the State House in Augusta, Maine, the Christian Science Mother Church, and many other buildings. Brigham lived on Garfield Street in Watertown and designed many of the houses on that road. His house still stands, as well as the studio he had built for his wife and the house he had built for his groundskeeper.
In 1872, Sturgis and Brigham moved the Fowle House from Mt. Auburn Street to its present location and began to modernize it. A short article in the Watertown press from 1872 reads: “The old Marshall Fowle House, of hallowed memory…has been moved to the rear of its old site. It passed from the heirs of the Marshall Fowle estate, to Mr. Wm. Russell, and was recently sold to Sturgis & Brigham, architects. The house is in the process of remodeling. A street will be run directly front of it from Spring to Mt. Auburn Streets, and the broad fields which have surrounded it will be cut up into house lots. Rumor says that ancient coins were found in the old cellar.”
The base of the enormous center chimney that fed several fireplaces could not be moved with the dwelling. Only the chimney section above the second floor, including the section above the roof, is original. The house would now be heated by stoves as is evident from the many round cutouts in the floors and walls to accommodate stovepipes.
Another article from the Watertown Press, dated July 26, 1872 reads: “The old Marshall Fowle estate, now owned by Sturgis and Brigham, architects, is being rapidly improved. The cellar of the old homestead has been filled up, and six lots of land have already been sold, with the erection of first class dwelling-houses upon them immediately in prospect.” This section of Watertown was quickly losing its sprawling fields and becoming populated with many new “Victorian” houses.
The Fowle House was being divided into a 2-family house. An addition was put on the back of the house containing a kitchen for each side. Another staircase to the attic and to the cellar was installed. Several changes were also made to the outside, including the front entryway, the addition of the side porch and entrance, the bay window and the “widow’s walk” on the roof. A picket fence was put up around the property. These additions transformed the old colonial dwelling, giving it a more modern look, making it blend in with the other houses being built on the newly laid out Marshall Street.
Because building permits were not required (or perhaps not enforced) at this time, we aren’t sure just when certain changes or additions were done.
The Historical Society recently obtained a copy of an “Application for Private Sewer and Connection” from the Watertown Department of Public Works dated April 1893 and signed by Charles Brigham. This may well have been when the two bathrooms were put in. A website says, “By the 1870’s high end home designs include “bath rooms” that contain a tub, sink and toilet…By 1900 almost all the new home designs are being offered with indoor plumbing.” So, at some point, two windows were cut out, one for each bathroom. The window and the dividing wall in the small back room on the left upstairs in the Fowle House were moved to accommodate this renovation.
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