Watertown History

Historical Society Moves Back to the Newly-Restored Edmund Fowle House - Grand Opening is May 17, 2008

The $700,000+ restoration of the Edmund Fowle House has been completed!  The Historical Society of Watertown owes a huge debt of gratitude to current Historical Society Council members Jim Bean and Richard Najarian, and former Historical Society President G. Jack Zollo.  These three Society members, concerned about the deteriorating state of the Edmund Fowle House, approached State Senator Steven Tolman looking for financial help from the Commonwealth for the preservation of this historically significant building.  Through the efforts of Senator Tolman, a staunch supporter of and advocate for historical sites in his districts, the Society was awarded a total of $700,000.

Much of the restoration and preservation carpentry, plaster and masonry work was carried out by students from the esteemed North Bennet Street School, as part of their training.  The Historical Society did not have to pay for their labor, just the materials they used.  This exceptional work, if done by established Preservation Carpenters, would have cost in the neighborhood of $200,000, making this nearly a million dollar project.

The interior of the house has been restored to the 1775 period, when it served as the meeting place of the Executive Council, as well as the residence of Edmund Fowle and his wife, Mary Cook.  The outside has been restored to the 1872 period, when it was moved to this location and modified by famous Watertown architect Charles Brigham.

The Society's historic collection and other items were moved back into the Fowle House on February 2, after being stored in the basement of St. John's United Methodist Church for almost three years.  The furniture and the rugs were cleaned and put in place the next weekend by several members of the Historical Society Council.  There were roughly 80 boxes that held the Society's books, office supplies, files, records and numerous artifacts.  These boxes were unpacked over several weeks by the Historical Society's Collections Committee.


The Collections Committee, Ruth Arena, Marilynne Roach,
Pam Pinsky, Joyce Kelly and Kristen Lefebvre


The newest member of the Collections Committee is volunteer and Tufts University student Kristen Lefebvre.  Kristen is a graduate student pursuing her master's degree in History and Museum Studies.  She has offered to assist with the cataloging of our historic collection.  The Society is very pleased to have her on board.


The South Parlor with several chairs still covered with sheets from storage (left)
and with furniture and artwork in place (right)


As we mentioned in our previous update, the restoration has eliminated a small storage room and some built-in bookcases on the first floor, and the collections room on the second floor has been restored to its 1775 size, which is roughly 16 square feet smaller than it was before.  Most of the collection that is not on display is stored in the collections room.  As we go through everything to catalog items, we will make better order of what is in there.  Many of our large paintings and pictures have been hung.

We were very fortunate to have acquired some large and very handsome bookcases from Harvard Recycling, a surplus yard owned by Harvard University.  Our 30 boxes of books have been unpacked and carefully placed on these shelves.

A group of Historical Society Councilors have been extremely busy putting the finishing touches on the Edmund Fowle House.  The public is invited to attend our Grand Opening on Saturday, May 17, 2008.  There will be an Open House from 12:00 to 3:00 PM with the Opening Ceremony scheduled to begin at 11:45 AM.