Interviewed December 8, 2003
Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.
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This house that I have lived in all my life has historical roots. It is a former Flint family house. I think it's not particularly well known by Concordians, but the Flint family came in 1635, and Thomas Flint was the second most prosperous settler here next to Peter Bulkeley. They were both considered upper-class gentlemen I understand, but the Reverend Bulkeley was perhaps more prominent in England. He was a well known Puritan. The motivation for coming to Concord was the Puritan exodus from Steward, England, and the complaints one reads are very extensive of what was wrong with society then. So Peter Bulkeley came and stayed in Cambridge. He sent out young Stedman Buttrick, probably his indentured servant, to get things going and build a mill on the Milldam.
But Thomas Flint came out himself and built a house about 100 feet from 418 Monument Street, across the street on a knoll that had a magnificent view down the river as well as up the river. Supposedly, it reminded him of his home in Derbyshire in England. People know that is where the huge estate of Chatsworth is now. It's a place with very remarkable long views. So Peter Bulkeley was really the originator or the leader, and Thomas Flint was the second. He built a house across the street which lasted well into the 19th century, however his great-great-grandson, John Flint, about the fourth John Flint, was rather unhappy about his mother's, who was a widow, selection of a husband, and he built number 418 in approximately 1807. It was a farmhouse with two main heating chimneys each with four fireplaces. It was built probably out of some reused rafters, well built but not expensively built. It's a handsome house. It was built as an essentially eight-room house with an attic.
That was the second of the Flint family farmhouses. The third one was built by the last Flint, Lewis, in 1880. It was built virtually on top of where the first Flint house, the one before 1655 was built, and the two foundations are underground about 100 feet west of here. The Park Service has had several studies made and they are interested eventually in excavating the sites and having it as an exhibit on their future circular path of the Buttrick place. The Old North Bridge would be just one of the stops.
The house I live in was sort of in poor repair by 1880. Lewis Flint and his brother Waldo were the sons of the builder of this house. They went apparently by rumor of Mr. Davis to the gold rush or just after it and indeed come back in the 1860s with some money. That's when the barn, which is now 422 Monument Street was built. Somebody kept the farm going, but Lewis Flint had obviously chased of the golden apple or something because he became a real estate man. He was one of the first people in Concord to lay out frontage lots, and he did indeed lay out four frontage lots, two on each side of his house, which is 418. The Monument Street bridge was under construction as a stone arch bridge in 1887 and 1888 and his timing was to get at least two of these house lots sold and the houses built between 1875 and 1885. There was a succession here of owners. Flint sold this place to a man named John Fletcher Carr, who was a cattle dealer and farmer from Carlisle. He bought most of the farm that was on the east side of Monument Street and that included number 418. He proceeded to add to the barn and conduct cattle auctions there. He also sold the last two of the four lots, built himself a house in the fields behind here, and apparently rented out 418 to one or two families, and according to a recently deceased neighbor Alice Smith, he rented the cellar out to masons who worked on the stone arch bridge. He was obviously a busy entrepreneur.
Not many years later, Carr sold the place to Nathaniel Davis, who was a storekeeper in Concord, also an auctioneer. However, in the interim, Lewis Flint built a large house across the street approximately in 1880 with a barn and lived there for some number of years. That's the early to recent history.
The biggest change came in about 1900 or 1903-1904. Stedman Buttrick, the grandson of a farmer and I believe his father was a postmaster at some time or some minor official of Concord, had worked his way from school right up through Estabrook and Company, an investment banking house. He was a superb bond salesman and in his travels around the United States he met and eventually married the daughter of the Governor of Michigan, the Bagley family. Looking for a suitable place for a prosperous looking house he selected his family's farm across Monument Street and on a bluff that looked down the river. However, when he looked down the river from that height of land, he saw not only a row of houses on Monument Street by this time, but he saw two that really bothered him. One was the Fletcher Carr farmhouse in the fields behind Monument Street to the east and that stuck up in his view as did the rather large Flint farm on the west side of the street. That was a big Victorian house with an attached barn. In buying the land he wanted, he also bought the remains of the Flint farm, which had passed from Fletcher Carr to Nathaniel Davis on the east side, which included number 418 and included about 25 or 30 acres of land. He only bought it under the condition that Fletcher Carr's house be moved into a slot between two houses on Monument Street or be torn down. Fletcher Carr did indeed move it right next to 418 where it stands today as it was moved 98 years ago and is number 412. It just barely fit in between number 404 and 418, and indeed it causes a winter shadow on the south side of number 418, the Flint farmhouse. It was cleverly placed so the shadow was minimized and for the next 98 yearsâ€¦ It was 98 years between the time the house was built in 1807 and 1905, and it's now 98 years after 1905. The families in each house seem to get along just fine close as they are. They are closer than any other houses on Monument Street, and closer probably than 99% of the houses in Concord. They are less than 25 feet apart.
Mr. Buttrick then sold this whole farm except any land that he had bought on the west side of the street to a Leonard Metcalf, the founder of the engineering firm of Metcalf & Eddy. That sale took place approximately 1913. Other houses were moved including the old Buttrick house that was in the front lawn of the present mansion and that was moved to a position just south of the Fenn School, which didn't exist at that time. That was the Leonard Metcalf house and in 1925 my father bought that house from the estate of Leonard Metcalf. In doing that he also bought all of the remains of the farm which included as you might say a tenant house number 418. At that time number 418 was a two-family house and it was converted to a one-family in approximately 1930. It was then rented to a well known Concord citizen at the time, Raymond Peacock Baldwin. Ironically, Raymond Baldwin had served in the Army Air Force in Italy during World War I and was enamored of aviation in general. He was an attorney with Palmer Dodge in Boston. He commuted to Boston with the fledgling lawyer, John Eaton, and I believe at times Judge Chase who lived across the river. Raymond Baldwin was an early investor in the East Boston airport. He was I think one of six investors. As World War II approached, he had such a magnificent view from 418 east to Bedford that he said there's got to be room for a nice airport there. And indeed he set about at the beginning of World War II as he had great influence and friends in Washington and apparently with Army Air Force people to get an airport there. The late Stedman Buttrick said he thought Ray got the Bedford airport done all by himself, which is Hanscom. It's incredibly ironical because we are 2.1 miles form the end of runway 29, which the trajectory of that goes right over the Fenn School and almost over Rusty Robb's house.
My friend Hal Cabot a year or two ago reminded me that when he and his family lived on top of Ripley Hill, the B17s that were being ferried over to England were so loaded with equipment and who knows what that they could barely get up over Ripley Hill. It was very exciting.
My father was a Spanish War veteran and a rather distinguished one actually, and he had grown up in West Concord. His father was the second officer of the prison when it was moved out there and the experimental Concord Reformatory was started. My father was John Bordman, Jr. He was a remarkable man in his own right which I would like to describe at another time but very remarkable indeed. He was an attorney, he was an athlete and he was a military man all put together. He was commissioned a captain in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia by President McKinley. He was adjutant of the regiment and he went to the Philippines in 1899 and fought in the insurgence war. As you know after the Spanish gave up, the Philippinos said, "Well, thanks a lot for rescuing us." And we said, "Not so fast. We want you as a colony" in so many words, and they fought us. It was a dirty, nasty war. He was on the island of Pinai, 200 miles south. Before he was sent over, as a young lawyer before he had business acquaintances in Boston and I believe there were groups of businessmen that thought that this colony would be a wonderful thing. Somehow he had hold of leases for commercial property as he left the service in the Philippines. He had coconut, agricultural interests, commercial interests, and he was very interested in the shipping business. He had two ships built on the river Clive in Scotland and finally they got to the Philippines about 1905. He then had a terrible time as the Americans were very embarrassed at having a colony and apparently Philippine registered ships had to have Philippine crews. Many typhoons pass over the Philippines and one of them sank both ships. He was absolutely certain it was incompetence of the crews that he had to appoint, even though he was on one of the ships. It wasn't exactly their fault, but a little more prudence would have saved the other. That was quite a blow to his finances at that time. He came back frequently to Concord. His mother and father lived in West Concord and he ran in track meets and he shot riflery contests and had quite an array of cups. It's very hard to tell from history just how much time he could have spent here and at the same time have his business.
A little before 1925 Leonard Metcalf had died and George S. Keyes, I think Johnny Keyes grandfather, wrote my father and said he thought my father might be interested in this place on Monument Street, the Leonard Metcalf place. So that's how he got here. He having been born in 1872 was about a generation older than the parents of my friends which made it a little strange. Some of them thought he had been away because he was a missionary. It was very easy to make the acquaintance of the boys and girls that lived right in this neighborhood and not so easy to make the acquaintance with ones that didn't live in this neighborhood. There wasn't that much transportation, so we tended to hang together and as I said at one point, we had what they call nannies now, they were called nurses then, and as infants they would wheel us in carriages up and down Monument Street and Liberty Street. When automobiles came by they called them machines. They would say, "Watch out, here comes a machine!" At sometime between 1933 and 1935, Route 2 had been invented as the Concord Turnpike and it was built by the rather infamous Governor Curley who built four major turnpikes, Newburyport, Concord, Worcester, and Providence. That was called the new road. So the machines went happily on the new road.
As to other families I knew growing up, very early on were the Buttricks, particularly Hunky as he was called, Stedman Buttrick, Jr., and then he had a younger brother, but he was almost four years younger so he almost didn't exist. Right next to the Buttrick mansion now was a house that was torn down in the early ‘50s that had been owned by Hunky's Aunt Mary. Her daughter was married to a Parsons, a naval commander, so the Parsons, Shermy and Todd, were two of my friends. The Parsons family has since disappeared from the town. A little way down Barnes Hill Road were Gus and Pebo Browne. We didn't see that much of them but we did see them. A little way further on the corner of Barrett's Mill Road and Lowell Road was the Morse family, who were raising chickens in the depression, and Mary Lee Morse was a good friend. Further down were the Camerons, Richard was a classmate of ours at the Fenn School. Going up Monument Street, John Buttrick lived up at the October Farm or the Brewster Farm. My older sister and I saw quite a lot of all the Buttricks, the Parsons, the Brownes, and that was essentially the group that comes to mind. Across the street from my mother were the Walkers. We saw them but not as much.
Later on in the late ‘30s came the Cabots, who moved to the top of Ripley Hill at that time, Hal and his sister Lucia Lee. Rusty Robb and his sister were younger and we didn't see much of them until we started swimming at the swimming pool. That was the only swimming pool in this part of Concord. Believe me, by 1938 that was very important. I'm sure we pestered Rusty's parents to swim there. They lived in the house that Rusty now lives in which is the Hunt farmhouse. At one point it was a Flint house which is confusing, but of course the Flint's expanded in the course of 200 years. We saw Rusty and Gail as adjuncts of swimming at the pool more than anything else. In the middle of World War II, the John Buttricks moved out of October Farm and as Russell Robb had become a colonel in the Army Air Force, they went to Washington and the John Buttrick's moved into the Robb house, the lower house. Meanwhile, the grand Robb house on top of the hill next to the Hutchinson's Edith Robb lived in, who was the doyenne, the elder lady of most elegance and stature. Her garden was always open to be walked through and indeed we walked through it to get to the swimming pool. There were several ways to the swimming pool but that was the most fun. They had quite a staff. Also that house had a magnificent collection of Japanese artifacts and objects. Her father was a collector of Oriental objects. Across the street from the Robbs was Uncle Billy and that was Stedman Buttrick's brother, William Buttrick, another bond salesman of some note. Apparently he was a very amusing character and a very good salesman. The Buttricks had the gift of gab and the gift of sincerity that seemed to have held generation after generation.
Because my father was junior, I guess maybe my mother shied away from sticking me with three capital IIIs. Hunky was Stedman Buttrick Jr. too. I would have been the third. Stedman may have even been the fourth. Rusty was the third. I'm still friends with Stedman today.
World War II came along and Stedman's Aunt Olive was married to an Englishman, Alexander Carothers and they lived in Suffolk, England. As the war got closer it was obvious it was going to be serious and so Olive brought her three children back here and at first they moved right into Buttrick farm which was what the house was called then. It was never called the mansion, which is now the estate that the Park Service now owns. She moved in and so in 1939 I met William out on Monument Street. He wore flannel shorts which amazed me with rather pink knees. He also said he weighed six stones, so you multiply that by 14 and you came to about 84 pounds. The background of history around here is kind of funny. I know when my father was selectman in 1928, one of the things my mother told me he did was to stop the Model A barges, that were open busses, from going down around the Minuteman statue and coming back. God knows what the bridge was like then. The Buttricks owned the land and had continued to since 1635 and sort of leased it to the town and nobody took much care of anything then. It was as if they were in the dark ages about history. The parking lot across the street was there and we used it to collect match covers. When we got into the age of bicycles around 1937 or so, we had big boxes of covers. And the Old Manse was again a rundown old family house but Johnny Keyes' grandfather and grandmother moved into it in the summers to take care of it. That was in the depression. I just loved Mr. Keyes. They were both just wonderful old people who I suppose were somewhat the age of my parents, except they were grandparents. It was one of the homiest, most cheerful places to go to. I've never forgotten that. But I did learn it was a station on the underground railroad and I was terribly curious as to what the underground railroad was and where the tunnel was.
In 1960 when the property was sold began the tourism in the modern fashion. Up to that point it certainly wasn't much. The Buttricks maintained everything. Stedman Buttrick maintained a couple hundred acres of woodland. His father acquired lots of woodland the way Sam Hoar acquired haylots in Great Meadows. They went to the town on the first Monday of the month and tax titles came up and they bought them for a song. But the Buttricks maintained the meadows all around them and they had the cows, Guernseys up through World War II. I remember we had a pig and we would go get milk, sour milk for the pig. So the Buttricks were the caretakers of enormous amounts of land.
Cal Buttrick married a Keyes right over the back fence in the ‘20s, and she was a very flamboyant and vivacious as all Keyes' were and are. She really had the interest in the farm that he didn't. So they not only had cows but they had a pig or two, chickens. I was scared of the cows. The Keyes barn also across Liberty Street had cows at that point. Farms were still hanging on. As the Buttricks maintained this land, people took it for granted. It was across the river, up this way, and it was a place of privilege because connected to it was this Mary Hoar house which had been a Barrett house which again was on the river meadow, and then there was the Buttrick farm and then there were the Robbs and Estabrook beyond it and the Hutchinsons. And at one point the Emersons built a brick end house that is further over and then the Jennys came. If you crossed the river here you were in a place that you would now describe as estates, but it was kept open and the views must have been magnificent before the river meadow mowing stopped.
The dividing line between the age of tourism and the age of the Buttricks just slipped right in there, and the National Park Service came in and while they suddenly emphasized history, they had quite a job deciding whether the Buttrick mansion would be razed and the field would be turned into an 18th century battlefield. They agonized over this between 1960 and 1965. The slate roof on the house began to leak, all the plants began to get overgrown and the garden went to hell, all the iris and the daylilies and the things he really cared about were overgrown. Everything grew giant. The carefully pruned tall junipers that were meant to look like Italian cypruses grew fat. The caretakers were kept on as the staff, but instead of clipping the hedge, they'd grab a rotary lawn mower by its wheels and two of them were walk down the top of hedge mowing it, very dangerous but I suppose they were careful. Then somehow it evolved into signs, into caring for the parking lot, into beginning to clean up the ragged paths to the bridge, cutting the sucker trees down. But they didn't have many trees to cut down around that, they just started growing up because the Park Service could not handle the wetlands. I can honestly tell them that when I mowed them for Mr. Nash, the Superintendent in 1988, I really believed that my machine was the first mowing machine on that wet piece of land in 30 years. Nature can throw some pretty tough fibrous specimens into those wetlands. It was all winter before I actually got it mowed.
The river views were put into my psyche by Stedman Buttrick. There was this overlook from the Buttrick farm garden and it looked down over the meadows and you could see the steeples of the town beyond it. That's just one of the early images I have that I never lost. Now my father coming back from the Philippines and getting this place which had already lost its cows, my sister reminds me of this, looking eastward from that house, you saw this jungle of reforestation and then a big 12-acre meadow. He sent men down into it to cut the hole in those trees and he called it a vista and that was of course a common word in other languages but nobody ever heard of a vista around here. He actually had them try to mow the meadows with sythes because it was even too wet for horses. The underlaymen around here were Italians from Bedford street, the Rizzitanos and the Sorrentis, and the Buttricks generally speaking had Irishmen and then they had Scandinavians because they came here as an immigrant group believe it or not to dig the sewers. The Scandinavians had a Free Evangelical Church on Lang Street.
Leonard Metcalf the great engineer had tried to drain the meadow here with ditches in his time here around 1913. He had Irish laborers come out from Boston and hand dig these ditches but he could never maintain them. It's too much flooded and when it is the river brings in stuff that it drops in the ditches so within a few years, they're clogged up. And that takes a lot more maintenance than he had.
This gives you an appreciation for wetland preservation and later I joined the conservation commission which was in its pioneer days. My family sent me to Groton and there I met a friend, Eddy Baker, and after we graduated in 1947 he said he was going to take a trip across the country in this Ford V-8 roadster. I went with him and we went 10,000 miles and I immediately got used to the Great Plains. I went back in college years to Kansas and I got used to when they called it a hill, it was a tiny bump about 40 miles away. I got that openness once again in my blood and I also learned about agriculture so that when I came back from the Army and graduated from Harvard, I also set about clearing this land by hand and fencing it. My scheme was to find animals that would be able to eat it. The Bemis land was growing up into nothing, the end of the Robb land that is below Monument Street along the river was jungle, they only mowed where it was easy to mow and all the edges were just growing into hedgerows. That was everywhere. As soon as I could, I borrowed a tractor and I started mowing down here. I wrecked that guy's tractor, but I kept at it. Stedman Buttrick would tease me about it quoting some Cole Porter song about Henry David Thoreau fell in love with a pond, he said I'd fallen in love with a tractor. That was the real motivation for my sheep, and in the course of that, I had become a soil conservation commissioner for the Department of Agriculture. There were real farmers there and mostly they were spending government money either handouts for ponds, liming, ditching, and things. Government was spending big money through the Department of Agriculture. Then Tom Flint who was no relation that I know of to the old Flint family here saw me mowing that great big French meadow that goes from Nashawtuc all the way up across from the public works building. It's almost a half mile long. He said to me that I really should join the Conservation Commission. I said I thought I would be of more use off it than on it because I wasn't doing volunteer work. I had to make as much money as I could on this operation, but nevertheless I did join it about 1963 or 1964. That put me right in the pipeline. I became chairman about 1969 and I finally got through about 1972. It was at least 10 years that I served. In that time the original conservationists such as Tom Flint and Elizabeth Lowell were involved.
I introduced the first articles at town meeting to buy land for conservation purposes using town money. That started quite an acquisition program. The land trust was working all that time but I never joined it. We began to have significant amount of Concord land developable that was getting taken off the market. We knew eventually that would raise the price of land. The fight then was with people that were interested in the common man. That's what they said — the developers. They would say well you're taking away the chance for the common man to live here and so forth. And, you know there is a grain of truth in that. Open land versus to build or not. Windsor Gale, who was a well known man on Barrett's Mill Road, joined the commission. Then he said there was only one thing in this problem is to build or not to build. If people don't want to build for any reason, they become conservationists. And that was true. My commission was used really by people who didn't want to see their backyard messed up. They weren't really interested in the greater subject of conservation, it was an anti-developer feeling.
John Martin, who was a friend of mine, was the biggest developer at that time who did Lindsay Pond Road and then he managed to get a hold of Annursnac Hill. At town meeting he accused the town of becoming socialist more than his native New Zealand, and New Zealand was the most socialist country in the world.
Flood plain zoning, not invented in Concord by any means, was passed by the state and they had elevations from the Army engineers on the geodectic survey and the elevations were so many feet above sea level and there were land owners whose land was flooded that had been perfectly developable, such as Harold Smith's two lots at the end of Park Lane. It was a little hard for people to understand about flood plains. If you have a flood plain at such an elevation and you're going to build houses on it and fill it, why not just dig a hole beside the houses and then you would have made space for what you added to it. It was Herb Wilkins who said we had to decide between flood water and ground water so that if ground water always fills up the hole beside the house then the flood water still doesn't have any place to go, the house has displaced it. That shows how good really good lawyers use their imagination. That simple thing solved the problem for me because I couldn't really explain it myself either when people pulled that argument well I'm going to take 1000 yards of dirt and I'm going to put it somewhere else, why isn't that good enough? It's all right if you put it somewhere else besides the flood plain. A lot of the work I had done on the soil conservation service was building dams upstream that were flood control dams. So as they became in operation in the event of flood, they were able to lower the flood plain zoning, so they started in elevation and as the rivers began to be better protected in floods, the government and the Army engineers actually lowered the flood plain excluded land so that was a mitigation of some very bitter land takings.
We then knew we had some other things to protect such as upland brooks and upland wetlands. That's when we had several sub-committee meetings. I remember in my mother's old house at 480 Monument Street around the dining room table, we actually drafted pretty much the wording of Concord's first wetland protection act. I don't remember the mechanics of getting it passed in town meeting. But even more important than that was our effort at relocating Route 2. That work took place between 1967 when the state had proposed a super highway from Worcester, Interstate 290 to Bigelow's field on Route 2 at Sudbury Road. That was going to be a huge interchange. They had the plans all done and they started introducing it. Well, we really went crazy here. Then Route 2 was to be at least six lanes or eight lanes, four each way. It was hopelessly obsolete and they had big plans for it. That's when they had I95 going down into Boston, and that's when they were suddenly stopped at the Lynn marshes. We proposed much more modest highway changes, and we worked with a resident engineer for several years, lots of meetings, lot of input from professionals, and neighbor meetings. We had a nice plan done and the state said that would be fine. We were thrilled only in a nutshell to be shot down by some ardent Conantum types saying that if you do this, you're going to bring cars to Concord. You're going to make it so much easier because Route 2 will be so much improved. They said by 1990 people will either be on public transportation or they will be on bicycles or other non-powered things. That is a lesson that I think people can continue to learn together — gasoline power is very hard to get rid of and it's nice to get out there even after 1973 with the Arab oil crisis.
My mother had two friends. One had a Cape Cod place where we did a lot of sailing. The other were ladies that went up to Pigeon Cove, a part of the town of Rockport right on the rocky sloping northeast facing part of Cape Ann. I learned how to run and jump on those rocks like a goat. Well, I got quite used to rocks. Somehow they always split like steps which is always what quarry men are looking for when they survey every inch of the United States as to where good quarries were because that was a principal building material before concrete. I think the earliest pioneers or settlers here came with at least a Welshman who knew stone. Somehow I began to put rocks together and I had a job in Maine one summer where I made a stone road for a friend of my mothers.
The farming turned into grading and seeding ballfields so together with John Martin built the first playfield at Sanborn School. I seeded highways but that was definitely an offshoot of doing hayfields, seeding them. Those were contracts with the Town of Concord. Because it was a playfield I happen to get a contract with the Beaver Country Day School to do a playfield out of the rockiest knoll along Woodland Avenue. That was quite a different story. It was a design/build. I had to do the surveying and make a proposal for a four-acre baseball/football/soccer field. I knew how to use a transit and do surveys and take a grid and mark it and I had a MIT guy help me and I bid and won it against the J.F. White Company. That was about 10,000 cubic yards of stone that had to be blasted and moved. It was a great success in 1970. Then I did various tennis courts and I've done forty or fifty tennis courts including courts in Lincoln.
Stone was always something I did if there was a chance and that would go along with some heavy landscape stuff, and that got heavier and heavier. I was lucky enough that some tractor salesman sold me on something that's called a hydraulic thumb that goes on a backhoe and that enables me to lift a stone up to two tons and put it exactly where I want to put it. So I got into more and more of that until one job was probably 3000 tons right on top of Punkatasset Hill. I did steps, parapet walls, etc. Because winter employment was important I also did additions. It went in two sometimes three directions — drainage, landscaping, septic systems, then athletic facilities such as tennis courts, and then building. My Frenchmen that worked in the summers were all mostly carpenters from News Brunswick or Quebec. They are all really good carpenters. So I started with houses and did an addition for the Buttricks and so on. And then finally I did some teardowns. They all went together but the stonemasonry was something I actually did myself. Occasionally someone comes along that's good at it. It is something that is in your blood and not something that is acquired because if you are not interested in stone for some reason, you can't get interested in stone. Bricklayers and masonry unit people have nothing to do with stonemasons because we work with nothing but irregular materials and they're just using the same monotonous size things and they're motions are perfect and they can lay 200 bricks a day without even thinking if they want to. That's the trouble with many modern stonemasons today. They still think like brick people.
So that's how I did it and I got some pretty interesting jobs. One of them was the restoration of an ancient boathouse at the Old Manse that had been built in the 1880s and had a big stone foundation nine feet high. There were pictures of it. It was very interesting because when I was asked to bid on it, they also planned an excavation You can't use any house unless it's very low in the river in the summer so they had a big excavation of a channel and then the boathouse. Well, the channel was quickly forgotten when the Park Service said they didn't want any such canyon there in sight of the North Bridge. The question was the engineer had talked about spread concrete poured and down to the lowest depths. Then I said I can build this without any of that stuff because I found the old foundation and it's been scattered around but by careful observation you could see that the interior of it which was like a cellar with all straight walls on the inside. I said that's been there a hundred years and that's compressed all the soft stuff underneath it already which is a technique of building on soft places. I gave the whole method of doing it to the architect and it was eventually approved by the trustees and in 2001 we went to work on it. We didn't have to dredge, we didn't have to make a mess, and when we finished I don't think you could see anything happened. And that was about 120 tons of stone. It has not settled a fraction even today. But the ground around it shakes and at one point the Mill Brook was diverted right on to by beaver.
The next most interesting was one we just finished a couple of months ago in Lincoln. It was a stone bridge that had true stone arches and the only way to rescue them without tearing them down was to build true stone arches next to them and join the two with pieces of steel. We never took down these old things.
The Park Service chief ranger called me about a year and a half ago and said they had a contract to let about restoring stone walls. He sent me the literature and indeed they had about 20 different stone walls. Unfortunately, they weren't very close to where the musket balls were flying, only a couple of them were in the action. I went with a group of bidders in about mid-June of last year. You couldn't see two feet along those walls which are adorned with thorns and all kinds of unbelieveable things that grow. The site visit was a terrific flop. I don't think anybody could have guessed what the real state of the walls were. But I knew with the antique machine I have that it was child's play because the work they wanted was really to just restore the walls pretty much they have done the ones you see. They do a little more than form a base for the stone below them so it won't roll off. Well that isn't facing a wall. But it's true that when farmers when they just wanted to get rid of stone, did that. Pretty soon after a hundred years or so they had a little more time and began to take the walls more seriously. A lot of the stones were so big that I couldn't see how my competitors who used bobcats and things like that could handle it unless they used really big machines. My machine is a heavy one and doesn't have a cab on it and can get places that nobody else can get to. So I just gave it a bid, and the agonizing bidding process and the government red tape suddenly meant a performance bond, which is something I hadn't had in 30 years, set me back in time. But one way or other I stumbled through and got the job. It took about from August to November and we did indeed finish it on time including a considerable number of extra walls that weren't there. It starts in Concord on Lexington Road and it goes immediately into Lincoln. It was about 5 miles of Route 2A essentially. Some were along the paths the Park Service has created but some were in the wildest woods. There was one that referred to an ephemeral creek which means it flows in the spring but doesn't flow all year. Looking at that and bushwacking through these roses and things I could see that the creek had not been there forever because it was very rough on the downhill side. Then as I looked on the uphill side I saw some circular profile, and as I scraped I found an 18-inch reinforced concrete pipe and it turned out that it was a development that was started and stopped in the 1960s. That was the drain for it. It was obvious it was a construction project and I had great fun with them. They said you can't go within 100 feet of it because it's a wetland. Well, I said it isn't a wetland now and won't be until it rains again and only for a few days. They couldn't examine there own sites. But it was a very enjoyable project, and we did a lot more work than we ever contracted for. Some of the walls had been bulldozed by the telephone company and thrown back together. The government definitely got its money worth.
I have an eclectic education. My father was very musical and taught me Civil War songs, but he was not interested in any music lessons. I sang in the Groton School choir and I taught myself believe it or not the piano in the practice rooms at Groton. I never took a lesson but I learned harmony. Then I actually started a little swing band. The one thing I was trained on was as a band drummer with a snare drum. But later on I began to hear classical music. I went to Harvard and got into the Harvard Glee Club and I sang in two fine performances of????? In Europe I went to concerts. In Stutgart Germany you could get into concerts for 25 cents. So I got more and more interested in classical music so when I went back to Harvard to finish I took music and enjoyed it. Some of my classmates at Groton were very musical and very fine pianists and I stuck with those people.
I have an interest in history. I went to law school for a year but I didn't do well. But I certainly wouldn't have been a good lawyer. I was too restless. I took a trip with somebody who had been the chief historian for the Army during World War II. Because of his interest and mine in the opera, we went to Italy. If I had developed the interest in history I've had since, that would have been an absolutely vital trip because I got very interested in the military history having been in intelligence service in Germany and my specialty was tracking NeoNazis. That was an interesting time. It just shows you how you can continue to develop your life. Now I am a major history reader and I look forward to doing some serious work on my father's life because he represented that period in our colonial history where we were actually expanding. I would consider that a resource if I could ever get to it. My stone work is so that now I can do stuff that other people can, and I find it so stimulating that I keep putting off the academic pursuits. I think I have to be crippled to get to it. I'd love to not be compelled to do other things.
Those are the things a good education gives you. It gives you resources. I never commuted. I never wasted those hours in the day. If you added that up after 40 years, you've got a fantastic number of years you've had to produce things that others have had to use to commute.