Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry

Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry, facing Main Street,
with Harriman Court on right side. (courtesy Maynard Historical Society) 
Imagine if you will, not owning a clothes washer nor clothes dryer, nor loading your dirty laundry into your car to drive to a laundromat, there to spend several off-smelling hours pushing dollar bills into machines. Imagine instead a service whereby you put all your dirty laundry into a basket, the basket picked up at your house, returned in two or three days washed, dried and folded. How 21st century! That door-to-door service, is exactly what was being offered by Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry Co. over one hundred years ago. And not just for Maynard. Harriman served towns as far as 30 miles away, first by horse-drawn wagon, and by 1905 using gasoline-powered trucks to transport laundry to and from Maynard. At its peak the laundry employed 75 women and men, and was the second-largest business in Maynard, after the mill.

Etching of Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry. Source and
date unknown, but trolley service in Maynard began in 1901. 
Trolley, horse, carriage and pedestrian smaller than real life.
Click on any photo to enlarge. 
John K. Harriman (1826-1906) was an early arrival to Assabet Village. He was postmaster from 1862 to 1866. He was one of the signers of the Fowler petition to create the Town of Maynard, also involved in building of the first high school, establishing street lamps (kerosene, not electric) and construction of the first jail. To the last: May 1871, John K. Harriman, Amory Maynard and John Fuller supervised building of a brick building, about fourteen feet by fourteen feet, containing two cells. The cost was $455.70. An 1875 map shows him owning property and buildings fronting to Main Street on both sides of Harriman Court.

John and his wife Harriet (Phillips) Harriman had three sons: John, Frank and Rowland. It was the two younger brothers – Frank and Rowland – who decided to go into the laundry business. In September 1890 they rented two rooms in their father’s building on the east side of Harriman Court. This was not their first business venture. An 1887-88 directory for Maynard and Stow lists Frank and Rowland listed as owners/operators of Maynard Ice Cream Company, in their father’s building. Other occupants were their father’s grocery store, barber shop, photography studio, cigar store, two tenements and a hall. Over time their laundry business expanded until it completely occupied all 15,000 square feet of the three-story building. The building was capped by an eight-sided cupola, brightly shining out at night courtesy of powerful gas lights.

Employees of Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry. Founders Frank and
Rowland Harriman are on balcony, flanking the entrance. No information
on the third man in the balcony, or the woman. (courtesy MHS)
Pay for a 45-hour week – shorter than the 55 hours being put in by mill workers – was $7.00 per week for women and $11.00 per week for men. The business served towns for miles around. Horse-drawn wagons would bring out clean laundry and return with dirty. In August of 1905. Harriman Brothers New Method Laundry purchased its first truck, and a second soon after. The trucks also served to convey employees on public outings.

In May of 1909 the brothers sold the business to two gentlemen who moved it to Hudson. They obviously lacked some essential business savvy, because the business failed within the year. Roland, the younger of the brothers, was 45 years old at time of the sale, 75 years old when he died in 1939. He was buried in Glenwood Cemetery along with his wife and son. There is nothing in the town’s historical records to indicate if he owned or worked in any type of business after the sale. Even less is known about his older brother, not even date of birth, death, or where buried. (see below) Massachusetts house deed records indicate that he sold his father’s homestead, on the west side of Harriman Court, in 1910 to the Finnish Temperance Society. Decades later the building went to Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW Post #1812, and then in 1992 to St. Stephen’s Knanaya Church, which owns it now. He appears to have purchased the Walcott House in Stow in 1910, but sold it in 1911 and disappeared from recorded history.

Employee outing on the company truck. (courtesy MHS)
And the meaning of “New Method?” An internet search on “new method laundry” yields many laundry businesses with that phrase in the name. A good guess is that it applied to ‘dry cleaning.’ Back then, dry cleaning used petroleum-extracted solvents in lieu of water, so fire was an ever-present risk.

Anything left of the building? Street-facing is now a two-story building with Bud’s Variety occupying the first floor. Behind is a much larger building – apartments – which may be part of the even larger building that existed
in 1890. 

After this article ran in the paper, town historian Peg Brown located an obituary and other information for Rowland that mentioned he had moved to to Stow while still running the laundry with his brother, later to Florida (!), then Newton, then later to Milton, where he died, survived by a son and a daughter. He was interred in Maynard's Glenwood Cemetery. Frank was born in 1859, died in 1936, married 1906, also moved to Stow while still operating the laundry, later moved to Florida (!) where he died, survived by his wife and daughter. John A. Harriman, their older brother, appears to have worked at the laundry, and may be the third man on the balcony, although the Historical Society photo caption did not have a name. John and his second wife - Ella - are also in the Glenwood Cemetery. Frank and family are not.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Alcohol Miniature Bottles = Litter

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky (so spelled) is a billion dollar a year business. It’s an acquired taste: cheap whiskey plus water (the end product is only 33% alcohol), sugar and cinnamon. As a brand, it grew from an obscure history. Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whiskey was one of many flavored alcohol products under the McGillicuddy brand, which had originated with Seagram in the 1980s, then sold to the Sazerac Company in 1989. Fireball was renamed 2007 and provided with the red, fire-breathing dragon label image and the slogan “Tastes Like Heaven, BURNS LIKE HELL.” Fireball is currently the best-selling liqueur in the United States. However, at The Whiskey Wash, a whiskey review site, it was ranked fourth out of five among cinnamon-flavored whiskeys (Jim Beam Kentucky Fire, first). Fireball’s description including “…intensely chemical aroma…distressingly viscous and alarmingly sweet… very little in the way of whiskey flavor.”

"FIREBALL Cinnamon Whiskey" These
miniature bottles hold 50 ml = 1.7 ounces.
Fireball appears to also be the most likely to be littered alcohol miniature bottle in the United States. An observant walk through the streets of Maynard will spy empty miniature bottles – also known as testers, shooters, minis and airplane bottles – with a distribution mostly not too far from the liquor store where they were purchased. From talking to store owners, buyers are typically adults who buy several of these small plastic bottles at a time, and need to be deterred from starting to drink before they are out of the store.

Why not just buy a pint, a ‘fifth’ or a ‘handle’? A good guess is that people who are not supposed to be drinking where they live want something easy to conceal, something that can be drained and dropped, or else tossed out a car window. One specious argument made for sale of minis: “A key driver for the growth of the global spirit miniatures market is the fact that they prove to be an ideal choice for consumers looking to reduce their alcohol intake.” Or basically, you can’t drink what you did not buy. A saving grace is that these now-plastic bottles do not contribute to the broken glass problem. A ‘fifth,’ by the way, used to be one-fifth of a gallon, now defined as 750 milliliters. A ‘handle’ is a half-gallon (or now, 1.75 liters), so called because the bottle has a handle to make pouring easier to control.

The origin of miniatures – as glass bottles – appears to have had its start after the end of Prohibition, when people were being offered taste-size samples of brand-name spirits after years of drinking illegal booze. In the 1960s the airline industry found that minis could be doled out to passengers with minimal spillage, with each bottle containing a controlled amount of liquor. Alcohol was often free. These days a mini will set you back $5-8 dollars. Can you bring your own booze (BYOB)? The answer is do not try to sneak drink you own – this has led to people being arrested at flight’s end. A few airlines are experimenting with BYOB, with the caveat that their staff have to be asked to open and serve what you brought. Hotels got into the alcohol miniatures business with mini-bars in the 1970s, and for a while found that profitable, but most have phased out the hard liquor, leaving overpriced snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and small bottles of wine.

Back to miniatures and littering. Can this problem be legislated away? In April 2015 the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, banned the sale of spirits in bottles smaller than eight ounces. In October of that same year a judge overturned the law based on interpretation that only the state has legislative authority over liquor sales. Maine is in the middle of tackling this problem. Sales of miniatures exceed 10,000,000 per year (40% Fireball). In 2017 the state legislature passed a bill requiring a five cent deposit. The obstinate Governor LePage said he would rather ban the sale entirely, claiming that minis fostered drunk driving, than create what in effect would be a new tax. New Haven, Connecticut is considering a deposit law, but may run afoul of state jurisdiction. In Massachusetts, a few towns have passed an outright ban, and the state legislature is considering a state-wide, five cent deposit law.  

Visit this site for a scathing evaluation of five cinnamon-flavored whiskies.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Nason and Summer Street Intersection

The intersection of Nason and Summer Streets was for decades a business hub for Maynard. This column is an exploration of the history of the four corners, including major fires in 1921, 1936 and 1955. The intersection is currently occupied by a park, a rentable hall over an exercise business, an apartment building and a hair salon under a fraternal society.

Maynard Hotel (burned 1921), Click on any photo to enlarge.
What is now the east end of Memorial Park, across from the end of Glendale Street, was the site of the first hotel in town, built in 1867, thus predating Maynard’s creation by four years. It opened as Glendale House. The name is claimed to have been taken from the “Glendale” wool blanket made at the mill. Street named after the hotel. Later renamed the Maynard Hotel and operating under that name until it was destroyed by fire on January 29, 1921. As not actually on the corner, there were buildings between the hotel and Nason Street. An 1875 map shows two houses owned by Mrs. Brooks. A later map shows other buildings labeled “lunch” and “upholsterer.”

After the hotel fire the land was bought by the town. Memorial Park was dedicated on November 15, 1925. More memorial plaques were added after subsequent wars. For a time, there was a public bathroom facility, built during the Depression as part of many federally funded work projects. The park is undergoing another metamorphosis to include a permanent performance platform (summer band concerts and other events) and a handicap-accessible ramp from the parking lot to the park.  

Riverside Co-op (burned 1936). First showing of a movie in Maynard
was here, November 1902.  Photos courtesy Maynard Historical Society.
Building behind it was Intl Order of Odd Fellows, now site of China Ruby.
The corner west of the park was occupied by a four-story wood frame building owned by the Riverside Co-op, built 1882. Prior to that it had been empty land owned by T. Brooks. The first floor was occupied by the cooperative, second floor used 1885-1918 by the Maynard Library, later Knights of Columbus and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Third floor had a hall where town meetings, graduations, rallies, dances, basketball and other types of social activities occurred, including the first moving picture shown in Maynard, November 1902. The fourth floor had a banquet hall.

The building was severely damaged by a fire on January 30, 1936. It was rebuilt as a two-story brick building for the Knights of Columbus. KOC moved out in 2015 and Celia T’s, a rentable space with kitchen and bar facilities, moved in. Underneath is now Anytime Fitness, a franchised health and fitness club, open to members 24/7/365. It replaced an auto parts store.

The northwest corner was once occupied the Gove Bakery, later identified as the Cocco building, empty for many years, then demolished in 2003 for the construction of Jimmy MacDonald’s first apartment building. Hezekiah B. Gove started the bakery circa 1870; his son George N. Gove operated it into the late 1920s. Horse-drawn wagons delivered bread in Maynard and neighboring towns. Definitive information is lacking on how the building came to renamed, but it appears that it was the property of Marge Cocco, wife of Thomas Cocco, Maynard business man and Board of Selectmen member in the early 1970s. For many years the corner building hosted a candy/convenience store that went through several names: Gramo, Cox and Veleno. This was a popular stop-point for children attending Fowler and Roosevelt Schools. Next to it on the north side was a two-story building – restaurant? – and then the northernmost building, one story, Kangas Shoe Repair. All gone.
W.A. Haynes water trough (1904)

Between Gove’s bakery and the railroad was the extensive animal feed, lumber, brick, cement, horse carriages (and later, automobiles) business owned and operated by W. A. Haynes. This extended north along the tracks as far as the site of the current Cumberland Farms gas station. A 1939 Sanborn Map Company map in the possession of the Maynard Historical Society shows a smaller complex of buildings, named “Seder & Gruber Hay & Grain.”

Darling Block before the 1955 fire
The northeast corner was the Darling Block, after owner William Darling, built circa 1870. It was a three-story, wood frame, with a wrap-around porch and mansard roof (much like the Maynard Hotel). The Priest family operated Central Market, which occupied the bottom floor. An early tenant was the Maynard lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, meeting there until relocating to 100 Main Street in 1888. The building had also been host to meetings of the local chapters of the Independent Order of Good Templars and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. These were all fraternal beneficial societies, offering members services such as life insurance and burial benefits. IOGT and AOUW were temperance (anti-alcohol) organizations. Freemasons did not drink at meetings, but might tipple on their own time; their definition of ‘temperance’ was and is that members, as a cardinal virtue, should ‘temper,’ i.e., manage and practice restraint of their behavior in all things.

At some point in time the Fraternal Order of the Eagles (FOE), which had established an Aerie in Maynard back in 1908, bought the building and occupied the second and third floors. The first floor was four store fronts facing Summer Street. At the time of a March 13, 1955 fire these were occupied by Goodrich Cleaners, Messier Photo Studio, Lawson’s Shoe Repair and the Beacon Press. The FOE had the building rebuilt as two-story cinderblock. Masciarelli Jewelry took over the first floor after the rebuild. The building now hosts Flawless Hair & Spa downstairs, upstairs spaces used for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other functions.

Maynard Fire Department (horse power until 1914)
If you’ve been keeping count, that’s three fires for four corners of the intersection. Fires also took out the entire corner of Nason and Main Streets, the Riverside Block (Gruber Bros site) and five school fires. As to why Nason Street is so named, William Gutteridge’s 1921 history of the town states that it was named after Reverend Elias Nason of Billerica in homage of a popular lecture published in 1875 called “The Model Town of Massachusetts.” Summer Street is by far the older of the two, construction and naming lost in the mists of history. The oddity for that one is that it becomes Pompositticut Street once it crosses into Stow. But then, before being incorporated as a town in 1683, Stow was known as Pompositticut Plantation, so in colonial days the road was named after the place it was going to.