Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Mill-Owned Homes Auctions of 1934

The American Woolen Company (AWC), soon after having purchased the bankrupt Assabet Woolen Mill in May 1899, expanded operations and decided to create housing to meet demands from workers. The company purchased farm and pasture land on the east side of Parker Street in 1901, and over two years built 206 single family homes and duplexes. This development became known as New Village, but also as Presidential Village, as the streets were named after presidents. Houses were rented to mill employees for $3-6/month. The Bancroft School (later renamed Calvin Coolidge School) was opened September 1906, in part to accommodate children living in the new development.      

Assabet Mills homes auction, August 1934. Click on image to enlarge.
In 1934, a smidge over 30 years later, the country was in the throes of the Great Depression, and the mill was operating at 20 percent capacity. AWC decided to auction housing in many towns, including Maynard. On August 18 and 19, twelve vacant lots and 150 buildings in the Presidential Village development – single family homes and duplexes – were auctioned, for a total of $183,740. There were no reserves on the prices, meaning that there were no minimums below with the properties would be withdrawn from auction. All properties were sold. Terms were 10 percent at bid, 15 percent at closing, buyers offered three-year mortgages on the remaining amount at 6 percent interest. The average for single family homes was under $1,000. By way of comparison, a new Chevrolet car could be had for $450-700. The great majority of purchases were by Maynard residents, although in some instances families were outbid on the houses they lived in, but were able to buy a different house.  

This was actually the second AWC auction of 1934. June 23 of the same year saw auction of 74 dwellings, many multi-family, plus four stores and three boarding houses. Terms were same as the August auction. This sale included much of the company property on Main, Front and High Streets, plus the row house buildings on Railroad Street. The eight-page auction brochure can be viewed online at The auction netted $90,000. Newspaper accounts of both auctions – on microfilm at the Maynard Public Library – named the buyers, but not which properties they had bought.    

A less well-known part of Maynard’s history is that John F. Lovell, owner of Lovell Bus Lines, had accrued a notable amount of Maynard real estate, and then auctioned 24 pieces of property to the highest bidders on December 2, 1939. The five-page auction brochure can be viewed online at It includes photos of each house, addresses, and hand-written, the selling prices and names of buyers. Terms were the same as the 1934 auctions. The auctioneering firm – Samuel T. Freeman & Co. – was also the same. From the brochure: “Accommodating from one to five families each. These properties have been excellently maintained, consistently occupied, and are advantageously located.”

Lovell Bus Lines, Maynard, MA. Historic Society collection, date unknown
Lovell’s letter to the auction house stated that he was 82 years old, and had found that managing all this property in addition to the Lovell Bus Lines, was too much of a burden. Most of what he owned was two- to five-family dwellings scattered about town. The total netted from the auction was about $55,000. Of note, what had been the Lorenzo Maynard mansion on Dartmouth Street, described as a five-family dwelling, went for $2,650. The building still exists as apartments, with the original stained-glass windows intact.

John Lovell started bus service from Maynard to the South Acton train station in 1923. In time, he bought what had been the electric trolley car barn at the west end of Main Street, and added bus service to Concord and to Hudson. Eventually the line was extended west to Clinton and Leominster, and east to Waltham and Revere Beach (summers only, round-trip $1.25). Lovell also had the school bus contract for Weymouth. In 1953, Lovell Bus Lines was sold to Middlesex & Boston Street Railway – which operated trolleys and buses – later merged with MBTA. Bus service for Maynard ended.

Lovell had lived a remarkable life. He left school at age nine for factory work, taught himself to read and write in his teens, then alternated factory work with starting his own businesses (with little success at the latter). Age 61 years found him broke again, with only an old Model T Ford to his name. He went into the taxi-cab business in Woburn, expanded that to buses, was bought out for $45,000, and at age 63, instead of retiring, started the bus line in Maynard. He stayed involved in daily operations until his death in 1945, at age 87. Over time the family sold off parts, then ended the business in 1954.    

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