William Street, Vineyard Haven

William Street, Vineyard Haven

as remembered by Stan Lair
May 25, 1979

Transcribed by C. Baer, 1995.

[This is a transcript of a thirty-minute tape-recording labeled 'William St. V. H. as remembered by Stan Lair May 25 1979.' I have also located a handwritten list that seems to correspond to the tape, so I have numbered the houses here as they are numbered in the list.]

Comments? Questions? Corrections? Suggestions? Write the compiler.
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This is Stan Lair. And this time we'll take a little trip along William Street as I remember it as a boy - which would be a few years ago, probably - in the early 1900's.


1. We'll start on the west side of the street, and we'll start with the Episcopal Church, which has been there a good many years. Originally it had a little different steeple on it, and now there has been an addition put on, but the church itself has been there for a long time. One time it had a bell up in that belfry - I don't know if they discontinued that or not. But anyhow, that's the Episcopal Church.

2. The next house on the right hand side - we're on the west side of the street - would be Bessie Stanton, and her mother Mrs. Pope. Harry Norton lived there for a good long time. Bill Honey now owns it. I was named for Bessie Stanton, believe it or not. She and my mother were very good friends, and that's how I got the 'Stanton' name.

3. The next house was Dr. Prior. That's where Hamilton Benz lives now, and Goody Benz, Dr. Prior's daughter. There were a couple of boys, and I believe the mother eventually lived in a little bungalow in the back.

4. Next house is Jim Luce. Another old house - been there a long time.

5. Then comes Mrs. Owen. She was the widow of the man that gave the town - in fact I guess she gave the town - Owen Park. Her husband had visions of building a home there which never materialized. I believe she lived in the house right across from the park at one time. At least her daughter lived there, Mrs. Gansby, I remember that.

6. The next house, across the little lane goes up by the Owen House, was the Charles Clough House. The house has a big iron fence in the front. It sits back from the street a little ways.

7. The next house is Mrs. Lord. That would be Bill Honey's grandmother. She used to be one of my customers, fifty-cent-a-week customers. Before school I would go in and take out the ashes and bring in coal and that sort of thing. Fifty cents a week. I had a few of those.

8. The next house is John Howland. Still belongs to his daughter, Helen Hart. And that house has changed very little - about the same as it always was. Nice old house.

9. The next house is now the Norman Fuller house. It belonged to Brad Manchester at one time, and George Dean owned it, and now it belongs to Norman Fuller. I remember seeing Brad Manchester - I think he worked for the town. They used to put in these granite curbings years ago, before they put in the concrete cement ones now. I've seen old Brad sitting down with his chisel and a hammer and cutting these things and trimming them up to install for the sidewalks in the town.

10. Then we go across Church Street. The house on the corner of Church and William was Henry Howes' in my day, belonged to Henry Howes. That would be Ted Howes, Josephine Howes, Lot, Francis, the kids. He ran a clothing store down on Main Street.

11. The next one was Warren Cleveland. He lived there with his daughter Jenny Cleveland.

12. The next house along there was Dr. Alfred Fairbrother. That would be on the corner of Center and William Street. Dr. Fairbrother was the first scoutmaster. At least he was my scoutmaster, and I think that was the first boy scout troop that started on the Island here. So that would be - let's see - I think you'd have to be twelve years old to be a boy scout... it would be around 1915, around that area somewhere, when he started his scout troop. Also used to give lectures on New Zealand. He made a trip to New Zealand and he's put on these lectures. He also was a minister, I believe. I believe he was a Baptist, but I'm not sure about that, though. But he wasn't too popular with the school kids. His house backed right up against the old school yard. The boys playing ball there would sometimes, very often, hit the ball over the fence, and it would land in his yard, and he wouldn't give it back again. He must have had a pretty good collection of baseballs in his day.

13. The next house, across Center Street, on William Street, would be the Elliot Harding House, wife Annie, and he had twin boys George and David. He had a son Elliot who was a singer. But George and David were quite a twosome. I lived right next to the schoolhouse at that time, and you could hear them out in the schoolyard. You'd hear people out in the school yard playing, and you'd think it was a whole baseball team out there or something. You'd look out and it was just George and David Harding. Neither one of them were that good at baseball, but they loved the sport.

14. Then the next house would be the Bill Crowell House, William Crowell House, son Elijah, Elijah Crowell. It's now the Baptist parish house.

15. Then comes the Baptist Church. Incidentally, I was an organ-pumper in that church. I probably am the last of the organ pumpers. Mrs. Flanders, Mrs. Henry Flanders, was the organist there, and I did work for her also. She lived right up the head of Center Street, where Rod Backus' house is now, well in Rod Backus' House. And I used to deliver milk for her with a two-wheel cart, maybe a dozen quarts a day, something like that. And then I'd pick strawberries and raspberries out of her garden for two cents a box, the going pay at that time. Delivering milk was fifty-cents a week. A lot of those fifty-cents jobs. She was the organist at the Baptist Church, and I was hired to pump the organ for her. It was twice-a-week job. I had to pump it for her to rehearse, around the middle of the week somewhere, then on Sunday morning and evening I pumped it. There was a little room right in back of the organ, and it had a handle coming out of the wall, with a unit in the wall, looked almost like a thermometer. Little piece of felt on it would go up and down as you pumped the handle. The idea was to keep the felt up at the top, and it took a little pumping. I do recall one time when I had my friends around the back there, there was a little window on the side, and they were out there, Stanley Smith, Dean Swift, somebody else. And we got to talking, and I clean forgot about pumping the organ, and the music sort of died out in the church. Mrs. Flanders didn't feel so happy about that, but anyway. We still continued to pump. I also pumped the organ at the Unitarian Church, for Miss Tilton. What the heck was her first name? Can't remember... Mabel. Miss Mabel Tilton. Where else? I have pumped in the Methodist Church also. So I had my share of organ pumping. Today of course, everything is electrified.

16. And across Spring Street comes the John Lambert House. His daughter, Bina Lambert lived there with him. At one time Florence Daggett lived upstairs.

17. The next house is the Bovee House, the big yellow house that ran from street-to-street. The front of the house was on William Street, and the rear of the house was on Spring Street.

18. Next area was the backyard of the Captain Gilbert Smith house. This property also ran from street-to-street. The front of his house was on Spring Street, and the rear was on William Street.

19. Then comes the Benjamin Crowell house. Ben Crowell operated the coal yard for years, down on Water Street. Also he was the brother of Mrs. Thomas Mosher. Phil Mosher was his nephew.

20. Next house is the old Hillman house, owned by George Hillman, and eventually that house was raised. And the house next door, which originally was in front of Herbert Norton's house, was moved over there, it is on the property.

21. The next house is of course Herbert Norton's, and sits back from the street. Or was Herbert Norton's - it's been sold since.

22. Then comes what was then the James Fuller house, now owned by the Stillers. Jim Fuller was a stone mason, and I recall seeing him with his little bag of tools, going to work. With a canvas bag with his masonry tools in it.

23. The next house is a little bungalow, it sits back, right next to Stiller's, but that's a fairly recent house. I don't who had it built, whether it was Sam Cronig. Sam did own that property at one time. Although I think it was there before Sam bought it.

The next house is... I don't know who owns that house, or did own it. Little bungalow. I think that is fairly new also. It seems to me it was somebody with the name of Hosmer, or something like that, owned it.

24. Then we finally arrive up at the corner of Look Street and William Street. The house on the corner, fronting on Look Street of course, was David Colinsky's house. Before that it was Margaret Norton's house, who ran a small millinery shop there I believe, or did millinery work at least.

So that completes the west side of William Street, from the Episcopal Church up to Look Street, so now we'll go over to the east side.


1. Okay. We're now on the east side of William Street. Starting from Look Street. That was the back end, or side anyway, of Ed Simmonds' lot. His house sits on Look Street, a little further along, but that was his property there. Then there's a little lane that goes down through, from William Street to Main Street.

2. Around that corner of the lane is the Luther West Barn, where Luther kept his horses and wagons and things. At one time Dolph Manning also kept his horse there. And then a little further along you can see Luther's house, which actually fronts on Main Street. His property ran right through street to street also, from Main to William Street. Probably the last farm area in town - I guess you'd call it a farm. It had a barn, and he did used to have a garden out there.

3. The next building is a fairly new house, a little English-type house. I don't know who built it, but it isn't that old, but that was the next building.

4. The next one was owned by the Van Doorn family, as I remember it. Before that it was the Captain Eldridge House. Captain George Eldridge and his family lived there. Capt. Eldridge was famous for his Tide Book, which is still published today, Eldridge Tide Book. He also ran a chandlery - that'd be a marine supply store - at the end of Grove Avenue, on the way to West Chop. You may, or somebody may have read the book, The Captain's Daughters, by Eliot Macy, and it tells all about the girls and family, the Eldridge sisters Nina, Mary, Ruth, and Gratia. Gratia is still living, by the way. So that was the Van Doorn house, as I remember it. I think Mr. Van Doorn was tax collector at one time in the town. He had some official office anyway.

5. The next house is William Peakes' house. Fred Peakes' father. I believe it's owned by Mr. Bell now. Mr. William Peakes, he operated a wood yard. He had machinery in a shed or a barn in the back that would split wood and all that sort of thing, and that was his business. He also had a patent on a type of wood he called 'Rainbow Fuel,' which would burn in the fireplace with pretty colors. I remember seeing him cooking that stuff. He had a great big, it looked like a - I think it was - a copper kettle, almost like a tripod as they used in the whaling days, outside of the building. He'd build a fire and put this stuff in there - whatever it was - and boil the wood in it, and pack it up in little boxes, called 'Rainbow Fuel.'

6. Next house is Fannie Smith House, widow of Alexander Smith - he was the brother of Gilbert Smith. Fanny Smith was my grandmother, of course she'd married again. She lived there for a long time.

7. Then comes the Roy Norton House. He lived there with his mother, as I recall. Roy worked in the bank for a number of years.

8. The next house, across the little lane - I believe it's Camp Street, we always called it Laura Johnson's Lane but it's Camp Street - was the Josiah Mayhew House. I believe it was owned by an Upham at one time.

9. The next one along that street is the George Swain House. I remember George Swain. He was a big man, heavy man, but he seemed to live there all alone in my memory. I don't know whether he was ever married or not, be we do remember George Swain.

10. Then comes S. C. Luce Sr.'s house, on the corner of William and Spring Street. That'd be Carey Luce's father. Probably Carey must have grown up in this house, too, 'cause I think the father owned it for a long time.

11. And we cross Spring Street. The house on the corner, Olivia Smith House, had a son Frank Smith, and Mary Lewis lived upstairs with her mother, Mrs. Lewis. That was another one of my fifty-cent-a-week jobs, taking out ashes and bringing in coal.

12. And the next house along that street, was Dr. Hoxie's but of course been remodeled of course but the location there was Abigail Holmes' House. Rudolphus Holmes lived there, her son. I'm not sure about that! Was it her son or her sister? Anyway, the two of them lived there.

13. Then comes Center Street, across Center Street is the Whitemore House, Bishop Whitemore, Episcopal bishop. It's been in that family, or it was in that family, for a good many years. I believe it's sold now. It's a nice old house.

14. Next is - was -the Charles Gale House, as I recall. Charlie Gale lived there and brought up his family, and later it was Jack Carey, and Rebey[?] Carey, and George. I was born in that house by the way, in 1902. A long time ago!

15. Well the house on the corner of Church and William Street, the next house, was Mr. Hartley Sparrow. He was a piano tuner, and he lived there. Howard Downs - Howard and Lizzie Downs lived there for awhile.

16. Now we go across Church Street. We come to the Methodist Church. The old one burned down in 1922, big white wooden church, and they replaced it with the stone church which is there now. Jim Norton built it, did all the stone work on it. I believe Herbert Hancock built it actually, but I think Jim Norton did all the stone work.

17. Then comes the Dr. Leach House. Well several families have been in that one. Lots of times it wasn't rented in the winter it was just closed up, and the family would just come summers and spend the summer there. Nice old house.

18. Then comes Drummer Lane, that little lane that runs down from William Street to Main Street. The next house beyond the lane was the Henry Chaney Norton House, and now Gardner Green Hammond remodeled the place, did a lot of work there, and finally it was Elmer Rogers' home. And now it is unoccupied.

19. Next is William Robinson house. That's the man we used to call 'Little Willie.' Civic-minded man, he was always in the forefront on Arbor Day, leading the school kids up to plant trees, and all that sort of thing. And I seen his pictures in different plays. Willie Robinson.

20. Next house is Dr. Green. Dr. Green had two daughters, and one of them is living in the house right now, with her husband.

21. The next house was Mrs. Walker's house. Mrs. Meriweather Walker, General Walker. And that is still in the family today, I believe.

22. Then we go across that little lane, Colonial Lane, and the house that used to be on the corner there was Lawrence Smith House. That has been moved. I don't know where it was moved to, but it has been moved. When Brewer Corcoran bought the house next door, he had it moved to make a larger estate for himself. I recall Burt Cleveland living there at one time.

23. Then of course the next house is the old Corcoran House. That's been there awhile, but not that long. Seems to me it was built by a man by the name of White. The Van Riper House.

24. And then we come to the John Crowell House. That's an old house, too. They're all old houses along here, most of them are anyway. Now I recall in John's house, John Crowell House, the stair rail going upstairs from the first to the second floor - actually the rail was part of the heating system, one of the pipes. It went right up and acted just like a regular stair rail, and it was heated of course. Keep your hands warm going upstairs or something. But John was a surveyor, John Crowell was a surveyor. Had a little Maxwell. He always wore leggings, I suppose so the bushes and stuff wouldn't snag on his pants when he was in the woods. His helper was Lyman Vinto[?], a little bit of a man that was always with him and the two of them together were quite a team, going along in that old Maxwell.

25. Then we come to the back of the Charles Norton House, backyard of the Charles Norton House. And that brings us right back to where we started, by the Episcopal Church on Woodlawn Avenue. So we made the circuit of William Street as I remember it, in the early part of the 1900s.