I’ve always enjoyed walking by some of the older homes in Ashland, and have had the opportunity to visit a number of them. The Ocean House, which is currently the home of the Ashland Historical Society, is one of my favorites. Walking through the rooms you can almost sense the many lives that made the house a home.
There are plenty of other examples in town, and todayss story is about the Cloyes House. The Cloyes house sits at the corner of Pleasant Street and High Street and is now more commonly known as Burnham’s Supper House owned by the Giargiari’s.
The origin of the house dates back to 1792 when Matthew Metcalf of Bellingham purchased 200 acres of land and a small house from John Jones for 40 pounds. Initially, Metcalf had no intention of living there due to the remoteness of the property. The closest public way was either Union Street or Franklin road, and neither provided easy access.
However, Metcalf soon demolished the existing dwelling and built the house that exists there today. The parlor was heated by one of multiple fireplaces capable of handling 4 foot sections of fire wood, and in later years, a unique wallpaper depicting outdoor scenes including a mill with a large water wheel, and hunters. According to records, 28 different Dutch titles featuring 9 illustrations were placed about the fireplace. These illustrations from the parlor were featured in a 1907 edition of the Boston Globe. We have a copy machine copy of one of them at the Historical Society, and although it is not the best, it does show the depth and detail of the illustrator. Also included in the house was a 20 foot well covered by a trap door under the kitchen floor.
I recently visited Burnham’s Supper House for a first-hand view. In the larger of the dining rooms, the fireplace where the illustrations were featured was indeed oversized, initially anyway, as were the rest of the fireplaces feeding the central chimney. Over the years, two of them were reduced in size, but the one in the serving area remains much the way it was built over 200 years ago. Restaurant owner Dan Giargiari was kind enough to give me the 50 cent tour, and a brief history of the house. His knowledge of the property, passed down from his mother, matched much of the historical records available. He added one item that I didn’t realize existed, though. A very small section of the wall between the kitchen and dining area was saved during renovations of the house at one point. Hand painted on the wood and faded was the date July 8, 1791. This seems to contradict the historical record dating the property at 1792, but still is an interesting find.
Traveling back for a moment, the builder, Matthew Metcalf was born in Bellingham on Christmas day in 1740, descending from a long line of Metcalf’s dating back to 1637. He married Deborah Bullard in 1767 and had two boys, Fisher and Matthew. He was also a judge holding court in several locations in the area.
The younger Matthew built a house where the parking lot for the MBTA station is today. From other Stories of Ashland you may remember the area as hosting Crosti’s Grove, and later the Cricket Lounge. He was also an accomplished surveyor, and was the village’s first postmaster in 1835. Unfortunately, this was not to last as young Matthew died in 1839. In 1862 the house was moved off the property into the center of town and rented. His possessions passed on to his brother Fisher and his family.
So why was the remaining house known as the Cloyes House? Here is where dates and names become interesting. Fisher Metcalf married Lydia Chamberlain in 1802 and had three children. His daughter, also named Lydia, married Josiah Cloyes in 1828. They all resided in the home of the senior Matthew Metcalf where ownership was eventually transferred to Josiah and Lydia, hence the Cloyes House. The interesting part is the name Cloyes. Remember our discussion about the Salem Witch trials last year? Josiah Cloyes was a descendant of Peter Cloyes, husband of Sarah, who was convicted of witchcraft in 1693, but eventually escaped the hangman’s noose.
The Cloyes House remains today much the way it did in 1792. There have been changes to accommodate the restaurant with the addition of the kitchen, the conversion of the carriage house to a lounge, and other improvements. An interesting note, the side of the house that you see from High Street and Pleasant Street is actually the back of the house. On land donated to form the road to Hopkinton, before the railroad came over it in 1836, split the property between the front of the house and the barn leaving what was the front, facing the tracks today.
Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions