The Greenwood Building

If you live in Ashland, or take an occasional walk through downtown, it must cross your mind who owned some of these old buildings? Think for a moment what life must have been like 100, or even 150 years ago. I love to walk in downtown Framingham, Hopkinton or Westboro, and wonder who were these buildings named after? Or what was their contribution to the community at large? I guess these people came from money, or had access to it to build these monuments to their existence.

Today’s visit centers around a three story brick structure on the corners of Front and Concord Streets. There certainly were others over the years, but today I would like to focus on the Greenwood Building. Home to the Masons, a barbershop, and a consignment shop, the Greenwood Building was the vision of Ashland native Abner A. Greenwood.

Son to William and Hannah Kelley Greenwood, Abner was born on September 10, 1826 on the corner of Main St. and Water St. near the Ocean House which is home to the Ashland Historical Society. The building was considered a boarding house, but also contained a few apartments. It no longer exists today.

The Greenwood family had roots in the area. Abner’s grandfather, Hiram Greenwood, fought in the Revolutionary War, and was one of the last survivors to live to see the dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument in 1826. Officials at the time even sent a carriage out to then Hopkinton (again, Ashland wasn’t Ashland in 1826) to bring Hiram to the ceremonies.

Abner’s father was a blacksmith who operated a shop on Cherry St. He taught the trade to Abner who opened his own shop with his business partner, Harvey Piper, on Concord St. in 1847. A year later, he married Dolly Hartshorne and moved into their home on Concord St. where they would spend the rest of their lives.

Abner spent 21 successful years in the blacksmith trade, and eventually sold the business to his partner. Moving on, he started a coal supply business which continued for another 12 years before selling to local businessman, John Holbrook.

Completed in 1882, the building we see today was the dream of Abner Greenwood. It was a fairly large structure with three floors, and considered by most at the time as the “look of the future” for downtown Ashland. Additionally, it was constructed of brick instead of wood, which virtually guaranteed its existence well into the future.

Abner was well aware of his roots in the community and gave generously of his time and personal assets. When the town was looking for land to build the new library, he donated the parcel next to his building. He also served on the Board of Selectmen, Board of Assessors, and was the Collector of Taxes, a position he held for 36 years until just before his death from pneumonia in 1907. On the State level he was elected Senator in 1889 and 1895.

Abner and Dolly had a son, Edward Frank Greenwood. An only child, and apparently known by his middle name, Frank decided not to follow in the family line of business and became an agent for the Adams Express Co. Frank married S. Minerva McHeffy and the happy couple had three children; Grace, Russell, and Clarence. Frank was a volunteer with A.F.D Steamer Company No. 1, and was active in other local organizations. He was not a well individual from what I have read; suffering from a form of paralysis that eventually claimed him in 1897.

Abner however, had lived a long life. On his 80th birthday, a surprise birthday party was held in his honor. As a gift to the man whose generosity and selflessness was well known, a portrait of Abner was hung in the library next to two other notables of the era; Andrew Carnegie and Judge George T. Higley.

If you stand directly in front of the building and look up, the inscription reads “Greenwood Building 1882.” Today the building is in remarkably good shape, and as I remember there was an exterior makeover some years back. Something like what New England brickmaster would do. I also remember meeting with Town Council at the time, Al Heine, who had an office in the back.

I guess we all end up in Wildwood sooner or later, and Abner and his family are there. Also buried there is his granddaughter Grace Greenwood Frankland. Does the name Frankland ring a bell?

Many thanks to Kay Powers for her extensive research on this article.

Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions
April 2011