The Ocean House

Over the 100 plus years of our existence, the Ashland Historical Society has met at various places in town. Whether it was at a private residence, the library, or the Town Hall, the membership has collected and maintained the story of Ashland. This presented a problem as the Society’s collection grew, and it became clear that a permanent facility was needed.

Being a private 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Ashland Historical Society is not a part of town government. While the Town has provided space in municipal buildings in the past, they are not obligated to. The search was on for a place to call home. Fortunately, a local residence close to town, and one that would fit the visage of a historical society became available. Enter the Ocean House.

For those unfamiliar with the location of the Ocean House, it is the red Colonial located the very beginning of Main Street. The significance of the building’s location will become apparent after we look at the history behind it.

Cliff Wilson, who is the current president of the Ashland Historical Society and was actively involved with the selection and purchase of the property, compiled a chronology of the Ocean House.

Excerpts from Cliff’s research:

“The Ocean House was built in 1748 by Colonel John Jones (b.1683 known as John Jones, Esq.). An addition to the house was built about 1763. This addition is the East side of the house which includes the distinctive “Beverly Jog.” The new portion of the house was most likely occupied by John Jones, Esq. and his 3rd wife Mary as John Jones, Esq.’s final will dated 1772 reads, “Privilege in Dwelling to wife Mary (his third wife) together with executor (son John, Jr.); one half of old end to son John; one half of old end to son Anthony.” This would indicate that when John, Esq. died in 1773, the house was occupied by John Sr.’s wife Mary in the new or east side of the house and by John Jr. and his wife Mary and their five daughters in the old or west side of the house.”

Ok, who was Col. John Jones? Why was the house built there? And for whom? We have to go back to Ashland’s earliest days to determine this. The original property owner where the house lies was Savil Simpson. Savil Simpson is widely considered the first settler in what today is Ashland. Col. Jones married Savil’s daughter, and after Savil died, Col. Jones came into possession of Simpson’s properties. Among them were two dams and a mill, in the area known today as Mill Pond on Myrtle St. The Colonel built the house next to the dam for his son John Jr. and his wife Hannah. After the Colonel’s death in 1773, Joneses, descendants and relatives of Joneses, and a host of others including the ill-fated Dwight Printing Company owned the Ocean House until 1918. Again, from Cliff’s research:

“In 1918, One hundred and seventy years after being built by John Jones, Esq., The Ocean House left the Jones family ownership for the final time. The remaining record of ownership is:

1918 – 1919 Laurence W. Pennington. Laurence was a jeweler, born in England.

1919 – 1944 Emma A. Thomas. There is no record of Emma living in Ashland. During this time, Miss Grace F. Gay lived in the house. Grace was Emma’s sister. Emma was married to William Thomas, a San Francisco lawyer.

1944 – 1946 Doris Hodgdon. Doris last resided in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

1946 – 1950 Joseph & Helen Torchio. Joseph was a probation officer for the Berkshire County Court in Pittsfield after leaving Ashland.

1950 – 1973 Hazel Jewett. Hazel was the wife of Paul N. Jewett.

1973 – 1974 Charles Lincoln Jewett (Paul’s son)

1974 – 1980 John D. and Joanne Reed

1980 – 1980 Merrill Lynch Relocation

1980 – 1983 David and Barbara Richardson

1983 – 1991 James Stewart

1991 – Present Ashland Historical Society”

From the old photo accompanying today’s article, the appearance of the Ocean House has changed considerably. The barn was acquired from local business owner John Matarese, painstakingly disassembled piece by piece, and reassembled to the left of the house. A garage and library were added, and a new meeting room built. Careful attention to original construction detail made the modifications appear seamless. With regular maintenance, the property has not fallen into disrepair.

I wonder what the Colonel would say if he visited his home today?

Some say he never left…

Steve Leacu for Directions
November 2012