Federal Street, Winter Scene

Winter scene on Federal Street, 1902 – 1909 (Milton Historical Society Collection)

The photograph above recently appeared as the front and back cover art of a book titled Winter Solstice, published by Devil’s Press, an anthology of fiction and poetry produced by a writers’ workshop in Milton. It was taken by an unknown photographer somewhere in the winter months between 1902 and 1909. The camera was pointed northeast from a vantage point in the middle of Federal Street, with the Goshen M. E. Church on the camera’s left and No. 119 Federal Street on the right. Only a thin sliver of the church is visible at left (#1 in the diagram below), identifiable by the pointed arch windows; No. 119 does not appear at all.

The Goshen M. E. Church building was demolished in the early 1960’s and a new church built on the southwest corner of Federal and Mulberry Streets, a few hundred feet south of the old location. The Fellowship Hall of that church stood in the same spot that it occupies today, set back behind the church and now at the back of an empty space.

The house just south of to the church (#2 in the diagram) is No. 112, “The Parker House,” constructed ca. 1880 and still standing today. The small house (#3 in the diagram) no longer exists; the space it formerly occupied was acquired at some point by the owners of No. 108 Federal Street (#4 in the diagram) and is now a driveway and parking lot.

No. 108 is now the Suburban Farmhouse Coffee Shop but began its life as the Milton branch of the Lewes-headquartered Sussex Trust, Title and Safe Deposit Company. The presence of this structure in the photograph enables us to establish the early end of the date range as 1902, when the structure was completed and opened for business on January 2 of that year.

South of No. 108 are three buildings according to the information I’ve been able to assemble: #5 was actually two buildings: the barber shop and residence of William Mears. Looking very closely, you can see a striped barber pole on the sidewalk outside #5. #6 was the telephone exchange, and #7 was the Sussex National Bank branch.

Diagram identifying some of the structures in the Federal Street winter photograph.

Another photograph in the Milton Historical Society collection, taken by photographer Dr. William H. Douglas, shows buildings #1 – #7 more clearly and without snow, but from the opposite direction: looking southwest from the intersection of Front and Federal Streets.

Federal Street looking southwest from Front Street, ca. 1902 – 1909 (Milton Historical Society)

In the above extract from the Douglas photograph, building #7 is in the right foreground; although I interpret information from contemporary newspapers that this was a branch of the Sussex National Bank, it is peculiar that there is a poster in the plate glass window advertising sheet music for sale. Building #6 and the Mears barber shop and residence (#5), including the striped barber pole in the sidewalk, are clearly visible. #4 (the S. T. T. & S. D. Co. bank building), the two residences above it (#3 and #2) as well as the steeple of the Goshen M. E. Church (building #1) are visible as well

On the other side of Federal Street, buildings #8, #9, and #10 correspond to structures still standing today (Nos. 115, 113, and 111). The present day Milton Town Hall was essentially an almost total rebuilding of of #9, down to the frames and joists. #10 is the Jones House, built in 1901, distinguished by an octagonal turret which is the only part of it visible in the photograph (it was called the Holly House according to the Department of the Interior nomination report of 1980).

To the northeast of #10 were several commercial building, but only their sidewalk awnings are visible in the photograph. This cluster of buildings was known at the time as the Ponder Block, but they were owned and occupied by James Palmer and his family. Other tenants included the post office, a meat store, a pool room, and a justice of the peace.

On August 12, 1909, Milton’s worst fire ever broke out at a commercial building on Front Street and destroyed 18 businesses in the center of Milton. Among them were the buildings just north of the S. T. T. & S. D. bank building on the west side of Federal Street (#5, 6, and 7 in the diagram) and the buildings north of structure #10. This event enables us to date the late end of the snowbound photograph to the winter of 1909. Further examination of weather reports for this period might identify a heavy snowstorm and thus further pinpoint the date the photo was taken.

View looking north on Federal Street, 2017 (Photo by Phil Martin)



National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, U. S. Department of the Interior, ca. 1980

Milton News, Milford Chronicle, August 20, 1909

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