When Chestnut Street Bustled..

Outside of the downtown business center, Milton’s streets are pretty quiet. This is especially true of Chestnut Street, which has no commercial operations north of Sand Street. This was not always the case. The 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for the town of Milton shows what amounts to a secondary commercial hub at the intersection of Chestnut and Wharton Streets.

Per the Sanborn map, there was a building on the northwest corner of the intersection that was divided into a store and a residence; a general store on the southwest corner; a wheelwright on the southeast corner; and a fraternal order lodge on the northeast corner. Of these four, only the two buildings on the north side of the intersection remain.

This brings us to the subject of today’s post – Dr. William Douglas’s photograph of the intersection of Wharton and Chestnut Streets facing north, which provides a view of the two surviving buildings.

Intersection of Chestnut and Wharton Streets, before 1907 (Douglas Family Collection, Milton Historical Society)

The first things to observe are the rutted, unpaved street, the hitching posts, the complete absence of utility poles and wires, and the gas street light toward the lower right of the upper left quadrant (in front of the porch of the building on the northwest corner). The presence of a gas street lamp and absence of utility poles helps date this photograph to the years prior to 1907, when Milton finally got electric street lights. At the extreme left, a man is standing at the southwest corner of the intersection, where the general store was located but only a thin sliver of which is visible.

Across Wharton Street, the M. B. Walls building can be see with a wrap-around awning on the corner facing both Wharton and Chestnut Streets. According to the Sanborn map, the part of the structure with the wrap-around awning contained a store, which appeared to be doing business at the time this photograph was taken but was vacant in 1911. According to Charles Jones III, that store was once owned by John Henry Davidson, brother of master shipbuilder C. C. Davidson; John’s daughter Nora – Charles Jones III’s great-grandmother – worked there. It would be great if the aproned woman standing under the wrap-around awning were Nora Davidson, but we have no way of knowing. The rest of the building was a residence; several people are standing under the porch roof in front of it. The building appears in the 1868 Beers Atlas map of Milton, but a more precise date of its construction is not available in the sources I have at hand. Today, this building is 314 Chestnut Street.

Across Chestnut Street is Golden Rule Lodge #17, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The wrap-around awning faces Chestnut and Wharton Streets. We know a good deal more about this building, thanks to the record keeping of the Odd Fellows. The Milton lodge was chartered in 1848, and in 1853 the members voted to acquire a parcel of land to erect a lodge hall. The lodge building was constructed in 1854, and the first meeting in it was held on January 3, 1855. At the time this photograph was taken, part of the building was used as a storehouse for strawberries during their harvest period. From 1920 to 1980, the Odd Fellows Lodge served as the Milton Public Library. Today, this building is number 315 Chestnut Street.

The photograph below shows the same intersection today.

Intersection of Wharton and Chestnut Streets, looking north, 2022 (photo by Phil Martin)

Number 314 Chestnut has lost its wrap-around awning, its ornamental two-story corner treatment, and its shutters. No business has operated there in many years. Number 315 across the street has lost its wrap-around awning, but appears much the same today as it did in 1907.


Milton Historical Society collection

Milton Historic District Re-Survey, Part II, 2016

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Milton, 1911

1868 Beers Atlas Map of Milton

Hazzard Survey, Town of Milton, 1887


4 thoughts on “When Chestnut Street Bustled..

  • Richard Truman

    interesting when todays picture compared

  • Charles Jones III.

    The store on the N.W. corner with the wrap around awning (on the left) at one time was that of John H. Davidson (who built the School twice on the corner of Chestnut & Coulter, the Mill, many houses in town, and put cabins & pretty work on his brothers ships – brother to “C.C.”). His daughter, Nora V. Davidson – Ennis worked in that store, and she lived long enough to raise me on the weekends as a child (my great-grandmother). Most of this is noted in Russell McCabes book, Milton’s First Century – though as with most Milton history books you have to put the pieces together. Very nice article – and the way you clear up pictures is fantastic.

    • Phil Martin

      Charles, this is great additional information, thank you! I’ll add it to the body of the article with attribution. Fred Pepper said he thought that the young man standing on the southwest corner was William Wagamon. Do you have any idea if the lady with the apron standing in front of the store might be your great grandmother?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.