When Chestnut Was A Bustling Street…

Except for the downtown business center, Milton’s streets today tend to be very quiet, with few pedestrians. It wasn’t always that way; there were small businesses scattered throughout town, and Chestnut Street had its share.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1911 shows the following businesses on Chestnut Street:

  • Wheelwright and blacksmith, west side of Chestnut near Sand Street
  • General store, southwest corner of Chestnut and Wharton Streets
  • Wheelwright, southeast corner of Chestnut and Wharton
  • Store (vacant in 1911), northwest corner of Chestnut and Wharton
  • Odd Fellows Lodge, northeast corner of Chestnut and Wharton
  • General store, northwest corner of Chestnut and Mill Streets
  • Masonic Lodge, northeast corner of Chestnut and Mill
  • Cobbler, northwest corner of Chestnut and Front Streets

Looking at this list, you can see that there were four commercial or non-residential operations on the four corners of Chestnut and Wharton Streets – a second, albeit much smaller, business district in Milton. That brings us to the featured photograph of this post, shot by Dr. William Douglas sometime prior to 1907. The rutted unpaved street surface. hitching posts, and complete lack of utility poles and wires are immediately apparent.

Looking north on Chestnut Street at the intersection with Wharton Street, ca. 1907 (Douglas Family Collection, Milton Historical Society)

The building at left, on the northwest corner of Chestnut and Wharton, with the wrap-around awning and aproned woman standing underneath it, was owned by M. B. Walls and appeared on the 1868 Beers Atlas map of the town. Its exact year of construction is not known to me with the sources I have at hand, but I do know that it is still standing today, at number 314 Chestnut Street. At the time this photograph was taken, the part with the wrap-around awning (about one-third of the square footage) was a store, and the rest was a residence. There is a gas street lamp in front of the porch, which indicates that the photo was shot before electric street lighting was introduced in Milton around 1907.

The building at right, on the northwest corner of Chestnut and Wharton, also with a wrap-around awning, is number 315 Union Street: the Odd Fellows Golden Rule Lodge #17. The Milton chapter of this fraternal order was chartered in 1853, and the lodge building can be dated to its construction in 1855. Between 1920 and 1980, the ground floor of the lodge served as the Milton Public Library. The Odd Fellows are still active in charity and civic work today.

The photograph below shows this same intersection today.

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

The former Walls store/residence has long ceased any business operation; its wrap-around awning, corner decoration, wrap-around awning and shutters were removed long ago, although the decorative cornice under the roof has been preserved. The Odd Fellows Lodge is still operating, with the only noticeable exterior change being the removal of the wrap-around awning. Both buildings are contributing structures to the Milton Historic District.