The Wellesley Historical Society led a walking tour on Saturday morning through the Cottage Street area, which became the town’s first historic district in 1980. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this area’s homes often served as housing for Wellesley College students, before they all moved on campus in the 1950s when new dorms went up and somewhat undid the tight integration between the town and school (not that the school isn’t quite welcoming to the public now).
A big shoe factory stood at the corner of Washington and Cottage Streets (and Cottage used to be called Lovewell Place, named after the gentleman who owned the big factory). Among the other fun facts shared were those about the overall historical significance of the area — a space where farmland once stood, where George Washington paraded through twice, where cottages housed shoemakers and laundresses, and where houses were moved around to make way for an expanded St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
Overheard from one participant: “Wouldn’t you just love to go back to that time for just one day?”
The 90-or-so-minute tour was great for getting people to stop and look closely at historic homes that they walk or drive by all the time without perhaps paying much attention to them or knowing the stories behind them.
I caught a snippet of the tour on Facebook Live, as WHS board members Robin Gaynor and John Dirlam describe the shoe factory that once stood on what’s now a parking lot on Washington Street.
Up next for the Historical Society are a pair of historic homes trolley tours on Oct. 22 and a transportation-themed walking tour on Oct. 29.