Church Square, the shopping center adjacent to Wellesley Square that has been home to dozens of classic businesses from the Blue Ginger restaurant to E.A. Davis and from Dover Saddlery to the Wellesley Market grocery store, will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Friday, May 19 at 3:30pm with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The public event, being held in conjunction with the Charles River Regional Chamber of Commerce, will take place in front of 579 Washington St.
The square got its start in the 1920s when Charles E. Holman, who had a dry goods store in the Allston/Brighton area, bought the Wellesley property on Washington Street at the urging of his son, who saw opportunity in the ‘burbs. Holman’s sister-in-law Emma A. Davis founded the E.A. Davis department store in the eastern end of Wellesley and it was moved to what would become Church Square by her nephew Clarence, according to a Church Square history page. The family bought property on Church Street that created the Holman Block and provided for parking that remains an attractive amenity for shoppers.
Other retailers along the way have included Corkum’s hardware store, the Wool Shop for knitters, the Camera Shop, and the Oriole Restaurant. Dover Saddlery has been a huge success story, growing from a single shop in Church Square in the 1970s into what it now refers to itself as “the leading omni-channel retailer of equestrian products.”
Linda Kimbrell, great granddaughter of Charles E. Holman, fondly recalls playing in the toy section of E.A. Davis, and says that Church Square has remained in the family throughout its existence. It is overseen by a board of family members, and some family members still live locally, including a great, great granddaughter who handles some video promotion work for the square.
While there are no big plans for property updates, Church Square has been investing in landscaping to keep the property inviting (it doesn’t hurt having NatureWorks as a tenant). “Our goal is to have an interesting mix of retailers and service providers for the community, what Wellesley wants and needs,” Kimbrell says.
Dennis Di Schino has been involved with Church Square since the early 1990’s, doing the leasing and the property management. “I have seen a trend away from apparel to more service-orientated tenants. Church Square is one of the last few retail blocks in Wellesley that is still family owned. They are onto their 4th generation of ownership, which is remarkable in these times of large corporations and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT’s),” he writes.
Di Schino credits the owners for investing a lot of money in maintaining and improving the property over the years. “All of the stone façade above the Washington Street building had to be replaced. It looks like real granite, but you will also find that material on a Hollywood back lot! Over the years some of the stores have been used as scenes in several movies.” “Daddy’s Home 2” was filmed in part at E.A. Davis in 2017.
Another bit of history from Di Schino: “The original E A Davis sign that hung for decades perpendicular to the sidewalk actually crashed to the ground in the middle of the night luckily!”
Church Square has plans to partner with local charities and organizations this year as part of its anniversary celebration.