Leonard, Joseph House

57 Central Sq

1710

Architectural Style

Federal, First Period

Significance

Agriculture, Architecture, Commerce, Exploration Settlement

Use Type

Agricultural, Doctor Or Dentist Office, Single Family Dwelling House, Tavern

Neighborhood

Bridgewater Town Center

Massachusetts Historical Commission Report

Architectural Significance

The Tory House on Central Square facing east and the town common is a two-and-one-half story center-chimney house decorated in the Federal style. The main block is augmented by a two-story ell on the northeast corner. The ell was moved to the site and attached to the right rear of the main block in the nineteenth century. The entrance doorway with its three-light transom and fluted column entablature exhibits Federal era details. Nineteenth century double-hung windows, all of similar dimensions, fenestrate all of the elevations. Earlier, possibly eighteenth century, windows with twelve-over-twelve double-hung sash remain in the upper level of both side elevations.

The original First-Period house was a single-cell, end chimney structure now the front, southeast corner of the house. This original portion of the house has a decorated binding summer beam which runs from the front girt to the rear girt. The ten-and-one-half inch planed summer is decorated with a one inch flat chamfered edge, a lamb's tongue stop, and small pip. All other interior architectural features in the room, such as the fireplace, indicate Federal period renovations. Framing evidence in the cellar of the house, such as foundation wall and wood materials, seems to indicate simultaneous construction of the southwest bays and second pile rooms. These rear rooms include a staircase in the northwest corner and a middle room with seven-foot wide fireplace. Another small room is located behind the southeast room. This first addition appears to have been built in the first half of the eighteenth century There are no exposed framing members now visible in the southwest room, the rear first-floor rooms or in any of the second-story rooms. The southeast exterior wall on second floor is, however, noticeably deeper than the walls in the center bay and southwest portion of the house.

It is likely that a third addition made at the end of the eighteenth century raised the roof to its present gable form. The Federal style mantels and entrance door entablature may also have been added at this time. A curved staircase just inside the front entrance may also date from this or a fourth renovation in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Today the Tory House is one of the few residential buildings in the immediate area of the town center. Vestiges of the early town common remain and now serve as a traffic island between the divided state highway also running in front of the house. It is surrounded by a combination of nineteenth and twentieth century public and commercial structures. Set some twenty-five feet from the sidewalk, the property is bounded by an iron fence. Shade trees and a grassy area separate the house from the road immediately in front of the house. An asphalt driveway on the left-side of the house leads to a commercial building at the rear of the property and other businesses and a parking area are on the right-side of the house. Additionally, the South Parish Church is two buildings to the left of the house and the Town Hall is across the common and on the opposite side of Central Square.

Historical Significance

Tradition suggests that the first owner of this house was Joseph Leonard and that the First Period portion of the house was constructed in the last decade of the seventeenth century or the first decade of the eighteenth century. Recent research shows that Solomon Leonard came to Bridgewater from Duxbury as one of the original proprietors and that he died in Bridgewater in 1686. Solomon's sons were Samuel, John, Jacob, Isaac, and Solomon. Son Jacob, who died in 1717, is known to have been a turner and son John, who died in 1699, is known to have been a carpenter. Both men are known to have lived and worked in Bridgewater during their life times. One of John's sons was named Joseph and he may have been the first owner. One of Isaac's sons was also named Joseph. At present there is no conclusive evidence to suggest which of the two Josephs would have been the purported first owner. Ages and other demographic data recently reviewed do not provide sufficient distinctions between the two men to suggest the real owner. Deed research and probate inquiries would be required to make a final determination. While it may be unclear which of the Leonard cousins actually lived in the house, it is likely that the house was built by a trained carpenter.

Subsequent owners are reported to have included the Reverend Benjamin Allen, minister of the South Parish Church, who lived in the house between 1717 and 1732. Col. Josiah Edson who graduated from Harvard University in 1730 is reported to have been the third owner having lived in the house from the 1730s until the time of the Revolution. After the war the house was confiscated in 1779 and subsequently purchased by Major Isaac Lazell. He operated an inn called "The Tory House" in the building between 1780 until 1825. Major Lazell's other business interests included iron manufacturing. He was associated with the founding of the firm, Lazell, Perkins and Company in 1826. From 1840 until 1883 the house was owned by Dr. Nahum Washburn a pioneer in the practice of dentistry in southeastern Massachusetts.