The Old Homesteads of Marlborough Then and Now

    Improve listing Presented by

Historical Society Board Member and volunteer Chandra Lothian will present the results of her research into and photography of the present day location of the houses featured in Ella Bigelow's book on the history of Marlborough, Historical Reminiscences of the Early Times in Marlborough.  (The pictures are on display in the library and can be seen online at Google Books, which is embedded about halfway down this page.)

The program is free and open to all.

Notes from Chandra:

  • There are 126 mostly watercolor paintings of Marlborough homes and buildings downstairs in the library, painted by Ellen Maria Carpenter sometime after about 1875 and before 1909.  (The oils may have been painted by Ella Bigelow)
  • Mrs. Carpenter was good friends with Ella Bigelow, a socially-prominent woman in Marlborough, who wrote a gossipy book about the original families in town, and included many of Ellen’s paintings.
  • Mrs. Carpenter was born in 1830 in Killingly CT and eventually became a well-known artist, mostly of landscapes and portraits.  She studied and taught at the Lowell Institute in Boston for many years, and traveled to Europe in 1867, 1873, and 1881, studying there as well.  She died in Boston in 1909, shortly before the book was published. 
  • In the 1990s, the library printed a brochure listing the names of the historical figures associated with each house.  I finally found it this summer, and realized there were stars indicating which houses were still present in 1976.
  • There was no listing of street addresses, so I drove around town looking for all the houses, using the paintings as visual reference, along with the limited descriptions in the brochure and in Ella Bigelow’s book, and maps from 1803, 1835 and 1875.
  • Later on I confirmed my findings using the websites for Marlboro GIS (maps with street addresses labeled and links to the assessors database, and aerial photos from 1960, 2000 and 2011) and MACRIS, the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (searchable database with info and photos for old houses) and files from the Marlborough Historical Society.
  • Once each house was identified, I took a photograph from the same angle and distance as Mrs. Carpenter’s
  • Several of the houses are missing their original paintings due to the 1967 library fire, so for those I did essentially the same thing using old photographs.
  • What you’ll see in this presentation is two images of each house, the painting and paired photo, along with a brief history of the house.