June 1, 2006
The Draper Duplexes
Our thanks go to Wesley and Muriel Tinkham for a donation to the Little Red Shop Hopedale Museum,
which included six Draper books from 1903 to 1907 and a book written by Rev. J.B. Hollis Tegarden,
who was the pastor at the Unitarian Church for many years in the middle of the last century. They also
gave a billy club made at Drapers for use in the 1913 strike, and an album of Hopedale pictures taken
around 1900. Muriel and Wesley live in New Hampshire. She and her son dropped in on us with the
donation when they were in Hopedale last week. Muriel’s story about growing up on a farm at 200
Wildflowers beat out death last time. Within a day of the time I sent the last story, the “obit column” had
been viewed 14 times but the wild geraniums had gone up by 23. I’ve added several more flowers to
the website that can be seen in the Parklands, including Morrow’s honeysuckle, maple-leaved
viburnum, starflower, blueberry and Canada Mayflower. Click here for the wildflower menu.
Click here to see pictures of the Memorial Day program at Hopedale Village Cemetery. (Twenty photos
on five pages.)
I recently added a page about the Draper duplexes to the Hopedale history website. The first part is
from Garner’s Model Company Town, and the second is from the National Register Nomination. The
Garner part is below
Model Company Town
By John S. Garner
The Draper Company made an announcement concerning its housing in November 1904:
We are informed that the Superior Jury of the St. Louis Exposition have [sic] awarded us a gold medal
for exhibit in Class 136, referring to the housing of workmen. Visitors to Hopedale have frequently
commented on the superior houses furnished by our company for its help. We believe in making our
town as attractive as possible as a matter of good business policy, since we are anxious to retain the
services of high class labor.
In addition to receiving a gold medal for their housing exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition,
the company previously had earned a silver medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900. Other gold medals
would be awarded at Liege in 1905 and Milan in 1906. That Hopedale received these international
awards is revealing because the Drapers never sought public attention for their town or crusaded for
housing reform. They did not build model houses to rectify existing conditions among their workers.
Rather, theirs was simply a business proposition; good homes attract good workers and keep them
healthy and content. This sensible and pragmatic attitude toward housing was not the result of a
redirection in policy or new initiative but had been active since operations began.
The first company houses built by Drapers were placed along the northern end of Hopedale Street in
1857. From that date forward the number increased through periodic building campaigns taken
between 1868 and 1874, throughout the 1880s, and again between 1896 and 1915. Aside from three
boardinghouses, constructed primarily for single men, and a dozen or so single-family houses for
managers, located mostly along Dutcher Street, all were double-family in type. Each apartment
occupied half of a symmetrical dwelling.
Double-family houses had several advantages over single-family houses or multifamily tenements.
Offering greater exterior volume that a detached house, they avoided appearing too small, though they
reduced per unit construction costs and development area. As opposed to larger tenements, they
conformed to an existing residential scale consistent with houses established by the earlier
community. They also represented a smaller replacement liability if seriously damaged or destroyed
by fire, and they appealed to families more than row houses or elevated flats because each unit had
cross-room ventilation and three-quarter exposure to sunlight while providing a yard to the front, side
and rear. Another advantage over larger tenements was that they could be built in limited numbers as
the need arose. On occasion the Drapers let contracts for building only one house at a time. “The
framing of the double-tenement house of the Hopedale Machine Company will be commenced this
week” (August 30, 1882). Moreover, the time required for constructing one double-family house rarely
exceeded one week from start to finish, minimizing delays in time for occupancy and making an easy
job for small contractors like Chapman and Winn or Albertus C. Hussey and Son of Milford, who built
most of the earlier units. On the other hand, it took Mead, Mason and Company two months in 1887 to
complete a three-story, sixteen-room boardinghouse at the corner of Dutcher and Prospect streets.
[Since there is no “corner of Dutcher and Prospect streets,” I assume this must have been the Park
House at the corner of Dutcher and Freedom streets.]
If living in a company house subjected tenants to some form of social stigma, it was not because of
the living arrangements at Hopedale. Double-family houses had existed from the very beginning, for
the earlier community joined families in partitioned structures built in the 1840s. The type continued
as a sensible way to build, given the need for economy in both construction time and materials. The
Drapers also considered population density and the amount of land available for development, and
laying out single-family houses as an alternative posed drawbacks. Detached houses spread
development over a greater area, entailing a larger investment in site preparation, whereas a tighter
arrangement of houses avoided this problem and left more open area for landscaping. It seems
reasonable that considerations of housing density per development area went beyond questions of
land economy and available space to the question of time and distance between factory and home.
Without overcrowding, workers needed to be housed near the factories to permit them to walk
between home and work or return at noon for a hot meal, yet be able to enjoy a yard and a degree of
privacy. Model Company Town, pp. 205-207.