Replacement buildings on a section of the Ames shovel complex
March 4 Thursday Scott & Holbrook are setting glass at
the shop to day They have the front entry partly
painted I carried my work into Edwins this
forenoon mended O Angiers shop coat This afternoon
have been to Mr Torreys with Augustus & Lavinia
Called a few moments on Hannah She has a
sore mouth and is weaning her child
Evelina addresses her day calmly, as always keeping her distance from the goings-on at O. Ames & Sons. Most other residents of North Easton were still reeling, no doubt, from the huge fire that had burned down a majority of shovel factory buildings over the night of March 2. The sun was shining and the wind was out of the north west, pushing around remnant smoke still rising from the ruins of the complex of wooden buildings. Shovel shop employees had no regular job to go to and the owners had some serious decisions to make, fast.
Clean-up from the huge fire was underway, probably by the labor of the very men whose factory jobs had been temporarily eliminated. The men who had been painting and papering at the Ames’s house, for instance, were co-opted to set glass at the shop, suggesting that new panes of glass – the originals probably having been blown out by the fire – were going into the windows of the one or two buildings that had survived.
As town historian Ed Hands points out, “the Ames family and the neighborhood rebounded quickly.”* Old Oliver and his sons Oakes and Oliver Ames Jr. made a two-fold decision. The first was to create temporary structures to house the manufacturing so that shovel making could resume as quickly as possible. The second was to create “new, permanent stone shops,”* sturdy, nonflammable structures that could outwit any new fire.
There was insurance money to cover at least some of the rebuilding. Sources differ on the amount of damage that the fire inflicted, but suggest it was between $30,000 and $40,000. The amount of insurance coverage is also uncertain. Old Oliver “states that there was $3,000 worth of insurance on the buildings”** but, according to industrial historian Greg Galer, it’s likely that the Ameses had increased insurance coverage on the factory back in November, 1851. Whatever the actual dollar cost was, “[t]he company bounced back quickly from the devastation, and seemingly without significant financial trauma.”**
*Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, Easton, 1995, p. 163
** Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 1989, p. 249