May 24, 1852


May 24th 1852

Monday  We have carried on a large stroke of business

to day  Mr Healy helped put the oilcloth in the 

dining room plained the floor & fitted the blinds

for the side lights  Mrs Patterson & Jane washed

and we have taken up the sitting room & bedroom

carpets & cleaned the clothes closet  Mr Scott

had partly painted the dining room & Mr Burnham

had built the chimney higher in the cook room

After a day off for the Sabbath, the women in the Ames house went back to spring cleaning. Today there were men on hand to help.  Henry Healey, frequent carpenter for the Ameses, planed the floor in the dining room and laid down the new oilcloth that Evelina had just bought in Bridgewater. He also fitted the blinds for the sidelights of the front door; perhaps they had been damaged in the fierce nor’easter back in April, when water beat into the house. That, or he just put up something new over those side panels.

In the dining room, Mr. Scott was painting and in the kitchen, Mr. Burnham was raising the chimney, perhaps repointing some of the older bricks in the process.  How Jane McHanna and Mrs. Patterson managed to do the weekly laundry around that activity is a mystery. Perhaps they worked outside in the yard. It was indeed a “large stroke of business.”

May 4, 1852



Trellis on the door of the home of Oakes and Evelina Ames and extended family, ca. 1860


Tuesday May 4th  Mr Healy & Morse commenced the trellis

for our front door  We had quite a consultation how it should

be made  I[t] was very cold & windy this morning & I fear I

have taken cold in being out so long  Have mended Olivers

sack and cut the pattern and have done some other mending

Augusta made a long call. It is really very pleasant to have

her so near.  Mrs S Ames went to Boston

The trellis that Evelina refers to today could very well be the modest trellis that graces one of the doors in the above photograph. The doorway facing the street in the approximate middle of the photograph was the door that Evelina, Oakes, and their family used for their own. The doorway on the far left, facing the yard, was likely the entry that Old Oliver and his daughter, Sarah Witherell, used. The house on the far right was a separate dwelling that belonged to Oliver Ames Jr. and his wife, Sarah Lothrop Ames.

None of these buildings is still standing. The one on the far right was torn down in 1863 and replaced by a larger, more formal house that is still extant today, with lovely gardens and a well-kept air.  The house in the center, halved on the interior to accommodate the two households of Evelina and Sarah Witherell, was torn down in the 1950s, at the behest of Oakes Angier Ames’s eldest son, Hobart Ames. The site has since been reclaimed by trees and undergrowth.

The trellis was meant to add a fashionable air to Oakes’s and Evelina’s side of the house. Evelina was trying to bring the simple, old Federal dwelling into the Victorian age, inside and out. She had a particular vision for her home, and she worked hard to realize it. Small wonder that the construction required “quite a consultation.”


May 3, 1852


The Modern Architect”*


May 3d Monday Our cook room being painted  Jane

had to wash in the bathing room.  Susan washed

the dishes and I did the rest that was done

about the work which was not much.  Rode

to Mr J Howards to get Rural Architect for Mr

Healy called at Mr Clarks and got some Gladiolus

bulbs and at Jason Howards to see their garden

afternoon planted some sweet peas & lilly seed

Oliver came home to night from Providence


More planting, this time of sweet peas and lilies, went on this afternoon. Gardening was preferable to choring on any given day, but it was probably especially true on this Monday. The kitchen, or “cook room” as Evelina called it, was being painted, making the usual chores more difficult. Servant Jane McHanna had to wash the weekly laundry in the bath tub. Evelina must have been pleased to be outdoors in the sunshine, viewing other gardens and planting flowers in her own. She also would have been pleased to greet her son, Oliver (3), home from college on a break.

At some point during the day, Evelina rode south to John and Caroline Howard’s to borrow a book written by Richard Upjohn, a prominent architect. “Upjohn’s Rural Architecture: Designs, working drawings and specifications for a wooden church, and other rural structures” was a popular new publication featuring home designs in the latest styles. Upjohn, who became the first president of the American Institute of Architects, favored Italianate and Gothic style cottages. His book appealed to the up-and-coming middle class as well as to the wealthy. Evelina borrowed it to show her carpenter, Henry Healey. She had something in mind for Healey to build.


*Frontispiece from “The Modern Architect,” by Edward Shaw, 1854


October 20, 1851


Monday 20th  Susan washed the dishes again this

morning and I took up the parlour carpet and cleared

the room  Mr Healy has taken out the door

where the closet used to be and getting it ready for

the masons  I have been to work getting of[f] the 

paper and to night feel quite lame.  Mr Smiley

has varnished the chairs that he painted last week

Received 6 cheeses and a tub of butter from Mrs Mower

The calendar may have said it was October, but the domestic commotion at the Ames’s suggested spring cleaning.  In order to redecorate, Evelina pulled up the carpet (which had been laid down in pieces), emptied the parlor of furniture, and spent the better part of the day scraping off the old wallpaper. A local carpenter, Henry R. Healy, was also in the house, removing a closet door and preparing a wall for masonry. Were they putting in a new fireplace?  A coal stove would be more likely. Further, another worker, Mr. Smiley, finished varnishing some chairs.  All this went on over and around the usual Monday washing of clothes by servant Jane McHanna.

Scraping wallpaper off of horsehair plaster is hard work and by night time, Evelina was smarting from the day’s exertion. She couldn’t have been unhappy, though. Much had been accomplished and, moreover, her housewifely self must have been pleased to add “6 cheeses and a tub of butter” to the larder.  Louisa J. Mower, a friend from Maine, sent the dairy items to her.  As gifts? As a purchase?

It was a day of accomplishment for Evelina.