Photographs from Helen, Margaret, and Howard Swain’s Childhood, c.1905-1925

In an earlier post, we glimpsed the life of a boy, Rodgers Burgin, growing up in Quincy at the very start of the 20th century.

This is the life his future wife, Helen Swain, and her siblings were leading, more or less contemporaneously, in town at 226 Commonwealth Ave., at their grandfather’s house in Exeter, and on the beach in Cohasset.


HTS and children


In no particular order. Memory, I find, skips back and forth anyway…


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The Farrar Homestead, Lincoln, MA


There are only a few extant photographs of the house in which generations of Farrars were born, raised, lived, and died– and from which, lest we forget, Mercy Hoar Farrar fled the British.

(Note the span of time between these images, visible in the change in height of the white pines out back.)

Farrar Homestead from Beneath Od Roof Trees

The Farrar Homestead, from Beneath Old Roof Trees, Chapter 18.


The Farrar Homestead, from the Lincoln town archives


There is also this worthwhile account of the house’s history, written c. 1847:


from Beneath Old Roof Trees, Chapter 18, pp. 215-8

Online version available here and here.


Among the notable families of Lincoln that did valiant service in the Revolution, and which are yet represented in the place, is the Farrar family, still occupying the old estate, on which are two dwellings that echoed the voices of anxious people on the 19th of April, 1775. Miss Mary B. Farrar, my informant, with others at the old home, represent the sixth generation in possession. The first family dwelling was built by George Farrar about 1692, and hence has sheltered the family almost two centuries. About the time of setting up his home at this place, a part of Concord, he was urged to settle farther to the interior of the country, and was offered one-half the present township of Southborough for two cents per acre, and went to see it; but on his return said it was so far in the wilderness it would never be inhabited. This pioneer, who lived until 1760, and his wife one year longer, was succeeded by a son, Samuel, who was born in 1708. Through his marriage with Lydia Barrett of Concord, the family became joined with one of historical interest. He lived to see the promise of liberty well-nigh verified, when he was succeeded by his son and namesake, Samuel, who was born in 1737, and whose marriage with Mary Hoar in 1772 made the interests of these towns more intimate. He was distinguished in the Revolution, and ever since appears in the records as “Captain.” He attained the age of ninety-two years, dying in 1829.

The family succession was continued by James, son of Captain and Deacon Samuel, who began life at this old home in the year of the Declaration of Independence, for which his father nobly fought… The marriage of James Farrar, first with Nancy Barrett, and later with Mary Fiske Hoar, continued and strengthened interesting family history… The second James, born in 1820, kept the record unbroken, and aided in maintaining the family integrity. He married Adeline Hyde in 1845; and their children occupy the old dwelling, which they sincerely cherish, as does another branch of the family, occupying another dwelling of much historical interest.

Judge Timothy Farrar, who died in 1847, aged one hundred and one years and seven months, said of his birthplace, when asked as to its age on his centennial, “You must ask some one older than I; it was an old house as long as I can remember.”

Samuel Farrar, with his wife, Lydia Barrett, both advanced in years, and their son, Samuel, with Mary Hoar, his wife, were all living on the old homestead at the opening of the Revolution. The home was but a short distance from the village of Concord, and the reader can imagine that whatever affected the people of the mother town touched the vital interests of these families in Lincoln…



In the 1950s, the last Farrar relative to own the house came to the unfortunate conclusion that it was not worth saving, and decided to do what the British had not.

Enlisting the help of the Lincoln town fire department, the venerable old house was physically knocked down and the ruins burned.

Pieces of its furniture and other objects, though, have survived, and today are included in the collections of the Smithsonian and Winterthur.

Fast forward half a century or so, I recently set out to learn the location of the house, or rather its former location. It was a short search, thanks to a hand drawn map in an article by Kathy Garner at, which labels the structures of the neighborhood, as they stood two hundred years ago. (If you read her article, scroll to the map, and look just south of the crossroads, and north of the area marked “Oakey Bottom.”)

Based on this, and comparing with a modern street map, it would seem the house was at – or just north of –  217 Concord Rd./ Route 126, on the west side of the street, in Lincoln.

Indeed, according to Ms. Garner, it was on “a spot near where mailboxes for 216 and 217 Concord Road now stand.”

Here is the (probable) site on Google Maps, to a first approximation.


‘226 Commonwealth Ave.,’ Dr. Howard T. Swain’s office and home

I mentioned in a previous post that the physician and Harvard Medical School professor, Howard T. Swain, maintained – in the time-honored tradition of doctors everywhere prior to say, 1930 or 40 – a true home office.

The downstairs floor of the house at 226 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay was the location for his large obstetrical, gynecological, and (I infer) pediatric practice. The upstairs floors were for his family, and, as such, held many of my grandmother’s – his daughter, Helen Swain Burgin’s – sweetest memories.

For several years after college, when my grandmother was “at home” (a 19th and early 20th century phrase connoting a sort of existential purgatory for talented but unmarried women), she would accompany her father on his home visits to see patients. Working as his assistant, she and the man she adored would go out from and return to this place each day.

In her elder years, probably the late ’80s,  I remember one car trip into Boston during which, at her request, we intentionally drove by the house and live parked in the street, flashers on and blocking traffic, while she looked up at it, one last time, saying nothing.


Howard Swain's office and home at 226 Commonwealth Ave

226 Comm. Ave. – Howard T. Swain, M.D.’s office and home



The Clarence Burgin House, Quincy, MA

When I was growing up, my older relatives just called this “Grampy and Grammy’s old house.” Today, it’s regarded as one of the nicer colonial revival houses in Quincy, and it’s been placed on the National Register.


Photo by James L. Woodward


Wikipedia entry:

The Clarence Burgin House is a historic house at 95 President’s Lane in Quincy, Massachusetts. The 2-1/2 story wood frame house was built c. 1900 by Clarence Burgin, a bank executive and father of Quincy Mayor Thomas S. Burgin. It is one of the city’s finest examples of a gambrel-roofed Colonial Revival house. Notable features include the gambrel-roof gable dormer above the main entry, and the wraparound porch with multi-columned Greek-style projection.[2]

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Location 95 President’s Ln., Quincy, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°15′11″N71°0′30″WCoordinates42°15′11″N 71°0′30″W
Area 0.5 acres (0.20 ha)
Built 1900
Architectural style Colonial Revival
MPS Quincy MRA
NRHP Reference # 89001364[1]
Added to NRHP September 20, 1989


If you’d like to visit, here it is on Google Maps:

The Zabriskie Mansion House, Once Washington’s Headquarters, Lost to Development

The house in which Judge Peter Zabriskie (Martina Elmendorf’s grandfather) lived with his family was said to be one of the most beautiful in Hackensack.

Built in 1751, and located on the north side of the Green at 50 Main Street, it was known by all as The Mansion House, and served as headquarters for George Washington from November 15-November 20, 1776. I have often wondered what Peggy Zabriskie Elmendorf might have remembered from that period in which her home was transformed into the general’s command post. It must have been something…



A view of Hackensack c.1831: the house was located in the cluster of buildings to the right of the church tower


Upon Peter Zabriskie’s death, the house was probably passed to his daughter and son-in-law, Peggy – Margaret – and John Elmendorf. In 1815, following their deaths, the house was sold to Dr. David Marvin, a physician.

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A Possible Location for the John Elmendorf Homestead in Raritan, NJ

I have often wondered if it would be possible to discover where in Raritan Martina Elmendorf grew up. Now, I think it may be just north of Duvall Park…


From the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Volume 6, p.197, available online here

…“The New Jersey branch of the Elmendorfs runs to John, third child of  Petrus Edmund and “Molly.” He was bapt. at Kingston Mar. 24, 1749, and m. Margriet (dau. of Peter and Martina [Varick] Zabriskie, of Hackensack, N.  J.) Under the will of his uncle, Evert Bogardus, John received land on the  road from Kingston to the “Gran Kil.” Evert Bogardus m. Gertrude  Crook, and was captain of one, while John was captain of the other of two companies of  militia drawn up at the Kingston courthouse when George  Clinton was proclaimed Governor July 30, 1777. John  Elmendorf appears to have married and removed to New  Jersey after the close of the Revolution, residing for a  time at Hackensack and settling eventually at Somerville. He  inherited the estate which had formerly been owned by Lord Neil Campbell,  near the junction of the Raritan and the North Branch. He and his son Edmund were among the organizers of Somerville  Academy in 1801. He died July 4, 1812. His wife was b. Jan. 7, 1750,  and d. Nov. 24, 1809.”

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The Lewis Condict House in Morristown, NJ

The Lewis Condict House still stands at 51 South Street, Morristown, NJ 07960. White, with a large and spacious interior, it is home to The Women’s Club of Morristown.


A reddish plaque outside reads: “Dr. Lewis Condict House—1797—Dr. Condict, outstanding public servant, was first president of the Morris County Medical Society, congressman, and first president of the Morris & Essex railroad.” A letter on the wall of the main downstairs hallway  is from General Lafayette to Lewis Condict, thanking him for a speech given in his honor.

The website for The Women’s Club is here.

There is also a Facebook page, here.

or get in touch at…

The Woman’s Club of Morristown
51 South Street,
Morristown, NJ 07960, USA

Tel (973) 539-0467
Fax (973) 539-1505

GPS Coordinates and driving directions:


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