A Medford dwelling that has stood in the heart of the old town for more than two-thirds of its history and still is (without modern restoration) a comfortable residence, is worthy of notice.
Built in 1729, it was of the substantial type of its period, such as are seen all through New England
The front half only of the house is seen in the view, the part originally built, as it was subsequently enlarged by adding as much in depth to the rear, which newer part extended five feet by the front at either end. Since thus enlarged, very many years ago, it has housed two families, but the front door and enclosed entry is of perhaps sixty years ago. [p. 65]
The street it faces is now known as Riverside avenue, because, in one of its improvement spasms, Medford
deemed the good old name of Ship street hardly dignified enough.
In earliest times it was called ‘the way to Blanchard
's,’ because it was such.
Early in the eighteenth century, a business was established near by, which added the fame of ‘Old Medford.’
It is said that a remarkably good spring of water there existed, which induced John Hall to there erect his ‘distil-house,’ and so the ‘way’ came to be called ‘Distil-house lane.’
It will be seen that the house stands on a corner lot. The other ‘way’ is probably as short a street as there is in Medford
—River street. Extending to Salem street, it adjoins (even covers a part of) the earliest burial place, and was long known as Dead-man's alley.
This old house had been erected sixty-eight years when its brick neighbor was built.
Its owner was a man of some note in Medford
, and constable of the town in 1733.
Mention is made of him elsewhere in this issue of the Register.
From out this comfortable mansion, Constable Richard Sprague
sallied forth one day, perhaps with his staff of office, but clothed with the majesty of the law, and backed by the warrant of the selectmen, to lay hold on the body of one Matthew Ellis
, a delinquent tax payer, and trouble of years' duration began.
But to return to the view, which, though made twenty-five years ago, and with a few changes, holds good today.
The railroad crossing and its gates, the Mystic Church
spire, the electric light, were things unknown in Richard Sprague
's time, and not very old when some old Medford
man posed for his picture in Dead-man's alley.
Who was he?
Were he to return today and walk up to the square he
might curiously look at the contents of the old brick distil-house, now a garage.
One tall chimney and ventilators through which rum fumes escaped are gone.
Instead, those of oil and gasoline prevail.
And what would Constable Sprague
say to the display of automobiles now seen across the street from his old house?