The Endicott Estate: A Gem in Dedham's Rich History
The Endicott Estate has stood on East Street in Dedham for over a century.
The Endicott Estate is currently known for hosting private and public functions like weddings and art shows, but the house itself holds rich history. It is one of the many historical gems of Dedham – and one that could go through some changes very soon.
For over a century, the Endicott Estate has sat before its lush green lawn on East Street covered in welcoming weeping willows, elms and spruces for as far back to the days of when Henry Bradford Endicott was a resident.
According to a document titled Friends of the Endicott Estate, obtained with courtesy of the Dedham Historical Society, “Henry, who was born in the original homestead September 11, 1853, was a typical Horatio Alger type. He entered the business world and built the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Corporation into a multi-million dollar enterprise.”
In 1904, tragedy struck, and the original Endicott Estate was reduced to a pile of ashes after a fire.
The Friends of the Endicott Estate document states: “It is said that Henry took the burning of the homestead as a divine command to rebuild, and rebuild he did, although not without incident.”
Problems began when two of the radiators in the new house failed to be connected, causing a raging river to crash down the main stairway. After this, to the dismay of his neighbors, Henry had his carpenters tear down one end of the house and add another 70 feet.
“Whatever local prestige Henry Bradford Endicott had, it went down the drain with the tearing down of the near finished section of the house when the local citizenry saw the beautiful wall paneling, parquet floors, and elegant woodwork tossed in a pile in the back yard and burned,” according to the document.
The unfinished house was assessed in 1905 and valued at $20,000 – more than $450,000 today.
Henry had two loves in his life. His first wife, Caroline Williams Russell, bore two of Henry’s children; a son named Henry Wendell and a daughter named Gertrude. The two were later divorced, and Henry went on to remarry, his second wife being Mrs. Louise Clapp Colburn.
Mrs. Louise, who was a divorcee herself, had two children from her previous marriage. She had a son named Sam and a daughter named Katherine, and they had their names legally changed to Endicott.
During World War I, Henry was the Food Administrator. According to the Friends of the Endicott Estate document: "This may account for the fact that he tore up the entire lawn on Sanderson Avenue side of this estate to plant potatoes, apparently to demonstrate the need for Victory Gardens."
In 1945, Katherine Endicott, who never married, became the sole proprietor of the Endicott Estate. The house was reassessed and valued at $55,000, or nearly $700,000 in 2011 dollars. When she passed away, she left the house to the town of Dedham.
Katherine Endicott stipulated in her will that the estate be used for educational, civic, and recreational purposes.
Years later, the estate was offered for use as the Governor’s Mansion. Plans were made for Governor John A. Volpe to move into the Endicott Estate with his wife during his term. However, these plans collapsed.
According to an article from The Patriot Ledger dated August 21, 1968: “The cost of rewiring, new plumbing, and a score of other renovations necessary to make the structure a fitting residence for a Massachusetts Governor might go as high as $1,000,000.”
The Endicott Estate was later administered by The Endicott Commission, which was appointed by the Town Moderator, and a volunteer group Friends of the Endicott Estate, founded by Mrs. Virginia Schortmann. Their purpose is to keep the estate decorated and furnished with the help of donations obtained through their many private and public functions.
The town began discussions this year on handing over management of the estate to a private management firm in order to turn a profit on the property. Town officials insist the civic use will continue and Dedham will maintain ownership of the estate.