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Ed Tower's Recollections

Peter Barnicle

Reproduced, with permission, from Treasury of Cohasset History, ed. J. M. Dormitzer (Town of Cohasset, Mass., 2005), pp. 177-179.

“We've been hanging around Cohasset for a long time. Let's see, Ibrook Tower came here around the turn of the century—the eighteenth century—and there have been Towers in town ever since.” Ed Tower knows whereof he speaks. His family has been prominent in town affairs for over 250 years. Tower lives on Ripley Road, in the house where he was born. Until his retirement several years ago, he was associated with the Edward E. Tower Company founded by his grandfather and namesake in 1861. The firm imported natural hair from the Orient for wigs and hair pieces and, with the introduction of permanent waving, went into the beauty salon supply business.

“Across the street, where the Joseph Osgood School [Paul Pratt Library] is now, used to be a corn field. And the area beyond my house, up to Sohier Street, was another corn field. I don't recall who owned the land, but it was leased out to Mr. Barron and the corn was used to feed his cattle on Oaks Farm,” Ed recalled.

“That house on Sohier Street,”" he said with a gesture towards the picture window of his den, and the one across from mine on Ripley Road were originally up on North Main Street, near the triangle where Jerusalem Road cuts off. It was the Wilkins house, and they split it into two parts before moving it. But somebody got his signals crossed and the section supposed to go to Sohier Street wound up on Ripley Road . . . It used to be the Unitarian parsonage,” Tower said.
“My grandfather founded the Cohasset Musical Association back in the 1880s. I suppose you could think of it as the forerunner of the Music Circus,” Ed said as he crossed his legs on a hassock, looking out at the colorful cardinals and other free-loaders flocking to the feeders in the yard. There is a sincere warmth in the quiet enthusiasm he has for the town. After all, as he said, the Towers have been here for quite a spell.

“Ibrook Tower moved here from South Hingham about 1712 and built a house on King Street. It was located just beyond the Getty service station on what is now Route 3A . . . Up until some years ago the outline of the cellar and an old well were still visible,” he recalled. When lbrook Tower came to Cohasset, he [had] one of the King's Grants [rather, one of the early divisions drawn by surveyor Joshua Fisher—ed.] which divided the land . . . among the people of Hingham. Each portion started at the ocean and stretched through the salt marshes, arable farmland, and up the hillside to pasturage and woodland to the west. After a time at King Street, lbrook moved down towards what is now the center of town and built a house on the west side of the Common. The house is presently [1979] the home of Gilbert Tower.

“Let's see now,” Ed said, trying to remember the days of yore. “Where the antique shop [Carousel Antiques] is now—Clarence Patrolia built that for his plumbing shop. The land was vacant for a number of years after they tore down Hanlon's Studios.” Hanlon's Studios was to New England what Sarasota, Florida, is to Ringling Brothers Circus, without the wild animals. The six Hanlon brothers produced pantomines back in the 1880s and thereafter. The studio was used to build and remake the scenery for their productions. Clowns, dancing girls, acrobats, and other cast members rehearsed at the studio during the summer months and went on the road with the show in late September.

“The building where the South Shore Art Center [Adrian Morris Salon] is now—I used to call it the flat-iron building,” Tower said. “That is where Litchfield Express had its offices. A plumber by the name of O’Neill had a shop there, and Hyland-McGaw had a carpenter’s shop.” Next to that building was the railroad station, Ed remembers. “At one time Cohasset was the terminal,” he said. “Then the line was extended to Greenbush and down to Plymouth. I can remember as a kid going to Plymouth, over the North River at Marshfield.” The railroad also maintained a roundhouse where the municipal parking lot is now. Back of that is the building used by the Highway Department [now torn down, next to Garage Teen Center]. That, in days gone by, was Malley's blacksmith shop.

Across from the railroad station, where the Post Office is located, was Dr. Oliver Howe's meadow and beside that was Tilden's stable, according to Ed's recollection. The building now housing the Community Center was at one time Doane’s [Inn]. But that’s from Ed’s father’s time. “There have been a lot of changes during my lifetime,” Ed said, “but the town still keeps its character. Cohasset has been often invaded, but never conquered.”

 From Peter Barnicle, “Ed Tower Has Been Here Quite a Spell,” Cohasset Mariner, December 13, 1979. Reprinted by permission of the Cohasset Mariner.