O.S. Blakeman & The Monroe Center Green
All for his love of the Monroe Center Green – O. S. Blakeman (1908)
Hello once again Monroe history lovers. I think we’ve been at this long enough now for me to comfortably share a little habit of mine. I sense, or at least I’m hopeful, that this is something you can relate to. If so, I invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment. I think it’s safe to say that we all share a love of our small town. Me? Well, I’m just silly about the place – or so I’ve been told by others.
As for that little habit of mine; whether I’m driving on the west or east side of town, regardless of the purpose for the drive, I’ll always deliberately alter my route to drive by our nearest town green – especially at night when the experience takes on another energy altogether. It’s both beautiful and oddly haunting. You can feel the history in the air when you’re near our greens. Have you ever paused to consider just how blessed we are to live in a small southern New England town with two greens, both surrounded by historic homes and two historic houses of worship each? Surely, I’m not alone in my appreciation.
For this week’s post, we’re going back 115 years to reference a relatable story that was published in the Newtown Bee on this very date in 1908. The story highlights an East Village resident by the name of Oliver Somers Blakeman. O.S., as he was known by friends and family, was a humble and well-respected man about town, and especially within the East Village District. He wasn’t one who was inspired by attention seeking antics, yet you could always count on him doing something noteworthy or of value to his community. The following history is but one such example.
O.S. lived on the east side of Barn Hill Road near the summit. The address of his home today is 218 Barn Hill Road. When originally purchased, his home was a typical example of a Federal Style Colonial, very similar to countless others dotting our landscape. But that wouldn’t do for Oliver. He was a man with an impressive combination of imagination and action, and he set about devising a plan to embellish his home with Victorian era flair. When his architectural vision was finally realized, his remodeled home was transformed into one of the finest mansions in all of Monroe. So spectacular was its sight near the summit of Barn Hill that Oliver was inspired to name his home, Summit.
Oliver’s home still maintains the same Victorian touches he applied over a century ago, including a spacious veranda, dormers, a hip roof and a unique fenced in observation platform that afforded near 360 degrees of unobstructed viewing pleasure. Everything was near perfect, except for one nagging detail that had yet to be addressed. Oliver loved the Monroe Center Green and there was a house opposite his newly appointed mansion that was blocking his view of it. Luckily, Oliver also owned the property and home standing between him and his desired view. He got right to work and tore down the ell on the old house as well as the other buildings on the property. These actions cleared the way for him to uproot and move the offending house to the north and west, thus opening a direct view to Monroe Center. Mission accomplished!
Take a moment and picture the scene in your mind’s eye. There’s Oliver, sitting atop his observation platform as the sun sets on a pleasant evening in 1908, his eyes peering out to the southwest across the sun-kissed Hurd’s Brook valley and beyond to the church spires and lights surrounding the Monroe Center Green. In every direction, he was king of all he surveyed. Oh, I like this guy’s style. I like it a lot. What a privilege it must have been to enjoy such staggeringly beautiful vistas at a time when all the surrounding farmlands were cleared of any trees to obstruct one’s view. I wish I could have sat beside him, if only once, to take it all in. Simply glorious! Take a drive over and see Oliver’s house for yourself and be sure to drive by one of both of our greens on your way. You won’t regret it.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s historic profile of Oliver Somers Blakeman, his grand mansion and his love of the Monroe Center Green. I honestly couldn’t wait to share this one with you, so please do the same with your family and friends to keep them up to date on Monroe’s rich history as we wind down our Bicentennial year. On a related note, I have a question for you. How are we doing? Are you enjoying stepping back in time and learning these unique histories? By all means let us know in the comments. We’d appreciate it. Thank you. See you here next week.
Historian, Monroe Historical Society
Our Past is Always Present