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The Friends of the Middleborough Public Library

History of Parking Lot

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The beautiful old mansion occupied the corner of Peirce and North Main streets for more than a century. [Thompson Collection photo]

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Perhaps the only extant image of the house before its 1881 addition of another story. The grand barn is seen clearly on the left. [Thompson Collection photo]

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This picture, taken from right out front of the Peirce store/former police station and looking west, shows the old Martinique dominating the corner (right) where the current private parking lot for use of library patrons is located . [Thompson Collection photo]

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The old stairs were a noteworthy part of the old house's architecture. This is the only known surviving photograph of the interior of the Martinique. [Thompson Collection photo]

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This 1912 insurance map provides a view of the house and property.

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The beautiful landmark was demolished to make way for a short-lived Gulf gas station. The lot was later reused for a series of restaurants, before being acquired by the Friends of the Middleborough Public Library as a much-needed private parking lot for use by patrons of the library. [Thompson Collection photo]

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Sharing a little bit of history compiled by the Middleborough Historical Museum about the property owned by the Friends of the Middleborough Public Library. Enjoy this article about the buildings and businesses that have existed on the parcel of land located on the corner of North Main Street and Peirce Street.

THE MARTINIQUE HOTEL

[FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE MIDDLEBOROUGH HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION - THE MIDDLEBOROUGH ANTIQUARIAN - JULY, 1983 ]

 

“The picture (here attached) does not do justice to the handsome mansion known in its final days as the Martinique. The home was one of the handsomest in Middleborough and was almost a replica of the fine colonial home of Colonel Peter H. Peirce which was its neighbor on North Main Street and is still standing, beautifully restored by Attorney George C. Decas. In the early 1900’s the house was graced by a sunken garden and there was a large ell on the rear of the house which does not show in the picture (posted here) but contained a separate apartment.

The house was built in 1828 by Major Elisha Tucker for his bride, Sarah Louise, daughter of Major Levi Peirce. One of the show places of southeastern Massachusetts, the house contained seventeen bedrooms, eight baths, twelve fireplaces, and a beautiful winding stairway. Originally a two story building, in 1881 it was raised to three stories. The parlors on the first floor were embellished with intricately carved and gilded rosettes in the white woodwork over windows and doors. Christian doors, having panel crosses, bore Sandwich glass door knobs that also contained crosses. All the windows were fitted with folding inside shutters. In the sunken garden, which extended for some distance on the south side of the house, stood a large wooden telescope that once surmounted Peirce Academy where Professor John Whipple Potter Jenks served as principal.

Professor Jenks married Sarah, daughter of Major Tucker, and went to live in the Tucker residence. The next owner of the homestead was Elish Tucker Jenks, son of the Professor, who was greatly interested in marine subjects. He had a shop on Wareham Street where he made and sold locks for museum cases, his own invention. His son, Elish Tucker Peirce Jenks, was the last of the original family to live in the house. Mr. Jenks married Edith Roberts of Middleborough and they had two children, Barbara and Roger.

Like many of the fine old houses in Middleborough, it deteriorated rapidly as it became too expensive to maintain. In 1922, a block of stores was built on the site of the sunken garden. In 1939, the remainder of the property was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Martin who revived both the exterior and interior and opened a hostelry very appropriately named, “The Martinique.”

 

In 1944, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Campbell became the owners and continued to conduct the inn. The Campbells made two surprising discoveries: in 1953 they uncovered a secret stairway thought to have been used in smuggling slaves from the south. From a second floor closet this tiny hidden stairway led to the attic. In 1959, the workmen uncovered what at first was thought to be a cellar used for holding slaves, but proved to be one of the early cisterns that stored rainwater for use in case of fire.

In 1955, the enormous old barn that had been part of the estate but had been moved to the rear of the next property on Peirce Street, that of George N. Harlow, was razed. In 1956, the Campbells received an offer for the property from the Gulf Oil Company which they accepted and the following year the fine old mansion was razed and a gas station erected on the site. Since that date there have been a succession of gas stations, and small restaurants on the location where once stood one of Middleborough’s finest historic houses.”

[Anonymous. “The Martinique.” Middleborough Antiquarian 22, no. 4 (July 1983): Page 3.]

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