For the past several weeks, our Spring 2017 Simmons archives intern, Chun Yu Tsui, has been working on re-processing the Ellis & Andrews real estate collection. This collection was donated to the CHC in 1994 by Helen Moulton, owner and president of the Ellis & Andrews real estate firm from 1979-1994.
As part of the re-processing project, Chun Yu has reorganized the first two boxes from the collection; mainly, changing a box of real estate correspondence from chronological order to alphabetical order. Since so many of the letters received by Ellis & Melledge (the original company name) mentioned specific streets and addresses for sale, we thought reorganizing the correspondence alphabetically would be much easier for researchers.
In addition to finding out about the history of the oldest real estate firm in Cambridge, researchers might now be interested in finding information on the history of their home or building lots. The reorganization of the real estate correspondence will now allow researchers to search for their street or address by name.
Below, read about the collection and Chun Yu’s experience reprocessing a huge box of correspondence from 1893-1896.
Background on Ellis & Andrews*
Established in 1888, the firm of Ellis & Andrews was Cambridge’s oldest real estate company. First located at 910 Main Street (now Massachusetts Ave.) in Quincy Square, it was founded by William Rogers Ellis as the Ellis Real Estate & Insurance Company. In 1893, Cambridge native Robert Melledge joined the firm, which was renamed Ellis & Melledge, it moved to the Lyceum Building (now the Harvard Cooperative Society). In 1903 William Ellis died and Melledge extended partnership to Ellis’s son, Benjamin Pierce Ellis. Two years later Benjamin left the company to work independently, and in 1913 Melledge moved his firm to its present location in the Brattle Building at 4 Brattle Street, Cambridge. In 1917 Robert Melledge died and Benjamin Ellis returned to succeed his father. In 1920 he joined Cambridge real estate veteran Edward A. Andrews in business and the firm became Ellis & Andrews. Seven years later Edward Bowditch joined the company as an agent; by 1928 he was a co-owner. Edward Andrews died in 1936, and the firm was subsequently renamed Ellis & Bowditch. His son, Dwight Andrews, continued to work as an agent until he was called to duty in World War II. After the war, Dwight Andrews returned and the firm was again called Ellis & Andrews. In 1955, Andrews became sole owner; in 1961 John Norris joined as a partner; and in 1979 Helen Moulton bought the agency and became the president. The agency lost its independent status when it merged with another firm in 1994.
This is an example of correspondence to Ellis & Melledge from a Cambridge resident, Mrs. Charles Goodhue. In the letter, Mrs. Goodhue writes, “I want a house with 8 or 9 sleeping rooms – including servant’s room.”
The Ellis & Andrews Collection contains both business and personal correspondence from c. 1889 to 1986, with the bulk of the material from 1890-1935. These materials are organized in several individual archival boxes, which are then stored in five larger boxes. The collection contains various forms of printed material, including correspondence (business and personal); interviews from local newspapers; real estate advertisements; sales ledgers; a daybook (business transactions); postcards; invoices; and notes on a history of the Ellis-Andrews Insurance Agency.
The files of a personal nature contain correspondence between Edward and Elizabeth Andrews, and information on the estate of Edward Andrews. Biographical information (including obituaries) can be found on William Rogers Ellis, Benjiman P. Ellis, Robert J. Melledge, and Edward A. Andrews. There are also two files on Dwight Andrews which contain a variety of materials, but most of the information is from the 1980s.
This is an example of correspondence to Ellis & Melledge from a Cambridge resident. The resident writes, “I wouldn’t advise being too stiff on prices for rooms. Don’t refuse a reasonable offer from good man.”
This example of correspondence to Ellis & Melledge from W.A. Mason & Son shows the scenario of three surveyors measuring distances for engineering work, indicating how the city of Cambridge was developed in the late 19th century.
Reorganizing the Collection
The “Scope and Content” note in the original finding aid created by Matthew Hall in April 1995, and reformatted by Megan Schwenke in April 2012, only describes one of the small document boxes located in one of the collection’s five huge white storage boxes. Therefore, apart from double-checking the box that was already processed, five weeks ago I as an intern started sorting through another box of documentation and correspondence from the collection, marked “1893-1896”. Those materials were originally sorted by year, but this form of arrangement might not be very helpful for researchers to find the desired documentation, especially for this box containing materials only within such a short period. With the guidance given by my supervisor, I decided to alphabetize the correspondence by address in order to foster easy searching, and then to rearrange the series and update the finding aid accordingly. Unfortunately, I could not finish processing everything in that box before the end of my internship, since that box contains too much documentation, many of it written in illegible or complex handwriting. Yet, this valuable experience really opens my eyes to approaching archival materials in the late 19th century.
This business postcard shows notes from W.A. Mason & Son, located in Central Square, Cambridge, a civil engineering and surveying company which Ellis & Melledge partnered with in the late 19th-century.
Click the following text to open the Ellis & Andrews Collection finding aid. Please note: this collection is currently being reprocessed, and the finding aid linked here may not be the most recent version. The collection is still open for research, however, so please contact the Archivist for more information.
*The background and collection notes are taken from the collection finding aid.