- Written by Tony Kelso
- Published: 27 January 2008
In Duxbury of 1870, “speculation was rife in real estate” with the arrival of the French Atlantic Cable on Duxbury Beach and the anticipated arrival of the railroad line to Boston. The wake of the Civil War created the Gilded Age of wealth, power, and capital, and those families who enjoyed the boom needed big estates as emblems of their wealth.
Stephen Allen, a Boston businessman and lawyer, arrived in Duxbury in 1870 and proceeded to buy as much as he could of the old Myles Standish farm and its surrounding neighborhood of Captain’s Hill. According to some old Duxbury families, his wheeling and dealing involved some quickly foreclosed mortgages.
Allen was a self-made man from New Hampshire, who made his fortune largely in Boston real estate. He came to Duxbury to find a summer home and quickly realized the potential for profit in the town’s seaside farms. On the Standish farm overlooking Goose Point Pond and Duxbury Bay, Allen began to feature an old gambrel roofed house on the property as the house built by Alexander, son of Captain Myles Standish.
This promotion of an original Standish house helped further Allen’s real estate schemes. The centerpiece of the development was to be a very tall monument on the crest of Captain’s Hill honoring the Pilgrim captain. Surrounding this was to be a hotel high on the hill with spectacular views of Duxbury Bay, and a steamboat wharf on the backside of the hill for a boat to Provincetown. This steamboat was to be connected by a spur railroad to the main line of the railroad in South Duxbury. At the foot of the hill were to be cottage lot developments that would appeal to well-off Bostonians seeking a summer place. He also convinced the town of Duxbury to sell him 200 acres of what was then viewed as worthless Duxbury Beach for more cottage lots.
On his own estate Stephen Allen built a big barn and a large 15 room summer house with wide surrounding verandahs. “The whole effect is that of free expenditure governed by disciplined taste,” said the OCM.
Unfortunately for Stephen Allen, none of his schemes came to be. The devastating Boston Fire of 1872 created financial havoc for businessmen like Allen. Then shortly thereafter, the Depression of 1873 hit hard all over the country.
Allen was able to sell Duxbury Beach, but much of his other real estate was taken in foreclosures. He nearly lost his crown estate, too, when its taxes went unpaid for five years. The Myles Standish monument sat unfinished as well. From 1872-1898 it was an unfinished stump of a building, only half as tall as it is now.
In 1891 Allen tried one last scheme. He laid out a plan to develop his land into tiny cottage lots with street names for the various Pilgrims, designed to draw interested buyers. Stephen Allen died in 1894 before any of his Duxbury dreams materialized, including the finished monument to Myles Standish.
The Goose Point estate was left to his son Horace. After Horace’s death in 1919, the property passed to his three daughters : Beatrice, Rosamond and Eleanor. In 1939, they took divided the property into three parts.
Beatrice Allen inherited 35 acres including Goose Point Pond and the old gambrel roofed house. Sadly, in 1943 she died suddenly in a diabetic coma while alone in the Alexander Standish house. Her husband, David Patten, in the 1950s and 1960s developed the Allens Lane-Goose Point Lane neighborhood. He kept approximately 15 acres, which is now the recently sold 10 million dollar estate.
Rosamond Allen received about 12 1/2 acres, and moved her family’s former barn, by then changed into a garden guest house, onto her portion of the estate. In 1980 she left her beloved Duxbury estate to the regional Unitarian Church association for a retreat house. It is now known as Cedar Hill.
Eleanor Allen was infrequently in Duxbury but retained great affection for the town despite her long absences. She was a lawyer for The Hague for many years and left her portion to the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society in 1980.
It is tempting to imagine what Stephen Allen would think of the record-breaking sale of part of his estate. The Gilded Age mindset ferverently believed development was good, since it was seen as leading to social benefits, so my guess is that he would highly approve.