Ashley Street New Bedford

New Bedford Streets; A Piece of Americana: Ashley Boulevard


In this installment we will delve into the background of Ashley Boulevard, particularly because it was requested by a reader. I’d again like to re-iterate the importance of reader feedback, correction, and contributions. By all means, let us make this an open discussion to keep the “wiki” accurate. To our more informed readers, and local historians the answer is perhaps an obvious one, however to be sure I had to rule out and other “Ashleys.” Let’s take a detective type of ride through the process of elimination.

The earliest mention in the region of an Ashley that I could find in the historical record was that of Edward Ashley who arrived the region in approximately 1628 and started a trading post in Penobscot, Maine on the George’s River, in what is now Thomaston. An interesting character, William Bradford mentions that he “…lived among the Indians as a savage and went naked amongst them and used their manners, in which time he got their language.” However, he is ruled out because there is no mention of his ever marrying or having children and he was arrested for dealing guns and ammunition to Amerindians…not exactly the type of person to create honorifics for.

From this date onward there are a number of Ashleys mentioned mainly in Plymouth Colony (Rochester and Freetown), Boston and Maine. Most likely the ancestors of the Ashleys that we have in the region today, originated with Joseph and Elizabeth Ashley who settled in Springfield in approximately 1639. The Ashleys that spread through the region did not make it to New Bedford proper before 1790 as they do not show up on the census.

The first mention of an Ashley in New Bedford after the 1790 census is that of Joshua Bishop Ashley, son of John Sherman, born in Rochester in 1820. Joshua Ashley married a Susan Sanderson and they had many children that were born here in New Bedford. Joshua Ashley is the Ashley in the name of the firm Brownell, Ashley & Co, “…manufacturers of fine grades of carriages of all varieties, excepting coaches.” which was started in 1848. This business was located on numbers 24 to 38 Fourth Street. Here is the beginning of the Ashley family name’s journey to prominence.

Mayor Charles S. Ashley unveiling of the Whaleman Monument – 1913 (Courtesy of the NB Whaling Museum)

One of approximately nine of Joshua and Susan Ashley’s children, Charles Sumner Ashley was born in New Bedford on September 5, 1858. Here we have our “culprit.” Charles graduated from Parker School and Friends Academy. Instead of heading to college as his parents wished, Charles had business ambitions and was involved in many business ventures including Covell & Ashley on Purchase Street, dealing in produce and general goods and Ashley & Pierce Clothing & Furnishing Goods on 72-74 William Street.

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About Joe Silvia

When Joe isn't writing, he's coaching people to punch each other in the face. He enjoys ancient cultures, dead and living languages, cooking, benching 999#s, and saving the elderly, babies and puppies from burning buildings. While he enjoys long walks on the beach, he will not be your alarm clock, because he's no ding-a-ling.

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  1. I was born and raised in New Bedford so I think I can make some corrections – First of all – the “Lincoln Laundromat” was the Lincoln Pharmacy – and although I am not positive about this – it was run by a pharmacist by the name of Charles Sharrick (sp?) whose son, Steve later served on the New Bedford City Counsel.

    I also think you way off on the date the Abraham Lincoln School opened – since I graduated high school in 1978 and always remember the Lincoln School being open.. I started school in 1965 so that date of 1989 is definately wrong. If I am not mistaken, my late grandmother who was also born in New Bedford in 1905 told me she went to Lincoln School (as well the Hosea M. Knowlton School) when she was a little girl. (I dare you to tell me who Hosea M. Knowlton was and where the school was).

    Now you state the Charles S. Ashley School was built in 1898 – the Lincoln School was of similar construction – therefore I am hoping your list is just a typo and Lincoln School was built around the same time. I have been inside each of theses schools and it is a shame they are tearing these beautiful buildings down to replace them cheap construction that will NEVER survive 100 years like these did. I think Ashley School and the Carlos Pacheco School on Mt. Pleasant Street are the last of these beautiful old schools still in operation.

    • Lincoln Pharmacy was originally on the East side of Acushnet Avenue south of Coggeshall street, Charles Sharek his father started the Lincoln Pharmacy. Because of the highway I-195 the pharmacy was knocked down and Mr. Sharek built the Lincoln Pharmacy on Ashley Blvd. his son Charles ran the pharmacy.

  2. Thank you for the corrections Michele. I will correct the dates on the opening of the Lincoln School. The Lincoln Laundromat mentioned in the timeline is what the building is currently today. I didn’t do a history of the building since it changed so many hands over the years and would go beyond the scope of the article.

    It is not a typo, but is simply incorrect. The fault is entirely mine. As I state at the beginning of the article, we would appreciate input exactly like yours to correct it. For some of the sources it is difficult to find a second or third source to confirm and validate it. So anecdotal evidence is important. This is a community, and the more input from knowledgeable people like yourself, the better!

    Hosea M. Knowlton held a few positions. He was a director of the Citizen’s National Bank on 36 North Water Street that was incorporated in 1875. He was also an attorney for the New Bedford Cooperative Bank, organized in 1881, and a member of the New Bedford Board of Trade also on North Water Street (33) organized in 1884. He was also a director for the Edison Electric Illuminating Company organized in 1884, a D.A. and Attorney General. A very busy man indeed!

    All I know of the school is that it was in Ward 1-2 on the corner of Purchase and Coggeshall Streets. If you know more, please share!

    • Do you have any information about 364 Ashley Blvd which is now Bay State Window and Door? My family has owned that building and business for 60+ years. We often talk about the many businesses it once was from beauty salon to pizza parlor to variety store….. I’ll ask my Dad what he recalls.

      • All I know is that the building was erected circa 1920. Beyond that, there isn’t much. I’ll dig a little and see if I can’t find some more.

      • I can tell you that the variety store which I’m told was in the north section of that building (366 Ashley Blvd?) had been owned/run by my grandfather, Roger C. Marlow. (That’s about all I know; this was some years before my time). I think that this was sometime in the late 1920s to early 1940s. Also, the building which is now Tedeschi at 450 Ashley Blvd (not 453; I checked on the Tedeschi web site) was originally built as a Shell service station. I vaguely remember it being built, but I don’t remember what was there before.

    • Hosea M, Knowlton was also district attorney in the inquest into the Borden Murders and tried to prove Lizzie Andrew Borden guilty of the murders I=of her father and step-mother…I’ve got to get off this site!!! I have a very early doctor’s appt. for chemo tomorrow! but this is fun!!!!!!!!!!!! be back tomorrow!

  3. Debra L Roderiqus

    The Knowlton School was located where Haydon-MacFadden is now. According to my Husband the Knowlton School burnt down between 1963-1965, when a student broke into the school and set it on fire.As far as the Lincoln School goes (I attended 1963-1969) My 89 year old Father went there as well as his 112 year old Aunt, so I Know it was built before 1910.I really enjoy your articles on New Bedford History!

    • I went to Knowlton School and remember it being burned down .. area kuds were bused down to South end schools. We took buses that picked us up behind the car barn on Welds/State St.

      I was born in 1964 so the date it burned down that was around 64 has to be wrong. It was more around 1971 – 72

  4. Jeanine Gendron Gawthrope

    Thank you so much for doing this. I was born and raised in NB. My mother and I both attended Charles S. Ashley School 27 years apart. We had the same 1st grade teacher, Miss Finnell.
    All these years I just assumed that Ashley Boulevard was named after the same man who was once Mayor Ashley. Live and learn.
    BTW the maple trees planted around the school were put in by my grandfather Leonide Trudelle. He and his crew planted them one Arbor Day while my mother was attending school there. They had the children come out for a ceremony. She was so proud. That would have been 1930 – 1937. My nieces and nephews are all Ashley School alum. I remember referring it to Ashcan School. HaHa

  5. Thank you Debra and Jeanine for taking the time to read the article, comment, and help us make this more accurate. Debra, I added your husband’s anecdote about the Knowles School. In light of the comments about the Lincoln school I placed the date circa 1908. Since we know it was there BEFORE 1910, and the architect who built it, Louis E. Destremps moved to New Bedford in 1905, I think circa 1908 gives him 3 years to design the school and be built. Make sense?

    Jeanine, you were correct, it was named after Mayor Ashley. Thanks for the history on the planting of the trees and ESPECIALLY the Ashcan School reference. That is just a piece of Americana you won’t come across in academic books.

    • attended knowlton school in 1968, school burnt down half way through my 1st grade year. all students were relocated to surrounding schools, I went to Acushnet elemenrty school, my brother went to Carney Academy..

      • Thomas Fitzgerald

        I think you are the closest to the correct date. i was bused to Donaghy School and my sister was bused to Green School. We would catch the bus on Cedar Grove street just above the Fire Station. I would say you are right.

  6. Thanks for sharing Maria!

  7. What about Yvette’s? No mention of it?

  8. Hi Anthony! Alas, I am only one man. I pre-empt each article with a disclaimer and a request that people, share, add, and correct. I’d much rather have a dialogue instead of talking at people. By all means, share any anecdote or info you have on Yvette’s!

  9. My question is why are you referring the NB Voke prior to building the new school in 1977. The school was previously located at 181 Hillman St not on Ashley Blvd. The new school was built on land that had been part of Pine Grove Cemetery.

    • Correct.I was going to write the same thing.I graduated from voke tech in ’81’ and i know it was built on a swampy part of Pine Grove cemetery and that’s part of the reason they sold it off to build the school.

  10. Do you know when Normands Meat Market opened? I was shocked when I heard it closed down recently. I think Sowle The Florist has been there for many years. Does anybody remember Fay’s Variety, Bob’s Barbershop and Scottie’s Variety had tons of penny candy.

  11. Hi Ray! Normand’s Meat Market was established in Massachusetts in 1964 and incorporated in 1983. A lot of people were shocked when the NB staple closed as it seemed so sudden.

    I personally do not recall Fay’s or Bob’s, but Scottie’s sounds vaguely familiar.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  12. Scotties was on the corner of Davis and Ashley. Bob the barber was right across the street from St Killians church and Fays was on the next block north across from where the “old St Killians school” was, which is now the parking lot.

  13. Ah, I see. I think that was a little out of my “hood” having grown up near the old Kinyon Campbell school, Bob & Eileen’s, Mitchell’s Fish & Chips area. Thanks for the info!

  14. scott vurpillatte

    Hey Joe, how are you?
    I would like to see you do an article, on the history of the Frates Bottle. I think this place was, and still is, an icon in NB.
    I had the pleasure of buying and remodelling this building a few years back, and the history of this building is awesome. Ty

  15. How about a history of How Ashley Blvd became Ashley Blvd. at one time it was called Bodwich St. where did the name Bodwich St. come from?

  16. Hi Leonce! I believe you are talking about Bowditch Street? You are 100% correct. I recall images of rows of houses and I am positive that both Spinner and the Whaling Museum have images of these houses on their Flickr accounts.

    IIRC, these were housing for one of the Grinnell Mills. These mills and housing took up a few city blocks on Logan Street and there may have been some other housing on North Front and Kilburn Streets. I believe the mills “sprawled” to Coggeshall Street as well – though this isn’t the mill and housing in the images I am thinking of. Anyhow, that’s a digression.

    Bowditch Street was renamed sometime circa 1917, I believe. I am not 100% sure, but believe it was named in tribute to Mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838) who was born in “nearby” Salem, MA. He spent much of his life’s work contributing to maritime navigation (much of which is still in use today) which has its obvious connection to whaling in New Bedford.

    Thanks for reading!

  17. Hey Joe,I just would like to say,I enjoy your page very much,and that for one person,I think your doing a great job. Thank you Joe.

  18. Hi Jane! Thanks a ton for reading and taking the time out to comment. It’s great for morale! 😉

  19. Having grown up in New Bedford Mass, and being away for 20 years, this is very interesting! 🙂

  20. Does anyone recall an ice cream store that was next to the BPM downtown.
    It was operated by a Greek family that made great Easter chocolate items.
    Today that block house’s the Exploratorium.

  21. Hi. What information does anyone have on Fay’s Variety? Was it owned and operated by the same group that ran Fay’s Liquor North and Fay’s Liquor South, was distributor of Narragansett Beer, and owned first auto distributorship in NB? Any information is appreciated.

  22. Meredith Bailey

    Hello; thanks for this article – it’s a great bit of history. I can supply some additional information that indicates that one branch of the Ashley family, at least, was established in the Dartmouth area well prior to 1790.

    The earliest record I have of the Ashleys in this area is Joseph Ashley (son of William Ashley, who was the Constable of Wells, Maine), who was born in 1677 and who married Elizabeth Percival of Sandwich/Barnstable on 05 August 1704 in Falmouth. They had 6 children (who survived to adulthood, at least: Thomas, Jethro, William, Elizabeth, Abraham, and Mary) and resided in Rochester (Not Springfield. So far as I have seen, the Springfield Ashleys began with Robert Ashley before January 1638; he did have a son named Joseph born in the 1650s; Joseph married a Mary Parsons, not Elizabeth).

    Abraham Ashley (c. 1715 – 05 July 1781, son of Joseph and Elizabeth) was a farmer and a blacksmith who fought in the French and Indian War, and who wed Rebecca Whitredge in Rochester in 1736. His residence is described as being situated on “the cross road leading from Morton Road to Braley Road, Freetown, MA.” I’m sorry to say I did not record the source of this information, however, it does generally fit with the position of Ashley Cemetery, which is on North Avenue, directly east of the intersection with Morton Road. I also do not have a full list of their children, however, one son, Percival, was born in 1740.

    Percival Ashley, (d. 13 January 1822) is buried in the Ashley Cemetery on North Avenue in Rochester. He married Ann Bishop (1745 – 13 April 1788) on 07 August 1761; she is buried in Ashley Cemetery with her husband. Percival, along with his cousin Abraham (or “Abram”) (son of William, son of Joseph, I believe, although I have not researched it), both served in the Continental Army as Privates under Captain Levi Rounsevill. Rounsevill’s militia was the only group of Freetown to respond to the “Lexington Alarm” on 19 April 1775. Levi Rounsevill is buried in Rounsevill Cemetery in Freetown, and Abraham Ashley is buried in Crapo Cemetery, also in Freetown.

    There are several extant documents related to the military service of Percival, Abraham, and other relatives, Michael, John, Simeon, and Joseph Ashley. Percival was a Private in the 10th Massachusetts Regiment under Colonel Thomas Marshall, in Captain Amasa Soper’s Company. Percival enlisted 22 May 1777 for a term of 3 years, and there are various minor mentions of him over that period. In these documents, his name has a few variant spellings such as Parsifal or Parcifull, although “Passavil” puzzled me until I realized it was the phonetic spelling of the classic New England R-dropping accent, recorded some 230 years ago.

    Percival and Ann Bishop Ashley had 9 children between 1762 and 1785 (John, Hannah, Percival, Abraham, Jethro, James, Mary, Simeon, and Bishop). Here, my information focuses only on Hannah, who wed Elijah Parker of Freetown in 1781, and so I’m afraid I have no additional research on the male Ashley lines for the post-Revolution period, however, based on the reuse of the names (Joshua, Bishop) they are almost certainly related to the Ashleys mentioned in your article. It is likely that one of Percival’s sons or grandsons moved south from the family’s holdings in Rochester/Freetown into New Bedford proper; this is also likely why they do not appear in New Bedford records until after 1790.

    To finish off the regional history, Hannah Ashley and Elijah Parker’s daughter, Hannah Parker (1794 – 18 October 1889) wed Micah Spooner (21 June 1789 – 22 Sept 1848) of New Bedford on 11 October 1811. Micah Spooner is buried in Acushnet Cemetery. There is a worn headstone next to his on which only “wife of…” is legible, but I believe this may be the grave of Hannah Parker. Their daughter, Adeline Spooner, remained in New Bedford her whole life, married to Albert Swift Morse. Albert and Adeline’s daughter Hannah, however, left the area shortly after the end of the Civil War, and moved to Littleton, New Hampshire, with her new husband Nelson Parker, where she died in 1920.

    Hope this helps to shed a little light on the area history!
    Cheers, M.A.B.

    • Meredith Bailey

      Ah, minor correction/addition to the above: Joseph Ashley and Elizabeth Percival has 7 children, not 6. I neglected to list their final son, Joseph. He also married an Elizabeth; Elizabeth Swift.

  23. I’m pretty sure the date you have for Patnaude’s Aquarium is wrong; I’m sure it was open on the boulevard before 1984, as I had been going there for at least several years prior to that. Mrs. (Jeanne) Patnaude’s obituary says she & her husband founded it in 1946 (although I can’t say for sure that it was always on the boulevard.)

    I’m guessing the 1984 date was for the warehouse building in back that eventually burned down. The retail store in that rebuilt building had originally shared space with Patnaude Insurance in that little green building in front.

    • Much appreciated Dennis! This is exactly what I hoped would come out of some of these articles. Many people are incredibly knowledgeable of local history. I’m glad you shared.

  24. The Hosea M. Knowlton School was indeed located on the block surrounded by Purchase St., Coggeshall St., County Street, and Cedar Grove Street, where the current Hayden McFadden school is located. It was actually situated on the more Northern Side of the lot, as opposed to the southern side where the school is now. That area was a huge playground, which stretched all the way to the firehouse. It did not burn down until 1972 – I attended Knowlton from Kindergarten (starting in 1965) until 3rd grade. I then went to Immaculate Conception School for one year (until the diocese pulled all of our nuns and closed the school). I then returned to Knowlton for fifth grade. It was Mother’s Day eve when the school burned down. I remember this very clearly because I did then and still do live just 2 blocks up the hill from the school. My parents had gone to a Mother’s Day Dance that night and came hoe early because they heard about the fire. I remember standing on our front porch feeling the heat of the fire – it was the largest fire I have ever witnessed. _ To my cousin-in-law Michelle who has also posted on this thread – your father in law – my Uncle Roger one of New Bedford;s finest firefighters was on duty that night – manning a hydrant one block away from our house – I remember my grandmother making him a sandwich and coffee and my Dad bringing it down to him because he could not leave his post.

    After the fire all of the students were bussed to various schools throughout the city. We all gathered underneath the 195 overpass on Cedar Grove Street – where we were separated by class and sent out. My mother and several other mother’s initially volunteered their time to make sure this students were safe and got on the proper buses. In September, the school department began to pay them to do that job, thus the beginning of monitors for school buses in New Bedford. My class were transferred to the Donaghy School (now closed) in the South End of New Bedford, while my brother went to the Mount Pleasant School (now the Carlos Pacheco School).

  25. Just notice a typo in my post – Knowlton School burned down in 1971 – not 1972.
    Also I am not sure what year Knowlton was built but my grandmother, who was born in 1905 also attended school there.

  26. Vincent Johnson

    Just to confirm the year of the burning of Knowlton School. I attended the 5th and 6th grades at this school in the years of 65 & 66. At that point it was still standing. Therefore it was after 1966 and not 1964 as recorded above..
    Thanks Joe for bringing memories of our city back to the surface of our aging minds.

  27. All this history about Ashley Blvd. and no mention of Thad’s Steak House? I just figured it deserved recognition as it was one of the main staples to go for wedding receptions and a good prime rib 🙂

  28. Thomas Fitzgerald

    I have read many different dates on the Knowlton school burning. I remember having to catch the bus on Cedar Grove street to go to Donoghy school for 5-6 grades when all the children of that school was sent to other schools in the city. I had the date at about 1968-1970 the latest. Again from memory, which I admit, seems to be different with many of us who are enjoying reading this site. I would love to see an actual article and maybe it will be a future trip to the main library. Enjoy reading all the comments.

  29. Wow i remember some names posted here (vincent johnson ),yes i went to knowlton school from kindergarton to 6th grade the kindergarden teacher was Helen c. Porter &the schools principal was Theresa m. Wilson.

  30. Why wasn’t Yvette’s not mentioned? I miss that place the most. I think it’s where Slade’s Ferry Bank is at now

  31. Jeanne W, Swiszcz

    Am enjoying information about Ashley Blvd which was once Bowditch St.
    I remember the businesses from Glennon St. to Query Street opposite Lincoln School from 80 years ago

  32. Anyone recall Pete melanson’s variety store on Ashley Blvd.? (north end across from brooklawn park). Penny candy an a soda fountain.

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