The Page House

The Page House has been home to quite a variety of people through the centuries. The original owner and builder was Jeremiah Page, a brick maker who lived there from 1754 until his death in 1806. He fought in the American Revolution as well as serving Danvers as a selectman. It was Jeremiah Page who declared, “no tea would be drunk in his house”, whereupon his wife invited her lady friends up to the roof, saying, “Upon a house is not within it.” This event is immortalized in a poem by Lucy Larcom called A Gambrel Roof. Read more about the accomplished Women of the Page House

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Jeremiah’s son John took over the family business, and also served in the General Court from 1823 until 1833. He and his wife, Mary Fowler Page, and their nine children, lived in the Page house in the early 1800’s. John’s son John C. became the most notorious resident as he and a gang attempted to rob the Village Bank, next to the house, when it was located on Elm Street. The attempted robbery failed and his father found him lying shot to death on the front lawn of his home. (These facts are disputed by historian Richard Zollo who felt that it was a prank gone very wrong.)

Probably the most influential person to occupy the house was Anne Lemist Page, born in 1828, the third generation Page to live there. She was a forerunner in educating kindergarten-aged children and used the Froebel method in the 1860’s. Miss Page believed in teaching in an atmosphere of discovery, growth and warmth, a very different approach in that era. Although many of us think phonics is a 20th century innovation, she taught that method through rhyming songs. Her philosophy on teaching became so popular that she began training young women to become teachers. One of her teacher training students was Annie Mosely Perry who founded the Perry Normal School. At the age of 69, Miss Page, not satisfied with what was available for young children, came out of retirement and opened a free kindergarten. She also served on the Danvers School Committee.

The Danvers Historical Society acquired the Page House, originally sited on Elm Street, in 1914. Fortunately for Danvers, the Society saved the house from being razed as stated in the will of Anne Page. She requested that the house be demolished to avoid it falling into disrepair. The Society went to court to change her will and was able to purchase the house with the promise that it would preserve the property. The historical society held its meetings at the Page House until Tapley-Memorial Hall was built next door in 1930.

The Ten Footer

Mrs. Day’s Ideal Baby Shoe Company began in Putnamville in a little shoe shop or “ten footer” around the turn-of-the twentieth century.  In 1857 William Dougherty a shoe cutter paid Aaron Putnam, a shoe manufacturer, $234 for land at 176 Locust Street where he built his home and shop. In 1900 he and his wife Eliza gave their daughter Helen Florence Dougherty the property who two years later sold it for $1 to Arthur E. Day, probably a relative.

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The shop was moved from that location in 1926 to Mrs. Day’s newly remodeled Marston factory on Locust Street, next to the central fire station.  It was moved from there (date unknown) around the corner to Butler Street when additional office space was needed.  In 1945 Mrs. Day sold the Ideal Baby Shoe Company, but remained an active director.  The new owners were Paris S. and Grace H. (Neston) McCutcheon as president and vice-president respectively. It is probable that at that time the shop was remodeled to its present form. The McCutcheon’s nephews, James and Robert McGinnity joined the business after World War II. In 1974, the McGinnity brothers gave the shoe shop to the Danvers Historical Society.  The Society moved it to Glen Magna Farms where it was restored by Max Berry and officially dedicated in 1982. In 1996 the Society made the decision to move it to the rear of the Jeremiah Page House on Page Street and this was accomplished in the spring of 1997.

Historical Society member Warren Hooper once worked at the Ideal Baby Shoe Company and recorded his memories of its history of how the baby shoe came into existence: He states that Mrs. Day worked in a leather shop making handbags and as was usual she brought home leftover leather scraps of material that they were working on and used them to make hand sewn moccasins for babies and sold them. A newspaper article indicates that she: “first conceived of the idea of making these little shoes and started in a small way, employing only three hands and operating two or three machines which her brother had left there. She used a one-half horse power motor and did most of the work herself for nearly two years.” At first she sold only to shoe stores and then she was instrumental in introducing the concept of baby shoes to department stores. Hooper tells us, “the business became so successful that she couldn’t keep up with the demand and hired some “local ladies who could fancy stitch expertly to help out.”

In 1922 Mrs. Day conceived the idea of making lasts designed to properly fit both the right and left foot and established standard sizes. This innovation gave the concern a long-time slogan “The Shoe of the Baby Determines the Foot of the Adult.” Mrs. Day’s innovation paid off and demand for her shoes kept climbing.

Mrs. Day had a wonderful flair for publicity and knew how to sell her product. In 1934 when the Dionne Quintuplets were born, [Mrs. Day] had five pairs of tiny booties made up and sent to Mrs. Dionne as a present. She also manufactured thousands of miniature booties and sold them to florists across the country. The florists included them in bouquets and plants sent to new mothers. Long after the blossoms faded, the tiny shoes became a pin to be worn or saved as a precious memento. Other famous wearers who wore her shoes were the babies of Queen Juliana of Holland, President Wilson’s first grandchild and Queen Elizabeth. ~~ Priscilla Curda