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16 Water Street

16 Water Street

16_Water

William Foster House, 1833

26 year old William Foster, a carpenter, built a home on Water Street for his new bride, Lydia, in 1833. The Fosters raised 4 children in the house, and the 3rd of them, Lydia S. continued live here for a time after her marriage to William Jones, a Civil War Veteran from Hingham Center.

Constructed in 1830, Water Street was a celebrated thoroughfare because it was geometrically straight, running due north and south, as laid out by surveyors. Gone were the days when Hingham’s roads simply followed winding cart paths. When Lydia S.’s future husband and his company mustered for Boston in 1861, they paraded down Water Street to the harbor from their training grounds in Hingham Center amidst throngs of cheering well-wishers. Perhaps Lydia waved to her beau from an upstairs window, and then whispered a prayer for his safe return.

Following the popular style of the day, Foster built a Greek Revival home, rotating the classic temple shape to put the entrance along the side of the house. He framed the entrance with a two-storey portico. The portico would have been supported by 2 levels of columns and capped with a gable to look like the entrance to a Greek temple. Greek Revivalism was such a rage in Jacksonian America that the style became wholly identified with the young Republic. The porch columns were replaced probably in the late Victorian Era. The upper floor of the portico was converted to a sleeping porch in the early 1900s when doctors began recommending sleeping porches as a cure and preventative for tuberculosis. It definitely worked for the canary bird who lived, and slept, in this sleeping porch for many years.

16 Water Street is currently the home of one of America’s premier bird decoy carvers, Bob Mosher. Decoy carving as an art form is an American invention, perfected by hunters up and down the Atlantic coast in the 18th and 19th centuries. A good decoy set out on a pond during migration seasons could attract dozens of waterfowl. If a hunter made a successful catch, his extra game could be sold to hotels in Boston. A skilled carver like South Hingham’s Joe Lincoln, could eventually leave off hunting altogether and simply sell his carvings to both hunters and collectors who simply appreciated the fine artistry of his decoys.

To learn more about Bob Mosher’s work, contact him at hhdecoys@aol.com.

Other owners of the William Foster House included Fred H. Miller, editor of the Hingham Journal, in the late 1800s, and Ensign and Sarah Gardner, who bought the house in the early 1900s.

Bob Mosher, current owner of the William Foster house, carved this plover in the style of Hingham’s Joe Lincoln, a carver, hunter and award-winning dahlia grower who lived in South Hingham. Joe Lincoln’s decoys are now prized examples of a truly American folk art form.

Bob Mosher, current owner of the William Foster house, carved this plover in the style of Hingham’s Joe Lincoln, a carver, hunter and award-winning dahlia grower who lived in South Hingham. Joe Lincoln’s decoys are now prized examples of a truly American folk art form.

 

A detail from the 1857 map of Hingham showing Water Street running due north and south. The William Foster house is on the left side of Water Street, 4th square from the bottom.

A detail from the 1857 map of Hingham showing Water Street running due north and south. The William Foster house is on the left side of Water Street, 4th square from the bottom.