The F. H. Newton Company was founded in 1915 by Frederic Huntington Newton of West Roxbury. The company manufactured doors and door frames, windows, medicine cabinets, porch rails and other woodworked architectural features. While its main offices were located near Boston’s Haymarket, at the corner of Portland St. and Sudbury St., the company’s workshop and warehouse buildings can still be found on Cameron Ave. along the border of Somerville and Cambridge.
Frederic Newton was born in Roxbury in 1865. He had light brown hair, hazel eyes and a prominent nose. His parents, Robert and Bridget Newton, were Irish immigrants and had lived for a time in Canada, where they delivered Frederic’s older brother John. In 1892, Frederic, about age 27, was married to Frances Haigh, herself born in England but raised in the United States. Frederic and Frances had three children: Elliott, Philip and Dorothy. Their first child, Elliott Haigh Newton was born in 1893, but died three years later from diphtheria, a leading cause of childhood death in the US before widespread immunizations became available in the 1920s. In 1907, The Newtons donated a stained glass window, Christ and the Children, to Emmanuel Episcopal Church in West Roxbury in Elliott’s memory. Today, it is among the oldest windows in the church. Frederic and Frances died months apart in 1950 – he went first in April, with his wife following in August. Services for both were held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Philip took over the business after his father’s death, retiring in 1962.
Fires were a typical occurrence in the early 1900’s and the F. H. Newton warehouses were the site of two widely reported fires. The first, in 1917, drew fire engines from Somerville, Cambridge and Arlington and took over an hour and a half to put out. The fire, likely started by a workman’s discarded cigar, caused an estimated $20,000 in damages. It threatened nearby houses as well as the neighboring M. R. Carr Jewelry Manufacturing company but was extinguished before it could spread. Fire broke out again in 1930, this time costing $100,000 in damages and taking the life of a Cambridge fireman. While fighting the blaze, Thomas J. King collapsed from exhaustion and suffered a brain contusion in the fall. He was taken to Cambridge City Hospital but did not survive his injuries. King was 54 at the time of his death and had been a Cambridge firefighter for 24 years. Another man, a spectator who was struck by a falling timber, was also taken to Cambridge City Hospital. The burning warehouse gave off sparks and embers that were carried by the winds to nearby rooftops. Fire spread to several homes in the neighborhood across Cameron Ave. as well as a passing freight car – tying up street and train traffic and adding to the firefighters work. Drifting embers even ignited a Cambridge fire engine that had reported to the scene, necessitating that the firemen turn their hoses upon their own vehicle.
The F. H. Newton Company has a predecessor in the Jackson and Newton Company, whose warehouse was located across town on McGrath Highway. The company was founded in 1894 and named for Frederic Newton and his business partner Henry Webster Jackson. Jackson’s father Jacob gave his occupation as “moulder” and seems to have passed along the woodworking trade to his son. Henry Jackson’s son, Ernest Webster Jackson also entered the business (joining in 1915). Although Frederic left the company in 1915, his brother-in-law James R. Haigh continued on with the business and in 1928 led the firm in a merger with two other corporations. The newly formed Brockway-Smith-Haigh-Lovell Company took up offices in Charlestown and continues on today as BROSCO (Brockway-Smith Company) in Wilmington, Mass. The F. H. Newton Company did not enjoy the same longevity, however. In 1964, following an apparent bankruptcy, its remaining inventory was sold off at a public auction.