Merry Christmas from the Houghton & Dutton Co.

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The Manager Houses of Glen Rock Circle

Glen Rock Circle is a small residential circle located at the intersection of Upland Road and Dutton Street in Malden, just to the east of Summer Street and the large Glen Rock property where B. F. Dutton and his children lived. At the time of B. F. Dutton’s death, there were four houses facing immediately on the circle. These are shown on the map here and are labeled as houses #1, #2, #3, and #4.

GlenRock Circle Map

The elderly lady who today lives in house #3 was told when her family bought the house that B. F. Dutton built these four houses for some of the Houghton & Dutton store managers. If he needed to call a meeting of his staff, the managers could come to the main house right away. And looking at the map, one can see that it would be a short walk over to Summer Street and up the Glen Rock driveway to reach B. F. Dutton’s house within minutes.

All four of these houses are still standing today and they are remarkably similar architecturally. Photographs, compliments of neighbor Marilyn Glover, are shown below.

House #1’s address is 33 Upland Road:

GlenRock Circle 1

House #2’s address is 115 Dutton Street:

GlenRock Circle 2

House #3’s address is 43 Upland road:

GlenRock Circle 3

And house #4’s address is 38 Glen Rock Circle:

GlenRock Circle 4

In addition to being large houses, the distinguishing feature of all four is the tower structure that graces one corner. This feature is also seen on several of the Glen Rock houses, including those of Alexander McGregor, Cora (Dutton) Little, and George Dutton, as shown below

The Alexander McGregor house:

Glen Rock Alexander McGregor house2

The Cora (Dutton) Little house, seen from below at the intersection of Summer and Las Casas streets:

CoraDutton House

The George Dutton house, in which the tower is less prominent above a second floor bedroom:

GeorgeDuttonHouseGlenRock

This was obviously a style that was favored by B. F. Dutton and it suggests that all of the houses may have been designed by the same architect.

Interview with Benjamin F. Dutton – Concluded

Interviewer: “Do you think you will have achieved your dream of a department store when the new addition is finished?” [The interviewer refers to the large addition to the Houghton & Dutton store that was made in 1913.]

“No, I don’t think I ever could realize my whole dream of a department store. You see, my dream keeps growing, and I am sure it will keep growing as long as I have health and strength. Yet we have accomplished a great deal. When I think of that old Pavilion Building on Tremont street and look at this building today, running up Beacon street from Tremont to Somerset street, around Somerset street and back into Pemberton square and down Tremont street – well it makes me think we have done pretty well; but there is more to be done, and it isn’t all in the building line either.”

Enlarged Store

That shows spirit, and nerve, and enterprise, when you hear a man 82 years old talk like that.

“I feel,” said he, “that we have kept pace with the growth of the city in our business and with the development of our civilization. Those things won’t stop, you know, and the successful department store of the future must keep pace with the growth and development of the city, which means in this case practically the whole of New England, for our trade extends all over New England.”

It might be supposed from all this that B. F. Dutton is the kind of man who thinks of nothing but business. Far from it. He is a firm believer in recreation of a healthy kind. He had always been famous as a sportsman and a fisherman, and he used to get around the golf links in pretty lively style. He is a crack shot and has always been a great lover of horses. In the days before the automobile came into vogue Mr. Dutton was celebrated for his stable of horses, and he has been up against the best of them on the old Mill dam, when sleighing behind a fast trotter was considered the name of Winter sport. And he has always been a great reader and a lover of good music. He has the happy faculty of being able to throw off the cares of business when he turns to recreation of any kind.  And he has tried to impress the importance of being able to do just this thing on his “boys” – on Harry Dutton, on George C. Dutton and on Alexander McGregor.

“Any man will grow stale and lose his sense of perspective if he thinks of nothing but his business,” said Mr. Dutton.

And another thing that should not be overlooked. He remembers his friends, especially in their “dark days,” and he remembers a good many others in the world on whom fortune has not always smiled, but he does all this sort of thing in his own way and without any flourish of trumpets. He knows how to observe silence on certain things that he cherished in his own heart.

One thing is certain, however, Boston has been enriched through the genius of B. F. Dutton and the enterprise of his “boys,” and from what has been said, it is not difficult to see that his influence has not been confined to his own house: it has extended and ramified in many silent ways into other business houses all over the country. And few will doubt that the dream of a department store which he planned at Hillsboro, N.H., more than 50 years ago has been very largely realized on the corner of Tremont street and Beacon street in Boston, Mass. For this completed store will be one of the handsomest, most commodious and most efficient in the country.

Interview with Benjamin F. Dutton – Part 2

Interviewer: “How about the changes that have taken place in the methods of doing business since you started, Mr. Dutton?”

He laughed and said: “There has been a complete revolution in the methods of doing business. In the old days we simply displayed the goods on a counter as you would at a country fair and the customer came in and looked them over and asked the price. There was very little advertising done. Some of the stores considered it beneath their dignity to advertise. Of course Boston was a much smaller city then than it is today. I think the population of Boston has doubled since 1874. In that time the whole character of our civilization has changed and the department store has had to keep pace with the changes that have taken place. There is more of refinement in the tastes of the mass of the people, due to the broadening of education. The mass of the people wouldn’t buy goods today under the conditions that prevailed in 1874. The appearance of a store today has a great deal to do with its success, but in the old days people cared very little for appearances.”

“Then there are the many little conveniences in the department store today all tending to the comfort and happiness of the customers, especially the women and children. The comfort of the customers was scarcely considered in the old days. They just came in, bought what they wanted, and marched off with the goods. You know a standing joke in the comic papers used to be the woman coming home from shopping with her arms full of bundles and her hat askew. Now, nearly everything is delivered free of charge at the home the day the purchase is made, and the woman shopper goes home in a proper frame of mind and doesn’t have to rest two or three days after her experience on a shopping tour.”

Tired Shopper

“It was the department store that first sensed these conveniences for women shoppers, so that today the fitting up of a big store like ours is of the first importance. The comfort and convenience of the customers have been studied at every point. The business of retailing has become a fine art compared with what it used to be, and I think we all feel better and happier for the change.”

“Why, if you were to speak of having rest rooms, and parlors, and restaurants, and lunch counters, and soda fountains in a store in 1874 people would regard you as insane. I remember when we opened our boot and shoe department: that created as big a furor as the millinery department, and nearly everybody predicted that it would be a failure; and it was the same when we opened the drug department and the grocery department and the furniture department.”

At this point Mr. Dutton had to answer the telephone for a few minutes, and when he was through the writer remarked that the telephone must have been of great assistance in the development of the department store.

“I don’t think we could ever have carried out the idea to its present proportions without the telephone,” was the reply. “In this building, when we will have the addition on the corner of Tremont and Beacon streets completed we will have over eight acres of floor space, and I am in touch with the people in every part of that space right here at my desk, without having to go to them or their having to come to me – all through the telephone, the elevator and the electric light have been tremendous factors in the development of the department store.”

“And, you know, I imagine I see a great change in the people since these things have come into use. The people, as a whole, are quicker and more sensitive than they used to be. I don’t think people waste so much time over trifles as they used to. On the other hand the people are probably more nervous than they were formerly.”

Interview with Benjamin F. Dutton – Part 1

The following excerpt is taken from an article in the Boston Daily Globe printed on November 9, 1913, p. 2, and gives interesting insight into Benjamin F. Dutton’s success and personality. It also inspires an amusing mental image of Houghton & Dutton customers wheeling around downtown Boston in rickshaws!

Mr. B. F. Dutton is 82 years old – going on 83 – but he comes to the store nearly every day and “boxes the compass” for “the boys,” so that there will be no mistake about the navigation of the business. He is still the captain of the ship and he lays out the course to be followed, although he had great confidence in the three other officers, his “boys,” as he calls them. There are two sons, Harry Dutton and George Conant Dutton, the vice presidents of the concern, and his son-in-law, Alexander McGregor, treasurer. He has taught all three of these to navigate the business and they can do it so well that whenever the captain goes away for a week or a month or two months he always finds on his return that the navigating officers have done their work well and perhaps have ventured into an unchartered sea with success.

When asked what he attributed the success of his business mainly to, Mr. B. F. Dutton replied:

“I guess it was due at the beginning to hard work as much as anything else. Mr. Houghton and myself were in the store early and late and looked after everything. We had no buyers at that time. He and I did all the buying. One year I did the whole of it myself. That was one of the hardest years I every put in. “Sam” Houghton was a great buyer though. One year he went on an excursion trip to San Francisco, and when he got there he decided to go to Japan. He sent home a shipload of goods, including some jinrikishas, and the people in the other stores laughed at us. We sold every bit of those goods and at a handsome profit, and we have been sending buyers to Japan ever since. I think we were the first firm to send buyers to Japan annually.”

Rickshaw

“One great reason why department stores have, as a rule, been successful is that they have buyers. They trade very little through jobbers. The buyers go straight to the factories in Europe and buy the goods just as the jobber used to. In fact the department store has hurt the jobbing business more than any other business.”

Interviewer: “Do you think the department store has reached its limit?”

“What do you mean?”

Interviewer: “Is there any possibility of chains of department stores?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t like doing business beyond arm’s length. Sam Houghton had an idea something like that and at one time we had small stores in various parts of the city. But it never paid. I know that the chain store idea has been very successful in some lines, but I don’t believe it could be applied to the real department store. That’s big enough business for anybody just as it is.”

“There is one thing further I would like to say about our own success here. I said that at first it was due to hard work. That is always necessary, but in any business in which you are dealing directly with the public something more is necessary. You must get and retain the confidence of the buying public. That can only be secured by fair and honest dealing with the public at all times. You must be consistent in it, for the public is sensitive on that point. It is only carrying out the policy of the best country stores where all met on common footing and every man knows every other man’s business, and where common honesty and fair dealing is the rule.”

Interviewer: “How about the employees – aren’t they a factor in the success of a business of this kind?”

Yes, and a most important factor. Unless there is a spirit of sympathy and cooperation among the employees of a business of this magnitude the business is not going to be a very great success. And there is nothing that hurts an employee more than a lack of sympathy and a lack of the spirit of cooperation with the business in which he is engaged. It works both ways, it hurts the employer and it hurts the employee.”

In our business we have always been fortunate in the spirit of loyalty of our employees, and I think this is even more marked today through the length and breadth of this establishment in which we have more than 2000 employees, than ever before.”