History 

Ezekiel-Straw
Straw Mansion [1968]
Motel [2002]
Straw Mansion Map [1895]
Straw Mansion [1923]
Motel Ad [1971]
Knights Templar Straw Mansion [1900]

The Straw Mansion

The Straw Mansion was constructed in 1870 for prominent local resident, Ezekial A. Straw, agent of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company from 1856 to 1878. Straw purchased the lot in 1862.  It was said to be part of the old Rowell farm, through which passed the stage road leading from Manchester to the village of Amoskeag (NH News, Feb. 17, 1952).

 

Ezekial A. Straw was born in Salisbury, New Hampshire on December 30, 1819. He began working for the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in 1838 at the age of 18 and among his earliest accomplishments was laying out streets and house lots for the Company-owned land and assisting in the construction of the dam and canals. Until July 1851 he held the office of Civil Engineer but was then promoted to Agent of the Land and Water Power Company (the mills and machine shops were then operated separately). In July 1856 the mills were united with the Land and Water Power Company and two years later, the machine shops were added with Straw placed in entire control of the Company's operations as resident agent. In addition to his responsibilities with the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, Straw was also active in local and state affairs. He was one of the men who surveyed and laid out the boundaries of Manchester and served on committees to rebuild the Town Hall and to establish the town water works. He was the first chairman of the Water Board and continued to serve in that position until 1877. He also was a member of the library board of trustees, a founder of the Unitarian Society of Manchester in 1842 and a director of the Manchester Gas Light Company. Straw served as a state representative in 1859 and as a member of the State Senate in 1864 and 1865, serving as Senate President during his second term. After serving on the staff of Governor Steams, he was elected governor of New Hampshire in 1872 and 1873. Straw retired from active life on January 1, 1879 due to health problems; he died on October 23, 1882 after a long illness (Manchester Historic Association files).                                                           ·

 

Straw acquired land on the corner of Chestnut and Brook Street in 1862 (Hillsborough County Register of Deeds, Book 306, Page

13) but it was eight years before he constructed a house. An article appearing in the Daily Mirror and American on October 26, 1865 noted that Straw had "recently built a large and magnificent grapery on his large lot...(and) is now erecting on the lot a unique looking two story cottage for his gardener. It is said that Mr. Straw will also soon erect a large house on the lot for his own residence". Straw's extensive gardens on Elm Street opposite the Langdon Mills were described in the Mirror and American on September 18, 1869. In addition to fruits and vegetables, there was a flower garden measuring 1/8 of an acre. The flower garden was laid out in a circle and beds were arranged in a great variety of figures with ahn9st every kind of flower. Unfortunately, none of the garden features are extant today.

 

The earliest reference found for the construction of the house appears in the Manchester Daily Union of May 27, 1870 which indicates that_"Workmen have commenced to build a large mansion on the grounds of Hon. E.A. Straw on the comer of Elm and Brook Streets". A brief mention appearing in the Daily Mirror and American on August 4, 1870 reported that work on the new house was progressing rapidly..."it is an angular building, but has the added advantage of convenience, and, when completed, will present a somewhat novel outside, and the light, space and convenience desired. It is two stories, with an old-fashioned roof that will give variety to the architectural arrangement". James Weston's Map of the City of Manchester, published in 1870 includes the plan of the Straw Mansion, as constructed.

 

The Straw Mansion was designed by local architect George Washington Stevens (1834-1897) . Stevens served as chief civil engineer and architect for the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company for eighteen years.  Although his obituary states that Stevens designed several dwellings, the Straw Mansion is the only one which is mentioned specifically.  His name first appears in local directories in 1866 when he is listed as an engineer. Stevens' best known local commission is the Ash Street School [photo #9], designed in the French Second Empire style and built between 1872 and 1874. Otl1er works by Stevens include designs for the City Library, Central Fire Station, Lincoln Street School, the Towne, Dunlap and northern portion of the Smyth & Carpenter Blocks, the original Kimball Brothers' shoe shop in East Manchester and the Amory Mill in the Amoskeag millyard. Stevens left Manchester in 1889 for Duluth, Minnesota and lived in Alabama at the time of his deatl1 (Daily Mirror and American, October, 1, 1897).

 

The first listing showing E.A. Straw in residence at the new house appears in the 1875 city directory. Previously he lived in the agent's house at the corner of Franklin and Merrimack Streets, a home later occupied by his son Herman Straw, who succeeded his father as agent of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. (It is no longer extant today).

 

Straw died in 1882 and ownership of the property passed to a trust which included his son Herman and daughter Charlotte Howard. In 1888 the property was leased to Person C. Cheney, a paper manufacturer who served as mayor of Manchester in 1872 and governor of the state in 1875 and 1876. It was during Cheney's occupancy in 1889 that President Benjamin Harrison visited Manchester and was Cheney's guest. Cheney occupied the building from 1888 to c.1895-8.  The acreage of the Straw Mansion began to be reduced in the 1890s. The Straw School was built in 1895 on the east end of the parcel on land which was sold by Straw's heirs. Albert Street (now Temple Court) was laid out to the west of the mansion in 1897 or 1898, eliminating the mansion's Elm Street frontage. A parcel ofland to the south of the mansion was conveyed to the First Church Christ Scientist in 1898.

 

In the 1910s, the house was occupied by a music conservatory and was occupied by Amelia McWeeny and Edith Meekin, a teacher of voice and piano. After standing vacant for several years from about 1919 to 1922, Herman F. Straw sold the property to Dr. John

W. Parfitt, an osteopathic physician, in 1923. By 1925 the building had been renamed the "Mansion Apartments". The property was sold by John and Edith Parfitt to Floyd and Helen Willey in 1952. Ownership was transferred to the Uptown Motel Inc. in 1963 and the motel building was constructed at that time. In 1998 both the former Straw Mansion and the Uptown Motel were sold to Notre Dame College. Manchester Neighborhood Housing Services acquired the property in 2002.

Ezekiel A. Straw 

(1872-1874)

Born Salisbury (NH); with Amoskeag Manufacturing. In state politics from 1859. Governor 1872/4. Portrait by A. Tenney, 1865.
 

BIOGRAPHY OF EZEKIEL A. STRAW

Ezekiel Straw's father was a surveyor and overseer of a cotton mill. Shortly after the boy's birth the family moved to Lowell (MA) where Ezekiel attended public schools and then Phillips Andover Academy (Andover, MA). He left Andover at age 19 (1838).

In 1838 Straw joined Amoskeag Manufacturing Company (Manchester, NH) as an engineer. He surveyed lots for the company, and constructed dams and canals; he also founded (1842) Manchester's First Unitarian Society.

In 1844 Straw was sent to England to obtain machinery and information for Manchester Print Works. He was appointed agent for Amoskeag's land department and water and power departments (1851), and then (1858) put in charge of all of Amoskeag's Manchester operations. This latter appointment was an immense responsibility and it put Straw in the spotlight. Amoskeag was Manchester and Straw was asked to provide plans and specifications for the city's water works and then to be president of the facility.

Straw served as a Republican legislator from Manchester (1859/64) and was a State Senator (1864/6; President of the Senate (1865/6). He served on the staff of Governor Onslow Stearns (1869) and in 1870 was appointed to the to the executive board of the Planning Commission for the 1876 Centennial Exposition to be held at Philadelphia. He was  nominated for governor and won the election (1872); he was reelected in 1873.

Governor Straw worked to reduce the war debt which the state had taken over from impoverished post-war towns. He recommended a program of manual and industrial training in the schools to create a more capable workforce. He suggested "local option" as a way to deal with the furor surrounding public sale of liquor. His election in March 1872 was also an early indication that President Ulysses S. Grant would be renominated by the Republican national convention.

Straw retired in 1874 from politics but not from public life. He served as director of the Langdon Mills and as president of Manchester Gas Light, New England Cotton Manufacturing, New Hampshire Fire Insurance, Amoskeag Axe Company, and a host of other concerns. He was a New Hampshire delegate to the 1876 Republican national convention. He died in 1882.
 

straezek.jpg

Ezekiel A. Straw 

(1819-1882)

Born Salisbury (NH); with Amoskeag Manufacturing. In state politics from 1859. Governor 1872/4. Portrait by A. Tenney, 1865.