Brief Historical Sketch
Helen C. King
Board of Trustees
Alfred Henry Davenport
was born December 5, 1845 in Malden and died June 22, 1905 in Squirrel
Island, Maine. He was a man of outstanding ability, integrity and
generosity, leading the way not only in response to civic and national
need, but in his help to many individuals, for which no one was
As a young man he worked
for a Mr. Baybrook who conducted a small business in custom made
furniture. When he died Mr. Davenport took over the business and
developed it, making the name of A. H. Davenport Company famous.
In fact, later on he received a decoration from Kalakowa - King
of the Hawaiian Islands - for his furnishing through-out of the palace
of Liliuelalani. So delighted was the queen with his workmanship
that she created him Knight of the Hawaiian Islands.
He was president of
the First National Bank in Malden, succeeding Mr. Elisha Converse.
In his daily routine his coachman, Michael McGrath, (father of Frank
McGrath, present executive vice president of the Irving & Casson-
A. H. Davenport Company) would drive him to the bank and then to
East Cambridge where he walked through his factory. He knew all
of his workmen and talked with them individually. Swedes seemed
to be his preference because they worked carefully and did not rush
things. From there Michael would drive him to his office and showroom
in Dock Square, on the corner of Washington and Elm Streets, where
he sat behind a rail watching everyone in and out. Later he was
driven back to East Cambridge and then home.
A genial person, Mr.
Davenport thoroughly enjoyed meeting and entertaining people, which
he did royally. This characteristic was in contrast to his wife's
nature, which was much more reserved and less out-going. Mrs. Davenport
was Ella Louise Stetson, born in Boston in 1851, and died in Squirrel
Island September 13, 1925.
Mr. Davenport was eminent
commander of the Beausant Commandry of Knights Templars, president
of the Malden Club and president of the Malden Hospital Corporation.
He was also a pillar of the First Baptist Church.
Before moving to the
present Davenport home, built in 1892, the family lived on Berkeley
Street, the estate running through to Holden Street, but the house
was done away with when the high school was erected.
Their summer home was
on Squirrel Island where the family gave much pleasure to others
through their hospitality both on their beautiful yachts and in
their home. Incidentally, Mr. Davenport first met his wife on the
boat going to the Island. He was president of the Island Association,
gave the Public Library, and was a liberal supporter of it. He likewise
gave the stained glass windows in the chapel, the pews and the bell.
Politically, Mr. Davenport
was a power, although he never held office. A staunch Republican,
he entertained Theodore Roosevelt - prior to his presidency - and
Henry Cabot Lodge, of whom he was a lifelong friend, in his home
at the time of the Blaine Logan campaign.
His son, Fred Albert
Davenport, who was born in Malden April 19, 1873 and died in Malden
July 8, 1928, was an excellent pianist but very shy and would not
play for anyone. He succeeded to his father's business but had not
inherited his ability as an organizer and the business disintegrated.
Irving and Casson walked out, but finally bought what was left,
forming the firm of Irving & Casson - A. H. Davenport Company.
Alice May Davenport
was born in Malden July 19, 1878 and died in Malden May 16, 1944.
She never mixed with people to any great extent, always attending
private schools instead of public, and had few close friends. When
she and her brother were small and went skating with other children
on Saugus Creek, Mrs. Davenport always came down to be sure they
did not drown.
Miss Davenport was a
pianist also and beautiful as a young girl. There was a strong bond
between her and her father and when her mother would exclaim - "You're
a chip of the old block!" she would reply - "You couldn't
say anything nicer than I am like my dear old Dad."
She attended President
McKinley's inaugural ball - she and her mother being the guests
of Senator Frye and his grandson William Frye White - and the president
asked her if she were any relation of A. H. Davenport of Boston.
"He is my father" Miss Davenport proudly answered. To
quote from one of the papers describing this occasion "she
was considered one of the handsomest of the debutantes."
In 1922 Miss Beatrice
Blake, a close and beloved friend for many years, came to live with
the family. She was with Miss Davenport when she lost her mother
and her brother and remained with her until her death.
Miss Davenport's idea
of giving her home to the aged was stimulated, if it did not originate
in hearing friends talk about the Twilight Home in Quincy. The thought
was in her mind for a number of years and she discussed it with
Mr. Wiggan - later her executor - and with Mr. White, who drew up
her will. She and Mr. White spent a great deal of time studying
the reports of the Department of Charities, which contained detailed
information regarding the type she desired. Finally she expressed
it thus in a letter to Mr. Wiggan dated August 2, 1943:- "In
this present will I think I have been able to make that dream of
mine come true" and come true it did with the incorporation
of the Davenport Memorial Foundation on April 2, 1946.
For more information on Mr. Davenport and his furniture business, see Anne Farnum's article in the May, 1976 issue of "Antiques Magazine", page 1048.