Historic Houses and the Locke Collection
In 1916 when Amherst native and electrician Howard Locke installed an electric water pump in his home, he could not have known how this technology would literally "open the door" to most every house in town. At this time there were very few homes in Amherst that had electricity or running water, let alone bathrooms with electric water pumps. Then, in 1920, when he decided to wire his mother's entire house (137 V), he found himself inundated with requests for his services, ultimately giving him access to the majority of Amherst homes.
Many times while he was working, new owners would ask him questions about the history of their house. If Howard didn't readily have answers, he would ask the older citizens in town and use any written resources available to find information. (It should be noted that Howard's mother, Emma Boylston Locke, was the author of Colonial Amherst: The Early History, Customs and Homes. It seems Howard came by his interest naturally!) Eventually he began to organize his data using reference maps and loose leaf notebooks. Each home was assigned a number and pinpointed on either a map of Amherst Village or a map of the entire town. Information about the houses and old town buildings could be looked up in the notebooks using the reference number. This system gave him a convenient way to add new facts as he discovered them, which he did until his death in 1959.
This astonishing collection of information is now housed at the Amherst Town Library through the gracious donation of Howard's granddaughter, Gretchen Locke Audette. This may prove a good starting point for those interested in researching historic Amherst homes.
The collection is in the process of being transcribed and/or digitized by Society member, Bill Wichman. We hope to have CD-ROM versions available in the near future. In the meanwhile, the original is available at the Amherst Town Library for viewing in the Archives Room. You can view Howard's maps by clicking on the thumbnails below.
(For more information on many of Amherst's historic homes, please see the houses category of the topical newsletter index.)