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Francis, Frederick L.
Incoming Letters of the family of architect Frederick L. Francis and his wife Lulu Horton Francis, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 1905-1923

42 letters, 109 pp., dated 27 February 1905 to 5 March 1923; plus related ephemeral items: 3 black and white photographs; 18 manuscript notes (mostly regarding family genealogy); 2 postcards; 1 calling card; 10 greeting cards; and 4 printed ephemeral items.

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H.M. Francis & Sons, Architects

Frederick L. Francis was the son of Henry Martyn Francis (1836-1908), a distinguished architect. Henry was born on 16 June 1836 at Lunenburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts. He married Emily Josephine Leighton in July 1867 at Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was born on 7 October 1836 at Skowhegan, Somerset County, Maine.

     Many of H.M. Francis’ designs are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Buildings attributed to him (or to his family firm) include churches, schools, private homes, and a variety of public buildings. These include: the Congregational Church at 820 Main Street, Fitchburg; the former Fitchburg High School (aka the Academy Street School, and more recently known as The Annex); the Westford Town Farm, Westford, Massachusetts; the Goffstown [NH] Public Library; and the Murdock School, Winchendon, Massachusetts; the Fitchburg YMCA and Police Station. He also designed bridges, such as one on Cushing street in Fitchburg, and the Wallace Walkway (stairway leading to the front of the present-day Longsjo Middle School, Academy St., Fitchburg). His obituary credits him with the design of about 30 schools, 25 churches, and 15 libraries. Henry’s two sons that worked in the firm with him were Frederick Leighton Francis and Albert Franklin Francis.

     Frederick L. Francis was born 5 February 1870, at Fitchburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts. He was a student at M.I.T. in 1892. He married Lula May Horton (1877-1961) at Fitchburg on September 17, 1898. Lula was the daughter of Timothy Frank Horton (1849-1926) and his wife Esther M. Whitney (1856-1883) of Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont.

    Frederick and Lulu had three children, twin sons who died at birth in 1901; and a daughter Katherine Horton Francis (1903-1984).

Frederick was an architect working for his father’s architectural firm, joining the firm with his brother Albert in 1902. Frederick’s father died in 1908 and the firm went into the hands of Frederick and Albert.

    Frederick took trip to Europe in 1913 (to Hamburg and Munich, Germany; and Paris, France), he sailed on the S.S. Patricia of the Hamburg American Line. He died on 9 April 1919 at the age of 49 and was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery, in Fitchburg. After Frederick’s death in 1919, Lula married a second time to Joseph A. Harwood (1880-1948).

Frederick’s brother, architect Albert Franklin Francis (1875-1946) made his home in Fitchburg as well. He married Edith M. Perry (1878-1902) in 1898.

      Thirty of the forty-two letters were written to Frederick L. Francis, 10 were written by his wife; 4 by his mother; and 4 by his brother Albert. Frederick wrote 2 of the letters. Frederick’s wife Lulu received 5 of the letters, plus others. The letters were written by family, friends, and associates. The letters discuss family affairs and history, and matters related to the Francis architectural firm.


Sample Quotes:

H.M. Francis & Sons Architects, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Aug 6, 1913


Dear Fred:


We got your cards and Lu let us read your letter so we feel posted up to date. Everything going on well so far. First floor of Quinlan block nearly framed. Have not started brickwork on Lowe’s garage yet. Went over to Normal School yesterday, also to Lowe’s.


Nothing important happened since you left. Sent out bills Monday and got check from F. Savings Bank job $200, as first payment on acct.


Hope to get letter from you soon telling all about boat and people on it. Hope you had good room and good food, and that you will feel fine by time you land.


A fellow just in to see if he could get a job as draftsman. Dave Goldberg just phone to see if I would go down to the Elks Picnic. Guess I won’t be able to go.


How does Foster like the trip? Suppose you have all made many acquaintances by this time and can talk French fluently. Eat all the frog’s legs you want.

Damon & Boutwell want me to go up and make final inspection of hospital today if possible.


Have had two good smart showers since you left, so things look pretty good…


Wiley & Foss have started work on Central Block changes. No news. All are well, hope you are B.”


“H.M. Francis & Sons


Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Aug 9, 1913


Dear Fred:


Suppose you are nearly to Havre now and hope you have had as good weather as we have. Days are warm but nights are cool. All are well here and everything going along nicely.


Quinlan was in Thursday, and said he was pleased the way things were going. It looks pretty busy there now. Big gang at work. First floor all on. Lowe’s garage well along. Hospital all done and awaiting final inspection by the Hospital Committee and us.

Went to Orange yesterday and found things going along finely. Finish is very good quality and think it will look good. Got check for $200.00 from Savings Bank job; so, we manage to live.


I went down to the Elk’s Picnic Wednesday afternoon with Dave Goldberg. Had fine time. Great food. Boxing matches, ball game, and the usual little games. I came home $15.00 richer than I went, so felt pretty good. Big crowd there, and lots of fun.


I must now go up to home and take some large prints before it clouds up. Begins to look as though it was going to cloud up for a rain. No news in particular. Hope you are well and having fine time. B.”


“A Bord de ‘Chicago’

Sun Aug 10 1913


Dear Mother,


I have written long steamer letter to Lu which will have to do for everybody for the description of what has happened. Would try and write long ones to all if could get time and ambition to do it, but on board ship it is just as hard to write as on land and in some ways harder, as air makes on lazy & one simply want to lay about…


One lady on board who was rescued in last boat on Titanic, & is very nervous when anything unusual occurs…


Mrs. Palmer gave us some inside history of Astor in Titanic disaster, which she knew thru friend of the nurse who was with A’s & had been with [Strans]. Entirely opposite the pubic version, which was given out by the newspapers. He was forced at revolver point away from boats, & was in every way opposite of pictures describing his acts…Fred”



“H.M. Francis & Sons, Architects, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Aug 18, 1913


Dear Fred:


It is hot, awful hot. Yesterday one of hottest days of summer. Thermometer up to 100˚ in Boston. Had shower in P.M. which helped to make it cooler, but I guess today will be just s hot. We are expecting to get our first letter from you this week, about Thursday.


Work in going all right. Have begun to put up the front columns to Quinlan block, and side walls are up nearly to second floor level.


Work at dormitory is done. I made Wiley & Foss go all over he dinning room floor, smoothing up with scraper and sandpaper machine. Most of the furniture is now in he building. Must go to Orange this week. Putting on the inside finish.


Tom sailed for Panama Saturday on the ‘Turvia’ of United Fruit Line. He will get back before you do, arriving about Sept. 2 or 3.


The janitor has just returned from his vacation. Been down in Maine for three weeks.


This morning papers say that Harry Thaw has escaped from ‘Matteawan.’ No other news of particular interest. Probably this is last letter we can get to you before sailing day.  B.”



“H.M. Francis & Sons, Architects, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Aug 15, 1913


Dear Fred:


We saw by papers that the Chicago had arrived at Havre Aug 12. Presume you have got well started on your trip by this time and have seen Dantwitz…


Quinlan job first floor all on and now carrying walls up to second floor. Went to Orange last week, Wednesday, and found things going well. Hospital all done and I made final inspection Monday. Have ordered a few little matters fixed, but on the whole, it is a pretty good job.


Dr. Tower said the trustees seemed well pleased with our design. Lowe’s garage up to second floor. Normal School work done except adds and ends. Papering all done except in dining room. They are putting furniture in now.


Eben Bailey was in this morning to see if you had arrived. He did not see the boat reported.


Sturtevant is working up a perspective of Quinlan block in water color. Is doing very well. He just won first prize of $25.00 for best cover design for Worcester [Masio] Festival program…


No news of importance, B.”