The area known as “The Square,” or Wilmington Center, was once the primary business center of Wilmington. Several businesses clustered along Main Street on the small man-made hill at the intersection of Church Street and Burlington Avenue.
The Square came into being because of the Boston & Lowell Railroad, and the railroad was for decades a major part of Wilmington. In addition to the depots and tracks, the Square also had the Boston & Maine shops in the area that is now a large parking lot for commuters. Nearby was a roundhouse, adjacent to the Wildcat tracks, behind where Wilmington Builders Supply is now.
The Boston & Lowell Railroad had considered a route through the old center, the geographic center of town, near where Glen Road and Wildwood Street meet Middlesex Avenue. Samuel B. Nichols had a general store. The Bond family had two large bakeries. And, of course, there was the church.
Wilmington was still quite sparsely settled. Church Street did not exist and the Common was part of the Otis Buck farm.
The railroad instead chose a route closely following the Middlesex Canal, changing the face of Main Street in Wilmington. The railroad, which opened in 1835, built bridges to carry wagon traffic over the tracks. The hill at Wilmington Center was built as a bridge approach for the Burlington Avenue bridge. There was also a bridge that carried Burlington Avenue over the canal.
The depot for the Boston & Lowell was on the south side of the bridge. It was a two-story building. The downstairs, facing the tracks, was the ticket booth and waiting room for the railroad. Upstairs was a store, facing Main Street, with a walkway to the bridge. That site is a fairly narrow strip of land, today occupied by electrical transformers.
There was a second depot 100 yards to the north, the depot of the Andover & Wilmington Railroad, which built the line now known as the Wildcat. That building is still in existence, having been moved to Church Street, where it is a private home.
The Jaques family had a large farm in the area that became the Square, extending as far as Clark Street, first known as Henry Jaques Lane. Samuel Jaques married Keziah Thompson in 1751, and built a house in the early 1750s. They raised seven children. He died in 1774. Samuel Jaques, Jr. who married Ruth Wyman in 1773, became head of the household.
When the Middlesex Canal was built, every town had to have a proprietor, a part owner of the canal. Samuel Jaques Esq., became a proprietor of the canal, which opened in 1802. His son James took over the house in 1830 and became Wilmington’s first postmaster. It is not known if the house had a desk for postal business or if James Jaques operated “out of his hat.” The family also had a grocery store in the house prior to 1850.
The Jaques property was broken up in 1853, at which time a sketch of the area was made, showing the various properties. The Silas White family then moved into the old house. Mary Louisa White later became the bride of Dr. Daniel Buzzell and the mother of Philip Buzzell, who was born there. Mrs. Buzzell later designed a new home which became Dr. Buzzell’s office, and later the Cavanaugh Funeral Home.
The Samuel Jaques house stood in the Square until 1956. Today, the telephone building is on the site.
One early store in the Square was that of Charles Hudson, facing on Main Street at Church Street. There was a meeting hall upstairs, Ames Hall. It was Hudson who built the Roman House.
Occupying the entire southeast corner of Church and Main streets was Schamiel Macintosh’s assorted enterprises, a blacksmith, a livery stable, a wagon shop and a paint shop. In 1903, a fire started in one of Macintosh’s shops. By the time it was out, it had consumed all of his buildings, plus Ames Hall and Hudson’s store. Macintosh rebuilt his business as a hardware store, which became Church Street Hardware.
On the Hudson site, a drug store was built by William McLaughlin. That building burned in 1950.
On the west side of Main Street, Buck Brothers opened a grocery store in the 1880s, between the railroad depot and the railroad shops.
The face of Wilmington changed significantly in the 1870s with the arrival of Drs. Henry and France Hiller. He was a manufacturer of patent medicine in Boston. They owned much of the land between Main and Adelaide streets and built an elaborate home on Main Street next to the Jaques house. Henry Hiller built a laboratory on Church Street, an elaborate building with four turrets.
Today, minus two turrets, it is the Masonic Hall.