Historical Society Seeking Residents To Share Experiences In A Time Of Pandemic

Photo: Sharing your experiences during this pandemic.

The Belmont Historical Society is asking residents to be part of history by sharing their experiences during this extraordinary time of pandemic.

The Society is reaching out to the local community to help document how covid-19 is affecting everyday life in relation to families, homes and lifestyles in an invaluable first-hand account for future generations.

“We are reminded that we who live today are making tomorrow’s history,” said Viktoria Hasse, president of the Historical Society, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2020.

Similar efforts in other towns have included collecting photographs, home videos, short written accounts and other creative expressions that capture the now circumstances.   

Examples of ideas the Historical Society is looking for include:

  • turning kitchen tables into a home office so they can work from the house,
  • waiting in long lines at the grocery store,
  • leaving food on the doorstep of a parent or relative,
  • keeping their distance from others by staying within the taped marks on floors of local businesses,
  • remembering to wear a mask in public, and
  • being prevented from visiting family members who are in the hospital or skilled care facilities.

“I am sure that you have experienced some of the above as well some specific and more personal ways the current lifestyle restrictions are affecting you, your family and your community,” said Hasse.

You can send your submissions via our email address at, belmonthistory1859@gmail.com or to our postal address at,

Belmont Historical Society

P. O. Box 125

Belmont MA 02478

or visit us at our website: www.Belmonthistoricalsociety.org

Lydia Ogilby, Belmont’s Grande Dame, Dead at 98

Photo: An image of Ogilby at Richardson Farm

The old John Bright house (c. 1790), on Washington Street at the confluence of Grove, Blanchard, and Bright is quiet as the grande dame of Belmont, Lydia Richardson (Phippen) Ogilby, died on Friday, Nov. 1 in the home she called home for more most of her life.

Ogilby was 98.

“I really liked and admired Lydia,” said Pricilla Hughes of the Belmont Historical Society which Ogilby was long associated with.

“She was everything I hope to be if I live that long. She was smart, involved, and had strong opinions that she was not afraid the express. She truly was a grande dame,” said Hughes.

Ogilby with her grandson, Henry, on Memorial Day, 2019

The daughter of Clement Lowell Phippen (1885-1944) and Grace Richardson (1882-1969), Lydia was born on Aug. 7, 1921. She had two older brothers, Hardy who died in 2004 and Clement who died in 1939.

Her grandfather, Jay Richardson, was a market gardener with a pair of large greenhouses – that included a boiler house to heat them – who sold his produce at Quincy Market, using a large horse-drawn cart to make the trip from Belmont to Boston.

“My grandfather grew the best beets around,” said Ogilby in a 2012 interview by Belmont resident Jane Sherwin in Edible Boston.

After Richardson was badly injured after a cart accident in 1921, Grace Phippen moved her family including her newborn back to Belmont from Brooklyn in order to help run the farm, which she would inherit two years later. The land would continue to be farmed, after World War II with the help of a pair of tenant farmers, first the Sergi and later the Chase families.

Ogilby’s greatest legacy is the Richardson Farm the 10 acres of land between Bright and Blanchard owned by the family since 1634 when Charles I gave Abraham Hill a charter for a swath of land stretching from Charlestown to Belmont Hill.

By the 1990s, Ogilby was receiving a steady stream of offers for the land from various developers.

“It was suggested we turn the area into a train station and rent out parking spaces,” Ogilby told Sherrington. After consulting with her family, the Ogilbys decided to place the land under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction held by the Belmont Land Trust.

Ogilby told Sherrington it was a very hard decision for her family to give up the development rights of so valuable a property, but she believed that love of the land made it possible.

“It’s part of my children’s life. They’ve all lived in cities, every one of them has, but I think loving the land is in their DNA,” said Ogilby in Edible Boston.

Ogilby was also a constant serving in town governance, involved in a number of committees and Town Meeting:

  • . Town Meeting Member for 53 years spanning from 1963 to 2019 (with a couple of interruptions)
  • Capital Budget Committee 1970-1996
  • Solid Waste Disposal Study Committee and Solid Waste Disposal Advisory Committee 1974 – 1985
  • Historic District Commission 1978 – 2012 when she became an Emeritus Member to 2019
  • Library Site Planning Committee 2005
  • 125th Jubilee Committee  1983-1984
  • Republican Town Committee 1988

Her involvement in town matters did not diminish with age (nor did it stop her from driving to Star Market on Trapelo Road into her 90s). At 94, Ogilby led the opposition by longtime residents on plans to remove parking and a cut-through street in front of the former Belmont Savings Bank resulting in a Special Town Meeting after the Board of Selectmen eventually agreed with Ogilby’s position.

Ogilby would be an important voice at Town Meeting whether it was supporting an article or finding a way to relieve the tension at late night debates. Town Clerk Ellen Cushman recalled a particular night when voices were being raised over a particular measure, Ogilby got up to speak.

“Good news! My goat gave birth to four kids,” Ogilby proudly announced, reducing Town Meeting to giddy laughter, cooling the gathering’s temperature considerably.

Ogilby was a 1938 graduate of the Buckingham, Brown and Nichols School in Cambridge and received her Masters from Boston University’s School of Social Work. Ogilby worked as a clinical social worker and owned a nursery school in East Boston.

In 1949, Ogilby married John David Ogilby, a Harvard graduate who earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart as a naval officer at the Battle of Anzio in 1944. A sales manager for Philip Hano, Ogilby died in 1966 in Randolph, NH, where the Ogilby family has a summer home.

Ogilby is survived by her children; Henry, John David Jr., Clement and Lydia; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be announced in the future.

Discover Rock Meadow With Belmont Historical Saturday, Oct. 5 at 1 PM

Photo: Rock Meadow Conservation Land

The Belmont Historical Society invites the public to explore one of Belmont’s great open spaces with a Walking Tour of Rock Meadow this Saturday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. The walk is free and open to the public.

Learning about the history of Rock Meadow by walking the conservation land with Anne-Marie Lambert. Discover the history and uses of the land off Mill Street which include:

  • wetland habitat for fish and beavers,
  • hunting and fishing grounds for the Pequosette,
  • hay meadow,
  • bird watching area,
  • key part of McLean Hospital Farm with its wells, orchards, pastures and piggeries
  • a place for respite for immigrant workers and
  • site of the Victory Garden.

Participants will meet in the Rock Meadow lot off Mill Street with addition spaces across the street in the Lone Tree Hill parking lot. Bring water, closed shoes, and weather appropriate clothing.

The Belmont Historical Society: “Frederick Law Olmsted, Passages in the Life of an Unpractical Man

The Belmont Historical Society Presents “Frederick Law Olmsted, Passages in the Life of an Unpractical Man,” a one-man play by Gerry Wright. on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in the Assembly Room of the Belmont Public Library.

Free and open to the public; refreshments will be served

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) had a multi-faceted career as a journalist and critic of slavery; as an appointee of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War; and as the landscape architect for Boston’s Emerald Necklace, New York City’s Central Park, and the U.S. Capitol grounds and his final work, the grounds of McLean Hospital in Belmont, among many other treasures. Olmstead was a key pioneer in the movement to preserve land as national parkland, both at Yosemite and Niagara Falls. His life story from “vagabond” to dry goods salesman, farmer, traveler, journalist, author, publisher, executive, and finally to becoming the “father” of landscape architecture in America is an inspiring historical tale.

Belmont Historical Society presents ‘The Belmont Uplands: A History of Changing Use of Land and Water’

 The Belmont Historical Society presents an illustrated history by Anne-Marie Lambert; “The Belmont Uplands: A History of the Changing Use of Land and Water,” on Sunday, Oct. 6 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room.

The Belmont Uplands’ transition from marsh island, to farm, to forest tells a local story of changing boundaries between nature and man, and between land and water.  As demands for both human and wildlife habitat rise, and as climate change threatens, the story is not over.

Anne-Marie Lambert is on the board of the Belmont Citizens Forum, and is co-founder of the Belmont Stormwater Working Group. Lambert is a recipient of the Belmont Historical Society’s 2014 David K. Johnson Preservation Award for her ongoing work in educating the Belmont community and promoting planning and policies for preservation and environmental quality.

The talk is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.  Please contact the Belmont Historical Society for more information at 617-993-2878.