Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hillview Country Club - Holt's Farm 1795

Dating to the late eighteenth century and extant by 1795, 178 North Street was built for Benjamin Holt, a gentleman farmer who made a comfortable living “raising hops and catching wild pigeons.” Holt invested his money in real estate and owned a “thousand acres of land, more or less, in the north section of town.” Holt’s land included “broad acres for farming just below” (his Georgian house).

Benjamin Holt was descended from “a prominent family in England, the most notable of whom was Lord Chief Justine Holt.” The story of the Holt family in Massachusetts began with Nicholas Holt who, along with his wife and child, arrived in Boston on the ship “James” in June 1635, after a voyage of fifty eight days. From Boston, Nicholas Holt went first to Newbury, Massachusetts and by 1644 had settled in Andover, MA.

The sixth among the original settlers of North Reading’s neighbor to the north, Nicholas Holt died in Andover 1685 at the age of eighty three. Nicholas Holt had served Andover well, holding positions on important committees related to the public welfare and laying out of roads.

The story of North Reading’s Holts begins with Joseph Holt, the grandson of Nicholas Holt of Andover. Joseph Holt’s father was James Holt, the eighth child of Nicholas Holt. During the mid 1720’s James Holt settled in the northern part of the then North Precinct of Reading. His eldest child, Joseph, was born in 1727.

Joseph Holt, son of Joseph Holt above, was born in North Reading in 1754. He was educated in the district schools, and remained on his father's farm until the breaking out of the Revolution. He was in Captain John Bachellor's company, Colonel Ebenezer Bridge's regiment, which answered the alarm on April 19, 1775. Later in the same year he served in the companies of Captain Amos Upton and Lieutenant Ebenezer Damon. He served also in 1776. He married, December 9, 1779. Mary Eaton, of Wilmington, and soon settled near his birthplace.

His farm of one thousand acres or more was in North Reading on the Andover road near the Andover line. He became a large grower of hops, much of his product going west into New York state. He also supplied the Boston market with pigeons, and was known all through that section as "Pigeon Joe.-' He was a very popular man in his town, and was very religious, being particularly strict about Sunday observance, he carried on his farm and raised large quantities of corn. He was a member of the Orthodox church. He died suddenly, February, 1847, while carrying corn up into his corn chamber. Children: 1. Benjamin, born August 7, 1781, mentioned below. 2. Mary, August, 1783. 3. Lois, March 13, 1785. 4. Surviah, October, 1787. 5. Sally, 1792. 6. Joseph Elbridge, 1795.

***Lois Holt, born in 1785 to Joseph and Mary above, married Samuel Killam of Boxford in May 1807. Lois and Samuel are my great x3 grandparents. Joseph Holt, "Pigeon Joe", is my great x4 grandfather.

Benjamin Holt, also the son of Joseph and Mary, was born at North Reading, Massachusetts, August 7, 1781. He was brought up on his father’s farm, receiving the education of a farmer’s son of that period. He followed farming all his life, and carried on successfully his father’s business of hop growing, becoming well off. He also made a business of snaring wild pigeons, carrying great numbers to the markets in Boston. In this he was even more successful than his father. His farm produced large quantities of lumber which brought him much money.

He was a great worker and speculator, and died well to do. He was of a tall stature and very jovial disposition. He was a Whig in politics, and much interested in town affairs. He was a member of the Orthodox church. He married, April 3, 1804, Hannah Sheldon of North Reading. Their first born, Benjamin, born April 12, 1805, died March 31, 1857, married Mary Killam of Boxford.

In 1894 the home was still occupied by members of the Albert H. Holt family. The property later became the Red Hill Farm, a popular restaurant and function facility. A golf course was eventually constructed. On November 5, 1941, owner Harvey Kelch who also operated the club, incorporated the property on North Street as the Red Hill Country Club or the Olde Redding Country Club. In the 1950’s the Red Hill Country Club became the Hillview Country Club, a members only club.

By the 1980’s, the Club had fallen into disrepair. A new owner and manager, Arthur Angelopulos, bought the facility in 1984 with the idea of converting the course into nine holes and selling additional land for development. One set of plans included building 110 single family homes along Central Street; another plan would have put 350 units of low/moderate income housing on the north side of the course.

In 1987 the Hillview Study Committee was formed, eventually growing into the Hilliview Commission, responsible for planning capital improvements, setting policy and overseeing the running of the facility. On January 19, 1988, the committee presented their proposal to the town of North Reading to acquire by eminent domain the land known as Hillview Country Club and to operate the golf course as a municipal facility.


Cutter, William. Historic Homes and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs. Vol. 2. 1917. Google Books.

Gordon, Edward W., Massachusetts Historical Commission Survey #114. 2001

LePage, Samuel M. A History of North Reading. 1944.

Miller, Nancy, Of Minitmen & Molly’s. 2002

Reading Municipal Light Department Historical Calendar, August 2004