Henry Wilson Shoe Shop
The Henry Wilson shoe Shop is the thing that most people in Natick Massachusetts associate with Henry Wilson. The small red shoe shop is a major landmark within the town and known throughout the community as the place where a vice president worked.
The style of the shoe shop is a ten footer. Ten footers were common throughout the early 19th century throughout towns in New England. They're called ten footers because most of them are around ten by ten feet. By the latter half of the 1800s ten footers went out of style with factories becoming the standard for shoe makers.
The Wilson shoe shop was built around 1825 and used as Wilson workplace from the mid 1830s through the 1850s when he left the shoe business to go into national politics.
At the peak of his success Wilson hired over one hundred workers, making hundreds of thousands of shoes each year.
The types of shoes made by Wilson were brogans, basically cheaply made leather shoes which were sold to boston markets to be sent to the South for use by enslaved people.
The Henry Wilson ten-footer has been preserved to be in its original form since its use by Wilson. Looking inside the windows you can see authentic machines and tools used by Wilson and his associates to craft the brogans.
Below the ten-footer is a small equally sized basement which used to be accessed from the outside, though can now only be accessed from a small hatch in the center of the floor.
On the same grounds as the shoe shop stands a flag pole and a replica of the liberty bell, which was used as a symbol of abolitionism before and during the Civil War.
On the front of the shoe shop there is a sign that reads, “In this little shoe shop Henry Wilson 20th Vice President of the United States Learned to make shoes, was known as the Natick Cobbler.”
Despite the sign being there for decades, it is actually mostly incorrect. First, Wilson wasn't the 20th vice president, he was the 18th. Second, he did not learn to make shoes here, he already knew the trade well when he began his business here, and three, while Wilson was known as a cobbler, he was not one, a cobbler fixes shoes, Wilson made shoes making him a cordwainer or shoe maker.
On July 24, 2000 the Henry Wilson Shoe Shop was added to the National Record of Historic Places. The Shoe shop sits less than a mile from where Wilson lived, and where he is buried, though it is just outside the Henry Wilson Historic District.