Above: Anchor and porpoise entwined; Details from the garden
The story of Higgins House goes back to the 1865 founding of WPI itself, known then as the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science. The school combined the dreams-and financial resources-of two local industrialists, John Boynton and Ichabod Washburn, to train young men as engineers. Boynton's Institute gave the classroom knowledge and Washburn's Shops the hands-on experience
Milton Prince Higgins had grown up on a Standish, Maine, farm, where, as a boy, he tinkered in his father's copper shop. After receiving all the education available in Standish, he went to Manchester, New Hampshire, to work in the Amoskeag Mills. Higgins came to Worcester in 1868, as the first superintendent of the Washburn Shops. A recent graduate of Dartmouth College's Chandler Scientific School, he came highly recommended to Ichabod Washburn by his Dartmouth professor, John Woodman, for whom Higgins would name his second son.
When Higgins arrived in Worcester, he already had plans to marry Katherine Chapin, but first he needed to pay off his college debts. And save a little nest egg. They were married in 1870 and moved into a boarding house on Boynton Street, where most of the school's faculty lived. Soon, Milton and Kitty were able to purchase her dream of a house, at the corner of Bliss (now West) and Salisbury streets, the present site of Goddard Hall. It was here that Aldus Chapin Higgins, the first of four Higgins children, was born in 1872. The Higgins children were a familiar sight on the Tech campus, and it was only natural that Aldus and John should be educated here. Aldus graduated in 1893, and John in 1896. the yearbook of the class of 1893, the Aftermath, shows Aldus's popularity among his classmates: "Allie' is a striking refutation of the doctrine that no good thing can be connected with the faculty. Be it said to his credit that no confidence of his classmates was ever betrayed by him."