Monday, October 29, 2007

Real Estate - A Hard Business

Richards, L.J., 1899 (copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection
Note the nine houses built by Alexander Dickson around his own home at Warren Square off Green Street.

O.H. Bailey & Co. 1891 (BPL)

Within a year and a half, to respected Jamaica Plain citizens took their own lives. Coincidentally, both were real estate developers. Alexander Dickson build nine houses on the property around his own home on Green Street that still stand today. Look for Warren Square on the way down Green Street on the left, and you'll see a house set back with houses facing it on either side and around the back. Mr. Dickson sounds like an interesting character, and I'd love to learn more about him. Alden Bartlett built the Bartlett Block, on the east side of the Jamaica Plain (Green Street) train station, and owned all the land between the railroad tracks and Union Avenue on Green Street.

The picture above is from an O.H. Bailey birds-eye view map of Jamaica Plain published in 1891.

Boston Daily Globe January 25, 1878

Suicide At Jamaica Plain Alexander Dickson, a Wealthy and Highly Respected Citizen, Cuts His Throat and Shoots Himself.

The body of Alexander Dickson, a wealthy and highly-respectable citizen of West Roxbury District, was found in the coal-bin in the cellar of one of his unfinished houses on Green street, Jamaica Plain, at 1:15 o'clock yesterday afternoon with his throat cut from ear to ear and three bullet wounds in his head. The body was found by William R. Edwards, one of the workmen in the building, who at once notified Officer White. The latter, after examining the body, summoned Medical Examiner Draper, who likewise viewed the body and delivered it to Undertaker Murray. Beside the body was found a razor covered with blood and a Colt revolver with three chambers empty. From appearances, the razor was first used and then the pistol. Mr. Dickson was last seen alive by one of the workmen entering the basement of the building.

There are of course various theories as to the cause of the act, but diligent inquiry sifts the probable cause to temporary insanity. It is said that for the past five years he has taken a deep interest in spiritualism and become so infatuated as to always consult a medium ere undertaking any task. Secondly, that building nine houses at the same time was too severe a strain upon his intellect, and fear is expressed that he became financially embarrassed, but his widow can assign no reason for the act, and asserts that he had all the money on hand he required to prosecute the work in which he was engaged. Of late he has had spells of absent-mindedness if not depression.

Mr. Dickson was about sixty-five years of age and leaves a widow and four daughters. He was a blacksmith some years ago, occupying a shop on Green Street, but for the past eight or ten years has turned his attention to real estate speculation, in which he was fortunate enough to amass at least $75,000. He has now nine houses in the process of erection, near each other and his own dwelling. He was universally respected by his neighbors and those with whom he had dealings. During the Town Government he was an engineer of the Fire Department for thirty years, tax collector three years and assessor under the City Government for one year.

Boston Daily Globe May 26, 1879

A Sad Suicide. A Jamaica Plain Real Estate Owner Cuts His Throat from Ear to Ear.

Alden Bartlett of Jamaica Plain committed suicide yesterday afternoon in a stable attached to his house. Mr Bartlett was a well-known real estate owner, and was at one time considered very wealthy. For some time past, however, he has been exceedingly low spirited on account of the depreciation in the value of real estate. Yesterday afternoon he left the house shortly after dinner, and toward evening his wife became anxious.

A search was made for him, and his wife found him in the loft of the stable. His throat was cut from ear to ear, and lying beside him was the razor with which he had committed the deed. He was lying on his side, and appeared to have died without a struggle. Dr. Cross was called in. He thought the man died almost instantly. Dr. Draper was notified, but deemed an inquest unnecessary. Mr Bartlett was fifty seven years old, and leaves a wife, but no children. He had a real estate office directly opposite the depot at Jamaica Plain, and was one of the most influential men in the West Roxbury district.

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