Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fires At Brookside Ave

Richards, L.J. 1899 (copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection

I'm not a big fan of fires, but fires are one of the only ways that businesses get into the newspaper. The site of these fires is now a playground that was rehabilitated by neighbors back when it was just an empty lot and a nuisance. When Brookside avenue was laid out, the Aetna Rubber Company built a factory on the site. It shows up on a Sanborn fire insurance map in 1874. Cornwall street was Chemical avenue at the time, and Ophir street did not exist.

By the time of the first article below, there was a bluing factory on the site. Bluing is the process of adding a small amount of blue dye to laundry to keep white fabric from appearing its natural yellow as it ages. Bleach has largely replaced bluing as a stand-alone product, but it is still used today in laundry cleaners.

In the second article, I'm guessing that the Chase carbonating company was carbonating water for beverages. There was a Star refining company with offices at 50 State street in Boston. Could that be the same company? I found this entry in the Sampson & Murdock Boston city directory of 1925.

"Star Refining Co E P Barrett pres and treas brass founders and metal dealers 110 to 122 W First S B"

And sure enough, E.P. Barrett is listed under the 50 State street address in the 1905 directory as well. So the "refinery" was refining metal - it was a foundry.

In 1905, the Sanborn fire insurance map shows only the brick buiding, owned by a William A. Gaston. In 1914, the building is labeled "Laundry" My mother remembers a laundry on Brookside ave in that area in the 1930s - perhaps the same business.

Boston Daily Globe December 21, 1898

Watchman Lost

Caretaker in Faunce's Bluing Factory Not Heard From - Supposed to be in the Heart of a Fire.

An alarm was rung in from box 515 at 3:48 this morning, for a fire in the wooden building corner of Brookside av and Cornwall st, owned by J.T. Shaw and occupied by J.B. Faunce as a bluing factory.

It was rumored that a watchman was lost in the burning building, but at the hour of going to press the rumor had not been substantiated.

Boston Daily Globe September 19, 1901

Started in Unoccupied Shop.

Blaze at Corner of Brookside Av and Cornwall st, Jamaica Plain, Caused a Loss of About $5000.

For the third time within a few years the old plant corner of Brookside av and Cornwall st, Jamaica Plain, formerly occupied by Aetna Rubber company, was on fire last evening. Two alarms were sounded, the first at 9:15 from box 515, on the corner where the fire was located, and in five minutes another alarm was given.

The plant consisted of a brick building about 75 feet long and two stories in height, and in the rear was a wooden building three stories in height and a shed. The fire started in the wooden building, which was unoccupied, and completely destroyed it. The shed, in which was stored a small amount of timber, the property of Hapgood & Long, was also destroyed. The cause of the fire is unknown and the loss will not exceed $5000. The building is owned by E.F. Gifford.

The brick building is occupied by three firms, the Chase carbonating company, J.D. Lawler, manufacturer of metal portions of harnesses, and the Star refining company. The manager of the brass company said the company's loss would be small.

The building burned has not had on occupant for more than six months. The firemen are at a loss to find the source of the blaze.


  1. Cool site. I was involved for a long time with the JP Historical Society, so your site is very interesting to me.

  2. Thanks. The JPHS web site got me started on looking into JP history. I joined up a few weeks ago.

  3. This is great! Hoping for more Cornwall history. I had wondered what used to be in the park. Also, heard that my house was rolled down the the hill from Franklin Park to Cornwall St. when they expanded. Ever hear anything of the sort? So pleased to find your site.


  4. Whit

    Moving houses was a common practice in Jamaica Plain, so I wouldn't be surprised if your house came down from the Franklin Park area. There were quite a few streets that got eliminated when they laid out Franklin Park, but I'm not sure if they had houses on them, or if they were just "paper" streets. I'll keep a look out for more Cornwall street info. My mother ilved around the corner on Amory street before the war.