Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Goldsmith vs. Boston

There is a mistake that many of us fall into. We assume that things as they are represent the natural way of things, and we resist any change. All of the current houses and businesses in Jamaica Plain were once new, and no doubt someone saw each one as an intrusion of the former open countryside they remembered from the past. In the same way, we see the Arnold Arboretum and assume that it was always there in some form. If we learn a little history, we may imagine the Bussey farm enclosed in the Arboretum fences. Actually, the Bussey property was just a part of what became today's Arboretum. The rest was taken by the city from surrounding landowners.

One such landowner was Benjamin Goldsmith (think Goldsmith street). He owned a parcel of land that ran from South street near Jamaica street to the Monument, along Centre street to a point across from Orchard street, and from there, parallel to Centre street and back to near the upper edge of Jamaica street again. In other words, all of the current Arboretum near the Headquarters building, and the yet-to-come Arborway, belonged to him. When the city gave him a less than satisfactory price for his land, he went to court.

The Arboretum, Jamaica Pond, Franklin Park, the Arborway, the railroad tracks; all of it included land taken by the government. Could the city do that now?

Boston Daily Globe May 29, 1885

For Land Taken.

Award of $35,000 Damages in Extending West Roxbury Park.

In the case of Goldsmith, petitioner, vs. the city of Boston for damages to an estate on Centre street, West Roxbury, which was taken by the park commissioners, December 30, 1882, for the purpose of extending the Arnold arboretum, the jury found for the petitioner yesterday morning in the sum of $35,000. The award of the park commissioners was between $12,000 and $13,000. Included in the verdict is interest since December 30, 1882. It is reported that before the trial the city solicitor recommended a compromise on the bases of $30,000 in full, but the committee on claims decided to send the case to jury. The quantity of land taken was about fifteen acres.

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