Saturday, November 10, 2007

They Just Don't Write Like This Any More

Montebello road, 2008

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

This article was written in 1878, before Franklin Park was laid out. The late Samuel Goodrich had left an estate between Washington and Walnut streets, and an enterprising gentleman had decided to make a beer garden out of it. There is no further mention of it in the Boston Globe, and I fear he failed to get the liquor license he sought. The reporter must have been disappointed - he certainly did his best to push forward the endeavor. I must say; I respect a man who can juggle commas and semi-colons like this one can. People write today as if words were heavy stones to be carried, rather than doves to be released.

Washington street runs vertically up the left side of the above map. If I've got my bearings correct, the purple building on Montebello road on the map above is the old Goodrich estate. (Note: I got my bearings wrong. To read about the correct location of the Goodrich estate, go here). The writer makes it sound like the estate is in the middle of nowhere, but by that time Egleston square was already built up with worker's housing as far south as Chauncy place, just two blocks away today.

You can read more about Samuel "Peter Parley" Goodrich at the Jamaica Plain Historical Society web site here.

Addendum: I've just (3/5/2008) added the top picture. I just assumed that the old stone house was gone, so I never got to Montebello road until now. The footprint of the building seems to be about the same, although there's an addition to the left and out of sight in this picture. The sign out front says "Montebello Road Cooperative" and "Urban Edge Property Management." I'll have to see what the Landmark Commission report says about the building and report back.

Boston Daily Globe August 4, 1878

Boston's Beer Garden A Picturesque Summer Resort in Forest Hills - A Pen-Picture of the Shady Groves and Spacious Walks of the Old Peter Parley Estate.

"Peter Parley's old residence is about to be opened as a summer garden!" That was the rather startling announcement which caused your representative to board a Forest Hills car and proceed in all haste to the home of the children's storyteller to learn whether in had been really desecrated or not. Riding in an open car with a pretty girl on one side and an envious newspaporial friend on the other is not exactly the best place in the world for thought; but under these disadvantages and several others, such as an umbrella poked nearly two inches into one's back; a baby in front who would persist in slopping on to our new light kerseys, and the aforesaid friend's frantic endeavors to flirt with the gentle maiden on the left - one could not but bring up in memory's vision the old Parley estate as we knew it when the present Police Commissioner's father resided there. It is a grand old place, and one where it would seem one might forget the world and all its cares. The house stands about twenty rods from the street, embowered in trees, and backed by cliffs, hills and natural scenery of the wildest and most picturesque kind; little nooks, shut out from the gaze of the curious by the leafy screens; rocky cells, where lovers' vows may be spoken and heard only by the bird who sits dozing on the trees above; long, winding walks, canopied with green by the hand of the Creator, charming views, granny lawns, and, in fact, every kind of scenery which nature or art can crowd together in eleven and a half acres of land is to be seen there. It is this charming spot which Mr. J.B. Kendall proposes to convert into a summer garden, where, for a small admission fee, the members of the can't-get-away club can fancy that they are hundreds of miles from the hot, dusty city, enjoying themselves as thoroughly as their more fortunate brethren at their mountain or seaside retreats. A ride of thirty minutes sufficed to bring our little party to Forest Hills street, on which is the estate in question. From the street we could hear the music of the band, see the thousand many-colored lights, which twinkled from among the trees, and barely distinguish the silvery ripples of laughter from the more musical love whispers which seemed to fill the air with music all around us. A broad, winding avenue, overhung with Chinese lanterns,lead through the grove to the house, which, from the illumination, appeared like some fairy palace lighted up by the most radiant colors which the gnome kings could produce.

Strolling Through the Garden,

expecting to see simply a beer garden as they are represented in Boston, with a few sickly trees, and the vistas painted on dirty canvas, the effect produced by the brilliant illuminations and the crowd of 2000 ladies and gentlemen promenading to the strains of sweet music, can hardly be described. Although the admission is free to all, the most perfect order reigned on every part of the grounds, and not the slightest thing to offend the eye or ear was apparent. It had been and is the purpose of the present proprietor of this beautiful place to make it a summer garden in every sense of the word; but so far the all-wise magnates of City Hall have refused him a license, even as inn-holder, although he appeared before them, and declared that he would neither sell nor allow on the grounds any spirituous or intoxicating liquors, but only proposed to open a restaurant and sell beer. He was denied the privilege through the remonstrances of the property holders in the vicinity, the majority of whom live at least two miles from the garden, and proposes to show to the same neighbors, who although they declare that the garden is a nuisance, do not hesitate to avail themselves of the privileges which now cost nothing, that an orderly, well-regulated garden is an attraction and not a nuisance. Entering the house, and the long, wide hall, covered with light, cool-colored carpeting, from which the rooms used as ice-cream parlors and sitting rooms, are seen, and the bevy of fresh-looking waiter-girls, with jaunty lace caps, darting here and there with creams or ginger ale - the only beverage now sold - form a sweet rustic picture.

What the Proprietor Proposes to Do.

Should the present plan, viz: Opening the garden free to the public, in order to prove that it cannot, in any sense be objectionable, succeed, Mr. Kendall proposes to erect two large pavilions on the ground - one for ladies and gentlemen, the other for gentlemen only. This would be done in order that those visiting the house for refreshments might not be disturbed by those who simply wanted to drink beer. In that case, the music stand would be further down the lawn, instead of in front of the house, where it is now. Next week the grounds are to be illuminated with calcium lights, and soon as it can be enclosed and an admission charged, gas-lights will thickly dot the grove, which now seems fairly alive with squirrels and birds. On Sundays the grounds are open to all who wish to come, and ice-water is freely furnished, but nothing is for sale. The immense stable stands open for those who wish to use it, and picnic parties encamp on every portion of the grounds without fear of a bill for rent being presented. At present the whole thing is one gigantic charity more than anything else, and it is to be hoped that Mr. Kendall may receive such a license as will enable him to perfect the plan which promises so much pleasure to the public.


  1. This is a very interesting article. Has anymore information come to light? Has anyone identified the police commissioner in question? It would appear that the pavilions were never built; perhaps there was strenous community opposition? Although close to Egleston Square, the hilly terrain of the area neighboring Franklin Park suggests the bucolic and picturesque atmosphere as it must have been before the initial subdivisions of the 1880s and later influx of three deckers in early 1900s.

  2. No more information yet. I'll post if I find anything.