Friday, November 30, 2007

Fourth of July Parade - 1897

The Jamaica Plain Carnival Association was responsibe for the yearly Fourth of July celebration. In the years before Jamaica Pond was used for the day's events, that meant a parade. And these people were'nt shy about laying out a parade, as you'll see in the route below. We might wonder at what happened to the enthusiasm these people displayed. The only parade I remember in Jamaica Plain was the Memorial Day parade from the Monument to Forest Hills cemetery if I get it right. I know it went down South street. In any case it was a solemn affair, far from the celebration described below.

Boston Daily Globe July 6, 1897

Fun At Jamaica Plain.

Parade Was a Pageant Worthy of the Carnival Association, and Delighted Many Thousands.

The citizens of Jamaica Plain did themselves proud yesterday in their celebration of the Fourth, and the carnival association scored a grand triumph.

The monster parade in the morning was a big success and was one of the best of the kind ever given in Boston. The procession was about three miles long but it took more than an hour for it to pass a given point. Starting at the Soldier's monument, on Centre st, the parade passed through the principal streets of Jamaica Plain, Boylston and Egleston Square.

It was a gain day for the residents of the section and many of the residences along the route were profusely and handsomely decorated for the occasion.

Police station 13, on Seaverns av, was hid behind a mass of bunting and flags, and the engine house on Centre st was also prettily decorated.

At the Jamaica club it was a day memorable in the organization's history. The spacious clubhouse at the corner of Green and Rockview sts was the finest decorated of any section. The exterior was covered with the national colors, while from the tip of the 70-foot flagpole just erected floated Old Glory. Inside the decorations were unusally pretty, there being a profusion of palms and potted plants and bunting.

The club kept open house all day, with its noted hospitality, nearly 400 being entertained. Among the guests were the Kearsarge veterans, the Cambridge military band and the newspaper men. The parade was viewed by the guests from the beautiful lawn. A pleasing feature was an address by Lieut Abbott of the Kearsarge veterans, who thanked the club for its sociability. Mr A.H. Stephenson responded in behalf of the club.

Features Were Good.

At 9 chief marshal S.D. Balkam gave the word, and the bicycle brigade under C.A. Underwood, swung into Centre st, between a solid mass of spectators, which lined the sidewalks.

Passing down Green st the procession was viewed at the Bowditch school by the judges, Senator W.W. Davis of Roxbury, Representative A.A. Maxwell and Rev L.W. Lott and Dr Joseph Stedman of Jamaica Plain, and W.S. Hurlburt of Cambridge.

The route traversed was as follows: Centre, Green, Washington, Atherton, Amory, Boylston, Lamartine, Mozart and Chestnut sts, Wyman av, Wyman Centre and Pond sts, Jamaica way, countermarching, Burroughs and Centre sts, Seaverns av, Alveston, Revere and Elm sts, Greenough av and Eliot st to the parkway.

The features were all good, and the judge had difficulty in picking the winners.

The bicycle division was composed wholly of clubs and individuals on wheels.

The Jogalong club had a pretty and artistic feature, a liberty bell made in red and white, suspended from a framework erected on four wheels. The memebers wore continental costumes.

The Suffolk cycle club turned out the largest number and made a fire appearance. "Darktown's military cycle corps," by the Jamaica cycle club, was a very warlike body, and elicited much applause.

The Ladies' Eliot club attracted attention by its neat showing.

The remainder of the division was made up of groups and individuals.

Children Applauded.

The first division was composed of the veterans, Sons of Veterans and barges with school children. The latter had decorated the barges in a very pretty manner.

All along the route the children received the applause of the spectators.

Composed of floats, the second division was the most attractive of the procession. It was led by a barouche, prettily decorated and entitled "Patriotic Belles." The occupants were Misses Helen Atwood, Cecelia Barrows, L. Bliss, Elizabeth W. O'Connell and Lucy Taylor.

The exhibit of the Jamaica Plain News, "Franklin's old printing office," in which there was an old press once used by that statesman, attracted considerable attention.

The Roxbury Catholic association had two floats, one representing the signing of the declaration of independence and the other a minstrel troupe. The latter had a piano, banjo and all the equiptment of a troupe. The latter delighted all by their excellent singing of minstrel songs.

A clever feature was that of Fred Bieller[sp] and Robert Weiz, a hit on the Hawaiian question. It was "United States and Japan fishing for Hawaii." Representatives of each nation were on horseback, riding back on a representation of Hawaii, with fishing poles trying to catch her.

Louise Lonsler[sp] as a Fiji dancing girl was good.

The battle between Monitor and Merrimac was also a fine feathre.

The personage to attract the most attention was his majesty The Globe, who took a drive to Jamaica Plain to celebrate the day. The spectators greeted their well-known and popular friend with hearty applause.

The third, or trades division was very interesting, and was the longest of any.

It was the last division - the horribles - that caught the eyes of the young people, and it was a unique affair.

[next came a Prizes Awarded section]

Curtis Hall: Nuisance.

Evidently, the old Curtis Hall was Party Central at the turn of the 20th Century. Just a few years later, the building would burn and be replaced by the current Curtis Hall. Read about the fire here.

Boston Daily Globe May 3, 1901

Protest To The Mayor.

Residents in the Vicinity of Curtis Hall, Jamaica Plain, Object to its Promiscuous Use and the Noise.

A movement has been started in protest against the promiscuous letting by the city of Boston of Curtis hall, South st, Jamaica Plain.

The letting of this hall is now done through the building department. Being situated on the main street on the line of the Jamaica Plain electric cars, it is easy of access to parties from all sections as far north as Roxbury, and about as convenient to parties from the South End.

It is only recently that the use of this hall has become general among organizations outside of West Roxbury. The low rate at which it can be engaged has been one cause of its recent popularity. During the past winter it has been in almost constant nightly use by dancing parties and for other forms of entertainment. Many of these parties have been continued until the morning hours, and the noise and shouting incident upon the breaking up of the dances has been a source of much annoyance to those living in the neighborhood.

The character of these gatherings has not always been of the highest, it is alleged, and the recent holdup of conductor Myers of the Boston elevated railway, when he was brutally assaulted and robbed by a crowd going home from one of the dances, is pointed to in proof of this assertion.

The police of division 13, which has charge of this district, come in for no share of criticism. A patrolman is in attendance at the hall each night a dance is scheduled to take place, but unless something criminal is done he cannot act and has no authority to arest anyone.

Mayor Hart has been written to about the matter, and the claim is made that the residents in the neighborhood of the hall are going to engage counsel to look after their interests, as their property is being depreciated in value because of this nuisance.

Agassiz School Class Pictures

Agassiz school, Class of 1966, 5th grade.
Miss Moretti, teacher.
Front row from left: Tom McGrath, John Wittikin (sp), X, X, X.
Second row: X, X, X, X, X, X, Jean Wong.
Third row: X, Ellen (?), X, X, X, X, X, X, Gail (or Dale), X.
Back row: X, Byron Sharbetian, X, X, Jim Breare, X, X, X, Mark Bulger.

Class of 1966, 4th grade (I think)
Miss O'Hara, teacher
Front row: X, John Wittikin, Tommy Grasso, X, X, X, Karl Kooper.
Second row: Gail (or Dale), Kris, X, X, X, X, Kathy Brewer.
Third row: X, Tom McGrath, Mark Bulger, X, X, X, Ellen (?), X, X, X, X, X.
Fourth row: X, X, Linda Kitners, X, X, .

Class of 1966
3rd Grade
Front row: X, James Skelley, X, X, Joey Lane. X, John Wittikin, X, Fred Carey.
Second row: Susan Kenney X, X, X, Kris (?), Deborah Noseworthy, Jean Wong.
Third row: Kevin Mallard, Audrey Grynkiewicz, Gail/Dale (?), Anita (?), X, X, X, Charles (?).
Back row: Billy Devine, Mark Bulger, Edmund (?), Byron Sharbetian, Will (?).

These are the three class pics I managed to hold on to over the years. All read left to right. X marks an unknown name. (?) represents a forgotten last name. I'm shakey about some of the names, but I wrote them as I remember them. Gail and Dale were twins, so I don't know which was in my class in any particular year. Jane Gomperts provided some help, but all mistakes are mine. Click on them for a better look if you can contribute names. Kris bothers me particularly. I met her years later and was an usher in her wedding. Sorry Kris, my bad for not remembering your last name.

Baseball - Did A Fossil Survive?

File this entry under Pure Speculation. I was reading an article on the history of baseball earlier this year, and learned about the "Massachusetts rules" form of the game that existed in the mid-1800s. It seems that the local brand of the game was superceded by the New York game - drats! - and the Massachusetts game faded from memory even here in its home. One particular rule peaked my interest. From "The Rules of the Massachusetts Game," by the Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players. May 13, 1858.

"If a player, while running the Bases, be hit with the Ball thrown by one of the opposite side, before he has touched the home bound, while off a Base, he shall be considered out."

Hmmm... that's interesting. We played under that rule at the Agassiz schoolyard in the early-mid 1960s. We frequently played with different types of rubber balls, so there was no harm to throwing a player out by hitting him as he ran. This raises to obvious possibilies. First, maybe the idea of throwing runners out by hitting them is in some way natural, and came about as a logical result of boys making up rules while playing unsupervised games. That would have been my guess until recently.

The other possibility is more interesting. Could this rule, formerly an official part of the Massachusetts game, have been passed down by generation after generation of boys on fields and lots long after the "New York" rules had been adopted in official games? The idea that the boys of Jamaica Plain, playing without supervision, passed on this rule summer by summer, older brother to younger, over one hundred years certainly can't be proven any way I know of, but it certainly intrigues me. I've never seen it suggested in print, so I thought I'd put it out there in the Intergoogle on the chance that someone might have considered the possibilty before now.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Margaret Fuller School

My mother started school at the Margaret Fuller. The drawing above is an "artist's rendition," and leaves out the considerable slope of Glen road at the actual site. The article says that there was to be six rooms, but if each room has seven windows as described, I can only see four rooms.

This view looks up Glen road towards the front and side of the school. There's a block added to the back of the drawing above that would have doubled the size of the school. Was it built as in the drawing, or as it is today?

Boston Daily Globe April 14, 1892

New Primary School, Jamaica Plain

The school is a six-room building, located on Glen road, Jamaica Plain, within 600 feet of Franklin Park.

The building is a brick one, the outside steps and window sills only are stone. The steps are Italian renaissance, common Eastern brick, laid in Flemish bond, is used for the mass of the building, while the trimmings, such as the flat arches of the windows and the corners, are made of yellow moulded brick.

The whole effect is really pleasing and dignified.

In plan it is very compact and nicely arranged, each room being lighted by seven large windows. The wardrobes also receive light from the outside.

There are three rooms on each floor, with toilet and play rooms in the basement.

The building sits 22 feet back from the street, and the approach to the front door is made by a flight of 11 blue-stone steps.

The entrance is recessed 4 1/2 feet in the reveal of the arch, which is one of the architectural features of the design.

Inside the front door is a marble vestibule, with five marble steps bringing up to the first floor level, which is about eight feet above grade at this point.

From the front door is a central corridor with a schoolroom on each side, and another staircase corridor runs at right angles to two side entrances from the girls' and boys' playgrounds respectively.

Overthe front entrance in the second story is the teachers' room, from which a door leads out upon the wrought iron balcony, from which the school flag is to fly.

The "flushing out system" is used in the toilet rooms in the basement.

The ventilation and heating apparatus is of the indirect radiation type with the act of a fan.

It is nearing completion and will be ready for occupancy this term.

The total cost of the structure will be $39,000 or $110 for each pupil accomodated.

A Tragic Accident - Fire Truck Kills Girl

We tend to think of traffic accidents as an affliction of the automotive age, but many people were killed by runaway horses, kicked or dragged by horses, or crushed by wagons. Imagine driving a truck that had a mind of its own.

As a side note, they were not shy about describing accidents back in the day.

Boston Daily Globe March 7, 1880

Fatal Accident.

A Little Girl Run Over at Jamaica Plain by a Hook and Ladder Truck.

A lamentable accident occurred at Jamaica Plain last evening, which resulted in the loss of one life and injuries to two others by a city employee. At 6 o'clock an alarm of fire was sounded for Canterbury to a house owned by Patrick Meehan, and the firemen promptly responded. Hook and latter truck No. 10, horses in charge of Michael Cook, was passing at a furious rate along the highway, and when at the corner of Keyes [McBride] and South streets, the driver was turning the team to enter Keyes street when the horse shied, drawing the wagon on the sidewalk, the wheel of the wagon being only eighteen inches from the fence-bounded private land. There were a number of persons on the sidewalk, among others being a ten-year-old girl named Helen Lally, who was in the act of carrying milk for delivery when the wagon struck her, throwing her down, the wheels passing over her body, mangling it and causing death in a few minutes. John Eagan, residing on Call street, and an unknown man, were seriously injured upon the legs. The driver of the truck sped on his way to the call of duty without stopping. Of course there was much excitement at the scene of the accident, and several persons relate instances of hair-breadth escape. The body of the unfortunate victim was taken to her parents' home by undertaker J.D. Fallon and others, and the grief-stricken mother fainted several times at the sight of her little girl's body. Medical examiner Draper viewed the remains and certified the cause of death was a broken spine by reason of passage of wheels over it. Those who witnessed the disaster aver that there was great carelessness on the part of the driver, that he drove wildly, having no proper restraint upon his horses, and that it is a miracle that more people were not injured. On behalf of the driver, it is said that one of the horses is balky, and that he had notified the authorities that the animal was unsafe to use, but the commissioners had taken no notice of the complaint. The fire was of no importance.

Striking Italians

It's just the way of the world; immigrants do the dirty work, and they frequently get abused while doing it.

Boston Daily Globe July 15, 1903

300 Quit Work.

Italians Employed by Elevated Road.

Engaged in Relaying Tracks in Jamaica Plain.

Claim They Didn't Get the Money Due Them.

Four who Refused to Join Strikers Attacked With Stones.

Streets and Sidewalks Now in Dangerous condition.

A small-sized riot was started last evening on Washington st, Jamaica Plain, that for a few minutes caused lots of excitement. The trouble started about 7:15, when the night gang of laborers employed by the Boston elevated railway company, who are at present engaged in relaying the tracks on Washington st, between Green and Forest Hills sq, decided that they had not been paid enough by the company and went on a strike.

The night gang is made up of about 300 Italians and other foreigners, who work from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Pay night coming on Tuesday evening, the men say that the sum of money they expected to receive was not what they had contracted for, and as a result they refused to go to work. Four Italians did not hold the same views as their companions, and when the others threw down their picks and shovels these men would not come out of the ditch.

Their continued refusal incensed the strikers, and the gang hurled bricks and cobble stones at the men in the ditch. After a few moments of this fusilade the men decided that they would strike also in a hurry.

The work was then at a standstill, with the rubbish and dirt piled hight in the streets. The men made no more trouble, however, and most of them quietly dispersed to their homes.

The company officials refused to talk about the affair, but it was said that other men will be engaged as soon as possible to take the strikers' place.

The work of relaying the tracks has been going of for about two weeks, and since the start much trouble has been encountered. Two cars have been thrown from the rails at this point, and six people have been injured in the accidents.

Up to a late hour last night no new men were put to work on the job, and the street was quiet. The police of division 13 took no hand in the affair last evening, but a squad of officers will probably be on hand tomorrow morning when the day men go to work.

As a result of the sudden terminating of the night work, the streets and sidewalks in the vicintity of Keyes st and other side streets are in a dangerous condition. Piles of dirt, old railroad ties and rails are thrown all over the streets off Washington st is entirely cut off for vehicles, and in case of a fire during the night the engines would have to go around by Forest Hills av, before they could get to the houses on the side streets.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Police Commissioner - Hanged In Effigy

History is a story of context. Each particular subject invites the elaboration of many related topics, and each in turn raise new topics to be explored. The articles below are no exception. In July 1904, the boys of Jamaica Plain saw fit to hang the Boston police commissioner in effigy - twice. To know why, we need at least a passing knowledge of the man, and the traditions of Fourth of July celebrations in Boston.

Taking the last first, Boston had a long history of bonfires and related mischief on the Fourth of July. Each year, police and fire departments would rush from place to place, putting out fires and dealing with excited mobs of revelers. Fireworks were manufactured in many places in the city - including Jamaica Plain - and firecrackers and rockets were a major hazard to body and property. By the early 20th Century, these lawbreaking revels seem to have lessened, but the tradition remained.

The police commissioner was a Judge Emmons. At the time, the Boston police commissioner was named by the Governor of Massachusetts. This is often described as an effort by the Yankee power structure to control the newly empowered immigrant population of their capital city. Judge Emmons was named commissioner by Governor Bates in 1903. Emmons was seen as a likely pick for a superior court appointment, but Bates chose him for the job as a political stroke, replacing the disliked incumbant, while not giving in to pressure to name a political favorite.

As it happens, Emmons was a temperance man, and saw no reason why a man would ever take a drink. As such, he was a stickler for the law when it came to drink. Illegal drinking establishments were shut down, and public drunkenness was rewarded with time in a cell.

Emmons the Killjoy also cracked down on the long-favored unofficial Fourth of July celebrations, which finally brings us to Jamaica Plain and our articles.

Boston Daily Globe July 1, 1904

In Effigy. Emmons "Hanged" at West Roxbury. Excitement in Neighborhood of Boylston Station. Figure Kicked and Stoned and Finally Burned.

To express their opinion of the edict issued by Judge Emmons with regard to the celebration of the Fourth, a crowd of boys and young men of West Roxbury hanged the chairman of the police commissioners in effigy at Boylston station last evening.

That part of the city is usually deserted after 9 p.m., but last night the square was alive with excitement, and the crowd paraded up and down the streets for some time making merry at the judge's expense.

How and where the movement originated nobody seems to know, and the greatest secrecy was observed by all those who participated.

Shortly after 9 o'clock, the crowd began to gather, and before long it had assumed large proportions. From some hidden corner a sorry figure of a man was dragged out amid cheers. A rope was fastened about the neck, and struggling to get a hold of the effigy, the crowd ran up and down the street shouting their disapproval of the chairman of the police board. Not content with dragging it through the mud, the crowd kicked and stoned it to their heart's content.

The episode created the greatest excitement in the neighborhood of the station and the word the "the gang was having some fun with Judge Emmons" spread rapidly. Finally the figure was strung from a pole and a card announced that it was "Judge Emmons."

Later in the evening somebody set it afire, but an officer of division 13 came along and extinguished the fire and took down the effigy. Altogether it was a great night at Boylston station.

Boston Daily Globe July 5, 1904

Emmons In Effigy. Hanged in Jamaica Plain About 2 O'Clock, and Again Four Hours Later in the Same District.

About 2 o'clock yesterday morning Judge Emmons was hanged in effigy in Jamaica Plain at the corner of Chestnut ave and Green st. The figure was strung on a wire across the street and bore a sign marked "A Poor Dub - Judge Emmons."

The cries of derision of those gathered around attracted the attention of patrolman Franks, who removed it and conveyed it to the station house.

About 6 o'clock a second effigy was but up on Eliot st and remained until 8 o'clock, when an officer removed it.

Jamaica Plain Pedalers - 1886

I pulled this out of a larger cycling article. The fact that the Globe published the inner workings of this local club is interesting. In 1886 they would have been riding on dirt roads, and I believe Weld street was still farmland at the time.

So when was the last time there was a bicycle race in the streets of Jamaica Plain?

Boston Daily Globe November 7, 1886

Jamaica Plain Pedalers.

A Club Road Race in Which all Members Must Run or Pay.

The members of the Jamaica Plain Bicycle Club have watched with no little envy the road races given by the different clubs about Boston during the past month. At one of the recent meetings a member of this club was heard to remark that if his club could not give a better conducted series of road races than those in progress they would sell out. Accordingly, at the next meeting of the club road racing formed the chief subject of debate, and it was finally decided to hold a series of club races on Tuesday afternoon, November 9. A number of schemes for the improvement of the present methods of conducting road races were decided upon, chief among which was that of fining of all members of the club who failed to start in the race. They fully appreciated the fact that there were some among their members who were by no means "flyers" on the road, but a large field of starters they must have, and this seemed the most practical method of attaining the end desired. Among the more worldly-minded members there was considerable objection to this race or "ante up" scheme, for, as they expressed it, it would be "deuced hard to collect the fifty cents." However, it was decided to give the scheme a trial, and as the club is young and very enterprising it may prove a success.

There are to be two races. The first is to be for ten miles, and the three first men in are to receive for prizes a bicycle lantern, a pair of ball pedals, and a bicycle saddle. The start will be made at 3 p.m. and the course will be as follows: Start at club house, Centre street, left to Pond street, left to May street, right on Centre street, right to Weld, left to Corey, left to Centre, left to May, right to Pond, right to Orchard, right to Centre, to May, right to Pond, right to Centre, to finish at club house.

The second race will be five miles over the following course: Start at 3:05 p.m., from clubhouse, Centre street, right to Burroughs street, seven times around Burroughs, Pond, Eliot and Brewer streets, to Burroughs, to Centre and finish at clubhouse.

The member who is looked upon as the most likely winner is McCausland, president of the club, and a sergeant of the local police force. McCausland is a fine rider, and would have made a good showing in the recent races of the Massachusetts club had it not been that he broke his Star bicycle.

More Police Please

Once again, it seems as if the Good Old Days weren't necessarily so good. It was 1900, and people were hiring watchmen to protect their homes. At this time, station 13 was still responsible for all of the West Roxbury district.

Boston Daily Globe September 25, 1900

Want Better Protection.

Wishes of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain Residents Will be Granted.

West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain residents have been complaining for six months or more about poor police protection. Burglars have worked openly all summer so extensively that it became necessary for many residents to employ private watchmen. Letters have been written the commissioners and complaints have been made in person by residents.

The morning chairman Clark of the police board announced that the residents would have no cause to complain in the future. He admitted that the department had been short of men, and everything that was wanted in those districts could not be given them, but recently two batches of men passed the civil service examination, and have been added to the force. Now that the department has 30 or more men, the districts mentioned will be better protected.

The chairman said that he thought Boston makes a pretty good showing with cities of her size, when crime is concerned. He says there is no epidemic of burglaries in the city, and stories of that nature are much exaggerated.

When new men are sent to station 13 it is rumored that there will be changes. It is known that 50 or more men will be shifted on the police checker board soon, but they are all patrolmen. Just now there is talk of changing some of the superior officers. It is, in fact probable that when these changes are made, the station mentioned will see new faces.

Fire At The Arboretum

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

This is a bit of a puzzler. The old coachman's house of the old Bussey estate was part of the Arnold Arboretum at the time of this article. The article puts the house "under Hemlock hill." The map segment above shows a house and a shed at the edge of Hemlock hill along South street in the Arboretum. The map also locates the tunnel under the railroad tracks, so we know that the house was directly opposite the tunnel. The photo shows the site now. It's difficult to see, but there appears to be a cut in the hill right where the house and shed were, but unfortunately there is no evidence of any foundation. The site also seems smaller than the map would suggest, so it's hard for me to imagine the two buildings fitting into the cut in the hill. The site is also a good deal higher than South street, so it would have required a steep incline to get up to the shed/carriage house. Why would the put the building up that high above the road, when the ground closer to the South street gate was near street level?

The map brings up another question: why was the tunnel under the railroad tracks put in precisely that place? South street already passes under the tracks on the way to Roslindale, and the tunnel is quite small. The article has the firemen passing across a Muskrat village - did they go under the tracks at this tunnel? Where exactly was Muskrat village? A trip to the Arboretum headquarters may be in order.

Boston Daily Globe October 19, 1908

West Roxbury Firemen Put In Hard Day's Work Old Bussey House in Arnold Arboretum Destroyed - Jamaica Plain Barn Twice Afire - Two Brush Fires.

Fire, supposed to have been of incendiary origin, early yesterday morning destroyed the old Bussey house in the Arnold Arboretum, on South st, Forest Hills. The house is said to have been more than 150 years old.

It was situated under the famous "Hemlock hill," and in the lifetime of Benjamin Bussey, who deeded his large estate to Harvard university, was used as a coachman house. It was a 2 1/2 story pitch roof, wooden building and had not been used for a long time. There was an L and back of it a large shed, 60 by 18 feet, used as a storage place by the park department. It is said that the shed has been used as a lodging place by tramps.

The fire was discovered by patrolman Lorden at 1:55 and he sounded an alarm from box 528. Engine company 45 and ladder company 16 of Roslindale were first to reach the scene, by cutting across the meadow land on Washington st near "Muskrat village."

The fire had started in the large shed at the rear of the old house, but when the firemen reached the place it had communicated to the dwelling and was eating its way into the ancient building. Difficulty was found in getting water on the fire, for there was no water service in the street at that point and more than 1000 feet of hose had to be laid. It was a short fight when water was obtained.

The fire has left the shell of the house, which was constructed of hewed oak timbers. The shed contained an old steam boiler, many park seats and tools. All were destroyed. The loss is estimated at $1500.

[I snipped out the remaining West Roxbury fire stories]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Fire House - 1910

Boston Daily Globe July 29, 1910

Forest Hills Gets First Auto Chemical Machine. New Fire Station at Walk Hill and Wenham Sts Will Be Placed in Commission Today.

Automobile chemical engine 13 will be placed in commission this morning by Acting Commissioner Carroll in the new fire station erected at Walk Hill and Wenham sts, Forest Hills. The machine was built last year at Springfield and is the first piece of motor apparatus to be permenently installed in the departmental service.

The new commissioner is a great admirer of motor fire apparatus and intends to establish a flying squadron at Grove Hall. For 20 years residents of Forest Hills have sought additional fire protection, but it was not until Benjamin W. Wells took charge that definite arrangements were made to respond.

Mr Wells selected a site for a fire station at Forest Hills shortly before he was removed. After Samuel D. Parker became commissioner the city council appropriated money for a fire station and last winter the auto-chemical was built at Springfield at a cost of $5450.

The new fire station is of brick, 2 1/2 stories high and is regarded as one of the model fire stations of the country. The floors and ceilings are supported by massive steel girders. A feature of the house will be that the patrol desk and stairways will be in an L.

The main floor is of vitrified brick and in the rear is a provision for stalls should the fire leaders decide to place horse-drawn apparatus at the house. Even with the auto-chemical in service, there will be ample room for horse apparatus.

The house is finished with Carolina pine and well sheathed, ensuring a comfortable house in winter. On the second floor are quarters for three officers, while back of those are the dormitories and lounging rooms as well as shower baths and drying rooms. Moller and Smith designed the house and it cost the city $25,000.

The new chemical is equipped with two 35-gallon chemical tanks, several hundred feet of chemical hose, 1000 feet of hydrant hose, a small extention latter, two hand extinguishers, a life line, axes, door opener, hose jackets and other equipment that will make it an up-to-date a piece of fire apparatus. The machine will carry a large searchlight and two large fixed lights on front.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes Community Hall (copyright 2007)

Boston Daily Globe September 13, 1909

Dedicates Church Of Our Lady Of Lourdes Archbishop O'Connell Attends Services at Reconstructed Jamaica Plain Ediface.

The dedication of the reconstructed and enlarged church of Our Lady of Lourdes, on Brookside av, Jamaica Plain, took place yesterday morning.

The ceremonies were participated in by Archbishop O'Connell and by Mgr Thomas Magennis, PR, of St Thomas' church, Jamaica Plain, of whose parish the chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes was a part until a year ago.

During the 40 years Mgr Magennis has been in charge of St Thomas' parish, Jamaia Plain, the large increase in population has made necessary the divisions of it, including St Theresa's church of West Roxbury, Sacred Heart church of Roslindale, Our Lady of Lourdes, Jamaica Plain, and a part of St Mary of the Angels parish, Egleston Square.

The chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes was a mission of St Thomas' church for 14 years, until a year ago last July, when it was made a separate parish and was given in charge of Rev George A Lyons. The building was wholly insufficient for a parish church, and Fr Lyons set to work to enlarge it.

A 25 foot addition to the rear of the church as allowed of many needed improvements. Two altars have been erected at either side of the large altar, and are the altar of the Sacred Heart and the altar of St Joseph. A beautiful feature of the new church is seen above the main altar.It is a handsome grotto of Lourdes, illuminated by electric lights. The new addition has also allowed of the construction of an assembly hall in the basement and a vestry at the right of the sanctuary.

The ceremony of dedication was performed by Archbishop O'Connell. The solemn high mass was sung by Mgr Magennis, PR, assisted by Rev M.J. Flaherty of Concord, deacon, Rev D.J. Sullivan of the church of St Mary of the Angels, Egleston Square, subdeacon, Rev F.J. Golding, master of ceremonies. The mass was sung by a choir of 40 mixed voices under the direction of Miss Mary Dolan, organist. The dedication sermon was delivered by Rev Joseph V. Tracey, PR, of St Columbkille's church, Brighton.

In the evening at 7:45 solemn benediction was celebrated by Rev Mark E. Madden of St Thomas church, Jamaica Plain. The sermon was delivered by Rev Francis W. Maley of St Augustine's church, South Boston.

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.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Streets R-Z

I've already started going back through the list and comparing it to Google maps to catch the streets I missed the first time. Takes time.

Revere street - 1874
Roanoke avenue - 1849
Robeson street - 1884
Robinwood avenue - 1892
Rockview place
Rockview street - 1880
Rockwood street - 1872 (relocated 1880)
Rodman street - 1896
Rossmore road - 1910 (renamed portion of Keyes street)

Schiller street - 1891
School street - 1662 (named 1825)
Seaverns avenue - 1849 (laid out a public right of way, 1873)
Sheridan avenue - 1868
South street - 1662 (named 1825)
Spalding street - 1894 (laid out 1902)
Spring Park avenue - 1873
St. Joseph street - 1892
St. Mark street - 1897
St. Peter street - 1903
St. Rose street - 1897
Starr lane - 1849
Stedman street - 1890
Story place
Sunset avenue - 1893
Sylvia street - 1891

Thomas street - 1875
Toll Gate way - 1910
Tower street - 1892

Union avenue - 1874

Varney street - 1894
Varona street - 1906

Wachusett street - 1887
Walk Hill street - 1802
Walnut avenue - 1868
Walter street - 1825 (probably a public highway earlier)
Warren square
Washington street - 1788 (Norfolk and Bristol Turnpike laid out as public highway 1857)
Weld avenue - 1871
Weld Hill street - 1891
Wenham street - 1891
Williams street - 1871
Willow Pond road - 1892
Woodland road - 1892
Woodlawn street - 1892
Woodman street - 1868
Wyman street - 1891
Wyvern street - 1896

Zamora street - 1895

Jamaica Plane

This is the second reference I've found to planes being built in Jamaica Plain. This needs more digging to find out exactly where it was built. As a postscript to the story, Mr Hodgdon came in second to a British pilot flying a Sopwith Camel. Damn those Brits!

Boston Daily Globe May 19, 1919

Hodgdon's Flight A Boston Triumph Local Plane Shows Speed With Small Engine

Atlantic City Meet Offers Chance for Private-Built Machines

The flight made by Melvin W. Hodgdon from Boston to Atlantic City, N.J. last Wednesday afternoon for the Boston Globe's trophy and cash prizes is in some respects one of the most extraordinary distance flights that have been made in this country, for Hodgdon averaged 90 miles an hour in this flight with an engine of less than 100 horsepower. That is a very remarkable time.

Of course, the answer in this case is that the Whittemore-Hamm biplane, which Hodgdon piloted, is an exceptionally fine airplane - well-built, on fast lines, and remarkably well balanced. And the satisfactory thing about it, in one way, is that both the pilot and the machine are of Boston. In fact, this airplane is, with one exception, the only successful flying machine ever designed and built in Boston. It was built out at Jamaica Plain.

During the war the government ignored this machine and pinned its faith on some machines that only a rash pilot would attempt to fly from Boston to Atlantic City. But that was the fate of other machines which the government specialists ignored. Almost as soon as Hodgdon had reached Atlantic City the machine he flew was purchased for an aviation station at Falmouth, in this state, where ti will be flown this Summer. That also shows that somebody else has confidence in the L-2.

In point of fact, the L-2 is the fruit of careful cooperative study by Dr W.C. Whittemore of Cambridge and Walter E. Homan of Jamaica Plain, both of whome have devoted six years to the perfecting of the machine, and in that time Melvin W. Hodgdon has been the pilot for the inventors. He has grown up with it, and if it were large enough to carry the necessary fuel he would not hesitate to cross the Atlantic Ocean in it. That is the kind of confidence he has in the machine.

Hodgdon's flight has made some of the other entrants for the Globe trophy pause and it is doubtful now if some of them will fly in the kind of machines they were calculating to use. But there are some machines, like the Christmas Bullet, a speedy little biplane designed by Dr Christmas, but not yet completed, which may break the record Hodgdon made.

In point of fact the only opportunity a new inventor gets with his flying machine is in such contests as the Globe's and the contests for the other newspaper trophies which are free to all at Atlantic City. Besides the Globe trophy and prizes offered by the New York World, one by the New York Herald, one by the Atlanta Journal, and on by the Cleveland Plaindealer and one by the Detroit News.

And it should be clearly understood that there are inventors and flyers in these different cities all anxious to try for these prizes, so that there is no telling what the Atlantic City aviation meet will reveal before May 30, when it closes.

New addition: for photos of the plane, and the location of where it was built, go here.

Jamaica Pond Bath House

Once upon a time, there was swimming in Jamaica Pond. Gambols of nude boys and men! And a bathhouse that disappeared.

Boston Daily Globe July 30, 1873

The Courts.

Supreme Judicial Court.

The Jamaica Pond Bathing House - Petition For An Injunction Refused.

Before Judge Morton of the Supreme Court, sitting in chambers, yesterday a hearing was had on the petition of Eben D. Hall and others against Charles G. Mackintosh and others, selectmen of the town of West Roxbury. The petitioners, who are citizens of the town and dwellers near Jamaica Pond, ask for an injunction preventing the defendants from opening to the public a bath-house recently erected by the town on the shore of Jamaica pond, on the ground that the bathers violate modesty and decorum bu an exposure of their persons while in the act of bathing. Defendants reply that the bath-house has been erected for the express purpose of doing away with the cause of numerous complaints to the authorities of the gambols of nude boys and men upon the shores of the pond, and that every possible arrangement is made to prevent the exposure of the persons on the bathers.

A large number of witnesses were examined, most of them testifying that the value of the neighboring estates was in a measure diminished by the gathering of the crowds about the bath-house, but that in reference to the exposure of the persons of the bathers the fears of the petitioners were groundless on account of the precautions used by the authorities to prevent it.

Horace Gray, Jr., on behalf of the complainants, cited the ice-house case of West Roxbury vs Stoddard (7 Alien), the regatta case of Bosty*ick vs. the North Stafford railroad, the bowling-alley case of the Somerset Club, the urinalcase of Rudolph vs. St. George's vestry, and especially the pigeon-shooting case of Rex vs. Moore, where the nuisance consisted chiefly in the fact that an outside crowd of idlers would congregate in spite of the best efforts of the police. Mr Gray also dwelt upon the fact that a place of amusement where there was music by 18 performers, rockets, etc., had been declared a nuisance, although there was the most perfect order among the persons admitted; a crowd would inevitably gather outside and be unquiet.

Waldo Colburn, Esq., on behalf of the respondents, contended that the testimony disclosed the fact that somebody or another must be annoyed and that this concentration was the only way to control the evil. Judge Morton waived any formal argument for the respondents, remarking that it was not necessary to go into the merits of the case now. The only question was whether in case no injunction was granted, there would be irreparable injury. The injunction was accordingly refused.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

J.P. Puzzler


Mystery site. (Copyright 2007, all rights reserved)

So where were these pics taken? Hint: it's at the edge of Jamaica Plain, and it's public property.

We have a winner! Pagel park is between the railroad tracks and Hyde Park avenue opposite Wyvern street. That puts it right at the edge of Roslindale. The tunnel came out at the south edge of the Archdale housing projects where Brookway terrace ends.

Stony brook once crossed Hyde Park avenue right at the north edge of Pagel park and went under the railroad tracks. A City of Boston street directory of 1955 lists a Brookway Footpath between Brookway Terrace on the west side of the tracks and Hyde Park avenue on the east. This must have been it. The Archdale side is totally blocked off, but the stone wall on the Pagel side is still in view if you walk up close.

Congrats to Massmarrier - I buy you a virtual beer!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jeff, The Brewer Street Methuselah

Carriage house, Brewer street 2008.

I believe that the stable shown above is the same as stands now. The house is directly opposite the one I grew up in during the 1960s. Mr and Mrs Hayes lived there at the time. Three houses in a row on Brewer street retain their old carriage houses to this day. Brewer street isn't one of the oldest in Jamaica Plain, but it is older than most residential side streets of its kind. I would have added a matching picture from the present, but it looks like they're doing a major rehab on it right now.

Boston Daily Globe April 21, 1907

An Equine Methuselah

According to all obtainable statistics, Jeff Brigham is one of the oldest horses in the world. He lives in the Jamaica Plain district, at No. 5 Brewer st, as a member of the family of Mrs W.E. Brigham. Thirty-seven or 38 years is no great age in a man, but it is twice the average of a horse. The animal that lives to the end of 18 years is considered to have reached a ripe old age and is usually turned out to pasture, sold at auction, or chloroformed, according to the compassion of his owner.

Jeff's owners would as soon think of administering chloroform to one of themselves as putting an end to the good old horse's life.

Jeff has grown old with the family that owns him. He has outlived his master, and now faithfully serves his mistress, whom he conveys wherever she goes, always moving at a comfortable trot with very little indication of age in his movements. He has never been sick a day in his life, but of late years he has required to services of a dentist, not for any lack of teeth, but owing to an over supply. He has had to have his teeth filed down two or three times to prevent their interfering with the mastication of his food.

Eating has always been a very important consideration with Jeff. Three meals a day, as regularly as the clock strikes, have been his never-failing portion. He is comfortably housed in a warm, new stable, built especially for him. He is accustomed to gentle treatment and a certain degree of deference to the dignity of his age.

The boys George and Will, who used to romp on his back when he was a sprightly horse of 10 or 12, have grown to stalwart manhood under his supervision, and they treat him with the respect which is his due.

An automobile is Jeff's particular horror. Born before the time of bicycles, he managed to become reconciled to them in his youth, but these new devices, with their honking and puffing and locomotive speed, are too much for him at his time of life. He is exceedingly fond of music, especially of the martial type, and will march to time and cavort in dance fashion if he happens not to be harnessed.

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

Burroughs street runs across the top of the map, and Brewer bisects it from top to bottom. Five Brewer street is the upper Brigham property on this map fragment.

Raise The Flag

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

This is an insignificant story in itself, but it tells us something about the history of a particular plot of land. The housing block that is now across from St Thomas Church on South street was a parking lot in the 1960s and '70s. In 1873, the town directory lists a school on Child street, and an 1874 map shows the building on this site. Maps from the late 1800s show the plot as some kind of city yard with multiple building, but the actual use is not specified. Here, we learn that it was a sewer department yard. Which makes sense. During the 1880s and '90s many residential streets were being laid out, and each would have required a sewer line, so that department would have been very busy. Once the streets were supplied with sewer mains, the local yard could have been closed, and the work crews centralized a main yard. Around the same time, parishioners were probably buying cars, and a parking lot would have been needed. No doubt an important neighborhood institution would have been favored when the city no longer needed the land for its old purpose.

The story also reminds us that the sewer department was once far more active than it is now. All over the city's outer districts, the laying out of streets and utilities would have been a major undertaking of the day. Once the work was done, those departments involved became maintenance departments, an annoyance that blocks traffic on otherwise good roads when they need to go back underground and do repairs. We take a lot for granted these days, no?

Boston Daily Globe May 22, 1898

Little Ones Hail The Flag.

Sewer Department Employees Unfurl "Old Glory" at Jamaica Plain.

"Old Glory" was flung to the breeze yesterday by the Jamaica Plain division of the sewer departemtn at their yard on South st.The flag was purchased by a popular subscription among the men, and measures 12x21 feet.

When the flag was thrown to the breeze a band played "The Star Spangled Banner." This patriotic air and also "America" were sung by about 300 children, pupils at St Thomas parochial school, in charge of Rev Fr Donahue, grouped around the flag pole.

Friday, November 23, 2007

But Did He Play Pinball?

I bet you didn't know that Jamaica Plain had its own Tommy, the "deaf, dumb and blind" boy! The Jamaica Plain institution referred to was the Perkins Institution & Mass. School for the Blind, at the corner of Perkins and Day street. The kindergarten building was at the beginning of Day street.

Boston Daily Globe January 1, 1896

Tommy's Christmas.

How a Little Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy Found Enjoyment in the Jamaica Plain Institution.

All who have heard of wonderful little Tommy Stringer one of the deaf, dumb and blind pupils of the kindergarten for the blind at Jamaica Plain, are probably interested to hear more, and one of the most recent happenings of interest in regard to Tommy, was Tommy's Christmas.

[snip remainder of article]

The rest of the article goes on in heartwarming detail to tell of the exploits of little Tommy at school. A little too much detail for our purposes, but I did find another reference to Tommy.

"The Kindergarten for the Blind at Jamaica Plain, founded by Mr. Anagnos with the assitance of his wife, serves as a preparatory school for the Perkins Institution. The schools at Jamaica Plain and South Boston quietly and persistantly realize the best educational theories for the blind and the deaf blind. Here Thomas Stringer, Edith Thomas, Elizabeth Robin, and other blind deaf mutes have received and are receiving their education. In each case so far, Mr Anagnos has found means to supply the special teacher on whom the education of the blind deaf-mute must depend. Thomas Stringer, who was received at the kindergarten literally a little animal, has spent most of his life there. During the last years he has been a regular member of one of the public schools in Roxbury, the Lowell Grammar School, from which he was graduated in June, 1903, having received his diploma with an assurance from the head master, that it had been as honestly earned as any ever given by the school."

Source: Laura Bridgman, Dr. Howe's Famous Pupil and what He Taught Her

Maud Howe Elliot, Florence Howe Hall


Airplanes in Jamaica Plain?

Here's an interesting historical nugget: a pilot having an airplane built in Jamaica Plain in 1911 for a flight across the Atlantic. Needless to say, he never made it, and Jamaica Plain didn't enter the aeronautical history books.

Boston Daily Globe February 11, 1911

To Fly Across The Atlantic Carter Starts March 19 in Aeroplane. Aims to Do It in 49 Hours After Leaving Sandy Hook. His Machine Will Be Built at Jamaica Plain.

Harry Graham Carter, the English aviator, yesterday afternoon leased a building in Jamaica Plain in which he will have constructed an all-metal aeroplane in which he will attempt to fly from this country to England in 49 hours, starting March 19.

With several men well-known in the automobile business he closed negotiations in which he takes over the lease of a three-story garage at 10 Green st which runs through to 13 Centre pl. Here in a few days, work of constructing the aeroplane in which he will attempt the record flight will be started by a force of mechanics. Mr Carter will remain in Boston to supervise the work.

"I shall start from Sandy Hook March 19, and I expect to make the flight across the ocean in 49 hours," said the aviator to a Globe reporter last night.

Mr Carter estimates the distance he will fly as 2400 miles. His aeroplane is to be equipped with two 30-horse-power motors, which will drive twin-screw aluminum propellers. The machine, it is expected, will have a maximum speed of 90 miles an hour, but the average will be between 65 and 70 miles.

"I am serious in my purpose to fly to England," said the rosy-cheeked English aviator. "That's what I am in America for. I am convinced that I can do it. I hope to strike the coast about at Queenstown. I shall go as straight as the compass will let me steer.

"I have tried out my motors. They will run for 27 hours, but I expect to perfect them so that they will run for 54 hours. The aeroplane will carry 36 gallons of gasoline.

The aeroplane in which Mr Carter expects to make the remarkable flight will be tandem. All the frame work is to be made of steel, and the wings are to be covered with a special material which he calls parchment. The planes are to be 50 feet wide. The framework is to be of hollow tubing, in order that it may be filled with gasoline. In this way the aviator hopes to carry the necessary fuel without adding undue weight and head resistance. He will carry sufficient food in a compartment to last several days.

Mr Carter said last night that probably a week will be spent in making the building in Jamaica Plain ready for the purpose to which it is to be put, and as soon as this is done the work of constructing the aeroplane will begin.

He added that he is strongly tempted to try his skill at making a flight from New York to San Francisco, as a prize of $20,000 has been offered for such a flight.


This map shows us the top of Green street in 1899. The pink colored block owned by T.E. Turnbull is at 10 Green st. By 1905, there was another brick building standing behind this one on Centre place (now Greenview street). I assume that the Turnbull building is the one referred to in the article.

Another company built airplanes in Jamaica Plain, but that's another story.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fire At Goodnows IV - And No Potatoes Accepted!

This is the last of the fires that hit the stables behind the Goodnow building, at least up until 1924. Quite a string of bad luck, no?

Boston Daily Globe January 22, 1917

Three Horses Suffocated

Perished in Fire on the Second Floor of Brick Stable on Centre st, Jamaica Plain

Three horses were suffocated in a fire yesterday afternoon on the second floor of a 2 1/2-story brick stable in the rear of 704 Centre st, Jamaica Plain. The building is the property of the Goodnow estate, of which the Old Colony Trust Company is the trustee.

The origin of the fire is unknown. A few minutes after 1 o'clock passersby saw smoke coming out of the windows, but the alarm was not rung for some minutes, because of the inablilty of the spectators to determine whether there was a fire.

when the apparatus arrived the building was enveloped in clouds of smoke, and it was utterly impossible to rescue the horses. Wagons and other vehicles were taken out from the street floor, but the fire was under control before anything in the lower part of the building was damaged.

One of the horses was the property of John Mahoney and the other two belonged to George Jiaris, who are the lessees of the property. The damage to the building was about $900; the horses were valued at $400.

Boston Daily Globe March 2, 1917

Black Hander Demands $10,000

Letter Tacked on Shop Door in Jamaica Plain

Mahoney, the Receiver, Believes the Missive Only a Joke

A black hand letter, threatening to destroy his stable and blacksmith shop if he did not place $10,000 on the floor, inside of the shop doorway last night, was the startling ultimatum which John P. Mahoney of Jamaica Plain found tacked on door when he went to open his smithy at 716 Centre st Jamaica Plain, yesterday. The notice was scrawled with a lead pencil.

The wording and spelling indicated that it may have been the work of a practical joker, although there is a reference made to a mysterious fire which only six weeks ago destroyed three valuable horses at Mr Mahoney's stable.

The notice read a follows.

"Dere Mr John Mahoney. Youd better leave $10,000 on the flor inside the door of this shak tonite or well burn the shak down again."

The words were followed by a crude skull and cross bones and a sprawled signature, "Gyp the Blood."

At the bottom of the paper, which was about six inches square, was a postscript: "No Potatoes Accepted."

Last night at his home, 84 Seaverns av, Mr Mahoney said he believed the letter was the prank of some child. "I have no enemies that I know of," he said, "and where in the world would I get $10,000." It must be a joke."

The notice was left on the door of the shop until late afternoon, when it was torn down by Mr Mahoney's daughter, Anna.

The police are interested in the letter because of the reference to the fire, no satisfactory cause for it having been found.

A Minstrel Show In The Woodpile

Post number 100!

From our vantage point in the early years of the 21st Century, it is difficult to know what to make of the phenomenon of minstrel shows. For most of us, blackface may bring to mind Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, or Amos and Andy. Perhaps we know that minstrel shows were popular entertainment in the 19th century, later replaced in popularity by vaudville. The idea of white people pretending to be African-Americans in order to entertain each other seems slightly ridiculous at best, and more likely obviously racist.

So what does it say about Jamaica Plain at the turn of the 20th century when we learn that minstrel shows were popular fixtures of social organizations at the time? While the travelling minstrel shows of the mid-late 1800s may have past their prime years of success, it seems that the form was still quite popular among amateur groups when it was time to put on the annual show. The Jamaica Club's production in 1898 was "the best ever." Apparently it was a yearly event, playing to a nearly full house at Eliot Hall. From 1900:

"The annual appearance of the minstrel troupe of Jamaica Plain's leading social organization has become one of the social features of the section. Its successes have been so great in the past that the mere announcement of the dates is sufficient to warrant a call for the entire seating capacity of the house, and this year is no exception. As for the show itself, it can be said it has never been exceeded by any of the club's efforts."

In October of 1901, a headline declares

"Fun Behind Black Faces.

Minstrelsy at Columbia Hall by Young Men of Church and Parish of the Blessed Sacrament."

Under the headline we learn:

"There was more than the interest over what might be termed merely a minstrel show, for the participants were giving their time and talent for the benefit of the church of the Blessed Sacrament and parish. Among the many projects under the direction of the progressive clergy there has been the erection of a new school building and steps have been taken toward the construction of a new ediface."

Not to be left out, the next month the young women of Blessed Sacrament followed with their own ladies-only minstrel show, with orchestra selections and songs sung in front of a chorus of "ebonied Roxbury belles."

At the end of the same year, the Jamaica Plain council, Knights of Columbus, put on a minstrel show at Curtis Hall before a large audience. They added a Japanese element, with the host, or interlocutor, playing the part of the Mikado. Still, the stereotypical elements of the standard minstrel show remained, with blackface "end men", "plantation" songs and buck and wing dances.

The next year brought the Jamaica Club back into the news, with the chairman of the board of street commissioners in his initial bow as interlocutor.

Coverage of Jamaica Plain minstrel shows in feature articles is limited to these few years, with allusions to past performances. We don't know from this source when they began, how popular they were across the entire community, or when they went out of fashion. I think we can say that they had a broad popularity, and based on the Globe articles, there was nothing to hide in either putting them on or discussing them. Which, to our modern sensibility, raises the question: what where those people thinking?

No doubt this subject has been examined in detail in historical studies, but in our case we can't go back and ask past Jamaica Plain residents about their attitudes and intentions. Would they argue that it was just good clean fun, with no intention to insult or harm? Would any of those who were not at the shows see them as we do? Without direct evidence from those involved, we just can't say.

What we can say about these shows is that the racism in them was explicit. The best way to show this would be to publish the articles as written, but I've decided to not do so. The language is so obviously offensive that to replicate it now would be to ask for trouble in today's environment. I invite you to go to the Boston Globe archive at the Boston Public Library web site with your library card number, and search for the articles yourself. Seeing the scans of the articles, with the associated drawings, is no less than shocking.

I think I can say that Jamaica Plain was no worse than any other similar community of the time. Minstrel shows were popular across the country, and leading form of entertainment for decades. Presumable, the people who put on these shows, and those who watched and enjoyed them, were not doing so in a conscious effort to harm African-Americans. The nature of the offence seems more subtle, but no less pernicious than that. The lampooning of African -Americans that was the heart of minstrel shows suggest that both performers and audience, if not overtly hostile to black people, certainly didn't take them seriously as human beings. And the latter is no less a crime than the former.

Boston Daily Globe

April 27, 1898
February 23, 1900
October 3, 1901
NOverber 26, 1901
December 31, 1901
February 19, 1902

This article has a postscript. I add it with apprehension, because it is difficult to know what to make of it. The previous articles speak for themselves, but this much later picture, shown below, is more difficult to interpret. It comes from the front page of the Jamaica Plain Citizen, April 16, 1948. The caption reads "These youngsters, all members of Cub 1, participated in the annual Boy Scout Minstrel Show last week presented to a capacity audience in Capen Memorial Hall."

The picture is a poor copy, but it makes the uncomfortable point. Had the minstrel show been defanged by this time, making a simple children's musical show of old South songs (think Way Down Upon the Suwannee River) out of the old racist lampoons? In this case I can add a relevant clue. In previous issues of the Citizen that year, there were respectful articles about a Negro History Week celebration of the time, and the efforts of a "colored" woman to publicize the achievements of black artists. The crude charcterizations of the earlier Boston Globe articles are gone, replaced with what we might describe as the language of "inclusion." If nothing else, this shows that history is messy in its details, and times change in fits and starts.

A final note: in the blackface picture above, I assumed at first glance that there were two women present, playing parts with the boys. The caption revealed that the "girls" were actually boys. In the original minstrel shows, it was common to have women's parts played by men in drag, and the Jamaica Plain men were no different.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Community Meeting - 1910

In 1910, the city of Boston was still dealing with the West Roxbury district as a whole, rather than its constituent parts of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and West Roxbury proper, as it does now. Mt Hope was still recognized as a neighborhood, later to disappear into White City and perhaps Roslindale. Germantown suffered the same fate, losing its distinctive identity to West Roxbury.

I left out the sections referring specifically to districts outside today's Jamaica Plain.

Boston Daily Globe February 16, 1910

West Roxbury's Needs Related

Wants of Sections Presented by Improvement Societies.

New Streets and Sidewalks Most Generally Asked.

Mayor Fitzgerald and the city council, with Guy C. Emerson, superintendent of streets, visited West Roxbury last evening and leared the needs of the district from the citizens, more than 600 of whom had assembled in the splendid hall of the West Roxbury high school.

In area West Roxbury is the largest district in the city, containing more than a half-dozen fairly distinct communities. And the general needs of this vast district are many, although the more urgent matters are not at all extravagant.

Each of the communities has its improvement association and one or more representatives of each of these associations made known the wants of the district.

The first and most general needs of the district as a whole appear to be the acceptance and construction of streets and the improvement of sidewalks next come playgrounds, one or more tunnel under the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad embankment, a better system of caring for ashes and garbage, cleaner and better watered streets, new primary schoolhouses at Germantown and Roslindale, the opening of the city yard, a more efficient warfare on the gypsy and browntail moths and the elm tree beetle all over West Roxbury, and an elevated station at Green st.

It was the largest meeting held thus far and in some respects it was the most business like, as each of the improvement associations had studied and approved the matters proposed and those matters which related to the district as a whole were approved by all of the associations, and each association had a competent speaker to present its needs. The improvement associations represented at the meeting were Jamaica Plain, Germantown, West Roxbury, Mt Hope, Roslindale and Forest Hills. The Cleveland club was also represented.

Waste Paper Business.

A suggestion from William B. Wheelwright that the city go into business of sorting and selling waste paper brought out a discussion, in which Mayor Fitzgerald and Supt Emerson took part. Mr Wheelwright insisted there was money to be made on waste paper, and Supt Emerson admitted something might be done if the people would separate the paper from the ashes, otherwise it wold not pay.

Frank M. Doyle suggested that an ordinance compelling people to separate the paper as they do garbage from the ashes would settle the matter. It was learned that the Woman's municipal league with the Morgan Memorial had undertaken the kind of work in a small way.

The mayor said that perhaps the meetings of the city government and the people and the discussions resulting might produce a civic spirit that would result in the cooperation of the people more and more in such things. He believed that it was a matter the improvement association should take up.

In opening the meeting Mayor Fitzgerald again explained the things which came under the head of appropriations and those that came under loans and special legislative acts. Most of the matters introduced at the meeting would come under the head of loans.

He later pointed out that Boston was about the only large city in the country that paid the expense of new streets. In other cities the cost was born by the abutters. He said that the city paid half the expense of sidewalks and the property owners the other half, and the present poor condition of the sidewalks in West Roxbury was due largely to the fact that the property owners were unwilling to pay their half of the cost. The city was ready to go ahead with such improvements.

Patrick J. Brady, representing the Cleveland club, was the first speaker. He said the organization represented the largest body of citizens in the West Roxbury district, so he said that he would take up the general needs of the district, but would leave it to the improvement associations to point out the necessity of the various needs.

In Jamaica Plain.

L.J. Brackett, president of the Jamaica Plain citizens' association, said Jamaica Plain had three important needs; playgrounds, the improvement and care of certain streets and sidewalks and the preservation of trees from insects. He called special attention to the sidewalks of Centre st from Green to Boylston st and on Washington st from Green st to Forest Hills sq. He spoke for cleaner and better watered streets and receptacles for waste paper in the business streets; also increased efficiency in the collection of ashes and garbage.

He recommended for the consideration of the city government the construction of a new street over Stony brook, a tunnel under the New Haven tracks at some point between Green and Boylston sts, and the restoration of the noon bell and the no-school bell service. He asked the Mayor to appear at the hearings before the railroad commissioners and endorse a station of the elevated at Green st, and urged the mayor and city council to favor the electrification of steam railroads in greater Boston.

Rev Carroll Perry urged the necessity of three playgrounds in Jamaica Plain, one on the Goodwin estate, which the city already partly owned; one on the Burrage estate on Perkins st and Jamaia Way, which was being used at present by permission of the owner as a playground, and one at Brookside and Cornwall sts, where it would be also possible to have a winter gymnasium.

Dr E. Peabody Gerry advocated more strenuous measures to save the trees from gypsy moths, browtail moths and elm beetles. Much had been done, but much remained to be done, and he suggested that the city appropriate $75,000 to get rid of the pestes. He also pleaded for reforestation and the planting of new trees. He said the Soldier's monument should be better cared for and that the cleaning of the sidewalks of snow should be more strictly attended to.

He said Jamaica pond was sadly in need of cleaning and that the proposed footbridge, 38 feet high, over the New Haven tracks above Forest Hills should not be built. A tunnel should be built at the point.

Supt Emerson said the matter of a tunnel had been considered, and sentiment appeared to be evenly divided between a footbridge and a tunnel.

Mayor Fitzgerald suggested that the snow-plow service in the matter of opening sidewalks should be resumed. He believed that the care of the Soldier's monument would come within the scope of the Parkman fund.

[cut "Germantown's 13 Needs"]

Rev George H. Lyons of Our Lady of Lourdes church urged the necessity of a tunnel under the New Haven tracks to connect Cornwall and Oakdale sts. He said 800 parishioners lived on one side of the track and they had to walk a half mile or moreto get to the church, which was in reality only a short distance away. It is one of the most congested sections and the lack of a tunnel puts thousands of people to great inconvenience, he said.

[cut West Roxbury, Mt Hope and Roslindale sections]


A few thoughts: sadly, they lost the battle with the elm beetles. The paper recycling suggestion was interesting, and no doubt before its time. The tunnel under the railroad tracks between Green and Boylston sts was built at the end of Lawndale street, off Lamartine, and coming out to Amory street. The footbridge for Forest Hills must have been the Tollgate bridge, and is listed as being built the same year as this meeting. The steel span remains, but the stairs on each side and the wooden flooring is gone.

A Turkey-less Thanksgiving

In honor of Turkey-Day, I give you a Dickensian story gastronomic tragedy. The two articles don't quite match in the telling, but the event described appears to be the same in both. Happy holidays.

Boston Daily Globe November 24, 1915

Offer Turkeys At Low Prices

Proprietors of Store Put Under Arrest.

Dover st Dealers Accused of Receiving Stolen Goods.

Wagonload Disappears on Way to Jamaica Plain.

Charged with receiving a wagonload of provisions and vegetables alleged to have been stolen Monday night from a market district firm, Morris Rautush, 23 years old, of Malden, and Joseph Tutchinsky, 22 years old, of 43 Willow st, Malden, proprietors of a market at 44 Dover st, were arrested last night by officers of the Court sq and East Dedham st stations after the firm had issued a circular in which they advertised turkeys at shockingly reduced rates.

Monday afternoon B. Kineen & Co, who have a store at 1 1/2 Faneuil Hall sq, sent a wagon load of turkeys, chickens, been, vegetables and miscellaneous articles valued at $386.71 to C.O. Bennett & Sons, Green st, Jamaica Plain. Later Monday evening the rig was put up at a stable on Cross st, stripped of its freight, but the driver disappeared quickly and has not been seen since, and word came from Jamaica Plain that the goods had not been received.

Yesterday the police secured some information regarding the alleged disposition of the property and placed the store on Dover st under surveillance. They had not been watching the store long before circulars advertising turkeys at 22 cents a pound and other things correspondingly cheap were displayed. Sergt McDonald and Special Officer Trayers of the Court sq Station with Sergt Irwin and Special Officer Morrissey of East Dedham st then placed the storekeepers under arrest.

The load that was stolen included 690 pounds of turkey, 126 pounds of been, four hams, many chickens, guinea chicken, celery and other vegetables. The police recovered property valued at $225. It is alleged that the dealers bought the cosignment of goods from the driver for $150. What became of the driver is a mystery.

September 6, 1916

Thanksgiving-less Mystery Cleared

Driver of Vanishing Dinner wagon Arrested

Charged With Stealing Turkeys and Fixin's Worth $365

Why between 150 and 200 residents of Jamaia Plain were left dinnerless last Thanksgiving was explained last evening when James Waters, 41 years old, who says he is "an habitual criminal," and lives "somewhere on Broadway, Cambridge," was arrested by officers of the City Hall av Police Station. Through Waters teh police learned that the dinners were stolen, but what became of them is still a mystery, for the prisoner refuses to tell.

Late last Thanksgiving Eve a wagon left 4 1/2 Faneuil Hall Market, loaded with turkeys, geese, ducks, fowl, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, celery and cranberries, in bundles addressed to residents of Jamaica Plain. The wagon represented the Thanksgiving dinners of these families.

Waters was driver of the wagon, which started, presumably, for Jamaica Plain. The conveyance did not arrive at its rightful destination. Not a trace of the horse, wagon, harness or Thanksgiving dinners did the police get for months.

The Jamaica Plain residents waited all Thanksgiving eve for the appearance of their dinners. Thanksgiving dawned, but still no dinners came. As it was then too late to purchase food for home consumption, that section of Jamaica Plain went Thanksgiving-less or to hotels.

Yesterday, Waters appeared at a Canal st store and applied for a job. An officer of the Court sq Police Station recognized him and promptly arrested him. A few days ago the horse, wagon and harness, which vanished last November, were recovered.

Waters was booked at the station charged with the larceny of a horse, wagon and harnes from Bartholomew Dineen of 4 1/2 Faneuil Hall Market. The complaint also states that Waters did steal turkeys, geese, ducks, fowl, beef, potatoes, sweet and white, celery and cranberries to the value of $365. He will be arraigned in court today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Border, What Border?

Both images Sidney & Smith, 1852 (copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection

Both pictures above are from the same map, published one year after West Roxbury seceded from Roxbury. The upper image shows most of both towns, with the bordering towns as well. Dorchester, on the right, consisted of all the land between the coast and the old town of Roxbury. Notice that there is no Hyde Park on this map. The town of Hyde Park was later to be made up from parts of Dorchester, Milton and Dedham. Today's Cleary Square was part of Dorchester at the time. The lower left corner of the map segment shows Dedham in green. Parts of Dedham were later sold off to West Roxbury and Hyde Park to create today's border between Dedham and Boston. The borders of Brookline and Newton are the same as today. A general look at the same image shows that West Roxbury was more south west of the remaining town of Roxbury.

The lower map detail is a closer look at the north section of the east border between West Roxbury and Dorchester. That would be where the green of Dorchester meets the yellow of West Roxbory. If you enlarge the image, you might be able to discern that where the three towns meet is approximately the corner of Seaver street and today's Blue Hill avenue. The Roxbury - West Roxbury border followed Seaver street up from Egleston square along today's Franklin Park to Blue Hill avenue. From there, the West Roxbury - Dorchester border generally follows today's Harvard street in a straight line southwest to a point near today's Morton street, where it angles in a more westerly direction. It crosses Walk Hill street, continuing on across the railroad tracks that now run near Hyde Park avenue.

The verbal description gets a little labored, but if you know the contemporary streets and you look closely at the maps, it should all make sense. The point of this exercise is to ask the question What happened to Franklin Park, the State Hospital property and Mt Hope cemetery? Franklin Park has been considered by most people I know as Dorchester, and the old State Hospital facilities on Morton street were known to all in Jamaica Plain as the Mattapan hospital.

On its north border, Jamaica Plain expanded from its old West Roxbury border to include everything as far as Heath street and the bottom of Parker Hill. In the east, Jamaica Plain contracted from the old West Roxbury borders to the west edge of Franklin Park, the west edge of Forest Hills cemetery, and kinda-sorta Canterbury street. The situation begs for wild speculation. Here goes.

In the north, the straight-line border made no sense geographically or socially. The line actually cut through individual house plots from Egleston square through Hyde square. The breweries that would be built were a logical extention of the Roxbury industrial district, but the residential district was another matter. The railroad tracks and Hogg's bridge separated the area south of Parker Hill from the rest of Roxbury, and it's the residents that define neighborhood identity. It was only natural that people living on Day street would associate more with their neighbors on Paul Gore street than with the rest of Roxbury once the entire district was part of Boston.

The east border of West Roxbury is another matter. Here, there were few residents. Once Franklin Park and the Morton street institutions were built, the non-residential use of the land would make the identiy of the area problematic. Who decides which community "owns" a parkland that sits between the two. My theory is based on the surrounding neighborhoods. Jamaica Plain borders Franklin Park on residential streets. In Seaver street and Blue Hill avenue, Roxbury and Dorchester had major roadways and dense populatios bordering the park. Jamaica Plain residents could go about their business in their communtiy without ever passing by Franklin Park. I suspect that Jamaica Plain residents never felt posessive of Franklin Park because it was "out of sight, out of mind." The "Mattapan" state hospital would have a similar explanation. With the property on the far side of Forest Hills cemetery, there was no residential district in Jamaica Plain to consider it part of the neighborhood, ceding it to the bordering Mattapan.