Sunday, January 6, 2008

South Huntington Avenue Grows

Bromley, 1931 (BPL)

This 1899 map shows Heath street circling around the south west side of Parker hill - South Huntington avenue would later take the same path, and extend to Centre street. This map
shows the empty land between Hyde square and Leverett park.

Considering its use as a main thoroughfare, South Huntington avenue is a relatively new street. In the 19th century, Heath street was the only way around the west side of Parker hill. The Jamaicaway added a route south from Brookline Village, but the land between Leveritt Pond and the Hyde square/Heath street area seems to have been undeveloped. The official Boston book of streets says that in 1896, the city of Boston gave authority to open a road from Heath street to Castleton street. In 1901, a street was opened from Heath to Centre street. That street was extended over Heath street to Huntington avenue in 1906. The Boston Globe reports a Jamaica Plain citizens reception for the city streets commissioner celebrating the extension of South Huntington avenue, and the first streetcar trip on the new South Huntington route in 1903.

South Huntington avenue quickly became an institutional district, and in the article below we meet still another entry - the Rachel Allen Home for Colored Women. The Home originated on Windsor street in Roxbury, with support from Trinity church.

Jamaica Plain News October 9, 1909

Development Of South Huntington Avenue. Erection of Vincent Memorial Hospital Followed the Year by Homes for Aged Women and Blind Babies Making Attractive Group of Buildings
--- Further Building and Improvements Likely in Near Future.

Much interest and some curiosity has no doubt been felt this summer by the people of the West Roxbury District who travel over South Huntington avenue, in the two new building that have been under construction since the early spring on that thoroughfare and Jamaica Way, near the Vincent Memorial hospital, and not far from the junction of Heath street. It is felt by many residents of Jamaica Plain that when the Vincent Memorial hospital was erected on South Huntington avenue two years ago and the lower end of that street was widened, that this was but the beginning of a movement that would eventually result in the vicinity becoming the location of numerous fine homes of institutions and philanthropies, and this thoroughfare one of the important and attractive ones of the city. The realization of this expectation or prophecy is now having its beginning in the group of buildings now drawing toward completion adjacent to the Vincent Hospital.

This group of buildings includes two handsome structures, and are the Rachel Allen Home for Aged Colored Women and the Home of the Boston Nursery for Blind Babies. The buildings are very similar in style and construction, and when completed will make two very attractive structures.

The Rachel Allen Home is the result of a Boston woman's means and philanthropic spirit. It stands nearest to the Vincent Hospital, fronting on South Huntington avenue, but with deep piazzas on the side looking east. The building is two and a half stories high, the ground floor being very low and the roof containing dormer windows, so that it has a strong bungalow appearance, the combination giving a pleasing effect architecturally. The building is of cement construction, the tile brick of the walls being faced throughout with white cement. It stands well back from the street, giving an ample yard, and will have accommodations for about 25 inmates. Ground was broken for the building about the middle of April, and construction begun the first of May. The interior finish is now being put on and the building will probably be ready for occupancy about Thanksgiving time.

The second building of the group is the home for blind babies, being built by the Boston Nursery for Blind Babies, which is now located at 66 Fort avenue, Roxbury. It stands still deeper in from the street than the home for aged women, though quite near to it, and overlooks Jamaica Way from which thoroughfare entrance to the Home is made.

This building is of the same general style of architecture and construction as the other, and of about equal size. It is constructed so as to give the maximum of light and with ample piazza space. These piazzas facing the parkway and the park system toward Jamaica Pond make the outlook from the building very attractive. While the blind babies will be unable to appreciate this advantage, it will add greatly to the attractiveness of the Home for the attendants.

The building is to have accommodations for 25 blind babies and will be the third Home of its kind in the country. The organization, which is one of three in the country, now has 19 blind babies in its care. They are taken at birth and kept until five years of age, when they are turned over to the Perkins Institution for the Blind.

These two new buildings, with the Vincent Hospital, make an attractive group and are no doubt but the first of numerous others that will in a few years make South Huntington avenue a prominent and well settled thoroughfare. One of the rumors that is now attracting attention in connection with this vicinity as an attractive building place is that the Institute for Technology is considering the purchase of the Perkins Institute property, when the kindergarten for the blind is removed to the Institute's new home in Watertown, as a site for a new home for this down town educational institution. Should this transaction take place, it would result in fine new buildings being erected on the avenue between Perkins and Bynner streets, and add greatly to the dignity of South Huntington avenue, as well as to the profit and attractiveness of this section of Jamaica Plain.

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