Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Codman Estate Becomes Union Avenue

Codman Estate, Washington and Green sts., 1854.

The picture above show the portion of the Codman estate that was divided and sold in 1854. Washington street runs along the bottom, and Green street along the right side. Stony brook winds through the land, and the railroad tracks form the upper border. There are a few things to notice here. First, this is the origin of Union avenue, shown turning within the curve of the brook from Washington to Green streets. Second, there is a passageway running between lots 23 and 26 (click on the picture to see a larger version) from the new street (Union ave.) up towards the railroad tracks. I believe this is the same passageway that is shown on the adjoining Green street plan of the land of Samuel Goodrich. This passageway probably predated the railroad, and gave access to to Goodrich and Greenough land from the Turnpike (Washington st.).

Green street and the railroad tracks, 1837.

This segment of the earlier plan of the Goodrich/Green street development shows the upper left section of the Codman plan (under the name of trustee John Ashton), along with the area on the other side of the railroad tracks (note that Green street is called Willow on the drawing). You can see here how the passageway connected from today's Seaverns avenue and Elm street down and across the railroad right of way. The passageway was written into the deeds of the time, and was later ceded to the railroad company when Green street replaced its purpose.

Another thing to consider: in many places, Stony brook formed the boundry between early plots of land. When properties of many acres like the Codman and Goodrich estates bordered each other, the brook, and not a straight line, formed the boundry. As a result, when the district began to develop, strange curving lots of various sizes resulted.

The passageway mentioned above provides us with some interesting information as well. In the enlarged version it can be seen that the passageway was marked as being 20 feet wide. Which gives us a good estimate - and the only one I know of - of how wide the brook was in it's natural state. This was before any channelling or straightening had been done, so the brook was certainly more than a stream one could step over at this location. The full size picture also reveals a barn and cottage on lot 10, a nursery on lot 13, and a "large elm" on lot 14.

There is one other thing to add. Where the brook meets Green street, along lot 5 and near the final "t" in Green street, there is a small block drawn in, representing a building. On another, later surveyor's drawing of the area, that building, shown sitting with one corner directly on top of the brook, is labeled a carpenter's shop. I think we can guess that the carpenter was using the brook to power a saw. If so, this is the only example I know of the brook being used for power in Jamaica Plain. The stream that runs through the Arnold Arboretum at Hemlock Hill was once called Sawmil brook, but I have never found a reference for the actual location of the sawmill.

We can thank surveyor G.H. Nott for his careful work on drawing this plan.

The Boston Daily Atlas September 21, 1854

WHITWELL, - BROTHER & CO. Great Sale of BUILDING LOTS At Jamaica Plains,

On THURSDAY, Sept. 28, at 3 o'clock, P.M., on the premises.

Will be sold by public auction, thirty-four House Lots, varying in contents from nine thousand to twenty-five thousand feet, and one of eighty-seven thousand feet and upwards, at Jamaica Plain, bounding on Green street and Norfolk and Bristol turnpike; and within three minutes walk of Green street station, on the Boston and Providence Railroad, where trains stop several times a day.

The lots are beautifully situated in a quiet healthy locality within convenient distance of schools and churches, in the vicinity of an excellent neighborhood, and but ten minutes distance from the city by railroad.

They constitute a portion of the estate of the late Henry Codman, Esq., and offer a rare opportunity to persons desiring to build in the country.

Cars will leave the Boston and Prov. R.R. Depot at 2:45 P.M., on the day of sale, and free tickets, with (?) may be had on application to the auctioneers.

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