Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hall and Boynton Streets - The Beginning (and more)

Building Lots in West Roxbury - owned by G.H. Williams, April 20, 1870 T.B. Moses, Surveyor.

The surveyor's plan above shows the development of a 10 acre parcel of land between South street on the left and the railroad tracks on the right. At the top of the plan, not shown, would be the houses on the south side of today's McBride street, which had been developed starting in the 1850s by the third David S. Greenough. Boynton and Hall streets are shown, with regular house lots of 50 feet width. The lots along South street are a little larger, probably to suit business use. At the bottom of the plan, the land is owned by the heirs of Jacob Weld.

I'd like to start with the surveyor's plan above and go backwards through time. We'll find an interesting little nugget in the end, and learn something about the men who developed Jamaica Plain along the way.In May of 1873, the entire development was purchased from John J. Merrill and Alfred Hill, both of Boston, by George F. Woodman, for a trust that included J. Alba Davis and Charles F. Farrington as three equal partners. It was agreed that Woodman would arrange sales of the lots, take a cut to pay costs, and split the rest between the three partners. George Woodman lived in a substantial house that still stands on the corner of Elm and Greenough opposite the old Jamaica Plain high school. He bought and sold a large number of house lots on the old Greenough estate, including many along Carolina, Sedgwick, Newbern, John A. Andrew and Call streets, as well as lots on the west side of South street. He served as a Selectman in the short-lived town of West Roxbury, and was chairman of the Building Committee for the Civil War Soldier's Monument that stands at South and Centre street today. J. Alba Davis was a leather merchant who owned a grand Green Revival house, one of the earliest houses built on Green street, and later moved to Chestnut avenue. Davis later bought the house of General William H. Sumner at the crown of the eponymous Sumner Hill. Charles F. Farrington lived at the corner of Pond and Burroughs street in a house that faced Jamaica Pond. Ebenezer T. Farrington is listed as owning the house in 1874, so Charles must have been a son still living with his parents at the time.

In 1871, two years earlier, the property above had been sold to John J. Merrill for $45,832.49 (yes, they did value land to the penny at the time) by George H. Williams, a local harness maker and real estate investor, and Merrill immediately sold a half share in the property to partner Alfred Hill for $29,166.13. George Williams and his brother John held a position similar to George F. Woodman in mid-nineteenth century Jamaica Plain. Together and individually they bought and sold land all over the community. Their 1840s Greek Revival double house still stands on Green street, and is featured on the Jamaica Plain Historical Society Green Street tour. They owned and developed land on Seaverns and Harris avenues and Myrtle and Burroughs streets. They,and brother John's widow, owned and lived in two signature properties in Jamaica Plain. Linden Hall, on the corner of Pond and Centre streets, was built in 1755, and was the home of schoolmaster Charles Greene. He boarded students in his house, and taught in an adjacent building. The house still stands, minus its wings and its dignity, tucked away at the bend in Grovenor road. The other house, one of the oldest and grandest houses on Eliot street, is now called 1 Dane street, and suffered a fire during rehabilitation earlier this year. After his brother's death, George Williams developed Spring Park, including Spring Park Avenue and the alphabet streets of Adelaide, Burr, Clive, Dresden and Enfield. This land was purchased from the heirs of Ward Nicholas Boylston, son of Loyalist Capt. Benjamin Hallowell.

Our final exchange goes back just one year to 1871, when George H. Williams purchased the land from Elizabeth and Susan Weld. The purchase price was $29,166.13, giving Mr. Williams a profit of $16,666.36 when he sold it a year later. The surveyor's plan above was made for Mr. Williams, so perhaps we can credit him with having prepared the land for sale as part of the reason for the dramatic increase in value. The Weld ladies lived across South street from the development, and they did put restrictions on the deed, which was common in the days of no zoning laws. No business injurious to health or good morals were to be allowed on the land, and for twenty years, unless the ladies should move away sooner, no land within 100 feet of South street could be sold to a person of Irish birth. So there's your interesting nugget. I've read many deeds from the 1800s, and this is the first to include a restriction on the Irish. Keyes (today's McBride) street had already been settled by Irish in the previous two decades, and 100 feet was no more than two house lots, so it's hard to imagine exactly what the Weld ladies were attempting to accomplish. In 1885, a Miss Susan Weld shows up in the Boston Directory at 29 Beacon street, but an 1885 property map shows Susan and Elizabeth still owning property opposite the top of Boynton and McBride streets, and the Boynton-Hall lot still in the hands of J. Alba Davis et. al., and still undeveloped. The year 1873 had brought a financial depression that lasted through much of the 1870s, so perhaps credit had been unavailable for real estate development (sound familiar?).

Williams house, 1840s, Green street.

The fomer Linden Hall (shorn of its wings and moved), residence of the Williams brothers, 1860s-7os.

1 Dane street, home of John William's widow Irene, 1874.

Elm street, home of George F. Woodman.

Charles F. Farrington house, Pond (Jamaicaway) and Burroughs streets, 1899 (David Rumsey Collection).

Boynton and Hall street, 1899. Note that Charles F. Farrington still owned lots along the end of Boynton street (JP Historical Society).

Norfolk County Deeds:

440:8 5/19/1873 - Merrill & Hill to Woodman, et. al.
406:265 5/04/1871 - Williams to Merrill
406:266 5/04/1871 - Merrill to Hill
391:119 4/04/1870 - Weld & Weld to Williams


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