Thursday, November 20, 2008

The (Second) House That Parley Built

No. 62 Montebello road. Is this the lost house of Samuel (Peter Parley) Goodrich?

Samuel Goodrich was one of Jamaica Plain's most noted citizens in his day. It is difficult to find an analogy to his success in our time. He was a combination of Sesame Street producer, Sunday School teacher and major textbook publisher. As I've discussed him before, I'll move on to the topic of this article. Around 1837, someone seems to have swindled Mr. Goodrich, and he lost much of his money. His estate in Jamaica Plain, (suitably known as Rockland, given its location near outcrops of Roxbury Puddingstone somewhere near today's Parley avenue and Rockview street) was sold off in various pieces; not just real estate, but a horse, pony, cow and calf. Refusing offers of assistance from Boston friends, he and his family moved into his former gardener's quarters to start anew. in the coming years, he would be come active in local Whig politics and serve in the Massachusetts legislature for several terms. Over time, by dint of hard work and the reputation of Peter Parley, he returned to a more comfortable financial state.

I've posted an 1878 article from the Boston Globe that describes a certain property as "the old Parley estate." Rather than being along Centre street, this property is situated between Washington street and Franklin Park. I speculated that a large masonry house on Montebello road might be this second Samuel Goodrich home, but I had no evidence. I've wondered ever since whether there actually was a second Goodrich house as suggested in the cited article, one that has otherwise been forgotten.

Town of West Robury - 1874. Washington street is marked in red. Forest Hill street forks off of Washington street near the bottom.

Existing property maps only go back to 1874, years after Goodrich had died. As described in the previous entry linked above, I suspected that the masonry building pictured above seemed to match the building footprint in the map above on the property of E.F. Parker, and also matched the location mentioned in the 1878 article. I suggested that this may be the old "Peter Parley" house, but it wasn't until I began examining deeds at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds for another project that I realized that I would be able to track down Mr. Goodrich's property holdings and determine; 1. whether he ever owned a house between Washington street and Walnut avenue, and; 2. was the house pictured above the one? Here is what I found.

The land along School street between Lamartine street and Walnut avenue was donated to the Roxbury Grammar School by Thomas Bell in 1672 to provide income, as was common at the time. The land was leased out for a period, and later sold off to the leasees or others. We are interested in one such plot of land. Jumping ahead to June of 1803, Boston Merchant Thomas Amory paid $2,050 to John Lowell for two plots of land. One, which became the Amory "mansion estate", extended across both sides of School street, then known as the Road to Gamblin's End. The other, a 10 3/4 acre lot, was between the Road to Rocky Swamp (today's Forest Hills street), and Canterbury street, later called Back street, and finally known today as Walnut avenue. This plot is the one that interests us. As an aside to our investigation, the eminent Lowell family lived on an estate centered near today's Jackson square and the Bromley-Heath housing development.

On June 24, 1847, Elizabeth Amory, widow of Thomas Amory and mother of singlewomen Louisa M. and Anna McLean, sold the 10 3/4 acre lot to a Reuben A. Lamb for $6,000. Here is where we finally meet again with Samuel Goodrich. The same day, Lamb, who owned an adjoining property, sold the land, minus 51,000 sq. ft. adjacent to his own land, to Samuel G. Goodrich for the same $6,000 price. The deed, retaining the original lease, included "the unexpired residue and remainder of the term of 120 years from the twenty-first day of April, 1796." This refers to the original lease of the "school farm" land, as it was called at the time, by the Roxbury Grammar School.

In November of 1847, Mr. Goodrich agreed to pay David N. Skilling of Boston $7250 to build a villa and a stable. The house was to be designed by architect William Sparrell. Goodrich set a payment schedule in six parts, with partial payment due at the completion of each stage.

1. Frame raised, covered, chimney topped, well dug.
2. Roof shingled, furnace set, vault and drain finished.
3. Fitted for plastering, stairs up, window and door frames and clapboard finished.
4. Plastered, piazza finished, water-closet in, blinds hung.
5. Stable finished, all but last coat of paint done.
6. October 1, 1848, remainder due.

So there was a second house for Peter Parley in Jamaica Plain. Not only was it planned: in November of 1852, David Skilling accepted full payment and released all claim on the house. However, that same day, Samuel Goodrich sold his new house, stable and land to George R. Russell, a West Roxbury merchant, for $26,000. Peter Parley would never live in his second Jamaica Plain estate house. What happened? When the house was completed, Samuel Goodrich was living in Paris and American Consul to France. After spending time in New York and Washington D.C., he went to France in 1851, where he served as Consul until 1853, when a change of administration in Washington led to his replacement by a new political appointment. He and his family stayed in Paris until 1855, when they returned to the United States, but not to Jamaica Plain. Goodrich and wife settled in his home state of Connecticut, and he died while on a trip to New York.

Town of West Roxbury, 1874. Washington street marked in red. Forest Hills street and Walnut avenue run somewhat parallel from upper left to lower right.

Property plan. Surveyor, Alexander Wadsworth, 1860.

In 1864, George R. Russell sold the property to Albert Thompson of Boston. The Albert Thompson property held the House that Parley Built. The house was torn down by 1896, when the entire area had been laid out into streets and divided into the house lots we see today. The house sat near the intersection of the appropriately named Peter Parley road and Olmstead street. So now we know - there was a second Goodrich house (in name, if not in habitation), but not the one I originally guessed on Montebello road. So what can we learn about the Montebello road house? That's another story.


Peter Parley, As Known To His Daughter; The Connecticut Magazine.
Daniel Bell and the Roxbury Grammar School land.
Works about Samuel Griswald Goodrich.
Samuel Goodrich, alias Peter Parley.

Norfolk Deeds:

19:198 6/02/1803 - Lowell ----->Amory
112:308 3/12/1845 - Amory ----->Amory
173:299 6/24/1847 - Amory ---->Lamb
173:299 6/24/1847 - Lamb ----->Goodrich
176:240 11/06/1847 - Goodrich engages Skilling
213:248 11/21/1852 - Skilling paid in full
213:248 11/21/1852 - Goodrich ---->Russell
304:37 6/06/1864 - Russell ----->Thompson
324:37 A.Wadsworth, surveyor's plan

1 comment:

  1. I've always wondered about the correlation between Parley and Pater Parley!