Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Well Now!

Old well, somewhere in Jamaica Plain (2008). Click on photo for a larger view.

An interest in local history can lead us to what might be called domestic history. How did people live in times past? How were there every day lives different from ours? A well known example is the use of horses before the coming of the railroads, electricity and the automobile. Another example of a significant change in technology is in the water supply and plumbing. Until Jamacia Plain was annexed to Boston as part of the town of West Roxbury and was connected to the Lake Cochituate supply, water would have come to most houses from a well, and left into a septic system of some kind. By the 1870s, this would have required hundreds of wells, either in cellars or in the yards of each house. Many of those houses still stand - so where are the wells? I've been told by a resident of an 1840s era house that her husband found their well while working in the back yard - there must be many more sitting just under the surface of lawns, and covered up in basements.

I found the old well pictured above while walking in Jamaica Plain. I left the photo full size so that you can see detail. On the far side of the well you can see the puddingstone wall. There are sticks and a pipe coming up out of the well, and either a dead tree or a tree truck someone stuck down there long ago. I won't say where I found it, but I'd be interested to know whether anyone else has seen it.


  1. Very cool! I have heard of an old cistern in a basement in JP, but I have not stumbled upon any wells.

  2. Some houses had cisterns in the attic - I'd love to hear from a homeowner who still has one in their home.