Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Call Out The Militia!

The Roxbury militia was on parade in - or rather, on - 1805 Jamaica Plain. The confidence voiced her in the American troops would soon be tested during the War of 1812. There were some successes, but the burning of the White House is hard to get past. Ouch!

The Independent Chronicle October 10, 1805

Roxbury, Oct. 8th, 1805 -- Yesterday the four companies of militia belonging to this town, commanded by Capts Barnes, Gore, Richards and Severns, and the company belonging to the town of Brookline, commanded by Capt Jones, the whole under the immediate command of Major Bosson, sen(?) Major of the first Regiment, in the first Brigade and first Division of the militia of the Commonwealth, paraded on Jamaica plain, for inspection, review and exercise -- The troops made a handsome appearance, four fifths of them being in cloth uniform.-- On Inspection, the arms and equipments were found to be in good order -- after the inspection, the battalion was reviewed by Lieutenant colonel Gardner; the martial exercise, a variety of firings and manoeuvers, were in succession performed -- the troops were then dismissed for a short time. In the afternoon they were again paraded, and an attempt made to represent real action, in which the firings were brisk, and heavy, the day was fine, and no accident happened to allay the pleasures of it.

It may be worthy of notice that the first company of minute-men, raised in the now United States, at the commencement of the revolutionary war, were formed from the militia of this town, then consisting of but two companies. The militia of the town, now consists of one troop of cavalry, one company of artillery, (each of these having a few members from Dorchester and Brookline) and four companies of infantry. It is certain, that the militia of the several towns in the Commonwealth, if not in an equal degree, are vastly increased, and that their spirit, enterprise and address in arms, if correctly guided, would in a very short time, if called into actual service, make them an equal to any duty to which they can be called. If all the States in the Union, are equal to Massachusetts, in the organization, arms, and discipline of their numerous militia -- The citizens of our extensive, and prosperous country, may almost assure themselves, that under a wise and prudent administration of government, unanimity among themselves, and the continuous smiles of Heaven they may for a long time yet to come, remain at peace and safety, sitting under their own vines and fruitful trees, without any attempting to molest, nor could any make them afraid.


Monday, April 28, 2008

End Of An Era

I made an effort to find the last Jamaica Plain Civil War veteran, and came up more or less empty-handed. I did find obituaries for Jamaica Plain veterans, but all were for men who had settled in Jamaica Plain after their service - usually long after. In this case, Lieutenant George Haines of the West Roxbury and later Boston police departments may not have been born in Jamaica Plain, but he did spend most of his adult life there. The city street directories have him first as a boarder (renter?) on Chestnut avenue, and then on Lamartine street. It sounds like he was a fixture in the department and the community.

Boston Daily Globe April 6, 1900

Lieut Haines To Retire.

Sickness Compelled Him to Take the Step.

Tuesday Was the 35th Anniversary of His Appointment to the Force.

Has Been Lieutenant at Jamaica Plain Station Since 1877.

Lieut George E. Haines of the Jamaica Plain station is to be retired shortly on a pension. The question of his retirement has been before the police commissioners for some time. He has been sick at his home, 300 Lamartine st, Jamaica Plain, more than five months. He is a sufferer fro rheumatism, and for the last 10 years has been confined to his home for from one to three months each winter. He is now at home and quite ill.

Tuesday was the 35th anniversary of his appointment to the police force. There are not than half a dozen men in the department that have seen a longer term of service on the force then he. It is with regret both to himself and his superiors that his physical condition compels his retirement.

Absence from duty has made it necessary for himself to ask for retirement. His papers are not yet on file with the commissioners, but it is understood they will be forwarded within a few days,

Lieut Haines is in his 61st year. He is a veteran of the civil war. In Co D, 1st Massachusetts infantry, he served three years as a volunteer. In 1865, shortly after his return from the war, he joined the police force. At that time his parents were living in West Roxbury, then a town. The "lockup," now known as police station 13, was located on Center st, now called Thomas st. The fire department was in the same building. Mr Haines served in the capacity of policeman and fireman under the old town government.

Old members of the department tell of his bravery, both as policeman and fireman in those days.

Mr Haines was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1874, when the town was annexed to Boston. Three years later he was made lieutenant, and as such has since served at the Jamaica Plain station. He has been a careful, painstaking official, and one in whom his captain and headquarters officials had the utmost confidence.

His retirement will cause regret throughout the department. He is a member of the police relief association and of several social and fraternal orders in Jamaica Plain.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Package Store - 1766

I believe this is the oldest article I've posted. I had to look up Fyall - it's an island in the Azores. According to Wikipedia, a pipe of wine is four barrels.

The Boston News-Letter and New England Chronicle February 27, 1766


Jonathan Williams

On Jamaica Plain in Roxbury;

CHOICE good Madeira, Lisbon, Fyall, and Sweet WINES; West India and New England RUM, BY Retail; -- ALSO a Quantity of Fine Lisbon and Fyal WINES by the Pipe or Quarter Cask at his Store in BOSTON.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Unusual Precautions At Revere Street

The neighbors on Sumner Hill must have been nervous in January of 1912 when word got out that threats were made against the Governor. Eugene Foss had lived on Revere street when he managed the B.F. Sturtevant Company, and he continued to live there as Governor. Nothing came of the threat, but it is worth mentioning for the background. The Governor had sent the state militia to Lawrence during a strike at the mills, that strike going down in history as the Bread and Roses strike.

Addendum: In response to a question, the Black Hand was a name used by Italian extortionists in New York and other American cities. It was less a mafia-like organization than simply a name to frighten victims into submission. A threatening letter with a black handprint would be sent to a merchant or businessman. The media dramatized the term, associating the dramatic language and resulting crimes with the new flood of Italian immigrants. The active strikers in Lawrence were largely immigrants, so the accusation of a threat from the mysterious Italian group came naturally.

Lexington Herald January 18, 1912

Foss Guarded From Black Hand Attack.

Intimation, From Unknown Source, of Danger to the Governor Is Given.

Clash At Lawrence.

Parading Strikers and the Troops of Massachusetts Have Some Trouble

(By Associated Press)

BOSTON, Mass., Jan. 17 -- Intimation from an unknown source that Governor Foss was to be made the object of a black hand attack, presumably because of his activity in the Lawrence strike situation, caused unusual precaution to be taken to guard the Governor tonight. His home in Jamaica Plain was surrounded by armed guards while half a dozen Italian plain clothes men scoured the neighborhood for bomb throwers.

It was reported that black hand agents were coming from New York and the Boston police asked the authorities there to watch outgoing boats and trains and hold up any suspicious characters headed for Boston.

Governor Foss personally expressed no alarm and would not even admit that threats had been made against him.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Put Up A Parking Lot

Living on Brewer street as a child, the municipal parking lot at Thomas street was something I took for granted. Out of purely personal curiosity, I've been trying to find out for a while exactly when the parking lot was built. I've found references to local businesses and the city trying to locate a parking lot in the area going back to 1954, but until now I couldn't find mention of the actual site selection and construction. I would have kept this trivia to myself - I can't imaging that anyone cares but me - but for one fact mentioned in passing in the article. The one unnamed building set for demolition would have been the the old G.A.R. building, also used as a school house for a time, and originally built as the town hall. You can see the building's location in this 1874 map. I don't suppose it occurred to anyone to take a picture of the building before they demolished it.

Jamaica Plain Citizen April 4, 1957

Bids Out For Parking Facility

Will Hold 70 Cars On Site Of Thomas St.

The City of Boston Real Property Board announced this week it is advertising for proposals for the construction of a suburban off street parking facility on the northerly side of Thomas st. near the heart of the Jamaica Plain business district. There is but one building located on Thomas street to be demolished, Commissioner Carp said. The remainder of the property is vacant.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

As Mr. Fowler

Richard B. Fowler memorial plaque - Curtis Hall, 2008.

Anyone living in Jamaica Plain during the second half of the 20th century could tell you the slogan of the Fowler real estate business on Centre street. My parents bought their first house through Mr Fowler, and while I couldn't have told you the man's first name, I knew that he was the "Ask Mr. Fowler" guy. I believe that the Robert T. Fowler who married the daughter of Jamaica Plain real estate man R.S. Barrow in May of 1900 was the father of Richard B. memorialized above. The couple left for Aukland, New Zealand after the wedding, only to come back to Jamaica Plain soon after to join or take over the business of the bride's father.

The stone and the plaque sits at the top of the semi-circular driveway in front of the Curtis Hall municipal building on South street. There are two names on the plaque - which has greater prominence? And what does that tell you?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mean Streets of Jamaica Plain

The good news: criminals seem to have given up on the garrot. The bad news: now they use guns.

Boston Daily Globe December 7, 1872

Jamaica Plain.

Garroting Revived. -- About nine o'clock on Thursday night, as Mr. David Keezer, a provision dealer in Green street at Jamaica Plain, was returning home, he was set upon by two men on Greenough avenue, one of whom garroted him and attacked him with a club, cutting his head open, while the other robbed him of between $300 and $400. He was insensible for some time, but finally recovered sufficiently to crawl into his house, where he was attended by physicians. He is in an exceedingly weak and feeble condition to-day, not being able to leave his bed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bells Of Peace

The War of 1812 is mostly forgotten today, but it was a big deal in Jamaica Plain at the time. I've never seen any mention of Jamaica Plain men serving in the military during this conflict - perhaps there's something in the Town of Roxbury archives.

Salem Gazette February 28, 1815


On Tuesday morning at little past 7 o'clock the news of Peace was announced at Jamaica plain by the ringing of the bell, which continued at intervals during the whole day. In the evening the seats of fourteen gentlemen were elegantly illuminated, as were those also of three others on the following evening. The display was brilliant and animating.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Farm Auction - 1889

The Robertson property was on Pond street, nearly opposite May street and extending back to at least the Brookline border, as can be seen in this map. Josiah Robinson was listed in the 1873 Jamaica Plain directory as an importer of tea, with a business address of 11 Central, Boston. Apparently, he was a gentleman farmer as well.

Boston Daily Globe January 4, 1889

By LEWIS J. BIRD & CO., Auctrs.,

32 Bromfield street.

Administrator's sale, Jamaica Plain, horses, cows, hogs, carriages, sleighs, harnesses, hay, wood, coal, etc., on FRIDAY, Jan. 4, at 4 P.M. at the residence of the late Josiah S. Robinson, Pond st., Jamaica Plain, the entire property contained in stable, stable sheds, wood shed and cellar, comprising in part 2 (?) mares, 2 Jersey cows, 2 hogs, 15 tons hay, Goddard buggy, carryalls, landau, rockaway, express wagon, single and double sleighs, single and double harnesses, buffalo and bear skin robes, ladies' and gents' saddles, farming tools, tip carts, (?) cords wood, 25 tons furnace coal, 6 tons stove coal, cider press, and a host of other farming utensils; sale positive.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Coffee, Tea and Good Attendance

This establishment would have been near today's Hyde Square. I wonder if they had art on the walls and weekly poetry slams.

The Boston Evening Post and the General Advertiser May 31, 1783

Alliance Coffee-House.

Edward Wentworth,

Informs the Public, That he has opened an elegant and commodious Tea and Coffee-House, on Jamaica Plain, 4 Miles from BOSTON: -- where Gentlemen and Ladies are invited to regail and refreſh themſelves with the Morning Air or Evening Cool. There are pleaſant Gardens and beautiful Proſpects. Good Accommodations for Gentlemen Boarders, who would wish to recover their Healths; also, Conveniency for Horſes and Carriages. Good Attendance will be given, and all Favours gratefully acknowledged, by their humble Servant.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fremont Club

This entry gives us a small window into the politics of antebellum Jamaica Plain. John C. Fremont was a military officer, an explorer, and in 1856 was the first Republican candidate for president, running on an anti-slavery platform. It's interesting to read the perception of Jamaica Plain as seen by a contemporary. Times have changed, no?

August 23, 1856

A meeting was held at Odd Fellows' Hall, Jamaica Plain, on Monday evening last, for the purpose of organizing a Fremont Club in the flourishing town of West Roxbury. The following list of officers was reported to the meeting, and unanimously adopted:

President -- Hon. Geo. R. Russell.

Vice Presidents -- John C. Pratt, Jos. H. Billings, Geo. W.Bond, E.C. Banfield, J.L. Plimpton, Cornelius Cowing.

Secretaries -- Andrew S. March, Dr. Joel Seaverns.

Treasurer -- Sylvester Marsh.

The Club promises to be a large one. A gentleman from the upper part of the town called Spring street, handed in the names of more than sixty voters. If Jamaica Plain does as well, the Club will number three to four hundred members. This populous town has sometimes been considered extremely conservative and almost fossilized, but her present action demonstrates the existence of a large number of (?) men within her borders. She will give a good account of herself at the polls in November.

Members of the Club are reminded of the adjourned meeting, this (Saturday) evening, to complete the arrangements for attending the Barbecue next Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Farrington Manufacturing

Farrington Manufacturing produced jewelry boxes and eyeglass cases at the site of the old B.F. Sturtevant plant. They actually extended the facility over to Williams street, as shown in this 1924 map (look for the large pink colored building at the top of the page.) I don't know when Farrington closed, but I believe that the Factory Outlet store I remember from the early 1960s used the Farrington building closest to Williams street for the back section of the store. Anyone else remember the popcorn stink inside the Factory Outlet? They had a food counter in the middle of the store, and the smell of the popcorn oil pervaded the building.

Back to Farrington. The Help Wanted ads above are from 1923. My late uncle Chris worked there around the time he was graduating Jamaica Plain high school (1949), and he brought home a jewelry box as a gift for his mother. His sister - my mother - still has it on her bureau. The box is nothing special - it would probably get 50 cents at a yard sale - but it's special to us for the memories. I wonder how many of these jewelry boxes survive today.

Addendum: I've been poking around online, and it seems that Farrington was also an early manufacturer of what would later become credit cards. There are references to production of an embossed metal card in 1928 (remember when they put your card through a hand-pressed roller and printed a paper receipt?) By the 1950s, they were in Needham Heights, and involved in optical imaging of credit cards. By the early 1970s, they were in bankruptcy court.

Monday, April 14, 2008

John C. Gore - Crack Shot

When last we visited with John C. Gore, he was an ardent abolitionist. He was also touchy about wandering Irishmen.

Boston Daily Atlas June 21, 1851

Shooting Case in West Roxbury

Mr. John C. Gore, a respectable and wealthy citizen of West Roxbury, says the Transcript, was brought before Trial Justices Gaston and Allen, on Thursday morning at Jamaica Plain, on complaint of Michael Fenaghty, for shooting said Fenaghty with a gun loaded with powder and shot. It appeared on trial, that the complainant, who was an Irishman, just arrived in this country, was going about the town in pursuit of labor, and that on the 16th he was seen by the defendant and others near defendants premises; and that on the morning of the 17th he came into the field, where defendant was at work, and asked employment without success; after which he started up the street. The defendant thinking him a suspicious looking character, and feeling somewhat irritated, from having had his buildings twice set on fire, soon followed after, taking with him a fowling-piece which he had in the field for the purpose of shooting birds. On emerging from a grove of trees between him and his house, he saw the complainant looking into the parlor window, and, as he thought, attempting to raise it. He immediately called upon the complainant to desist, but he not doing it immediately, defendant raised his gun and fired - five shot entering through the skin into the leg and hand of the complainant. Complainant admitted to going to the door, and not being able t get in proceeded to the window, but denied trying to open it or to get in. Though no serious injury was done complainant, the Court thought the means used to expel the trespasser was quite unjustified, and ordered the defendant to recognize in $300 to a higher Court.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ephraim Merriam - A Man And His Privy

Ephraim Merriam house - 2008

You never know what you'll find when you travel with an open mind and a modicum of curiosity. I've made an effort recently to become familiar with Victorian housing styles, the better to sort out Italianate from Second Empire, and pediments from finials. Armed with a superficial familiarity with 19th century house design, I realize that my knowledge is limited entirely to exterior design styles. So what was going on inside these houses? How and when did lighting change over the century? And what about plumbing? Looking back from today, I know that gas preceded electricity for lighting, and kerosene lamps and candles came still earlier. I was less clear on water. The earliest substantial houses in the 1800s would have had their own wells, and by the end of the century would be provided with running water by the city of Boston. I assumed that along the way, they also would have passed from outhouses to modern bathrooms, but how did they get there? Which leads me to the history of domestic plumbing and the development of modern toilets. See, you never know where you're going!

A little online digging led me to the Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture. Yes, there are people who study such things for a living. In an article titled Domestic Reform and Household Plumbing, 1840-1870, Ms. Maureen Ogle tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the mid-19th century development of indoor plumbing in the United States. Fascinating stuff for those of us interested in the history of technology - I took a college course - and also containing a bonus.

Shown above are the floor plans of a Jamaica Plain house. The house was owned by Ephraim Merriam, designed by Luther Briggs, Jr., and the drawing is dated 1856. Mr Merriam was a grocer in Boston, with a shop at 8 Beach street in 1873. The house was at the corner of Chestnut and Spring Park avenues, as shown in this 1874 JP Historical Society map. The upper drawing shows the well, located in the basement, and the drain lines that ran from the sink and the privy to the cesspool beside the house. This was during the Town of West Roxbury period, and house lots were still fairly large, and while the population was growing, private wells could apparently still deal with the load. Once house lots got smaller and multi-family houses were built, the need for municipal water and sewer systems would be obvious.

Addendum: athough the author of the article says that the house no longer exists, I found it mentioned in the Boston Landmark Commission historical architecture book. Sure enough, there it is on Chestnut avenue. The tower appears to have lost its top section, but the rest follows the pattern of the house quite well.

Sources: The article cited was accessed through the JSTOR archive with my Boston Public Library account. It comes up in a Google search, but is not available online without JSTOR access. Start here and choose JSTOR - you'll need your account number. Other major libraries will have their own access. Mr Merriam is listed at Chestnut avenue in the Brookline, Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury Directory of 1873.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Farm To Let

Hales, J.G. 1829 (BPL)

This map segment shows the layout of Jamaica Plain roads at the time of the article.

This real estate advertisement is chock full of information. First, the house is "in the W(est) I(ndian) style." I've seen this description before, and I've puzzled over it. In books on American architecture, I've never seen a West Indian style mentioned. A standard Google search brings up too many spurious results to be useful, but a Google Books search is quite informative. Of 17 hits, nine are recent travel guides, and not relevant. Of those that relate to our topic, all four (two with identical entries) refer to houses in Jamaica Plain! How's them apples? Is it possible that the West Indian style of house, as used in this context, was particular to Jamaica Plain? Seems unlikely, but there you go.

In the book "Old Paths and Legends of New England," there is a reference to a Colonel Hatch-Hallet house in West Indian style. In Records Relating to the Early History of Boston, we learn that the Hatch-Hallet house, which sat beside the house of John Hancock on today's Centre street near Orchard street, was built by a Captain Timothy Penney of Jamaica. In a history of the First Congregational Society of Jamaica Plain, a house once owned by Eleazer May, and later by Benjamin Pemberton, is described as being one and a half story, in the West Indian style.

The location; near today's Soldier's Monument, and the size of the plot; 10 acres, suggests to me that perhaps it was at the corner of Centre and South street. A square plot of land of ten acres would be 220 yards on a side, or over two football fields in length. That would take up much of the land from the Monument to near St Thomas' church, and well out towards the Arborway. The land on the other side of South street was owned by D.S. Greenough, and the opposite side of Centre street - the Orchard/Dunster street side - already had the above-mentioned houses built upon it.

The inventory for the farm auction was difficult reading in places, as reflected by the "(?)" entries. Most of it speaks for itself, but the Tice's patent plow was a recent cast iron model, made by A. & I. Tice in New York. It was just at this time that cast iron plows were replacing inefficient wooden plows, as related here.

Independent Chronicle and Boston Patriot February 14, 1824

To be Let

A Country Seat, on Jamaica Plain, in Roxbury.

The house is in good repair, built in the W. I. style, containing 2 parlors, kitchen, and 4 sleeping rooms on the ground floor, and 3 chambers -- Out Houses, &c. -- excellent water, a fruit and vegetable garden, with hot beds, &c. and two Barns. Also,, 10 acres of Land, which has been highly manured and cultivated as a Vegetable Garden for two years past, with choice fruit trees thereon. The premises are in the vicinity of the Rev Thos Gray's Meeting House, and five miles from the old State House. The House and Garden will be leased distinct from the Farm if desired. Possession will be given the 1st of March or April.


If not let before the 20th March, it will then be leased at Public Auction, at 4 o'clock, P.M. on the premises -- at which place, on the above date, will be sold at auction, unless previously disposed of at private sale, at 2 o'clock P.M. the Stock and Farming Utensils of said Farm, the owner being about to remove to Boston, viz. 1 yoke fat Cattle -- 1 yoke working Cattle -- 5 excellent Cows -- 1 strong large Horse, 7 years old -- first rate Chaise Horse, 6 years old, trots 12 miles an hour and perfectly sound -- Pigs and Poultry -- Chaise and Harness, little worn, -- Ox wagon -- Market Wagon, Pleasure Wagon -- 1 of Tice's patent Ploughs -- 1 small do(?) Harrows -- Ox Chaise -- Wagon, Cart and leading Harnesses -- 2 strings bells Farming Utensils -- Garden Seeds -- very easily Seed Potatoes -- Seed Peas &c -- a quantity of Manure. Also, pipes(?) Cider Vinegar -- empty P(?)es, Bbls &c. -- 1 b(?) of russeting Apples -- lot Wood -- Hot Bed Lights and Frames &c &c.

Inquire of HENRY BURROUGHS No. 42 State street or to A.H. Gibbs on the premises.

feb 7

Factory For Sale

Jamaica Plain, 1858.

This map segment shows the starch factory at the Boylston train station, just across Boylston street. Both the train station and the factory sit right on top of Stony brook. This map was published three years after the advertisement below, so perhaps someone bought the factory to keep it running instead of turning it into housing, as suggested in the ad. What did they make starch for? Laundry, paper, textiles, foodstuffs, paint and wood filling among other uses. About this time, they were changing over from wheat starch processing to corn, so perhaps that has something to do with the sale of the factory.

Boston Daily Atlas June 7, 1855

Starch Factory on Boylston street, Roxbury.

Tomorrow, June 8, at 3 1/2 o'clock, on the premises.

The real estate lately occupied by the Boylston Starch Company, situated on the corner of Lamartine and Boylston street, Jamaica Plain, directly opposite the Railroad station, consisting of a large 2 story wooden building, which may be readily converted into a number of tenements, and a lot of land, containing from 15,000 to 20,000 square feet, bordering upon the Providence Railroad.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jamaica Plain Station - In Color

Photo courtesy of eBay.

This postcard is a colorized version - and a nice one - of a black and white postcard that I've seen somewhere online. Based on the windows of the Woolsey block to the far right, this picture must have been taken from the third floow window of the building across Green street. Based on the shadows, it appears to be late afternoon, early evening. It might be just me, but I find uninhabited pictures like this kind of spooky. Where are all the people?

The layout of this postcard tells us that it was printed between 1907 and 1914.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Going Out Of Business Sale

Studying local history is like looking at a room through a keyhole at arm's length - you start out knowing that you can only ever know a tiny fraction of what's there. In this case, we get a look at George and Sarah Belford. George seems to have been a nurseryman of some repute, and we can reasonably suspect that he left this mortal coil some time before the first article was published. He also had quite a business going, providing plants to the farms, orchards and gardens of Jamaica Plain.

The turnpike referred to is, of course, today's Washington street. The new street mentioned in the second article may have turned into either Union avenue or Cornwall street - both are present on an 1858 map. It's probably a coincidence, but a nursery/greenhouse shows up on an 1874 map at the edge of Union avenue, where the football field is now.

Some of the plant names were difficult to read - I think I got them mostly right.

The Boston Daily Atlas August 29, 1854


West Roxbury.

Administratrix's Sale.

Great Sale of 100,000 Fruit, Ornamental and Forest Trees, Shrubs and Plants, at auction.

On Friday, Sept 1, at 2 o'clock P.M. at Mrs. George Belford's Nursery, Green street, Jamaica Plain, near the depot.

Will be sold at public auction, about 100,000 splendid Fruit, Ornamental and Forest Trees, Shrubs, Plants, (?) all in a flourishing state. In the collections are fifteen of the most celebrated varieties of Pears, such as the Bartlett, Washington, Flemmish, Beauty, Joe; Cherries, Apples and Quinces, fine varieties; also, English scarlett Oak, Butternuts, Hemlock, Spruce, white Pines, Arbor Vitae, Spirus Sopifolia, Lilacs, Tulips, Weeping Willows, Italian Aspen, Limes. Also 10,000 Buckthorn Plants, hedges - a large collection of the best Roses, Herbaceous Plants and Shrubs, &c.

The trees can remain in the ground through the autumn, or until the season for transplanting.

Catalogues may be obtained of Mrs. Belford, at the Nursery, or of the auctioneer.

Terms liberal.

By order of the Administratrix

West Roxbury, August 22, 1854.

The Boston Daily Atlas April 12, 1855


Valuable Building Lots at Auction.

Tomorrow, April 13, at 3 1/2 o'clock, P.M., on the premises.

Will be sold at public auction, six building lots of Land, belonging to Mrs Sarah Belford, situated on Turnpike and Green streets, Jamaica Plain, in West Roxbury, and near Jamaica Plain Railroad Depot.

Lot No. 1 contains 7980 feet - No. 2 7980 fronting on Turnpike street - No. 3, 7980 - No. 4, 7980 - No. 5, 3120 - No. 6, 3120 feet, fronting on the new street made through this land from Green street. This is part of the estate where that celebrated Gardener, the late George Belford, resided.

Mrs. Belford will sell the above lots without reserve. For plans and further information, please apply on the premises, or of the Auctioneer. Conditions liberal.

Jamaica Plain, April 7, 1855.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fruit, Fruit, Wonderful Fruit

A couple of thoughts on this real estate advertisment. First, Mr Gray's Meeting House refers to the church at Centre and Eliot street, which is directly opposite the 5 mile marker placed there by Paul Dudley. That would put the property at about Lakeville road, on one side of Centre street or the other. Also, regarding this and other such real estate ads I've seen - I now know that these people did love their fruit. Every improved agricultural plot seems to have been covered with fruit trees, bushes and vines.

One more thing: in the early-mid 19th century, it was 'on' Jamaica Plain, not 'in' Jamaica Plain, when referring to the village between Boylston street and current day Moss Hill.

Independent Chronicle and Boston Patriot April 9, 1823

House on Jamaica Plain.

To SELL or LET, an acre and 3-4ths of land, chiefly improved as a garden, situated on Jamaica Plain, half a mile from Rev. Mr. Gray's Meeting House, and 4 1/2 miles from the city, with a good two story wooden dwelling House, barn, shed and wash-house and granary, standing thereon, and supplied with a well of excellent water, under cover. The house contains two parlors, two kitchens and five chambers; and there is a contiguous building suitable for the occupation of a gardener containing two lower rooms and two chambers. The garden furnishes a great variety of summer, fall and winter fruit, and the trees are generally large and in full bearing; it also produces a full supply of cherries, currants, strawberries, gooseberries and grapes. If the dweling house be let, the owner will reserve to his use the small tenemnent, and half the garden. For terms, or to view the same, apply on the premises to

Sears Hersey

Jamaica Plain, April 8th.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Land For Sale

Wallings, H.F. 1858 (BPL)

Addendum: you can now see the plan for this land auction here, dated 10/23/1855, in the BPL online collection. Very cool.

Double addendum (10/22/08) - I'm adding this surveyor's plan dated 8/21/1858 and 8/12/1859, by William A. Garbett, for a later owner, Lawrence Litchfield. The lots are a little different, and a few have already been sold, including the Baptist Church property. Click on the plan to see a much larger version.

The land in question appears to be the plot that was to become Myrtle street and its associated houses. For some reason, the City of Boston street history book lists Myrtle street as being accepted in 1876, when the Hopkins map for the area shows it already lined with houses.

Note that the word Land is capitalized. I assume it's a holdover from the 18th century practice of capitalizing nouns, as found in German. I would have assumed that the practice had fallen out of favor by the 1850s. Also, at this time, Centre street had been renamed Austin street when the town of West Roxbury split from Roxbury in 1851.

Boston Daily Atlas October 20, 1855

Trustees Sale of Beautiful Building Lots on Jamaica Plain.

Pursuant to the will of the late John Dorr, Esq., deceased, and by order of John Dorr, Charles Hayward and Peter W. Freeman, Trustees, will be sold by public auction, On Tuesday, Oct. 23d, at 3 1/2 o'clock, P.M., on the premises.

A large and valuable lot of Land, containing between five and six acres, situated on the westerly side of Austin street, Jamaica Plain, directly opposite the head of Green street.

This is one of the most desirable situations for the erection of genteel residences now for sale in the vicinity of Boston. It is in about the centre of the village of Jamaica Plain, upon the main street, within a very short distance of the depot in Green street -- and the Land is of the best description for cultivation. It will be sold in lots of from about 12,000 to 25,000 feet each, affording a very favorable opportunity for those who desire to be found in the neighborhood.

Plans of the premises will be prepared in advance, and may be had, with other particulars, on application to either the Trustees, or to the Auctioneer.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Glenvale Park

Glenvale Park, surveyed by Alexander Wadsworth, 5/16/1848. (click to see a larger and legible version).

Here's an ad from the Classified section of a Boston newspaper. The train stations were making land in the vicinity attractive to Boston commuters, and the old multi-acre lots were being broken up to take advantage of the market. Today, an analogy might be the breakup of old single family houses into multi-unit condos. Locust street sounds familiar, but I can't find a reference to it, even in the offical city street history book. I assume the name was temporary, changed to something we'd recognize soon after. Maybe Amory street, which was accepted as Boylston avenue in 1858.

Addendum (10/22/2008): I suspect that Locust street was a temporary name for Chestnut avenue, as it is the only other street on the Glenvale plan. The plan, shown above, lists Chestnut avenue under its first name, Nebraska street. The explorer Freemont had recently travelled through the Nebrask territory, so the street may have been named for his exploits. The auction described below offered 25 of the original 73 lots for sale seven years after the auction listed on the plan above.

Boston Daily Atlas May 19, 1855

Great Sale of Lands at Jamaica Plains.

On Tuesday, May 29, at 3 o'clock, on the premises.

Twenty-five choice and valuable Cottage Lots, in Glenvale Park, Jamaica Plains(sic), containing from 13,000 to 33,000 square feet each, situated on Boylston, Lamartine and Locust streets, and lying between Boylston and Green street Depots, and within from two to four minutes walk from either.

The land is of the most beautiful and picturesque character, it being upon a gentle elevation and partly covered by an aged forest, and offers a most favorable opportunity to those who wish to secure a pleasant home in the country.

The advantages possessed by Jamaica Plain for a suburban residence are believed to be unsurpassed, if equalled by any in the vicinity of Boston. This charming village being justly celebrated for the purity and healthiness of its climate, the high character of its schools, both public and private, the beauty of its walk, and drives, its good roads, its social advantages and the facility of its intercourse with the city by Railroad and Omnibuses at all hours of the day and night.

The lots are all in the immediate vicinity of many elegant residences and on wide and well graded streets.

The sale will be positive, and every lot offered will be sold to the highest bidder on the most liberal terms of payment.

Persons in pursuit of lots in the country are invited to attend this sale, as it is believed they offer advantages superior to any in the neighborhood of Boston.

Persons wishing to go out to the sale from Boston by Railroad will take the train which leaves the Providence Railroad Depot at quarter before 3 o'clock, stopping at the Boylston street station. Free tickets and plans will be furnished by the auctioneer.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bela Lyon Pratt - Sculptor

Bela Lyon Pratt was born in 1867 in Norwich Connecticut. After studying art at Yale, he moved to New York, where he was a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Saint-Gaudens encouraged him to travel to Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1892 he returned to the United States and began a prolific career as a sculptor. He settled in Boston, and in 1893 began a career as a teacher at the School at the Museum of Fine Arts. During his time teaching, he remained very active as a sculptor. His work can be found at Harvard University, the Boston Public Library, the United States Naval Academy, the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Public Garden, and many other institutions and communities. His Nathaniel Hawthorne is in Salem Massachusetts, and his Nathan Hale is at Fort Nathan Hale in New Haven, Connecticut.

Pratt also engraved two gold coins minted in 1908, a $5 and a $2.50. The coins were innovative at the time, being incuse relief of an Indian and a Bald Eagle. Rather than being raised from the surface and protected by an outer ring, the images and lettering were sunken into the surface of the coin. While the earlier "Indian" head penny had used the designers' son in a feather headdress as a model, the Pratt coin was modeled on an actual Indian.

A contemporary Boston Globe article places Pratt at 30 Lakeville place, Jamaica Plain when the coins were released in 1908. The Boston Directory of 1905 lists him at the same address. A look at the Fire Insurance maps that are available online show that he wasn't at the address (a house opposite the Lakeville Terrace apartments) in 1899, but shows up in the 1905 and 1914 maps. He died in 1917 at the age of 49. Not a born and bred JP guy, but a big deal in his own time. I've seen his work many times and I didn't know it until now.

Wikipedia page

Pratt biography and discussion of his coins

Listing of statues and links

Flickr Bela Pratt photo pool

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Perkins Got Gas

I've pulled out a small section of this 1858 map that I just posted recently. In this case, I want to focus on the Perkins estate on Jamaica Pond. In particular, look to the right of the house, where we see three buildings listed: a barn, an ice house, and a gas house. A gas house... what's that? In 1858, the Jamaica Plain Gas Company had been in operation for several years, making gas along the railroad tracks at Keyes (McBride) street. So why does the Perkins estate have its own gas house, and exactly what was going on there?

Gas for lighting had come to Boston in 1822, when the Boston Gas Company was founded, but it took several years to start producing and distributing gas to building in the city. Between 1846 and 1854, Charlestown, Roxbury, South Boston, Jamaica Plain (1853), Brookline, East Boston, Chelsea, Quincy and Dorchester all had companies producing coal gas for local use. In the standard production mode, gas was produced by heating coal until it released a gaseous, flammable product. In order to get a clean burning product, multiple stages of filtering were necessary. The gas was passed through lime and water, with impurities like ammonia and tar removed along the way.

At the same time as these facilities were being built, a system for producing gas from rosin oil was patented for those who lived outside the distribution range of community gas companies. The Maryland Portable Gas Company, founded in 1853, sold units for homes and small businesses through agents in New York, Boston, Wilmington, Charleston, New Orleans and San Francisco. In this process, a retort was heated cherry red with a coal fire, and rosin oil dripped inside it. When the oil hit the red hot iron, a gas was formed which was collected and filtered much as described above for coal gas. As the gas was used, the retort would be heated up again, and more gas produced.

The Jamaica Plain Gas Company was founded the same year as the Maryland Portable Gas Company, so it seems odd that the Perkins family would pay for their own personal gas production facility. Perhaps it was a matter of conspicuous consumption - they could pay for it, and not rely on a utility for their gas. It's all speculation here. All I have is a label on a map and some educated guesses. Maryland Portable Gas lost their patent within the decade, and were soon out of business. If they didn't supply the gas house to the Perkins, then someone very much like them did.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln spent the summer months at a cottage at the Soldier's Home in Washington D.C. You can read about the cottage, and the details of the gas system for the house here. (PDF file). The Maryland Portable Gas system was installed at the campus in 1858, and seems similar to what would have been found at Pinebank in Jamaica Plain. (See the engraving, above right).

For some historical background on gas production in Boston, see this series of articles (PDF file again) written for employees and retirees of the Boston Gas Company.

And finally, for contemporary elucidation of mid-19th century coal gas production, read this cute article from Harper's New Monthy Magazine, using a classic device to explain the process in an entertaining way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stony Brook Blog

Due to technical issues, I've decided to move my Stony Brook information from my ISP web site to a Google blog.

Here it is.