Friday, September 9, 2011

Lost and Found: The Peter Parley Homestead

Abram French house, Parley Vale (BPL Flickr group).

Abram French estate, Centre street, 1874 (JP Historical Society).

I've written about Samuel Goodrich, AKA Peter Parley in the past here and here. Parley avenue, Parley vale, Peter Parley road and Goodrich road all honor the (once) famous 19th Century author and editor of children's books, politician and ambassador to France. His property, expanded over the years by many purchases, ran from Green street to somewhere between Parley avenue and Robinwood street, and from Centre street back to the railroad tracks. As the property was sold off in pieces, it has been impossible for me to determine the exact location of the original Goodrich house.

So now I know, if I can trust the caption of the above photo. The caption reads "Old Abraham French House, "Peter Parley's" old house, Parley Vale, Jamaica Plain," although the correct name is Abram French. Mr French owned a substantial crockery and glassware business on Franklin street in downtown Boston.

By the time French purchased the house and land, the estate, while still substantial for the district, was much smaller than the original Goodrich property. Green street extended back from Centre street to Washington street, and Chestnut avenue cut behind the property from Green to Boylston streets.

This house, then, would have received visits from Daniel Webster, Senator and one of the greatest orators of his time, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, whom Goodrich published before he was well known. We can imagine the carriages coming down Centre street from Boston carrying the great men of the day to visit the famous Peter Parley, and the politician Samuel Goodrich. Eventually, Goodrich went to Paris as the United States Consul to France, and would never return to live in Jamaica Plain. The estate has been divided many times, and the house is gone, but his carriage-way remains as Parley avenue. And if you walk in from Centre street to Parley Vale, the traffic of Centre street seems to disappear, and you might almost hear the carriages.


  1. Thank you for this article. I was born and raised in Boston. Recently for the past two years I have been driving by this Peter Parley Rd. Usually taking the route from Washington St. in Egleston Station heading towards Forest Hill. I must say, it gets my attention every time and I make mental notes to myself over the years to google this name of this famous street and try to figure out who this Peter Parley is and why does he have a road named after him.

  2. Mark

    I have enjoyed your website today. I have a website dealing in residential architecture. I would love to include some of your personal pics and put in a link to your website. I have a section each on Second Empire houses and also Italianate houses. You might check them out at and . I am always looking to improve them. I have only been up for two months now, so I still have a lot of gaps. I see you mention Andrew Jackson Downing in one of your 2009 posts. I mention him a few times myself in my various histories of the architectural styles. Since I see you are a good historian I would value any insight you can supply. Just post on my comments section.

    I also would like to learn more about your three-decker houses. We have nothing like that. Did they all start out as apartments? I am curious.