Friday, December 21, 2012

Egleston Theatre: 1939

Boston Public Library Flickr group, Leslie Jones, photographer.(click on image for larger view).

Egleston Theatre, 1924, corner of Washington and Beethoven sts.

There were three theatres in Jamaica Plain during the first half of the 20th century; the Jamaica, the Madison and the Egleston. For some reason, my parents went to the Egleston, and never mentioned the other two. Both the Egleston and the Jamaica on Centre street near Hyde Park closed in 1961. The Egleston building was torn down in 2003. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lenox Motor Car Company

Lenox Motor Car, 1911.

Lenox Car advertisement.

Lenox Motor Car Company, Washington street, 1914.

To my surprise, I've found another automobile manufacturer in Jamaica Plain.  Earlier entries have been American Napier and Farnham Nelson.  The Lenox Motor Car company was the successor to the Martell Motor Car company. There is very little available on the company, but they seem to have begun in 1911 in brick buildings erected and owned by local  real estate mogul Patrick Meehan on Washington street near the corner of Glen road (the address was that of the long building on the right above with the name Meehan across it). In 1915, they moved to Lawrence, and in doing so bankrupted themselves. The building they began in is still there today.

Source: The Lenox Motor Car Company

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Ten O'Neil Sisters

The O'Neil sisters, April 22, 1946.

Mrs O'Neil, daughters and grandkids, April 13, 1963.

Three O'Neil sisters return to parade with sons and daughters, April 6, 1980.

There was a time when big families were common in Boston. And when I say big, I mean twelve children, including ten girls. That was the O'Neil family of Wyman street, Jamaica Plain during the 1940s and 50s. They were a staple at the annual Easter Parade in their identical outfits, and of course were favorites of newspaper photographers and editors.

The Ten O'Neil Sisters Home Page

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

No Love For The EL

It took over forty years, but they finally got rid of the Forest Hills elevated line. There were multiple efforts to take down the elevated structure in the 1940s. In this case, a city councilor tried to use the war effort to justify his attempt. Personally, it never occurred to me during the 1960s that the El would be taken down. I looked at it as an essential service, like a water main. Of course, I didn't live under the damn thing.

The claim that the El ran parallel to the New York New Haven line was disingenuous. Roxbury and the South End have suffered from the Orange Line move west to the railroad bed, and residents have been demanding a replacement ever since. For Jamaica Plain, on the other hand, it was a great deal.

Daily Boston Globe April 14, 1942

Demolition of 'El' From Forest Hills to Broadway is Urged

Demolition of the Elevated structure from Forest Hills to Broadway, thereby making available hundreds of thousands of tons of steel for the national war effort, was recommended by the Boston City Council at yesterday's session.

City Councilor James M. Langan of Jamaica Plain, who introduced the order, pointed out that the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad runs almost parallel to the Boston Elevated structure from Forest Hills to the Back Bay Station and that the "L" could use the abandoned rails of this railroad, inasmuch as they are of the same gauge.

Pres. Thomas E. Linehan appointed a committee comprising Councilor Langan, Councilor Thomas J. Hannon of Dorchester, and Councilor William F. Hurley of Roxbury to confer with Mayor Tobin and officials of the El relative to the advisability of razing the El structure.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Tree is Planted on Arbor Day

Eliot School, Arbor Day tulip tree on left (photo by Charlie Rosenberg).

The schoolboy tulip tree, shown at its full height (photo by Charlie Rosenberg).

I considered posting this entry for Arbor Day, but there would have been no leaves on the tree in April, and it seemed a shame to show the tree without its leaves. The article below describes a tree planting by boys from the Agassiz school in 1928. Mayor Nichols lived right at the Monument at the time, and sent his boys to the Agassiz. Professor Robert H. Richards lived at the corner of Eliot and Dane streets, and was the husband of Ellen Swallow Richards, chemist and first woman granted a degree from M.I.T. The article doesn't say, but Professor Richards, then retired from M.I.T., was at the time running the Eliot School. The Arnold Arboretum got involved by donating the tree in the name of their former director. Given the roles played by three institutions, the Agassiz, the Eliot school, and the Arboretum, plus a resident mayor and his sons, plus a resident member of M.I.T.'s first graduating class, it might be nice if a small plaque could be put on the tree commemorating the Arbor Day planting. That's a lot of history for one tulip tree.

Daily Boston Globe April 28, 1928

Trees Planted By Pupils Of Boston's Public Schools

To children attending Boston schools yesterday was Arbor Day. The official observance throughout the state will be today, but schools will be closed, so appropriate exercises were held yesterday.


In Jamaica Plain, Mayor Nichols watched his two sons, Clark and Dexter, and the sixth grade boys in the mechanic arts course of the Agassiz School plant a tulip tree in memory of Charles Sprague Sargent, late director of the Arnold Arboretum. Clark is in the fifth and Dexter in the fourth grade at the Agassiz School.

The tree, a gift of the Arboretum, was planted in front of the Eliot School on Eliot st, an annex of the Agassiz, where the boys go for their carpentry and garden work. Others who attended the planting included Mrs Nichols, Prof Robert H. Richards, formerly of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who allowed the tree to be planted on his grounds, now rented to the city; William H. Judd, propagator of the Arboretum, who told about its work, and Joseph Q. Litchfield, master of the Agassiz School district.

The other boys who took part in the actual planting were David Shepard, David Crew, William McDonough, George Muise and James Reynolds. John Ryan read Gov Fuller's Arbor Day proclamation and John Spence was master of ceremonies. A group of eight boys recited stanzas of "Trees of the Fragrant Forest."

Thanks for Charlie Rosenberg for the photos. You can read about Ellen Swallow Richards at the Jamaica Plain Historical Society web site.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Walk Around The Pond - And Help the Library

Curling on Jamaica Pond, 1890s.

Saturday, June 2, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, there will be a Walk Around the Pond fundraiser for the Jamaica Plain and Connolly branch libraries in Jamaica Plain. Suggested donation is $5, and registration will be at the boathouse. Come out and support the libraries that have done so much for Jamaica Plain residents over the years. Be there or be square.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jamaica Towers

Perkins street and the Jamaicaway, 1905.

[Update: a reader has informed me that the correct name of the property is Jamaicaway Tower and Townhouses. Since I've known it all my life as Jamaica Towers, I'll leave my original language in the text and stand corrected in fact.]

Henry Rueter, brewer and partner in the Highland Spring Brewery at Heath and Parker streets, lived at the corner of Perkins street and the then-new Jamaicaway. Notice the other adjacent homes, each on a substantial lot, including carriage houses.

The appropriately named Jamaica Towers rises above the Emerald Necklace, providing its inhabitants wonderful views, while making a sore thumb of itself for those availing themselves of the adjacent parkland. The article transcribed below describes one minor speed bump along the way to the developers making their money and the residents gaining their views. Interesting to note was the involvement of the BRA in declaring the property as 'blighted.' Nice trick, that. Somehow, I doubt they'd get away with it today. Note below that there is no mention of Olmsted's Emerald Necklace.

Boston Globe June 12, 1964

Hearing on High-Rise Apts.

Jamaicaway Plan Stirs Row

One Jamaica Plain resident Thursday referred to a vacant piece of land along the Jamaicaway as a "glamorous dump" as he supported a plan for a high rise apartment building on the site while a neighbor termed the proposed development "a monstrosity."

The debate for and against the $7 million development at Perkins st. was focused on a Boston City Council hearing to determine whether state legislation limited building heights to 65 feet along the Jamaicaway should be accepted.

Only 65 residents attended the hearing along with some legislators, with 12 voicing support for the high rise plan and an equal number speaking against it. But both sides claimed the support of hundreds of other residents and petitions with lists of signatures were entered into the records.

The state legislation was initiated by both State Sen. James Hennigan of Jamaica Plain and State Rep. William Carey to block the luxury apartment development planned by educator and economist Arnold Soloway and several otter principals under a limited dividend corporation.

"There has been a bill of goods sold out there by the real estate people," said Carey, referring to petitions gathered by residents in support of the plan.

He had support from Sen. Hennigan who said he objected to the designation put on the vacant area by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as "blighted," and from State Rep. Charles R. Doyle of West Roxbury who declared that property values of existing homes in the area would decrease because of the high rise structure.

In sharp disagreement were State Rep. Stephen C. Davenport of Jamaica Plain and State Rep. James Kelly of Roxbury.

"It is hard to imagine a poorer piece of legislation," said Davenport, "that's a violation of home rule."

Kelly said an investment of $7 million "is good for Jamaica Plain." He declared his office is close to the location and no one has called him to say they opposed the high rise plan.

Dr Elizabeth Kleiman of 66 Perkins st. opposing the high rise, said it should be closer to the city. Atty. John J. Walsh of 15 Pondview av. urged the council to "repudiate" the plan.

Soloway said his group is contemplating a 282-unit, 29-story building which because of the sloping nature of the land area, would not be visible from adjacent areas and would not obstruct any abuttors since it occupies only six percent of the land area. He projected rentals at from $130 to $450 - the latter for four duplex penthouses. He said the firm also is considering a shuttle service for residents to downtown areas to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Hodgdon House

Jamaica Pond at the top. South, Walk Hill and Back (now Morton and the Arborway) streets meet near the Dedham Turnpike and the 'J' in Jamaica Plains (sic), 1819 (BPL). The small black box at the intersection of South and Walk Hill streets is the Hodgdon house discussed below. The Turnpike tollgate is somewhere near Walk Hill street.

Abram Hodgdon was born circa 1801. He married Emily Ayers on Christmas day, 1825, and a second time to Elizabeth Holmbert in 1845. The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds holds contracts for Hodgdon to build houses, as well as a trustee's notification of property being sold off to pay his debts. In the graveyard at the back of the Unitarian church at Centre and Eliot streets, there is a monument with the inscription "Sacred to the memory of MRS EMILY, wife of Abram Hodgdon, who died April 7, 1843."

In September of 1827, Abram Hodgdon bought four acres of land sitting between 'the road to Walk hill,' 'the lower road to Dedham' (South street), and Stony river (brook), a house and a barn for $333. Further search shows that 'a barn and half a house' were on the site already in 1806. Whether this was part of the eventual 'Hodgdon house' is a matter of conjecture, but it seems reasonable that it was.

South and Walk Hill streets, 1859 (BPL). The railroad now runs through the neighborhood. The house is again shown where South and Walk Hill street meet. Back street is now called Forest Hills street where it meets South street.

The 1908 article from the Boston Globe transcribed below tells of the demolition of an old house, once owned by the above Abram Hodgdon. The house sat along South street, between what is now Forest Hills station and the State Laboratory property. The old intersection has changed dramatically since then. Going back to the Colonial era, there was no Washington street, no Hyde Park avenue and no Arborway. Near what is now Forest Hills, a crossroads of sorts was located. South street (then the lower road to Dedham), met the road to Walk hill (also known as the road to Lower Mills, on the Dorchester/Milton line) and Back street (a continuation of Roxbury's Walnut avenue).

This intersection that was home to the Hodgdon house was where South street now turns towards the Arnold Arboretum across from the Forest Hills T station. Th end of Walk Hill street that once met South street was cut off when the railroad tracks were raised on a granite-walled embankment in the 1890s. Within ten years, the Hodgdon house was demolished for an apartment complex that remained until the 1960s.

Arborway Court at South street and the Arborway, 1924. The intersection has changed, but South street still comes through, and Walk Hill street is now the very short St Ann street. The house is gone, replaced by a brick apartment complex overlooking the railroad station and the Forest Hills elevated station.

Boston Daily Globe October 18, 1908

Landmark Is Razed

Old Hodgdon House in Forest Hills Was Built About 1812

Big Apartment House on Site

The march of improvement in the Forest Hills section has made necessary the demolition of one of the old landmarks that has stood for nearly 100 years at the junction of South and Walkhill (sic) sts, and the Arborway, and was known as the old Hodgdon house.

Recently the lot of land on which it stood was purchased by New York parties and the old-fashioned dwelling is to make room for a large modern apartment house of four stories and will contain 72 apartments.

The house has been almost completely demolished. The workmen in tearing it down, found an old-fashioned carpenter's square, of wood and tin and nearly two feet in length on its longest side.

The original building, it is said, was erected about the time of the war of 1812. It is evident that there were three distinct sections to the building, built at different times.

The frame was of hewed oak and the floor boards were of clear pine, some two feet in width. Three outside walls were bricked between the studding, the bricks being laid in cement.

The nails used in the construction of the original house were hand forged, as were the larger spikes used fastening the heavy frame work,

The house was a two-story, hip roof, containing eight rooms with unfinished attics. At some time a new roof was put in place and a portion of the old roof, with the shingles on it, was found still in place.

In the old days before the railroad was constructed at the foot of the hill on which the old dwelling stood, it was an important cross roads residence.

Source: Norfolk Country Registry of Deeds, 83:219 9/22/1827 Jonathan Trull to Abram Hodgdon.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Daniel Nason, and a Cool Carriage

This locomotive is the Daniel Nason , built in 1858 for the Boston & Providence railroad line, and now on display at the St Louis Museum of Transportation. She's a wood-fired locomotive designed by George S. Griggs and built at the Roxbury shop just north of Ruggles street, on land now home to Northeastern University. Daniel Nason himself was the Superintendent of Transportation at the Boston depot of the Boston & Providence line. If you lived in Jamaica Plain in the following years, you would have seen the Daniel Nason chugging through the community, and perhaps it would have taken you to Boston to work or shop.

This carriage was found at the back end of the Boston & Providence Roxbury repair shop in the 1890s and refurbished for display. It was reportedly imported from England, and is now in the hands of the St Louis Museum of Transportation. Is this one of the earliest railroad passenger carriages in existence? It looks like a horse carriage dropped on to rail wheels. Which would make sense, given that a horse carriage was the only model they had, and early locomotives were small, slow-moving vehicles.

I was puzzled at first by the presence of what appears to be footrests on the top front and back of the car. Would a railroad car have footrests for a driver? Then, I found this image:

Here we have a photograph of a very early locomotive and two passenger cars that are very similar to the one shown above. And this explains the footrests - people sitting on the roof!

And finally, this 1849 map fragment shows the Boston & Providence and Boston & Worcester lines crossing in the Back bay. Notice the cars - short, with three windows each. While the drawing was only intended to indicate a railroad line on the map, the artist/cartographer would have modeled his drawing on real trains, and the carriages here bear a close resemblance to the one shown above.

For more on the Roxbury locomotive works and George Griggs, master mechnic of the shop, check out this co-post on my Boston blog here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Here Comes the Wrecking Ball

I've been asked to publicize a meeting being held to discuss the possible demolition of the New England Home for Little Wanderers building on South Huntington avenue. You can read about it in the Jamaica Plain Gazette. To add some color, I've reposted an earlier entry from this blog.

Here's another South Huntington avenue institution. The New England Home for Little Wanderers was founded in 1865, and moved to the edge of Jamaica Plain as described in this article. For some reason, this region of Roxbury/Jamaica Plain was quite popular with charitable institutions, as shown in earlier entries. I added a contemporary picture below.

Boston Daily Globe July 28, 1914

Little Wanderers' $100,000 Building New Location for Home for Destitute Children. Work on the Erection of a Flameproof Structure Has Begun.

The New England Home for Little Wanderers will sell its present location at 202 West Newton st, and has begun to erect a new structure at a cost of $100,000 between the Jamaicaway and South Huntington av, about four miles from the Public Library and near the spots now occupied by the Boston Nursery for Blind Babies and St Vincent's Hospital. The grounds will comprise about six acres.

The plan of moving has been under consideration for some months, but negotiations for the actual construction have only just been completed.

The architects of the new institution are Brainerd(sp) & Leeds. The building will be fireproof, of three stories and a basement. The ground floor will contain the great dining room for the children, the kitchen and allied features. The boiler plant will be outside the building, its roof forming a terrace.

The first floor will hold a large auditorium with a capacity of 180, suitable for conventions held in the building. There will also be administration rooms for the superintendent, matrons, directors, etc.

The second floor will provide for the occupancy of from 40 to 50 children - rather fewer than the present building, because the plan is that the outside department henceforth shall be of more importance than the actual administrative department.

About 1000 inmates pass through the institution in the course of a year, the most detailed record of them being kept after they pass from beneath the roof of the building to homes elsewhere.

The third floor will be for a playroom and a hospital. The basement will be of reinforced concrete and the material of the remainder of the building will be of antique brick with a considerable amount of stone trimmings, the whole presenting an appearance of the Colonial period. It is hoped the new building may be ready for occupancy by next Spring.

The institution was organized in Boston in May, 1865, under a charter granted by the Legislature of Massachusetts for the purpose "of rescuing children from want and shame, providing them with food and clothing, giving them instruction in mind and heart and placing them, with the consent of their parents, or guardians in Christian homes."

Homeless and destitute children are received from all parts of New England. No discrimination is made because of color, race, sex or religion.

Arthur S Johnson is president of the Home; Samuel D. Parker, treasurer, and Frederic D. Fuller, secretary. The superintendent is Rev F.H. Knight.

The Home is a private charity. It is not supported by State, city or town funds, but by legacies and contributions from churches and individuals.

January, 2008

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ye Olde Forest Hills Station

This 1908 article discusses the then-new Forest Hills elevated station. The drawing above shows an open, fenced-in ground floor. It did get closed in quite a bit more than that on the sides. Notice the water fountain in the middle of the road. And notice the style of writing in the article. It content comes out sounding like a P.R. release, but they style is very different from anything we'd read in a newspaper today. They had not yet received the cut, cut cut message, so they weren't mean with their words.

Boston Daily Globe March 23, 1908

Hope To Have work Done This Year

Building of the Elevated Station in Forest Hills Sq Has Commenced - The Platform Arrangement.

After a prolonged disagreement over the location of the Forest Hills terminal of the elevated railroad, ground has at last been broken in Forest Hills sq. and the work of putting in the foundations for the new station begun.

The abrupt termination of the elevated structure at the entrance of the square, with its big derricks overhanging the roadway, has long been an annoyance to the residents of the district, and the completion of the work is looked forward to by all.

The terminal will be located on the west side of the square, adjoining the NY, NH & H tracks, and will be 360 feet long by 70 feet wide - a much larger station than the present terminal at Dudley st. Two tracks will pass through the station, one inbound and the other outbound.

There being no loop as at Dudley st, a blind end will be used; that is, the tracks will extend beyond the station far enough for a train that has unloaded its passengers from Boston to run out and switch over to the inbound track, when it will return to the station and load passengers for Boston from an opposite platform.

Egress from the unloading platform of the station to the surface car loading platform will be by means of two stairways. Passengers arriving on surface cars and bound for Boston will alight on an opposite platform and will gain access
to the elevated loading platform by means of two moving stairways and two ordinary stairways. Both surface car platforms will be enclosed by fences as is the case now at Dudley st.

The elevated platforms will be large enough to accommodate any crowds that will have occasion to use them for some years to come, the loading platform being 30 feet wide and the unloading platform will have a width of 20 feet, while their great length of 360 feet will amply accommodate an eight-car train, as will all of the new elevated stations and those on the Washington-st subway.

The material used in the construction of the new station and that portion of the elevated structure which crosses the arborway will be reinforced concrete, and the architecture of the whole will be sufficiently ornate to be in keeping with the surroundings, the portion of the elevated structure previously mentioned being somewhat similar in design to the present railroad bridge over the arborway.

The northern end of the station, which might be called the front entrance, will be somewhat higher than the rest of the building and will be 64 feet high. In that portion of the building will be located a waiting room, toilet rooms and an office.

With the completion of this station the Dudley-st station will cease to be a terminal and become a way station, and to this end important changes are to be made there.

No definite arrangements have yet been made by the elevated officials for handling the traffic under the new conditions, but in all probability some of the surface car line which now feed Dudley-st station will be diverted to one of the new elevated stations, possibly that at Egleston Square, thus relieving the Dudley-st station of a great deal of congestion. The engineers hope, with good fortune, to be able to complete the work by the end of this year, when, with the completion of the new subway, Boston will have taken a long stride in the direction of real rapid transit.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The May House - En-Castle-ated

Detail of room in old wing of the May house.

Known as the Arborway Castle, or alternately as the house with all those fr*&%$in' Christmas lights, the May house joins the Curtis house in our parade of modified-to-the-point-of-unrecognizability Colonial houses. As is common with such articles, there is questionable information in this one. The writer states that the modern 'castle' part of the house was added to the original Colonial house in the 1800s. To be more precise, the addition was built between 1896 and 1904. It states that the house was built by a Mr Bridge. Bridge did sell the land to the Mays, but I'm not sure we can be confident that this was the original Bridge homestead. There were other houses on May's lane owned by the Mays in the late 1800s, any one of which could have been the oldest. And of course, the original house may have been torn down and replaced during the Colonial era. The Curtis house recently discussed here is dated to 1722, so it, too could be the oldest in the community.

Daily Boston Globe February 15, 1937

Jamaica Plain House Sold, Recalls Colonial History

The house of a thousand daily conjectures, strange in its location and imposing with its turreted, castle-like architectural appointments, has opened its portals and revealed an historical secret - the remnants of the Colonial home of Capt John May.

The unusual structure, located at 61 Arborway, Jamaica Plain, a short distance from Jamaica Pond on a main highway artery, has been viewed by passing motorists who wondered at its age and history.

For many years it has been tightly closed, but will now have an occupant, James M. Graham, Boston attorney, who purchased the property, known as the May and later Carter estate, from Mrs. John Emmons, Hingham, through the real estate office of the MacLellan Brothers.

In the passing of papers it was revealed that 11 "modern" rooms of the "castle" had been constructed in the 1800s, around five of the rooms of the old May house, which was built on May's lane, now May st, by a a Mr Bridge in 1650.

The first John May, master of the vessel (?), came from Mayfield in Sussex, England, and became a resident of Jamaica Plain and the ancestor of many of bear the name of May in this country. The original home was known in later years as the May House, after Capt Lemuel May, who fought in the Battle of Lexington and whose grave is in the little churchyard of the First Congregational Church on Eliot st, Jamaica Plain.

The five rooms represent what was probably the oldest house in Jamaica Plain. There were originally 47 acres on the May farm, but with the expansion of the park system about one-third of the area was taken. When part of the old house was razed incident to the erection of the present structure by Thomas W. Carter, workmen found a number of relics of Colonial years.

They included pewter spoons, buttons from the uniforms of the "Minute Men of 1775" and a number of silver coins. Spanish silver coins were plowed in the land adjacent to the house.

The old section of the property contains the original hardware of the Revolutionary period and the figures 1760 can still be seen on the fire back in the old fireplace.

Entering from the front porch there is a small, square reception hall that opens through narrow doorways into the old low-studded,irregular shaped rooms that have corner beams and wooden fittings of rich quartered oak.

The old living room with its hand-hewn ceiling beams, wainscotted sides, corner cupboard with convenient little shelves bears a distince Colonial tinge even though the woodwork has been covered with enameled paint. The old wooden coat hangers are in evidence and the beautiful hand-carved wooden staircase has a spiral carved newel post and uprights.

It is said that the house was used as a barracks durign the siege of Boston. On July 4, 1901, long after the present structure was erected, Capt Richmond P Hobson, United States Navy; Admiral Sampson and Boston Mayor Hart were entertained there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Underpass Passes (Temporarily)

With the decision to tear down the Casey Overpass just announced recently, I thought this little tidbit would be of interest. While the Casey Overpass was built in the 1950s, the need for it seems to have predated the post-war years. At the time, the railroad tracks ran on a raised embankment that bridged the Arborway with multiple arches, and the Elevated line bridged the Arborway a stone's throw away as well. And streetcars ran down Washington street and through the station as well. Add automobiles, and the Arborway grade crossing must have been quite a mess.

It was natural to propose a tunnel under Washington street to help break what must have been intersection-lock at the time, but something wasn't accounted for. That would be Stony brook, carried through Forest Hills and the rest of Jamaica Plain in a buried conduit. Apparently, no one brought up this obstacle at the City council meeting discussed below, and the proposal got a temporary green light. I'll leave the wisdom of the choice recently announced to others, but it is clear that the overpass was built for a good reason, and served its purpose well for over half a century.

Daily Boston Globe August 6, 1929

Forest Hills Underpass Order is Passed for First Reading

[Discussion of the widening of Centre st in West Roxbury]

Forest Hills Underpass

The council also, at this meeting, passed for its first reading Councillor Motley's order for $350,000 for the construction of an under-pass at Forest Hills, to relieve traffic congestion on Arborway, Washington st and other nearby streets. This underpass is planned to be 40 feet wide, and, the council was told, it is estimated that it wall save the city $107,000 annually in economic value, through elimination of delays under the elevated structure at Forest Hills.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lady Was A Dope Thief

I didn't see any follow-up, so I assume so got away with the heist. Between 1914 and 1924, doctors could prescribe opiates, so that explains the presence of the drugs. The pharmacy was in Hyde Square, at the current location of a tattoo shop. Just goes to show that drug crimes didn't begin in the 1960s.

Boston Globe March 31, 1917

Mysterious Drug Woman Eludes Police Chase

The mysterious young woman who "cleaned up" 30 grains of morphine sulphate, 30 grains of hydrochlorate of morphine, 20 grains of cocaine, 40 grains of heroin and half an ounce of powdered opium, at the pharmacy of William A. Lynch at 380 Centre st, Jamaica Plain, Thursday afternoon, was still at large at a late hour last evening, though the police have clews that may result in an arrest. The large amount and the variety of the narcotics taken is spurring on to a thorough canvass of West Roxbury by special officers.

The young woman entered the store and said she was ill. While the clerk was trying to assist her she swept off the drug shelf. The police secured a detailed description of the young woman.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Deadly Beauty

I've recorded many deaths be drowning at Jamaica Pond, and this entry brings the numbers more up to date with the addition of nine more unfortunates. For all its beauty, Jamaica Pond is certainly the deadliest locale in Jamaica Plain.

June 27, 1930

Boy Drowned in Jamaica Pond

John W. Rock, 11, Falls In Sailing Toy Boat

Cousin, Andrew S. Molloy, Aged 9, Rescued by Peter Dignon

John W. Rock, 11, of 195 Lamartine st. Jamaica Plain, was drowned yesterday afternoon when a toy sailboat he was playing with drifted out of reach and he fell into the Jamaica Pond in an attempt to retrieve it.

The accident occurred at the Cove shore near the Children's Museum. His cousin Andrew S Molloy, 9 years old, of 1873 Columbus av fell in at the same time, but was rescued by Michael Dignon of 128 Day st Jamaica Plain.

The Rock boy's body was recovered by police using grappling irons. The child was pronounced dead at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.

August 21, 1930

Find Body of Man in Jamaica Pond.

The body of Henry Parker, 69, a widower, of 63 Chestnut ave, Jamaica Plain, was seen in Jamaica Pond yesterday afternoon and was removed by police.

The body was taken to the Southern Mortuary, where it remained unidentified for some time until Henry E Parker, the mans' son, visited the mortuary.

July 13, 1932

Boy, 10 Drowned in Jamaica Pond

Stepping into a hole in the bottom of Jamaica Pond while wading there yesterday afternoon with an 11-year-old companion, George F. Clearly Jr, 10, of 8 Warren sq, Jamaica Plain, sank below the surface and was drowned.

His playmate, Robert Jordan of 5 Warren sq, went to his assistance, but becoming exhausted when Clearly struggled with him, was obliged to wrest himself from the grasp of the drowning boy and make for the banking a few yards away.

Jordan told the police that he and the Cleary boy were wading with their trousers rolled up to their thighs when Cleary suddenly announced that he was going to get wet all over and marched into the water almost up to his neck.

He was jumping up and down, laughing and shouting, when he threw up his hands and sank beneath the surface. When Jordan's efforts to save his friend proved futile he began shouting for help and two men who were rowing some distance away brought their boat to the scene, while passerby on the bank ran to summon police.

One of the men in the boat stripped off his outer clothes and dived into the water. He was unable to find the body, and police, putting out in another boat, worked for five minutes with the grappling irons before Cleary was brought to the surface.

On the way to City Hospital in the police ambulance, patrolmen Frank Berringer and Joseph Chalifaux worked over the boy in an unsuccessful attempt to revive him. Hospital physicians pronounced him dead.

The boy's father, Goerge F. Cleary had just arrived home from work when news of his son's death was brought to him. He was overcome with grief and Mrs Cleary collapsed. Besides his parents, George leaves several brothers and sisters.

July 29, 1936

Drowns, Caught By Anchor Rope

Meltzer Pulled Under at Jamaica Pond

Roxbury Man's Body Found After Fishing Trip

Pulled overboard when an anchor rope looped about his arm as he was anchoring a rowboat, Abraham D. Meltzer, 60, of 108 Elm Hill av, Roxbury, drowned in Jamaica Pond yesterday afternoon.

Meltzer hired the rowboat from Nelson Curtis and rowed out on the pond to fish, about 11 o'clock in the morning. Curtis, looking out on the pond in the afternoon, became worried when he noticed Meltzer's boat motionless but apparently unoccupied. He asked William Clancy, 20 Spring Park av, Jamaica Plain, who was rowing another boat, to see if Meltzer was all right.

Held Down by Rope

Clancy reported that Meltzer was in the water, held mysteriously below the surface. Patrolmen Harry Cook and John Moylan answered Curtis' call shortly after 4 yesterday afternoon and rowed out to Meltzer's boat, seeing one end of it was apparently weighted down. They pulled on the anchor rope and brought Meltzer's body up.

The police said the boat was securely anchored and that they believed when he threw the anchor overboard the rope caught his right arm.

At City Hospital Meltzer was pronounced dead by Dr Donald Sullivan from accidental drowning. Meltzer's wife, Mary, told police her husband was subject to fainting spells.

The water is between 25 and 30 feet deep where Meltzer drowned. His steel fishing rod was still in the boat.

July 8, 1939

Police Work Fast But Man Drowns in Jamaica Pond.

In spite of the hurried rescue attempts of almost two score policemen early today, Edward F. Mahoney, 26, 40 Cranston st., Jamaica Plain, drowned after he fell or jumped from the Jamaica Pond boat landing.

The victim was in the water at the deep end of the float for only 12 minutes as police recovered his body from a boat. His wrist watch was stopped at 2:58, they said, and at 3:10 his body was on the float with the prone method of resuscitation being applied.

Police were first attracted to the scene by passing motorists who said they saw a man jump or fall into the pond. Two police cars from the Jamaica Plain division were dispatched to the landing as once and others from Roxbury followed.

A crowd of more than 100 persons gathered to watch the efforts of the police. Dr Fred W. Beering of South st., Jamaica Plain, pronounced the man dead.

Daily Boston Globe

September 11, 1939

Two Boys Find Body in Jamaica Pond.

The body of a man of more than middle age, which apparently had been in the water for many months, was found in Jamaica Pond, near the Burroughs Museum, by two 11-year-old boys yesterday afternoon.

Medical Examiner Timothy Leary said there appeared to be no evidence of foul play.

The man, about 6 feet 9 inches tall, wore a blue serge two-piece suit bearing the label of the Boston firm, blue shirt, shoes with no shoe-strings, and fine check socks held up by rubber bands.

The body was discovered by Edward Sarno, 11, of 22 Cranston st., and Thomas Goode, 11, of 28 Cranston st., Jamaica Plain.

Daily Boston Globe July 10, 1945

Mother of 2 Soldiers Drowns in Jamaica Pond.

The body of Mrs. Ruth Whelan, 48, of 102 Perkins st., Jamaica Plain, missing since Sunday, was recovered from Jamaica Pond late yesterday afternoon by police. Her husband told police at the time of her disappearance she had been upset for some time because her two sons, Lawrene J. Jr., and Robert J., were serving with the Arm in the Pacific area.

Boston Globe August 22, 1973

Jamaica Pond drowning victim still unidentified

Medical Examiner George Katsas of Southern Mortuary is seeking the identity of a man in his late 20s or 30s whose body was found in Jamaica Pond, Jamaica Plain.

Dr. Katsas said the man who drowned ws 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds with moderately long brown hair and sideburns but no moustache. The was wearing blue dungarees, a sport shirt, brown socks and tennis shoes when discovered in the cove section of the pond by two boys Sunday, July 22.

Boston Globe July 27, 1975

Jamaica Plain youth drowns in off-limits pond

Tyrone Smith was warned about the drop. He could go out to a certain point, but that was all. Tyrone, a nonswimmer, said he understood.

But he, like many others who swim in Jamaica Pond, yesterday wandered out a bit too far and he drowned.

"He couldn't swim," said his father, James Smith, of 28 Walden st., Jamaica Plain. "He went out too far, and now.... he's gone."

Tyrone, 17, who would have entered Boston English high in the fall, was walking around the edge of Jamaica Pond yesterday with two friends, Tom Perechodruk, 17, of 182 Heath st., Jamaica Plain, and Arthur Bone, 18, of 16 Shannon rd., Dorchester. The three decided to go for a swim, despite its being against regulations.

Perechodruk, the only swimmer of the three, later said he repeatedly told his friends where the drop was and warned them not to go out too far.

"I swam out, leaving Art and Tyrone behind," said Perechodruk last night. "While I was swimming around I saw Tyrone go under. I thought he was kidding around. I started to swim in when I felt Tyrone grab my legs. He didn't hang on. At this point, I knew he was beyond the ledge and wasn't kidding. I dove under after him, but didn't see him. I dove under again and again, but the water is so murky out there I just couldn't see him."

Perechodruk then called two men sitting of a bench for help. They went in, but they, too, did not find a trace of Tyrone.

Perechodruk told Bone to call the police. After they arrived, a scuba team was brought in and they found Tyrone about 30 feet offshore and 25 feet down. He was taken to Boston City Hospital, and pronounced dead there.

Despite posted signs and a general knowledge that swimming in Jamaica Pond is forbidden, "most kids figure the day is hot, why not go for a swim?" said Sgt. Joseph Regan of District 13. "That's mostly the kind of swimming that goes on out there."

"About 10 feet out there's a slight slant, then suddenly, it it just slopes," said Regan. "It drops to 20-25 feet in no time."

"He was a good boy," said Tyrone's father, his eyes red and swollen. "He was a good son and was good to his brothers and sisters.

"He loved track. He won a lot of medals out at the city races at Franklin Park. He was an athletic boy."

Monday, March 5, 2012

The End of a Commuting Era

I've often wondered when the local passenger train service to Boylston, Jamaica Plain (Green street), and Forest Hills ended. I've read somewhere that ridership had fallen off significantly by the end of World War I. I was under the assumption that my father used the Forest Hills station in my early childhood (vague memories of watching for the train from our back porch on Spalding street), but I suspected that the former two stations had been mothballed quite a bit earlier. Now I know - and I mis-remembered my father's 1960-era commute.

Daily Boston Globe July 30, 1940

Three Suburban B.& P. Stations to Close Sept. 30

Request to Abandon Boylston-St., Forest Hills, Jamaica Plain Approved

Abandonment of the Boylston st., Jamaica Plain and Forest Hills stations on the Boston and Providence stations of the Boston & Providence Railroad, effective Sept. 30, was approved yesterday by the State Department of Public Utilities at the request of the New Haven Railroad trustees, who operate the road.

The action follows a recent hearing conducted by the department, which found that the stations were not sufficiently patronized to justify operation. The three stations were among those closed July 17, 1938, by order of the United States District Court, and subsequently re-opened under order of the State Department last February.

"We are aware of the destructive possibilities of enforced continuation of passenger train stops where passengers have made little use of them or are adequately served by other means of transportation," said the commissioners, "and are strongly of the opinion that in the problem of determining the question of abandonment of passenger stations which are not well patronized consideration must be given to those stations made use of by the very substantial number of passengers to the end that the large pubic convenience may be served and requirements met."

The commissioners pointed out that other means of transportation were "reasonably available."

Monday, February 27, 2012

No Thanks to Urban Renewal for Jamaica Plain

Continuing my recent look into recent Jamaica Plain events, the story becomes depressing. As the disaster that would be the Southwest Expressway property-taking approached, Jamaica Plain residents were already up in arms over the threat of 'urban renewal.' These people had seen what urban renewal meant in Boston, and they wanted no part of it.

Boston Globe Aug.28, 1965

Renewal Foes Protest JP Plan

Urban renewal foes turned out in large numbers in Jamaica Plain Friday night to protest, often with boos and catcalls, what they regard as the malice of change.

A crowd of more than 2000 jammed the auditorium of the Mary E. Curley School, spilling out into the lobby and the street, for a sometimes tumultuous meeting that resulted in:

-- Hundreds of signatures on a petition demanding a change in state housing laws to permit a voter referendum on any urban renewal project that may be proposed for Jamaica Plain.

-- An expression of broad support for a neighborhood "cleanup, fixup program" independent of the Boston Redevelopment Authority - a plan advanced by Edward Dalton, president of the Jamaica Plain Action Committee.

"We'll have our own renewal program," said Dalton. "We don't need outsiders here in Jamaica Plain."

John Stainton, a B.R.A. planner representing Authority Director Edward Logue, and City Councilor George Foley, chairman of the City Council's Urban Renewal Committee, were interrupted repeatedly when they spoke.

Stainton told the emotion-charged crowd no large-scale demolition is contemplated for the area and the only thing under consideration was "a careful program of rehabilitation and improvement."

"But whether anyone likes it or not," Stainton said, Jamaica Plain is changing and, if you walk around the district, you'll find conditions that don't speak well for the future health of the neighborhood."

He said some property values had already declined drastically and others are being threatened.

George Foley was shouted down by cries of "you're a liar" and "you don't know nothin'" as he attempted to assure the crowd that "if you don't want urban renewal, you won't have to have it."

Foley was echoing Mayor Collins' assurances, given Friday, that there will be no urban renewal program for Jamaica Plain unless the residents of the area show strong support for it.

Several times, as Stainton and Foley pressed their points, Dalton had to take the microphone to plead with the crowd to give both men a fair hearing.

Foley himself asked his critics to "show some respect for the people who came here honestly to learn something."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Through the Eyes of the Boston Globe - 1967

This article was from a series produced in 1967 on the city's different districts. It is a window into the time, but don't take it without a grain of salt. The fact that they chose to feature a photo of a Lamartine street back yard, including laundry hanging on the clotheslines, should tell you something. I suppose there were muggings during those years in parts of Jamaica Plain, but I walked the streets those years in my neck of the woods, and I don't remember women living in fear of attacks. And people I talk to now reminisce about walking to the Pond, the Arboreteum, and travelling across the city on public transportation in those years without fear. In fact, times would get much worse in Jamaica Plain in the coming years, but in 1967 it hadn't happened yet.

Boston Globe, July 14, 1967

BOSTON: A Closeup of Its Neighborhoods, Its People and Its Problems

There is no one Jamaica Plain.

There are countless Jamaica Plains - the Jamaica Plain of the elderly Yankee widow and the poor white, of the old Irish precinct worker and the newly-arrived Portuguese laborer, of the owner-occupied three-decker and the dull, gray mansion turned into a nursing home.

Perhaps more than any other section of the city, Jamaica Plain is a cross-section of Boston a district whose 51,000 inhabitants go from the very top to the very bottom, both geographically and economically.

At the top is Moss Hill, one of the classiest sections of the city, whose fertile fields made up the estates of the Yankee Bowdithes and the Balches, fields now subdivided into split-levels and ranch homes, ranging from $20,000 to $60,000. The occupants are predominantly Catholic.

You go to Moss Hill by driving down a bucolic, suburban road from Brookline. You go through it on winding, tree-lined streets, featuring large lawns and single family homes.

Here are the homes of the professionals - the dentists, doctors, lawyers, real estate and insurance men. When you press their doorbells, you are answered by chimes, followed by housewives who will tell you that Pond st. should be straightened, the Arborway traffic should be slowed down, garbage should be collected twice wekly in the summer, a recreation area should be built for the kids.

They will tell you that Moss HIll is "an ideal neighborhood," well protected by a strong association that will allow no beauty parlors, funeral homes, schools, or anything else that does not fit into the scheme of things.

Move down from Moss Hill, and the roads become congested and bumpier; the neighborhoods more closely settled; the zoning mixed commercial and residential.

Cutting through the guts of Jamaica Plain is Centre st., the tributary for the district's blighted busines section, a bockmarked two-way avenue of potholes sliced down the middle by the Huntington av.trolley line.

West of Centre st. leading to Jamaica Pond, east of Centre st. leading to the railroad tracks and south of Centre st. in the Forest Hills area are the single-family, two-story and triple-decker hoomes that for years have given stability to Jamaica Plain.

Here lives the traditional Jamaica Plain resident, white Catholic (not necessarily Irish, perhaps Ukranian, Latvian, Italian), a skilled worker who pays between $75 and $100 rent (unheated) to live above his landlord in a three-decker worth $24,000 or so on the market.

But the contrast is not simply between Moss Hill and this vast working man's area.

On and around Amory st., for example, lower income Negroes, whites, Cubans and Puerto Ricans now mix with the older residents. A neighborhood committee meeting features Irish and Negro faces.

A block away from the well-clipped lawn at 56 Lochstead av., the home of Kenneth O'Donnell former aide to President Kennedy, is a smudged brick apartment ouse, where a white-haired woman lives along and wonders in the Winter whether the ice will be removed from the sidewalk so that she may go shopping.

Here, surrounded by stability and blight, are the landmarks and last bastions of an older society such as the Eliot School, a well-kept 191-year-old structure named after the Rev. John Eliot, who preached to the Indians, the Footlight Club, the oldest amateur theatrical club in America and Eliot Hall, where Margeurite Souther holds her dancing classes for debs.

Not far away are back streets were elderly women fear to tread lest they be mugged.

In this vast neighborhood is the home of Mayor John F. Collins, and here too are the midle income people who feel alienated from the city regardless of who the mayor may be.

They are people like Mrs Hugh O'Neill, of 70 Weld Hill st., a young mother born in Ireland and now living in her own home in the Forest Hills area.

Mrs. O'Neill is disgusted that halfway down her street are two triple-decker houses "that are a disgrace to the street." One is abandoned and boarded up. The other perhaps should be. They are examples of the blight that has begun to creep into the solid middle-income neighborhoods.

But the worst blight is at the bottom, across the tracks from Moss Hill and the middle-income areas.

You get there by picking up the train downtown at the Washington st. Station. In three of four minutes you are on the elevated, looking down on the South End and Roxbury, on vacant lots, rooftops splattered with broken glass, slums and rubble.

The train clacks rhythmically on the tracks. It hisses, It squeaks around turns. Egleston sq. In the distance are the projects, which are the very bottom.

When you ring the doorbells under the elevated on Washington st., you are answered not by chimes but often by silence. Silence because everyone is out working, or because everyone is too scared to answer the door, or because the ancient earphones and mouthpieces in the grimey apartment building no longer work.

When someone does answer the bell, he will not talk about tough zoning or ideal neighborhoods. He will speak little or ill of politicians. There is no candidate for mayor around the block.

There the merchants, the residents and workers talk of a friend mugged, a pocketbook snatched, a teenager drunk, a cop who wasn't there. A candidate - what's a candidate?

Alienated voters, the sociologists would say, and their kind are legion in a community once regarded as politically savvy, a community where you can still see the Jamaicaway home of James Michael Curley, the school named after his wife, and the oldtimers who remember the old pols.

But old pols die, and neighborhoods change. Jamaica Plain is changing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Old Curtis Farm

I remember this old house beside the Curley school as a funeral home. Many such large old houses had been turned into funeral homes, nursing homes and fraternity houses by the 1960s, and most have now been recycled again into condos. The Curtis family was one of the first to settle Jamaica Plain, and the original homestead, located near today's Stony Brook T stop, survived to the 1880s. The story is that the first Curtis settled on the Centre street land in the 1720s with a horse and a slave. Later, one of his descendants would be one of the first tenants to sell produce at Quincy Market.

Boston Globe September 13, 1970

Old Curtis farm

Jamaica Plain mansion has 18th century flavor

Most of the inhabitants of Jamaica Plain wold be astounded by the changes made during the past 100 years in their pleasant community. In the Civil War period, this area was a part of West Roxbury. The city of Boston later separated the portion near Jamaica Pond to make the present-day suburb with its imposing mansions, built on ample, landscaped grounds.

Once Farm

All of this land, 100 acres or more, was the Curtis farm 250 years ago. It was owned by Joseph and Charles Curtis, brothers, who built the original house at 509 Center(sic) St, in 1721. This house is still standing by is swallowed up by the huge mid-Victorian structure that Charles E.Curtis added at the front several generations later, in 1862 [This is wrong. The JP Historical Society cites an 1882 date, which would make it an early shingle design].

To the casual passerby it's a typical three-story house of the period that was marked by grotesque architecture. It has all the gingerbread found in such houses and some features all its own. Shingles on two upper floors are cut in fanciful designs, each floor in a different pattern. A large dormer has an elaborate hand carving in a floral design. The tallest pinnacle of the roof is adorned with a bronze or copper griffin, covered with the green patina of age.

The exterior is substantially the same as the day it was built, but the interior has modern improvements, including hot water heat in the 14 rooms, to take over the function of the 10 fireplaces that were in use a century or so ago.

And inspection of the house shows some unusual features. The large rooms on the first floor have lofty ceilings and appear to have no doors, but each room can be shut off from the others by simply pressing a button in a partition. A handsome 1-2 paneled double door then slides out to close the opening into the next room.


Each of the fireplaces has a mantel of different design in natural-grained hardwood.

The front entrance hall is probably unique in New England. It has a pipe organ on the stairway, whose console is 20 feet or more away in another room. Across the hall is the music room and the broad landing is lighted by two stained glass windows. A long maple settee is set against some fine oak paneling. The newel post is of hand-carved maple, as are the ornate balusters that support the rail of the winding stair.

A handsome antique crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling. Bernard Gateley long a custodian of the house says it was rescued in 1862 from an old Boston dwelling that was being demolished.

When you step into the rear rooms you get the full early 18th century flavor. The ceilings are so low that a six-footer can lay the palm of his hand up against them. Summer beams, now encased, support the upper floors. The gunstock corner posts hold up long exposed timbers, all part and parcel of Early American post-and-plank construction. The rafters of the original attic are held together by wooden pegs. The smoking lounge in this section is paneled in wormy ash, no doubt an 1862 improvement.

The front yard of the half acre surrounding the Curtis house has the oldest beech tree in New England and also a large elm at least 300 years old.

The original Curtis farm extended north to Jamaica Pond and the Brookline town line; west to Beaufort rd. and east to Halifax st.

Early in the 1900s it was cut into house lots and the Jamaicaway was built through the backyard. Four other new streets were laid out - Lochstead av., Pershing rd., Moraine st. and Pond View av.

The residence of former Mayor James M. Curley is nearby, now a home of the Oblate Fathers, and the Mary E. Curley school, with its 20 new rooms, is virtually in the Gormley's backyard.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Al Curtis, Mr Jamaica Pond

Al Curtis was one of the bedrock figures of Jamaica Plain, like a long-time shop owner or school teacher, and remembered by many to this day. I think there can be little doubt that he was the last descendant of an original settler of Jamaica Plain to live in the community, which answers a question I've wondered about for a long time. The article transcribed below makes Honey Fitz JFK's uncle, rather than his grandfather. The Globe somehow repeated the error when they copied text from this article for Al's obituary in 1986.

Boston Globe April 11, 1978

The Admiral of the Fleet at Jamaica Pond

"Al Curtis," said Gov. James Michael Curley, "the is Gov. Louie Brann of Maine. He just brought us a present. His conservation staff is giving us 500 trout and landlocked salmon to supplement our stock in Jamaica Pond. Louie brought his tackle and we would like a boat to go out and catch some of those beauties."

"Thanks a million Gov. Brann," replied Al. "They are a welcome addition. But Gov. Curley, does the gentleman from Maine have a Massachusetts fishing license? No? Sorry, I cannot let you have a boat to fish until he gets one."

Outwardly fuming at his Yankee friend's firm stand, but secretly delighted, as he later said, the governor dispatched one of his aides to obtain the license.

Allan Curtis is known to thousands of Bostonians, many of whom had their first fresh water fishing experience in Jamaica Pond and return yearly to enjoy the sport. Al has the concession to rent rowboats there and sell fishing accessories and refreshments. Boats will be available for rent this year starting today.

Curtis was born into a family of concessionaires. his father and uncle opened the first stands to sell favors and refreshments at Franklin park and Castle Island in 1870. On June 12, 1912, Boston Mayor John F.Fitzgerald, President John F. Kennedy's uncle, dedicated the newly built bandstand, pier and concession building at Jamaica Pond. Al's father was the first concessionaire and it has remained in the family since.

The Curtis family settled in Jamaica Plain in 1632. In the eighteenth century, the Curtis farm bordered Jamaica Pond and took in about half of Jamaica Plain. Curtis Hall, the area's municipal building, was named for "one of my better ancestors," Al says.

Jamaica Pond covers 68 acres, its water comes from springs, and it was once a reservoir for the city. The pond is stocked three times a year with brook, brown and rainbow trout and largemouth bass. The largest fish ever caught in the pond was a 19 pound, 6 ounce brown trout. Boston is one of the few major cities in the East which has fresh water fishing within the city limits.

Al has served many celebrities. Presidents Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy have fished the pond; Governors Bradford, Cox and Herter were regular customers. Jack Dempsey, Jack Sharkey, Harry Greb, Eddie Shevlin, Tiger Flowers and Honeyboy Finnegan were a few of the old time fighters who enjoyed the facility. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and many other Red Sox and Braves players were fishing fans.

Curley never missed the opening day and the next day newspapers would have a picture of him triumphantly holding his catch. "Jim was an excellent fisherman," said Al. "Most of the time the fish exhibited was his own catch. But he was not above borrowing one if he did not catch any."

Al, a stocky 5-foot-9 with bushy gray-black hair, is never without a cigar. He is an English High graduate and he started work as a copywriter in the advertising section of the Boston Herald. Later he went with Boston Edison and for years ago retired. He was able to arrange his working hours at night so he could operate the concession.

The next pleasant day, go yourself, or take a couple of the kids and enjoy a few hours fishing or boating. You will also have the privilege of making the acquaintance of Mr. Jamaica Pond, Al Curtis.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hoodlum Heist Hideaway Raided

Daily Boston Globe, June 2, 1949

Juvenile 'Gang' Rounded Up in Tent Hideout

Three 15-year-old Jamaica Plain "bad men" were under arrest last night after police raided their tent hide-out in the wooded hills overlooking Jamaica Pond, where the trio "lived like kings" for seven days and from which they launched nightly forays to steal food and money.

Capt Frank Hennessey of the Jamaica Plain Station said the arrest of three boys solved an epidemic of store breaks in the district and the thefts of several bicycles.

The Bureau of Missing Persons said the trio's apprehension ended a state-wide search for the boys, whose parents reported them missing May 22 and have been frantic with worry since.

Medical Examiner Timothy Leary identified the tent in which the trio had made their headquarters as belonging to his grandchildren, which was stolen from the rear of his home at 44 Burroughs st, Jamaica Plain last week.

The boys will be arraigned in West Roxbury Juvenile Court tomorrow.

Police said they found five bicycles, a wide variety of provisions, and a plentiful supply of comic books in the "gang's" hideaway.

According to the police, the trio set up the tent on one of the private estates overlooking the pond and moved the location from day to day to avoid detection.

A "Jimmy Fund" back containing $8.08, stolen in a break at a Centre st. bakery, was among the loot, police said.

The trio dieted on canned goods, candy and even prepared cooked meals according to detectives.

Police said the three boys would be questioned regarding handbag snatches in the neighborhood and said they answered the description of three boys wanted in connection with the theft of a purse from Mrs. Elizabeth Jones of 135 Williams st., Jamaica Plain.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nudist Not Nabbed

Daily Boston Globe, June 5, 1948

Pale but Persistent Nudist Twice Eludes Jamaica Plain Police

An anemic-looking nudist, probably attracted by the mild weather, made two appearances in Jamaica Plain yesterday.

At Arnold Arboretum, the man stripped and sprawled on the grass to take a sun bath. A woman passerby's screams startled him into flight, clothes in hand. police in two cars failed to find the sun worshipper.

Hours later, in mid-evening the nudist was observed jogging around Jamaica Pond, about a mile from the Arboretum. Again a police search proved futile.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kids Honor Officer Joe

The Boston Globe archive from 1927-79 are now available at the Boston Public Library, so I've taken the opportunity to explore the years of my own childhood. When I did, I found this article about officer Joe Graham, who served as crossing guard at the corner of Centre and Burroughs streets for many years, and was a beloved fixture in the neighborhood. I remember my mother talking about Joe years ago, and as recent as a few weeks ago I saw him mentioned on Facebook. It may surprise some younger people that police served as crossing guards, but it was a different time.

Kids Honor Officer Joe

Boston Globe, May 25, 1963

Big Joe received a 30-foot long grammar school diploma yesterday. It was signed by 550 students at the Agassiz grammar school on Burroughs street, Jamaica Plain, and Joe's only regret is that it is too long to hang on the wall. Joe Graham is a retired Boston police officer. He was on the force for 43 years, and before retiring April 24, had served 38 years as a school crossing officer at Centre and Burroughs streets, opposite the Agassiz school.

Since he first took his post at the school crossing, he has been popular with the students. Each year he took time to train the youngsters is safety.

The students and teachers planned a surprise party for Joe, but he got wind of it about a week ago. They wrote a song for him, and put on a skit in his honor. They also dug up some 30 year old pictures of Joe at his post, with children crowding around him as happily as they did his last day at Centre and Burroughs streets.

Joe is 68 years old, and lives at 11 Weld Hill road(sic), Jamaica Plain.

Maybe Joe will have trouble remembering all of those hours he spent at the crossing, but he'll never forget what happened Friday.

There was cake there and the chef cleverly showed Big Joe in blue frosting against the white candles.

The school orchestra played and the glee club sang and Big Joe was given a mighty hand when he stood up to speak at the school assembly.

And wouldn't you know it... his final words of advice were the same thing he's been telling the kids for so many years: "Be careful crossing the streets, mind your father and mother, and don't misbehave in school."