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."