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.