Appropriate infill construction can be a very difficult thing to accomplish, with some developments hitting the mark and others adversely impacting the historic neighborhoods where they were built. Boston is home to many examples of both occurrences, but I wanted to share a very successful infill project in the South End neighborhood, Langham Court. As the South End resurfaced as a desirable neighborhood, long-time residents were priced out, which led to the Boston Redevelopment Authority to fund projects to provide much-needed housing for the local community. This site which once housed over 20 townhouses, was razed by the 1960s in a period of urban renewal where existing housing was deemed unsafe and inadequate. The local design firm of Goody/Clancy was hired, and they masterfully designed a U-shaped complex of 84 mixed-income units that fits well within its surroundings. The design exhibits dormers, bays, arched and vaulted entries, a combination of mansard and flat roofs, stringer courses and textured brickwork, and a palette of well chosen materials all at a scale that blends in the 1990s building to its surroundings which came nearly 150 years prior. The complex remains as a testament to good-quality design even for affordable housing, which notoriously gets the short end of the stick design-wise.
From about 1670 to 1801, the villagers of Hurley were associated with the Kingston Reformed Church, about three miles away. In those years, the minister of the Kingston Church met with the Hurley parishioners at least once every six weeks and conducted a Sunday service in one of the local homes. In 1801, they grew tired of not having their own place of worship, and they petitioned to establish their own church in Hurley, and succeeded. The original church building was a large, single room, stone building that seated over 250 people on the main floor and in three galleries around the side and back walls. A tall steeple atop the building boasted a large brass globe surmounted by a wrought iron weathervane in the shape of a crowing rooster. A large crack in the building was unrepairable and the structure began to shift, leading to its replacement with the current building in 1854. The old white church has been occupied by the congregation ever since.
Another of Hurley, New York’s beautiful old stone houses is this Georgian-era home, right on Main Street. The house is known as the Petrus Crispell House and dates to about 1725. Petrus Crispell must have purchased or inherited the house and occupied it for some years until it was acquired by the Dutch Reformed Church in the village to be used as a parsonage. It is 1 1/2 stories and is built of coursed and squared stone which continues into the gables. The facade, now 5 bays, was formerly 6, perhaps with two entrances. Nineteenth century alterations by the church include a large cross-gabled dormer and 2/2 sash.
The Newton Lower Falls Firehouse was built in 1900 to serve the village’s fire prevention needs. As nearby Waban Village’s population surged (along with a stronger tax base) the City of Newton constructed a new fire station in 1918, that could serve both areas. This, the already outdated station, was converted to a village library on the ground floor with a janitor’s apartment and storage above. The space was determined to be surplus by the City and was sold off in 1979, quickly converted to housing by a developer. The building retains much of its original character, down to the hose-drying tower.
Another of Boston’s Lost buildings is the King’s Head Tavern, an old establishment that was built in the early days of Boston and rebuilt following a fire in 1691. It stood on the corner of Lewis and North Streets, in the North End near Scarlett’s Wharf. Due to its proximity to the harbor and wharfs, it became the first place weary sailors stopped to get a drink on solid ground. The two-story, brick tavern was capped with a gambrel roof, which was later filled with wooden additions giving the structure a boxy look. The establishment was named the King’s Head Tavern after a popular London tavern of the same name. Like much of the North End, surging immigrant populations put immense strain on the built environment and many older buildings were demolished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for tenement housing. The old King’s Head Tavern was demolished in 1870, just two years after the photo was taken.
Waban Village in Newton, Massachusetts has dozens of amazing examples of early 20th century residential architecture, possibly the best collection in the Boston area! This Arts and Crafts style residence was built around 1908 for William and Delia Wilkinson the former of the two owned the William H. Wilkinson Company, which manufactured oiling devices and oil cups for steam engines. Delia, his wife, owned their family home under her name. The home is an excellent example of the Craftsman style, with stucco siding, thick rounded column supporting the inset porch, oh and that catslide roof!!
When the Waban section of Newton got a rail line connecting it to Boston, development boomed! Architects who lived in other parts of the Boston area saw an immense opportunity, not only for work, but for a bucolic setting where they could also reside. One of these architects that lived and worked in Waban was Thomas Marriott James, who in the early 20th century, designed and moved into this house on Pine Ridge Road. James was also born in Cambridge but received no academic architectural training. By 1893, Boston directories record that he was a draftsman at the office of Eugene L. Clark, a prolific
designer of suburban homes. His residence in Waban blends the Shingle and Colonial Revival styles under a broad gambrel roof. The verandah is inset and has segmental bays with shingle posts as supports. The kneewall is also shingled, adding to the composition.
In 1907, William F. Lamont and his family moved into this beautiful turn-of-the-century home in the rapidly developing Waban Village in Newton, Massachusetts. The extension of the circuit railroad connected this part of Newton (which had previously been farmland) to Downtown Boston, opening up the area to development for middle-income families who sought land and fresh air in the suburbs. The first house on Alban Road in Waban was built for the Lamont Family, and it perfectly blends multiple architectural styles under a gambrel roof.
What is your favorite feature of this house?
This tiny building next to the John Palmer House featured previously was built in 1854 by Thomas Snow as an income-producing property. According to the sign, Snow was a grocer in town and must have rented the small building, which was developed on a small sliver of land, formerly a side garden. I’d guess that the building was originally 1 1/2-stories with the brick first floor added underneath sometime later. The house is vernacular Greek Revival in style and the scale is exactly what makes Marblehead so charming to get lost walking in!
What sets Beacon Hill apart is that almost every home is unique to its neighbors. This townhouse on Brimmer Street stands out in a big way architecturally and does not remotely try to fit in with the red brick and traditional massing of the Greek Revival and Italianate rows on the surrounding streets. This home was built in 1888 on the last undeveloped parcel on the street. The house was built by Seth Russell Baker and Henry Wilson Savage, real estate developers and sold to a J. Little. By 1900 four families are listed as occupying the house, which was rented out by that time. By 1917 Marie Ames Byrd, wife of polar explorer Richard E. Byrd, had acquired the building, which she owned through at least 1938 according to atlas’. Byrd lived at and owned 9 Brimmer Street, and her mother, Helen A. Ames, owned 7 Brimmer. This house at 5 Brimmer was rented to upper class residents who sought apartment living in a desirable area of the city. Among them was Caroline P. Atkinson, the daughter of Edward Atkinson of Brookline, a successful antebellum cotton mill executive and, ironically, a major figure in the Boston-area abolitionist movement. William Coombs Codman and his son John also lived at 5 Brimmer Street, the former was a merchant trader with dealings in the East Indies and Calcutta. Architecturally, the building is unique with the use of rough-faced brownstone façade and copper at the entablature and parapet. Would you live here?