Sturtevant-Foss House // c.1903

Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant (1833-1890) was born in a poor Maine farming family and began working as a shoemaker to make ends meet. He devised a crude machine used in shoe manufacturing and moved to Boston in 1856 seeking backing for further development, thus began his career as an inventor. In his travels around shoe factories, Sturtevant was troubled by the airborne wood dust created by the machines wanted to invent a way to eliminate the dust and its resulting health effects. In 1867, he patented a rotary exhaust fan and began manufacturing the fan and selling it to industrial buyers across the country. He built a factory in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood that manufactured his invented air blowers, fans, and pneumatic conveyors. The factory in the 1870s was the largest fan manufacturing plant in the world. From his success, Ben Franklin Sturtevant built a house in the fashionable Sumner Hill neighborhood of Boston. The home was likely built in the Second Empire or Stick style, both popular at the time. When Benjamin died in the home, the home was willed to his widow until her death in 1903. In that time, the home was likely updated in the Queen Anne style, with Colonial embellishments. The couple’s youngest daughter, Lilla, occupied the home with her husband Eugene, who was previously hired to the B. F. Sturtevant Company by her late father. Eugene Foss, who married Lilla, was a member of the United States House of Representatives, and served as a three-term governor of Massachusetts. No biggie.

Thomas Sherwin House // 1883

Tucked behind the St. John Episcopal Church in Sumner Hill, Boston, the Thomas Sherwin House sits atop the peak of the hill, and likely has views of downtown Boston from its upper floor. The house was built in 1883 for Thomas Sherwin, an auditor, and possibly the man of the same name who was a Brigadier General in the American Civil War. The home was designed by the powerhouse architectural firm of Ware & Van Brunt and spans two major architectural styles of the period; Stick style and Queen Anne. The home is one of the best examples in the neighborhood and is very well preserved!

Peirce House // c.1860

On the north slope of Beacon Hill, you’ll find an excellent mix of early 19th century townhouses, early 20th century tenements, and landmarks related to Boston’s vibrant Black and Jewish communities which historically lived here. One thing you won’t see much of is wood-frame houses, many of which were replaced by the large, boxy tenements when land values and populations increased on the North Slope. One of the rare survivors of wooden homes from the 19th century here is this very narrow home on South Russell Street, built around 1860. Maps from the period show this house being owned by a Caroline Peirce. This tiny house was subdivided into four units around the time of the Great Depression!

Converse-Brown House // 1912

When walking around Boston, don’t forget to look up! When strolling around Beacon Hill, I always make a point to stop and look at details, and this towering mansard roof really caught my eye this time. In 1911, real estate developer Gerald G.E. Street purchased a brick horse stable and razed it to lay out house lots for ten townhouses. He hired architect Richard Arnold Fisher, a specialist in the ever-popular Colonial Revival style to design the houses. For this property, he veered into English/Tudor Revival with the stone frame casement windows. The house was purchased by Frederick Shepard Converse, a composer who taught at the New England Conservatory of Music in addition to composing such works at The Pipe of Desire, which in 1915 was the first American work ever performed at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. By 1927, the home was owned by Waldo H. Brown, New England manager of Colonial Air Transport Company, an early airline that flew between New York and Boston. The 32-year-old Waldo occupied the house with his wife Frances, three young children and four servants: housekeeper, cook, maid and nurse! In 1927 Brown filed a permit application to build a tall new room over a roof terrace with a slate mansard roof containing a huge studio window, possibly to house all of the servants in the home! Richard Arnold Fisher, the building’s original designer, was cited as architect.

Emmel Building // 1896

In 1896, architectural sculptor Charles Emmel purchased land in the rapidly developing Forest Hills section of Jamaica Plain, Boston. He hired local architect George Zimmer, to design a massive double-house which would serve as an income-producing investment, and could also be a sort of advertisement for his sculpture work. The result is this massive Colonial Revival style property, perched atop a puddingstone foundation. Architectural ornament has been lovingly preserved, a testament to the owners of the building today and the amazing work of the original owner, Mr. Emmel. I found myself staring at the building for a while when walking by, looking at all the hidden detail and architectural ornament which adds so much to the building.

Chemical Engine #13 Firehouse // 1909

Just a block from the Bethel AME Church (last post) in Jamaica Plain, Boston, you will find this absolutely charming old fire station. The station was built in 1909 about the same time as the new Forest Hills Train Station was completed, signaling a huge population and development boom in the area. To provide emergency and fire service to the newly developing neighborhoods surrounding the train station, the City of Boston hired the architectural firm of Moller and Smith to design a new station that would allow for horses and related apparatus as well as a new fire automobile to enter the building. The Arts and Crafts style building is constructed of brick supported by structural steel finished with Carolina pine at the interior. The building retains its pyramidal hipped roof in slate and a unique corner tower capped with a castellated parapet.

St. Andrew R.C. Church – Bethel AME Church // 1921

During the rich Arts and Crafts movement of Boston, dozens of churches and their associated buildings were constructed using principles of the movement, which sought to incorporate English design with hand-crafted detailing, moving away from the mass-produced features and architecture seen in the Victorian-era/Industrial Revolution. After WWI, the Forest Hills neighborhood of Boston saw a massive influx of residents and housing construction, leading to the desire for a new neighborhood church. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese commissioned Boston architects Timothy O’Connell and Richard Shaw, who specialized in ecclesiastical design to build the new church. Opened in 1921, the building is constructed of random ashlar walls with buttresses, lancet windows, and a large rose window, all nods to Gothic architectural precedent. Demographic changes and declining church attendance led the parish, for the first time in 1995, to accept aid from the archdiocese to meet expenses. Unable to justify keeping the church open, the Archdiocese sold the church to Reverend Ray Hammond and the Reverend Gloria White-Hammond, a husband-and-wife pastoral team, who started a local African Methodist Church (Bethel AME Church) in the neighborhood.