These two townhouses were built in 1860 and were once part of a row of four matching homes constructed for wealthy Bostonians. The end units feature stronger detailing with the center two homes being slightly recessed and less ornate, all four constructed of brick with brownstone facades. The original owners wanted to ensure that their new homes would be harmonious in design, both with each other and with the other houses being built nearby.The property already was subject to restrictions contained in the deeds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who sold much of the land in the Back Bay for development, but the owners added further stipulations. Among them that “the front of said houses shall be of free stone and the height not less than three stories” and “the cornice and roof of all the houses shall be uniform, and shall conform to a plan to be hereinafter agreed upon.” The right house seen here was occupied by Henry Atkins, a grocer and importer of wines and spirits. The left home was occupied by John Chandler, a dry goods merchant and his wife. They both died at a young age in 1875 and 1876 respectively, and the home was sold off by their children’s guardian to Charles Porter, a physician and surgeon. He served as a doctor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School under Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and worked as Chief Surgeon at Mass. General Hospital. His wife, Margaret Cochran Dewar, who also was a physician and was resident surgeon at Sheffield Hospital in England. She had graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1894, among the first women in Scotland to receive a university degree and the first to receive a university medical qualification. In 1925, the two homes here were purchased and combined to one multi-family apartment building and remodelled the structure with ugly brick additions. By 1996, a developer purchased the building and restored them by installing a new façade and fenestration more consistent with the historical nature of the building, making their heights identical once again.
One of the most prominent homes in Jamaica Plain is the Riddell House, built in 1873. The Second Empire style house was built for Samuel S. Riddell, who is listed in directories as a merchant with offices in Downtown Boston. After the Civil War, it was common for those with money, to build larger mansions outside the city and commute in via horsecar or train. Boston at the time was an industrial powerhouse with coal stacks and horses spewing waste all over, so a respite from the urban conditions of Boston was a selling point for many to build homes farther out. Interestingly, Second Empire style homes by the 1870s were starting to wane in popularity, but the owner decided to have the home constructed in the style anyway. Besides the amazing siting on the hill with lush landscaping, the house features a large belvedere at the roof, which would allow Samuel the ability to see Boston in the distance, along with all the pollution at the time.
One of the oldest extant homes in the Sumner Hill neighborhood of Jamaica Plain is this stunning 1852 country mansion, built for William Hyslop Sumner. General William H. Sumner (1780-1861) was born in Roxbury, not far from where he built this house in his later years of life. He attended Harvard College, and after graduating, Sumner entered the law office of district attorney John Davis, gaining admittance to the bar in 1802. He practiced law from 1802 until 1818 when he left the field in order to concentrate on his military duties at the outbreak of the War of 1812. Sumner was involved in the state’s defenses. In September 1814 Massachusetts Governor Caleb Strong sent Sumner, then a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, to coordinate the defense of Portland in the District of Maine (which was then still a part of Massachusetts). His task was to maintain 1,900 militia and create a better relationship between the Massachusetts militia and the U.S. Army forces posted there. After the war, he developed what we know today as East Boston. His maternal grandmother, Mehitable (Stoddard) Hyslop, owned Noddle’s Island. Sumner’s Beginning in 1833, in partnership with Stephen White and Francis J. Oliver, The East Boston Company was created to conduct the development of East Boston. They laid out the first planned neighborhood in the City of Boston, laying out grids and house lots. He would go on to write histories on the neighborhood which are referenced to this day. His country estate in Jamaica Plain is a blending of Greek Revival and Italianate styles. The home is undergoing a renovation currently.
This lovely Italianate home in Jamaica Plain, Boston, was built around 1869 for newlyweds Samuel B. Capen and Helen W. Capen. The house (with a glorious, bold paint scheme) features a central entry with columned portico, central gable with arched window and decorative trusses, and decorative features like corbels at the eaves and window hoods at the ground floor. Owner Samuel Billings Capen (1842-1914) entered the carpet business in Boston at the age of 17 in the firm of Wentworth & Bright, and in 1864 became a partner in the firm, which later became Torrey, Bright & Capen Company. He later became an advocate for immigrants moving into Boston and served as President of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Chairman of Board of Trustees of Wellesley College, and Trustee of World’s Foundation. He died while on a trip with his wife and daughter in China, after a three day illness with pneumonia, while trying to spread Christianity in Shanghai. After his death, his widow and daughter returned to Jamaica Plain, where Helen lived to 97 years old.
Cyrus White (1830-1893) was born in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts and eventually settled in Boston, where he patented his “White’s Tropic Furnace”. The furnace was powered by coal, but due to its engineering, required only a small amount compared to competitors. From this invention, Cyrus opened a store in Jamaica Plain which sold house-furnishing goods, hardware, plumbing fixtures, furnaces, stoves, and drain and gas fittings, a business that boomed in Victorian-era Boston, with all the home building and wealth seen at the time. From his furnace invention and store, he could afford to build this Queen Anne home in the desirable Sumner Hill neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, Boston. Of particular note is the recessed entry within an arched opening and siding styles, including sawtooth edges at the overhang.
David Stoddard Greenough IV (1844-1924), was a descendant of David Stoddard Greenough and Anne Doane, who acquired the Loring-Greenough House after it was taken from loyalist Joshua Loring. David Greenough IV became a businessman and real estate developer, following his father’s footsteps, after the development of much of the family land near the old homestead. It was David who sold the old homestead out of the family, likely for development, as Jamaica Plain had become a streetcar suburb, with many older estate lots subdivided and homes demolished for commercial buildings or smaller homes. Luckily, the old estate was purchased and saved by the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club. This home built for David Greenough IV was constructed in 1893, possibly as a high-end rental property. The home is a blending of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles, which serves as a transition house from the Georgian style Loring-Greenough House to the intricate Queen Anne homes in the Sumner Hill neighborhood behind. The home was purchased by Susan W. Fitzgerald in the 1910s. Ms. Fitzgerald (1871-1943) is best known for her commitment to the women’s suffrage movement and her involvement in progressive political organizations, including sitting on the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1923-1925.
The history of the Old Jamaica Plain High School (originally West Roxbury High School) goes back to the year 1842, when the Town of Roxbury (which at the time, included Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and West Roxbury) established “Eliot High School,”. The school was named after Reverend John Eliot of Roxbury, who in 1689, gave 75 acres of land to the town for the maintenance, support, and encouragement of a school and school master at Jamaica or Pond Plain “in order to prevent the inconveniences of ignorance.” In 1855, the newly independent Town of West Roxbury took control of the high school until the town was annexed to Boston in 1873. During this time, the school became known as “West Roxbury High,” a name that appeared on this building, constructed in 1898. In July of 1923, the school’s name was changed to Jamaica Plain High School, to reflect its neighborhood. The building was designed by the firm Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul and is an exemplary example of the Tudor style in an academic building. The school department sold the building in the 1980s and built a larger, modern school in the area. This building was converted to apartments not long after, a use that remains to this day. Would you live in this old school building?
This refrigerator white painted house in Jamaica Plain was built in 1880 for Charles Hardon, an executive with C.A. Browning & Co. a millnery goods company (making and selling women’s hats). Business must have been good because Hardon was able to buy a large house lot from the Greenough Family and hired esteemed architect William Ralph Emerson to design a Queen Anne house for him and his family. The home was eventually purchased by Henry F. Colwell, a stock broker at the Boston Stock Exchange. The massive home is notable for the asymmetry, different siding types, and inset porches, all hallmarks of the Queen Anne style of architecture. If you owned this house, would you paint it differently?
Next door to the Fanny Weld House (last post) and the iconic Loring-Greenough House, this Queen Anne home in Jamaica Plain, Boston, packs an architectural punch, but is kind of hidden from the public view. The home was built in 1883 for Edward Sherwin, an agent for the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, who seemingly marketed their coal to the Boston area. The company was the largest producer of anthracite coal in the United States from 1871 through the 1920s. He married an Elizabeth B. Van Brunt in 1882, likely the same Elizabeth who was the sister of famed architect Henry Van Brunt. Therefore, its likely that Henry Van Brunt designed this home for his sister and her new husband as a wedding gift! This is one of the homes that I would LOVE to see the interior. The woodwork is probably immaculate!
One of the oldest and most significant homes in Boston is the Loring-Greenough House on South Street in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. The house was constructed in 1760 for Joshua Loring (1716-1781), a Commodore in the English Colonial naval forces, who sought retirement from military service at this house on the outskirts of Boston. His life as a distinguished member of the Colonial gentry came to an abrupt end with the bitter factionalism of the incipient Revolution, made worse by the fact he was appointed as a member of the governor’s council by Governor Thomas Gage, a position which made him so unpopular that he was reportedly attacked by mobs. A popular story recounts that, asked by an old friend what he would do when faced by a choice between remaining loyal and supporting the popular spirit of revolt, Loring replied “I have always eaten the King’s bread, and always intend to.” Immediately after taking this position as a Loyalist and aligning with the King of England, Loring was forced to flee, with his family, to the safety British-occupied Boston. He was denounced by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress as “an implacable enemy to their country” and later fled to Nova Scotia, before living out the rest of his life in England, where he received a royal pension until his death. The Loring property in Jamaica Plain was quickly taken by Revolutionary forces and was used as a hospital during the siege of Boston. After the Revolutionary War, the property was confiscated by the state in 1779 and sold at auction to private owners.
Anne Doane, a wealthy forty-year-old widow, bought the Loring estate in 1784, in anticipation of her marriage to lawyer David Stoddard Greenough (1752 – 1826). Four generations of their descendants lived in the house until 1924, when the house and the small surviving plot of land on which it stands was purchased by the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club, saving it from demolition. The members, all women, were following the example of earlier ladies’ associations, which had saved and begun to restore such historic sites as Mount Vernon and Monticello. The Loring–Greenough property is still owned and operated by the Tuesday Club, which offers tours on Sundays and other programming and events throughout the year.