About ten years after the nearby Carlisle building (last post) was completed by owner Jonas Gerlusha Smith (1817-1893), he began construction on another large, apartment hotel next door. He again retained architect Arthur Vinal, who was acting City Architect for the City of Boston to furnish the plans on the building, which would be attached to the older portion which fronts Gray Street behind. The building is extremely well-preserved and has some stunning metal bays with decorative details which really pop!
Boston Real Estate
The Carlisle // 1880
In 1880, Jonas Gerlusha Smith (1817-1893) received a permit to erect a multi-family apartment building on Warren Avenue in present-day South End. The lot was close to his personal residence at 13 Warren Avenue and would have been easy to maintain and oversee tenants in the building. Mr. Smith hired 26-year-old architect Arthur H. Vinal, who furnished the plans for the handsome Queen Anne building. Vinal would later become the City Architect of Boston from 1884 to 1887, designing the High Service Building at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir just seven years after this building. By the late 1880s, the building was known as The Carlisle and it remained in the Smith family holdings under Walter Edward Clifton Smith until the 1930s. Walter attended the Cambridge Episcopal Theological School and later worked at various churches in the Boston area, serving as pastor in his later years. He lived on Follen Street in Cambridge while he held the Carlisle for additional income. Under new ownership in 1950, a retail storefront was added to the first floor which was occupied as a florist for some years. In 1979, after years of deferred maintenance, the property was purchased by Louis G. Manzo and his son David W. Manzo, who meticulously restored the building over time into the time-capsule that it is today!
Horatio Harris Villa // 1857
Not much remains of one of Roxbury’s once grand rural estates, but as there is some left, I want to feature it before it’s all gone, possibly any day now! Horatio Harris was born in Dorchester (present-day South Boston) in 1821 and ran a prominent auction house in Boston. He built his country estate in Roxbury beginning in 1857 in the Gothic Revival style, adding on and updating numerous times. During the Civil War, the firm of Horatio Harris & Co. obtained the contract to sell at auction all goods which were confiscated by the United States’ land or naval forces and brought to Boston. He made a lot of money and added to his land holdings and estate house in Roxbury. The mansion’s construction was timely as Roxbury was transitioning from a rural town, with farms and country estates of wealthy Boston merchants, to a streetcar suburb, increasing the land value of his holdings. The estate included nearly 30 acres of meandering paths, a lake with an island, outbuildings, and an observation tower – one of which remain today besides the ruin of the former mansion. Horatio died in 1876, in the decades following his death, his heirs began subdividing the estate, developing some and selling other plots off for houselots. By the early 1900s, Jewish people began moving into Roxbury, mixing with the predominantly Yankee population. By 1915, the Harris manor house was owned by the Hebrew Alliance of Roxbury, Inc. By the 1920s, they expanded facilities, adding a school building to the front of the former Harris Mansion, completely obscuring the facade of the old estate. In the 1940s, the upper stories were removed. Seemingly the death knell of the old Harris Villa was a fire in 2019, which gutted much of the remaining original fabric of the estate. All that remains is a bay window, some window trim details and a Gothic porte-cochere at the rear of the estate. See it before it’s too late!
Harriswood Crescent // 1889
Harriswood Crescent was built in 1889-90 at the height of Roxbury’s development as a streetcar suburb which coincided with the electrification of the streetcar lines in Boston. The area of Roxbury in which the Crescent is located, known at the time as Boston Highlands due to its rocky terrain and steep grades, was an extremely desirable residential location. As land values raised, middle and upper-class families looked for varied housing types that fit their demands. Seen as a great investment of the family estate, the heirs of wealthy businessman Horatio Harris (1821-1876) redeveloped lots on one side of a rocky park for fine townhouses, which were named Harriswood Crescent. The name was probably chosen for its historical associations with Boston’s Tontine Crescent and the great Georgian crescents of London and Bath in England. Architect J. Williams Beal designed the row, which was one of his first commissions upon returning to Boston in 1888 after employment as a draftsman at McKim, Mead & White and a long study in England to view architecture. Built at 15 separate units, the row of Tudor style houses is among the only of such developments in Boston, and New England at large.
Henry A. Thomas House // 1870
People don’t explore Roxbury enough! The neighborhood is full of amazing architecture with buildings in a great state of preservation and some waiting for the overlapping vinyl siding to be removed. This restored beauty sits perched above the road and is one of the best examples of a Second Empire merchant’s home in Roxbury. The house was built around 1870, within a year of owner Henry A. Thomas purchasing the lot here for $4,800. Mr. Thomas owned a boot and shoe retail store in Downtown Boston for years. The lot was later subdivided and stucco apartments were built to the side, notable at the time when Roxbury began to really densify with housing construction in the early 1900s.
Dimock Center – Cheney Surgical Building // 1899
With funds for expansion at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Roxbury, the hospital’s board commissioned architect Willard T. Sears (also the architect of the earlier Cary Cottage and Zakrzewska Building) to design a new surgical building at the hospital’s growing campus. Construction began on the new Cheney Surgical building in 1899 on the birthday of its namesake, Edna Dow Cheney an original incorporator of the hospital and then President. The Cheney Surgical Building was designed in the Colonial Revival style in brick, with a four-story central block with three-story wings. The central entranceway is accentuated by a classical porte-cochere topped by a Palladian window, in keeping with the Georgian Revival tradition of symmetry and classical vocabulary. The building is one of the first you see when climbing the hill into the campus.
Howard House – St. Mary of the Angels Rectory // c.1867
Moving north from the Stonybrook section of Jamaica Plain, Boston, I explored around Roxbury, an area often overlooked by tourists, but has a lot of history and great buildings with rich stories! This old Victorian-era house was built around 1867 for Joseph W. Howard and his wife Lillie about the time of their wedding. The large Italianate style mansion was built in a period and location where wealthier Boston merchants could build large mansions with space in the inner suburbs of the city. The area remained fairly bucolic until the turn of the 20th century when housing development really picked up in Boston’s neighborhoods. By this time, owner Samuel Shuman sold his property on the busy corner lot to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. In 1907, construction of the basement church on the site of the former Shuman Estate began. The original plans called for building a larger, upper church at a later date. However, due to a number of factors over the years, the upper church was never built. After WWII, Roxbury saw a demographic change and the church is largely home to a Black and Hispanic congregation to this day. The former Howard House is still owned by the Archdiocese as the rectory.
Dadmund-Glennon House // 1875
Boston’s many unique neighborhoods have some amazing hidden architectural gems. It always helps to get out and explore by walking or biking your city to see things from a different perspective than a car or bus. This brick mansard house sits on a quiet dead-end street in the Stonybrook section of Jamaica Plain and was built in the mid-1870s for Joseph A. Dadmund, a coppersmith. From the 1880s-1920s, the house was occupied by the Glennon Family, who built two large wooden stables in the rear yard, both of which remain to this day.
Isaac Cary Estate // 1850
Isaac Harris Cary was born in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts on November 3, 1803, the seventh child of Jonathan and Mary Cary. In 1824, Isaac and his brother William formed a partnership and ran a fancy goods imports business, Isaac H. Cary & Co. on Washington Street in Boston. The brothers opened a store in New York and William moved there full-time. In 1831, Isaac married Phebe P. Pratt of Roxbury and they would have three children, two of them living to adulthood. After doing business in New York City and later in New Orleans, Isaac and his family settled in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, purchasing large land holdings and developing real estate. One of the finest lots he owned was developed for his country estate in 1850, an Italianate/Second Empire-style mansion perched atop an outcropping of Roxbury puddingstone. The large home with a rear three-story tower remained in the Cary family under his single daughter Susanna’s ownership until her death in 1913.
J. B. Mulvey Triple Decker // 1904
Across the street from the Lannin Triple Deckers (last post) this large triple decker (and the others in the row) was built in 1904 for developer John B. Mulvey. Mr. Mulvey was born in Ireland and migrated to Boston at the age of 16. He climbed his way up the ladder and worked as a builder and developer, largely in Boston-area suburbs and neighborhoods. At the turn of the century, these triple deckers (also known as three deckers) proliferated throughout the Boston suburbs around train stations providing affordable flats to residents. Many were built and rented out by developers, but eventually, owners would live in one unit and rent the other flats for additional income, providing upward mobility and equity, largely benefiting immigrant communities. This high-style example is very well maintained and is a more uncommon double-three decker.