William Boynton House // 1890

This stunning Queen Anne house in Brookline showcases everything that is synonymous with the term “Victorian” in architecture. This home was built in 1890 for William Boynton, a flour merchant who had offices in downtown Boston. The home features an assortment of siding types, sunburst motifs, an asymmetrical facade, and a large corner tower with an onion dome. The home is painted to showcase all the fine details and intricacies seen in the design.

First Brookline Town Hall // 1824

In 1824, the Town of Brookline voted to build a two story “Town House” to accommodate many functions including schooling, town meetings, religious services, and temperance lectures to serve the growing town. The structure was to replace an older brick schoolhouse which served as a school and housed some town functions. The structure was built in the manner of earlier European town or market halls, with a meeting room on the second floor and other public functions (in this case a school) on the first. Its location near the former town green was later deemed unfit for the town’s population center, which shifted closer towards Boston before the Civil War. Brookline built a second town hall in the 1840s, and the original structure was converted to the high school (the current building was constructed in 1965). Eventually, the former town hall was purchased by the First Parish Church in 1890, eventually connected to it by 1906.

Jeremiah Hill House // 1843

This house was built in 1843 for Jeremiah Hill, a commission merchant and partner in Hill, Chamberlin & Co. at 11 Central Wharf, Boston. The architect for the home was Gridley J. Fox Bryant, as one of his earlier commission, and it is the only known design by him in Brookline. Bryant went on to become one of the most influential architects in New England, designing the Charles Street Jail, Old Boston City Hall, and a number of buildings on the Bates College campus in Maine. Jeremiah Hill died in 1862, and his daughters, in distressed circumstances, were forced to sell the family home in 1869. It soon after bought by Martin P. Kennard, a partner in the firm of Bigelow & Kennard, jewelers and silversmiths, located for many years on Boylston Street in Boston. Kennard subdivided the property, laying out Hedge and Kennard Streets adjacent to the home, selling building lots while he lived there. By 1927, the grounds were purchased by the Park School, who sought to expand from their smaller property nearby (they later built a massive school a short drive away). The Hill Estate was given to the Town of Brookline for use as a school, and it now houses the Brookline Music School.

Putterham School // 1768

Colonial-era one-room schoolhouses once dominated the landscape of New England, providing a learning space for young children. The number of these structures have plummeted due to changing development patterns and limited funding to preserve or adaptively reuse such buildings. In the town of Brookline, this c.1768 schoolhouse has been altered frequently, showing various styles and techniques in construction used during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The original one-room school house was enlarged in 1840 by an addition to the rear to fit additional pupils. In 1847 a shed was built for storing coal or wood and providing an entry vestibule. According to town records, in 1855 the ceiling in the schoolroom was raised, the windows enlarged, and the desks and chairs repaired. The double privy was built around 1898, probably replacing an earlier single privy. There is some evidence that in 1938 the school was used temporarily as a Catholic church and at some time following World War II as a synagogue. In 1966, the school was moved from its original site on Grove Street to its present location at Larz Anderson Park for the future preservation of the building by the town and local historical society. The schoolhouse is normally open for tours at various points during the year or by appointment.

Pastan Houses // 1936 & 1963

Located across the street from each other in Brookline, the Pastan Houses are an excellent example of how architectural tastes can change from one generation to another. The William Pastan House was constructed in 1936, and is Tudor Revival in style. The home has a projecting square entry tower with castellated roofline and interesting mixture of materials and textures. The first owner, William Pastan raised his family in the home, attending the synagogue a couple blocks away. By 1963, Pastan’s son, Harvey became a successful engineer and built a home near his parents for his own family, though in a very different aesthetic. The Modern home features boxy forms, prominent covered parking spaces, and expanses of glass.

Which house would you prefer, William’s (1936) or Harvey’s (1963)?

Webber House // 1935

Located in South Brookline, a neighborhood of mostly early-mid 20th century architecture, you can find amazing residential designs for middle-class suburban families in the Boston area. This home was built in 1935 for Max and Rebeccah Webber in the Garrison Colonial Revival style. The home, designed by architect Harry Morton Ramsay, is characterized by a second-story shingled overhang with decorative pendants reminiscent of 17th century American homes. Adding some extra flair, an eyebrow dormer can be found at the roof, as well as a glazed projecting entry porch with a broad pediment and corner pilasters.

Boston Free Hospital For Women // 1895

Boston’s Free Hospital for Women was founded in 1875 by Dr. William Henry Baker. Baker wanted a hospital dedicated to treating diseases that inflicted women, offering free medical care to poor women and serving as a teaching hospital to Harvard Medical School. In the beginning, the hospital sat on East Springfield Street in the South End and was home to one of the first cancer wards in the country. Due to increased demand, it moved to a larger facility in Brookline in 1895. It was designed by architects Shaw and Hunnewell. Trimmed in limestone, details include string coursing, arched windows, carved keystones are seen all over. The hospital campus was sited perched on a ledge overlooking the Muddy River and the Frederick Law Olmsted Emerald Necklace park system on the Brookline side. In 1980, the Boston Hospital for Women merged with Peter Bent Brigham Hospital to form Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The former site of the hospital in Brookline was converted into luxury condos in 1989, which it remains as to this day.

Low-Rock House // c.1883

The neighborhood known today as “Pill Hill” in Brookline was originally a part of Boston, annexed by Brookline in 1844. Commuter railroads connecting Brookline to Boston opened in 1848, making the town attractive for working professionals who wished to live in a more open suburban area. By the 1880s, a significant number of doctors had settled in the district, likely due to proximity of nearby hospitals, giving it its current name.

This home was built and owned by Sumner Flagg, who rented the home as a source of additional income. One of the first tenants of the home was Judith Eleanor Motley Low, a descendant of Benjamin Bussey, successful business man, farmer and horticulturist whose will set aside land from his estate for the Bussey Institute and the Arnold Arboretum. As a 60-year old widow, in 1901, she founded the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture at her summer home in Groton Mass, the first such school intended to prepare women as professionals in the field. In 1945 it merged into the Rhode Island School of Design and became the basis of RISD’s present Landscape Architecture Department.

After subsequent owners, the house was owned by Dr. John Rock, best known for the major role he played in the development of the first birth control pill, colloquially called “the pill”. A man ahead of his time, in the 1930s, he founded a clinic to teach the rhythm method, the only birth control conditionally regarded as moral by the Catholic Church at the time. In 1931, Rock was the only Catholic physician to sign a petition to legalize birth control. In the 1940s, he taught at Harvard Medical School—and included birth control methods in his curriculum. In 1955, his medical team announced successful clinical use of progestins to prevent ovulation. “The Pill” gained approval by the FDA for contraceptive use in 1960. This gives a whole new meaning of Pill Hill!

Elijah Emerson House // 1846

Built for Elijah. C Emerson in 1846 this estate house in Brookline Village is one of the oldest extant in the area. Elijah Carlton Emerson (1807-1888) was New Hampshire and eventually settled in the Boston area with his family. In adulthood, Emerson became a wealthy Boston merchant as Director of the Second National Bank and President of the Middlesex Horse Railroad. Emerson established his estate on the land that is now Emerson Garden in 1846, which included the house and carriage barn and was expanded to include a cottage and a pond with a boathouse. Towards the end of his life, Emerson desired to make more money in retirement, and sold building lots from his estate to friends, retaining some for himself. Many of the lots surrounding his estate were developed as rental properties in fashionable Victorian-era styles. Upon his death in 1888, the estate went to his widow and daughters, the latter sold the estate to the Town of Brookline, who wanted to build a public park on the land. The town paid to have the Emerson house and carriage house moved across Davis Avenue, and Emerson’s granddaughter Mrs. Cullen B. Snell and her husband moved into
the relocated house.

Brookline Town Hall // 1965

The story behind Brookline’s Town Hall building is the story of many cities and towns all over the country in the 1960s-70s, that of Urban Renewal. Brookline Village was (and mostly still is) a vibrant commercial district of varied architectural styles and massing which together, create a patchwork that details the history of the city through design. Early wood-frame commercial buildings sit side-by-side to ornate Victorian-era buildings, with Modern infill scattered throughout. Brookline Village has long been the governmental core of the suburban town due to the location of the train station and its central location to the other neighborhoods. A grand Victorian Gothic Town Hall (the town’s third) was built in 1871 at the corner of Washington and Prospect Streets. Designed by S. J. Thayer, the building would easily rival any other building in town today. After WWII, Brookline and many other cities, through Urban Renewal, sought to restore the economic vitality of the governmental hub of town, by demolishing the “outdated” buildings and replace them with tall, sleek, modern structures with ample landscaping and parking surrounding. The town hired Anderson, Beckwith and Haible, a very prominent firm in Boston to design the International/Brutalist building. In the 1960s, a majority of the civic, commercial, and residential buildings around the former town hall were demolished and replaced with Modernist buildings, all but erasing the relative scale and history of that section of the Village.