Blanchard Building // c.1855

Image courtesy of Boston Archives.

Did you know that Boston once had it’s own Hogwarts? While we didn’t have wizards and witches in the streets, we did have young magicians learning the tricks of the trade! The Boston School of Magic was founded in the 1880s by William Davis LeRoy (1862-1919), a professional magician who also served as President of the Conjuror’s Club of Boston. Upon opening its doors, the Boston School of Magic was one of a handful of such schools in the country. For $75, you could learn how to escape from a pair of handcuffs from a professional instructor at W.D. Leroy’s “School of Magic”, and even buy some magic items for shows from his large catalogue. Mr. LeRoy was also friends with the famous Harry Houdini, who purchased items from his store and consulted with him on new acts. Houdini was extremely popular in Boston and held many acts and feats of strength here. The Boston School of Magic was located in the second floor of the Blanchard Building at 103 Court Street, a brick commercial building with stone facade constructed in the middle of the 19th century. The building was demolished in the 1920s and replaced with a two-story structure, which too was razed for Government Center.

Glapion-Middleton House Ell // c.1800

Less than a dozen wood-frame buildings exist on Beacon Hill in Boston, and this curious building is one of them, and also happens to be one of the oldest structures in the neighborhood! Built by 1800, this structure was constructed as an ell/addition to the Glapion-Middleton House at 5 Pinckney Street in Boston. The Glapion-Middleton House (previously featured) was constructed in 1787 after two Black men, George Middleton and Louis Glapion and their wives, built a small double house in the abolitionist center of Boston, Beacon Hill. In recent years, some have speculated that due to this living arrangement and other accounts, that Glapion and Middleton were in-fact gay men, but this is unsubstantiated. After the home was constructed, a two-story, five-bay ell was constructed which connected the home to Joy Street at the corner. The ell served as additional space for the two families and they appear to have had a workshop or store in part of the building. In 1855, owners demolished the center bay of the ell and erected a brick townhouse, similar to others in the neighborhood. The ell in this building was occupied as a store for the majority of its life and became an Italian restaurant and soon after a “Boyer’s Creamery Luncheon”. The property has since been converted to a residence.

Beacon Hill Studio Building // 1914

Located on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, Boston, you’ll find this charming Tudor style commercial building, which appears as if it was plucked from the England! The Studio Building was built in 1914, and replaced a livery stable on the site (not really necessary with the growing popularity of the automobile). The building was designed by the architectural firm of Loring & Leland for William Coombs Codman of the Brahmin Boston family as an investment. The building was constructed on a prominent corner lot with commercial/retail use at the ground floor and artist studios above. Just six years after the building was complete, Charles Street was widened, and the building was shaved back over 10′ with all new openings seen here.

Brattle Street Church // 1772-1872

Boston’s constant churning of development has given us amazing architectural landmarks, and incredibly unfathomable architectural loss. One of such cases of loss is the former Brattle Street Church which was located on Brattle Street, roughly where the main entrance to Boston City Hall is located today. Demolition of significant architecture in Boston began way before the period of Urban Renewal in the mid-20th century, and the loss of the Brattle Street Church in Downtown Boston showcases this. The Brattle Street Church had been founded in the 1690s by a group of merchants seeking an alternative to the authority exercised by Increase and Cotton Mather in Boston’s existing congregations. Despite these beginnings, the church remained Congregational through the 18th century. At the time of the Revolution, Brattle Street counted such figures as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and John and Abigail Adams among its parishioners. The original wooden church was replaced in 1772 by this stunning brick building, designed by Thomas Dawes. Just years after the doors opened, the American Revolution upended life in Boston. This building was a survivor, and was apparently hit by cannon-fire by the American batteries at the siege of Boston. A cannonball can be seen lodged into the building at the second floor, to the right of the Palladian window. After the American Civil War, development of the Back Bay led to a shifting population away from the downtown core, and a new church was erected for the congregation, the Brattle Square Church, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. This church was demolished in 1872, just 100 years after it opened its doors and took a cannon for America.

Sentry Hill Place // 1844

Unlike the historically more fashionable South Slope that has always defined Beacon Hill’s character, the steeper, less accessible North Slope began with a 19th-century free black population and an integrated working-class community, but the architecture still stands out! In the 1840s, before massive land-making projects resulting in the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods, Boston-area developers had to think of creative ways to develop housing in the dense blocks of Boston. One solution was to purchase a larger parcel and lay out smaller house lots bordering narrow, dead-end ways, similar to this little enclave in Beacon Hill. Sentry Hill Place (originally named May Street Place) was so named in the 1910s by the residents in honor to the wooden sentry post that stood atop Beacon Hill
prior to the 1780s. Sentry Hill Place is comprised of seven near-identical brick rowhouses, all built in 1844 when the alley was laid out. At the terminus of the alley is a wood-frame structure which encloses the block and provides access to the two end units, an addition from the 1880s, to obscure what was once the rear of a barn which was accessed off the street to the north. Today, the once working-class enclave of homes is one of the more desirable in the neighborhood, for obvious reasons!

Paine Furniture Building // 1914

Located on Arlington Street between St. James and Stuart streets in Boston’s Back Bay, this gorgeous masonry commercial block stands as a testament to the amazing architecture built in Boston in the early 20th century. The Paine Furniture Building was constructed in 1914 to house the extensive showroom, offices, and manufacturing operations of the Paine Furniture Company. Founded in 1835, the company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company, a name which stuck until the company closed in 2000. The architects for the building, Densmore & LeClear, were very busy in the early decades of the 20th century and designed many iconic buildings nearby and in towns surrounding Boston through the 1940s.

Paine’s Furniture Factory // 1871

Founded in 1835, Paine’s Furniture Company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine, his son-in-law. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company. The company occupied a couple wooden and metal buildings on this site in the Bulfinch Triangle until a fire destroyed the complex. The growing firm took this opportunity to hire one of the most successful architect Gridley J. F. Bryant who worked with a colleague, Louis P. Rogers, to design the fire-proof building. The Second Empire style building with mansard roof was split into three sections with the rear two rented out to other companies, while Paine’s occupied the south-facing (main) facade. When Paine’s moved to their new building in the Back Bay, they sold this building and later alterations severely diminished the original design of the building. The current hodgepodge of alterations creates a mess of what was once an undeniable architectural landmark.

Harvard Medical School – Administration Building // 1905

Founded in 1782, the Harvard Medical School is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States. Lectures were first held in the basement of Harvard Hall and then later in Holden Chapel. Since then, they were located at five other locations in Cambridge and Boston, before Harvard purchased land in the sparsely developed Longwood section of Boston. Planning was underway by 1900 for the design and construction of the “Great White Quadrangle”, of five interconnected Medical School buildings of marble framing three sides of a quadrangle to emulate the plan of a modern German medical school. At the end of the quad would be an administration building, with laboratory buildings housing the various departments of the medical school running down the sides. The Administration Building, designed by the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, is Neo-Classical in design with monumental Ionic columns and a high, dentilated entablature with prominent cornice molding, all in a white marble shell. For you architecture nerds, I suggest you check out this campus, its a hidden, yet stunning composition of buildings!

Bernard Jenney House // 1908

This stunning home in Brookline’s Cottage Farm neighborhood was built in 1908 for Bernard Jenney, the assistant treasurer of the Jenney Oil Company. Stephen Jenney, had founded Jenney Oil Company in Boston in 1812, as a kerosene, coal and whale oil producer. By the 1860s, Bernard Sr. and his brother Francis took over the company which became known as the Jenney Manufacturing Company. The newly established company focused primarily on production and distribution of petroleum products for factories and businesses. The Jenney Manufacturing Company took off in the early 1900s due to the proliferation of personal automobiles in Boston and they expanded a new manufacturing center in City Point, South Boston, which had a capacity of 500 barrels of oil a day. Jenney auto oil and gasoline became a major supplier and after Bernard Sr.’s death in 1918, under Bernard Jr.’s leadership, the company began to develop gas stations in New England. The company continued into the 1960s when it was acquired by Cities Service, later rebranding as Citgo. Jenney resided here until his death in 1939. According to the 1935 Brookline street list, the occupants included his daughter’s family Mary & Francis Brewer, three maids and a laundress. The house was acquired by Boston University in 1963 and has long served as the home of former president John Silber.

The architectural firm of Kilham & Hopkins was hired to design the home, which is French Renaissance Revival in style. The home itself is an architectural landmark. When it was published in ‘The American Architect’ in 1910, the house was described as, “A Study in French design of the Louis XVI period”. Additionally, the home (of course) featured a vehicle garage as the family must have had some cars based on the line of work. The home is now listed for sale for a cool $4,888,000 price tag!

Gahm House // 1907

Located in the stunning Longwood neighborhood of Brookline, MA, the Gahm House stands out not only for its size, but stunning details and architectural design. This house was designed in 1907 by the architectural firm of Hartwell, Richardson & Driver, one of the premier firms of the region at the time. Joseph and Mary Gahm hired the firm to design their new home the same year the firm designed a bottling plant (no longer extant) in South Boston for Mr. Gahm’s business. Joseph Gahm was a native of Wurtemberg, Germany, who emigrated to Boston in 1854 and initially worked as a tailor. In the early 1860s, Gahm opened a restaurant in Charlestown, by the late 1860s he added a small bottling operation to this business. The bottling business soon expanded to such an extent that he was able to give up the restaurant business and open a large bottling plant in 1888. He eventually moved operations to South Boston where there was more room for transportation and shipping capabilities. Their stuccoed house in Brookline is especially notable for the well preserved carvings at the entrance, which include: faces, floral details, lions, and owls perched atop the newel posts. What do you think of this beauty?