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.
Jamaica Plain Real Estate
Margaret Fuller Primary School // 1891
The Margaret Fuller Primary School (now Community Academy) is a public school in Boston that shows how much attention to detail the school department and the city architect paid when designing these structures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Fuller School was constructed in 1892 to alleviate an overcrowded school district resulting from rapid urbanization. Jamaica Plain was one of Boston’s first streetcar suburbs largely spurred by the growth of the Boston and Providence Company Railroad between 1860 and 1890, when the area saw a shift from large bucolic estates to subdivided urban housing (largely triple-deckers and apartment buildings along major routes). With the surge in population, many new schools were built city-wide, including this primary school which was designed by Edmund March Wheelwright (1854–1912), a prominent Boston-based architect who served as City Architect for Boston from 1891 to 1895. Architecturally, the building is a stunning example of the Colonial Revival style with red and buff brick walls which are laid in a Flemish bond and rusticated at the first story with single recessed courses of buff brick. An arched entrance and Palladian window with iron false balcony sit at the central bay. The school was named after Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1810-1850) an early transcendentalist and writer advocating for women’s rights born in Cambridge.
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.
West Roxbury District Courthouse // 1922
Boston neighborhoods are very confusing, and how the West Roxbury District Courthouse came to be located in Jamaica Plain is just one example. The independent Town of West Roxbury was in existence from 1851 until 1874, a mere 23 years, bookended by its time as a section of the Town of Roxbury and being annexed into the City of Boston. West Roxbury originally included parts of the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale neighborhoods. Ultimately, West Roxbury became one of the city’s eight large districts and its municipal court division is served by this Neo-Classical style building. Built in 1922, the current West Roxbury Courthouse building on Arborway, was and still is, from a municipal court perspective as well as an historical perspective, in West Roxbury. The West Roxbury District Courthouse was designed by Timothy G. O’Connell and Richard Shaw of the firm O’Connell and Shaw who were best known for their ecclesiastical designs in New England, largely specializing in the Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles. Their design for the West Roxbury Courthouse remains one of their finest non-religious buildings and a departure from their traditional styles.
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.
Joseph J. Lannin Triple Deckers // c.1910
In 1892, Thomas Minton who lived nearby Forest Hills Cemetery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, was hired by landowners Brown and Weld to subdivide their land for house lots near the Forest Hills station. Three residential streets were laid out, terminating at the edge of Forest Hills Cemetery for residential lots. Much of the parcels were developed within ten years of the platting of the site, with some vacant lots of more difficult land to develop. Some parcels included massive outcroppings of stone which made building difficult and thus, more expensive to develop. Savvy developer Joseph John Lannin (1866-1928) purchased these lots from Edwin Weld and hired a local architect to design matching triple-deckers on the ledge. Lannin was orphaned at the age of 14, and migrated from Quebec to Boston, where he found work as a hotel bellboy. He soon learned about real estate and the commodities market by listening to conversations of the wealthy patrons at his hotel and solicited advice from those who were willing to share their insights with him. He began investing in real estate and made a small fortune in Boston and New York City. In 1913, Lannin and a group of investors purchased 50% of the Boston Red Sox baseball team and a year later, he became the sole owner of the Red Sox. In 1914, he purchased the rights to bring Babe Ruth to Boston. The team went on to win the World Series in 1915 and 1916.
Tilia Jamaica Plain // 2020
As many of you likely agree with me, most contemporary architecture and buildings in Boston (and in many U.S. cities) is bland and mundane, but there are some projects that really stand out for creative and contextual designs. Tilia in Jamaica Plain is one of the latter! When the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) began accepting bids for the development of an undeveloped linear parcel along Washington Street just south of the Forest Hills T-stop, developers jumped at the opportunity. Urbanica Inc., a local design/development group had the winning proposal which consists of approximately 110‐120 residential units in buildings of varied density ranging from a larger apartment building to more human-scaled townhouses. Led by architect Stephen Chung with Kamran Zahedi as developer, the design for the townhouses specifically is a contemporary nod to the triple-decker form we see so much in the surrounding area. The varied color and recessed sections provide a lot of depth and character to the development along the streetwall.
Miller-Smith House // 1884
Sumner Hill in Jamaica Plain, Boston, is home to the most amazing Victorian-era homes in Boston. This elaborate house was built in 1884 for Walter Herbert Miller, a piano dealer and his wife, Mary Alice. The home exhibits asymmetry, porches with turned posts, a brick chimney facing the street, and the use of wood clapboards and shingle siding, adding intrigue. Starting around 1919, the home was rented by Judith Winsor Smith (1821-1921) a women’s suffrage activist, social reformer, and abolitionist until her death two years later. She was involved in the suffrage movement until the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920, when she voted for the first time at 99. Judith’s daughter Zilpha Smith also lived at the home with her mother until her own death in 1926. In her twenties, Zilpha volunteered alongside her mother, in relief efforts to care for victims of the Great Boston Fire of 1872; the experience led her towards a career in social work. Smith joined the Associated Charities of Boston as Head of the Office Staff in 1879 and later became its General Secretary. At that organization, she applied new theories about “charity organization.” The charity organization movement aimed to coordinate private agencies in order to use their resources efficiently to ameliorate urban poverty.
Gilbert-Hook House // 1854
Built in Sumner Hill’s first period of development, this Italianate home sits away from the street as any suburban retreat should. The house was built in 1854 for Luther Gilbert, a grocer who co-owned stores around Boston under the firm Gilbert & Knight. The home is possibly the first true Italianate style home in the neighborhood, a deviation from the popular Greek Revival style common for merchants in the decades before. The home was eventually purchased in 1877 by Elias Hook of Hook & Hastings a major organ manufacturer. The company did very well, supplying organs to churches all over the county and was said to be the largest organ manufactory in the world at the time. The home is so well preserved, and even has a historically appropriate paint scheme!!
Woodman House // c.1888
I was going through my phone to make space and realized I still had some houses in Jamaica Plain’s Sumner Hill neighborhood that I have not yet shared. This Victorian-era home was built in the late 1880s for S.F. Woodman, an insurance agent for Travelers Insurance. Mr. Woodman had this home built not far from the streetcar line, where he would commute into the city for his job, for twenty more years until his retirement in 1909. The house (like many of the period), exhibits a blending of styles, mostly showcasing the Queen Anne style but also exhibiting Shingle style and Colonial Revival elements.