Tucked behind the massive Emmel Building (last post), you will find these two charming houses on the dead-end street in Jamaica Plain, Boston. Like the Emmel Building, these two homes were built by Charles Emmel, an architectural sculptor and real estate investor, who hired local architect George Zimmer to furnish plans for the buildings. The two transitional Queen Anne houses feature some of Emmel’s architectural decoration, from the lion’s head corbels to the decorative lintels above the windows, these homes really stand out!
In 1896, architectural sculptor Charles Emmel purchased land in the rapidly developing Forest Hills section of Jamaica Plain, Boston. He hired local architect George Zimmer, to design a massive double-house which would serve as an income-producing investment, and could also be a sort of advertisement for his sculpture work. The result is this massive Colonial Revival style property, perched atop a puddingstone foundation. Architectural ornament has been lovingly preserved, a testament to the owners of the building today and the amazing work of the original owner, Mr. Emmel. I found myself staring at the building for a while when walking by, looking at all the hidden detail and architectural ornament which adds so much to the building.
Just a block from the Bethel AME Church (last post) in Jamaica Plain, Boston, you will find this absolutely charming old fire station. The station was built in 1909 about the same time as the new Forest Hills Train Station was completed, signaling a huge population and development boom in the area. To provide emergency and fire service to the newly developing neighborhoods surrounding the train station, the City of Boston hired the architectural firm of Moller and Smith to design a new station that would allow for horses and related apparatus as well as a new fire automobile to enter the building. The Arts and Crafts style building is constructed of brick supported by structural steel finished with Carolina pine at the interior. The building retains its pyramidal hipped roof in slate and a unique corner tower capped with a castellated parapet.
During the rich Arts and Crafts movement of Boston, dozens of churches and their associated buildings were constructed using principles of the movement, which sought to incorporate English design with hand-crafted detailing, moving away from the mass-produced features and architecture seen in the Victorian-era/Industrial Revolution. After WWI, the Forest Hills neighborhood of Boston saw a massive influx of residents and housing construction, leading to the desire for a new neighborhood church. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese commissioned Boston architects Timothy O’Connell and Richard Shaw, who specialized in ecclesiastical design to build the new church. Opened in 1921, the building is constructed of random ashlar walls with buttresses, lancet windows, and a large rose window, all nods to Gothic architectural precedent. Demographic changes and declining church attendance led the parish, for the first time in 1995, to accept aid from the archdiocese to meet expenses. Unable to justify keeping the church open, the Archdiocese sold the church to Reverend Ray Hammond and the Reverend Gloria White-Hammond, a husband-and-wife pastoral team, who started a local African Methodist Church (Bethel AME Church) in the neighborhood.
When elevated train service from Boston extended to Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain in 1909, the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods and points south were ecstatic to realize the chance to enjoy quicker transit to the city. The station, which opened in 1909, was an architectural landmark and engineering feat, as the new terminal was the largest structure of its kind and the most costly in the country at the time. The large station was made of steel and reinforced concrete, finished in copper at the elevated section, and took nearly two years of construction. City architect Edmund M. Wheelwright designed the station, and upon its opening, it was called “the chef-d’œuvre of rapid transit development in Boston”. Like with many cities all over the country, shifting transportation planning and priorities and shrinking investment necessitated the once grand station to suffer the fate of the wreckingball. As part of the Southwest Corridor project, this station was to be demolished, with a modern station constructed to service the MBTA trains on the Orange Line. Also, plans were developed for a 12-lane highway along the railroad right-of-way between Boston through Cambridge. The residents of the affected areas, including Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, South End, Back Bay, and Cambridge, protested against the destruction of their neighborhoods by the planned highway, and won! The old Forest Hills Station was a casualty of the proposal, but a lasting reminder for neighborhood planning and advocacy, preserving character and people over cars.
This stunning Italianate style home in the Forest Hills area of Jamaica Plain, Boston, sits directly adjacent to Forest Hills Cemetery, one of the finest examples of a rural cemetery in America. This house dates to the mid-19th century and maps show it was built on land owned by Isaac Cary, who built homes on this hill. By the 1880s, the property seems to have been acquired by the cemetery, or they gave financial assistance to Edward Everett Moulton, who worked as an Assistant Clerk at the cemetery. Edward lived in this house seemingly until his death in 1927. Since then, the home stands as one of the best-preserved in the area and is a testament to stewards of these significant old homes.
In 1849, Jacob Weld Seaver (1820-1914) married Sarah Abby Weld and built this Greek Revival home, perched on a hill near the burgeoning Forest Hills Cemetery. The property originally extended all of the area of Orchardhill Road and the dead end streets that extend off of it, and included a stable, caretakers cottage, and at least two rental properties (this house may have been one of them). Jacob Seaver grew up in the neighborhood and attended Harvard, graduating in 1838. He became involved with the drygoods business and must have met his future wife from her father George F. Weld, who was a commission merchant in Boston. He went on to become the director of the Second National Bank of Boston, commuting into the city from the Forest Hills station. In the early 20th century, Seaver sold this property to a Thomas Minton, who subdivided some of the lot and built houses on the estate.
Isaac Harris Cary (1803-1881) was born in Charlestown, MA to an established, old New England family. He eventually settled in West Roxbury, an area that is now known as Jamaica Plain, where he operated a tannery along a branch of Stony Brook, a tributary of the Charles River. Isaac built this home and a couple income-producing rental properties on a hill adjacent to the newly established Forest Hills Cemetery. The Second Empire style home today features bright colors and a modern recessed window set into the mansard roof, likely providing views to Boston’s skyline.
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.