Sturtevant-Foss House // c.1903

Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant (1833-1890) was born in a poor Maine farming family and began working as a shoemaker to make ends meet. He devised a crude machine used in shoe manufacturing and moved to Boston in 1856 seeking backing for further development, thus began his career as an inventor. In his travels around shoe factories, Sturtevant was troubled by the airborne wood dust created by the machines wanted to invent a way to eliminate the dust and its resulting health effects. In 1867, he patented a rotary exhaust fan and began manufacturing the fan and selling it to industrial buyers across the country. He built a factory in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood that manufactured his invented air blowers, fans, and pneumatic conveyors. The factory in the 1870s was the largest fan manufacturing plant in the world. From his success, Ben Franklin Sturtevant built a house in the fashionable Sumner Hill neighborhood of Boston. The home was likely built in the Second Empire or Stick style, both popular at the time. When Benjamin died in the home, the home was willed to his widow until her death in 1903. In that time, the home was likely updated in the Queen Anne style, with Colonial embellishments. The couple’s youngest daughter, Lilla, occupied the home with her husband Eugene, who was previously hired to the B. F. Sturtevant Company by her late father. Eugene Foss, who married Lilla, was a member of the United States House of Representatives, and served as a three-term governor of Massachusetts. No biggie.

Thomas Sherwin House // 1883

Tucked behind the St. John Episcopal Church in Sumner Hill, Boston, the Thomas Sherwin House sits atop the peak of the hill, and likely has views of downtown Boston from its upper floor. The house was built in 1883 for Thomas Sherwin, an auditor, and possibly the man of the same name who was a Brigadier General in the American Civil War. The home was designed by the powerhouse architectural firm of Ware & Van Brunt and spans two major architectural styles of the period; Stick style and Queen Anne. The home is one of the best examples in the neighborhood and is very well preserved!

Emmel Rental Houses // 1896

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!

Emmel Building // 1896

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.

Chemical Engine #13 Firehouse // 1909

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.

St. Andrew R.C. Church – Bethel AME Church // 1921

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.

Old Forest Hills Station // 1909-1987

Photo courtesy of Boston City Archives

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.