Saint Elizabeth’s Center // 1838

The only two-story temple-front Greek Revival home in the Upper Falls Village of Newton, MA stands on Elliot Street, on the same block as the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Catholic Church and Rectory. The home was built in 1838 at the present location of the church, but was moved in 1908 to its present location at the opposite end of the block for the erection of the large church. The original owner was Dr. Samuel Whitney, the village doctor who also operated his office out of the large house. By 1844, he moved to Dedham and sold the home and practice to Dr. Abraham D. Dearborn who ran his practice out of the home until the mid 1850s. After successive ownership by mill owners, the property was acquired by the Archdiocese of Boston who moved the home and used it as a rectory until the Colonial Revival rectory was built. The home has since been used as a parish center, but has not been well maintained over the years. Plans were unveiled in 2015 by a long-time resident to purchase the home from the Catholic Church for conversion of a community center with offices for non-profits, but it has not materialized sadly. Its future is unclear.

Gamewell Fire Alarm and Telegraphic Company // 1889

The first practical fire alarm system was developed in Massachusetts during the late 1840’s by Dr. William F. Channing and Moses G. Farmer, a telegraph operator. Their experimental system was installed in Boston in 1851, being the first urban fire alarm system in the country. Before this, people would have to run and notify fire stations of a fire, who then rang a bell, to rally the citizens and firefighters. John Gamewell, realizing the potential of such a system, purchased the patents and continued to improve the system. While the headquarters for the business was in New York, the units were manufactured in Newton, Massachusetts. By 1886, Gamewell systems were installed in 250 cities across America and Canada. Four years later in 1890, Gamewell systems were installed in 500 cities. To meet the growing company’s needs for space, it relocated from Newton Highlands to Upper Falls and built a new factory, a wood frame structure. As the company continued to grow, it built a brick addition in 1904 and another on the other end in 1912. The system has been used all over North America, visible by the large red boxes on street poles and buildings with the lightening bolt logo. The business remained in Upper Falls until 1970, when it became a division of Gulf and Western. The company moved out and the buildings have been restored, with many small and local businesses located inside.

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church Rectory // 1938

Located adjacent to the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Upper Falls, this rectory building, built in 1938 adds much to the streetscape. Although the building permit for this building was issued
in 1938, it was not occupied until 1943, according to City Directories. The building was designed by architect Timothy G. O’Connell of Boston, who specialized in ecclesiastical design. The 3 1/2-story gambrel Colonial Revival building has a center entrance with projecting balustraded porch with turned balusters and urn finials.

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Catholic Church // 1909

One of the grandest churches around Boston, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes R.C. Church, is in Upper Falls Newton, a working class village which developed around industrial mills in the 19th century. The church, built in 1909, towers above the workers cottages and smaller frame homes in the neighborhood showing the wealth and importance of the Catholic Church to Irish immigrants who worked and lived nearby. This parish was the first in the town of Newton and it comprised of multiple villages along with parts of Wellesley and Needham. The parish was formed in the 1840s and eventually grew so much it petitioned the Archdiocese to construct a new house of worship worthy of the population. In the early 20th century, a site was secured, and the house on the lot was moved for the erection of a new church. Edward T. P. Graham was selected as the architect, who designed this Renaissance Revival church. The commanding monumental columned portico rises over two stories and supports a projecting pediment which has decorative modillion blocks, cast figures within depicting religious figures. A campanile (bell tower) is located at the rear corner and is of Italian Renaissance design. In 2004, the Archdiocese had put Mary Immaculate on the closing list of churches; however, in 2006, the Cardinal had reconsidered his plan to close the church and decided to close a church in nearby Waban Village instead.

Pettee Stone Barn // c.1840

Built adjacent to the stone cottage, this stone barn was also constructed in around 1840 by Otis Pettee (1795-1853) as part of his business venture. Pettee was a major mill owner in the Upper Falls Village of Newton and was a major silk manufacturer in the area. The stone barn was used as a warehouse and later as the location for raising silk worms for the silk mills down the street. As with the adjacent stone cottage/shop, Pettee likely built the barn of mostly stone on the site as a fireproof design to protect his valuable product. It is now home to Danish Country & Modern, an amazing furniture shop which sells Scandinavian furniture and accessories.

Pettee Caretaker’s Cottage // c.1840

One of the rare early stone cottages in Newton, this charming building in Upper Falls Village has an interesting history! The stone cottage was built around 1840 by Otis Pettee (1795-1853), a major mill owner in town. This cottage specifically served as a shop and later as the residence of the caretaker of the silk mill a couple blocks away. Pettee likely had this building and the adjacent barn constructed with stone to limit the chance of a fire, destroying any valuable silk inside.

Winslow-Sullivan House // c.1850

This house was built by 1850 for Charles Winslow, a mill-owner in the Upper Falls Village of Newton. The house was likely a gable-end Greek Revival home consisting of the two right bays seen today. By 1882, another mill owner, Richard Sullivan, purchased the home and completely renovated it with a square tower, stick-work, double door entry, and a porch. He owned a cotton mill near the river and built workers housing between his house and the mills for his workers and their families.

Ralph Waldo Emerson School // 1904

One of the few architect designed buildings in Upper Falls Village in Newton is the Ralph Waldo Emerson School built in 1904-1905. The village school in Upper Falls consistently was outgrown by the rapidly growing population in the 19th century, leading to new schools being built every couple decades. The 1846 Village School (featured previously) was outgrown and a major landowner, Otis Pettee willed a valuable piece of land to the town for the erection of a new school and firehouse, both were built that next year. By 1869, a second schoolhouse was built on the site in the fashionable Second Empire style, named the Wade School. As expected, the two adjacent school buildings were deemed obsolete and the town, inflated by the industrial wealth of Upper Falls, hired the architectural firm of Hartwell, Richardson & Driver to design a large brick schoolhouse, with a cost of $92,000. The building was occupied as a school until the 1990s until (you guessed it) the schools in the town consolidated, and the Emerson School was then converted to residential units.

Upper Falls Village School // 1846

The Upper Falls Village in Newton, MA is a small industrial neighborhood which grew after the Revolutionary War due to its location on the Charles River where rapids and falls occur. Mills and factories were built in the village and thus, workers from other towns and even Europe moved here to work in the dozen manufacturing facilities. By 1850, the village had 1,500 residents, a quarter of those living in the town of Newton at the time, in a much denser area. With workers and families moving here, the need for a school was paramount. As the Upper Falls Village continued to grow, schools were built and demolished for newer and larger structures to house the growing population. In 1846, this two-story schoolhouse was constructed in the then popular Greek Revival style. The schoolhouse was quickly deemed inadequate and was sold when a new school closer to the center of the village was built in 1855. This building was then converted to commercial use, serving as a grocery and dry goods store and later a watchmaking shop, with the storefront added at the time.