At the edge of the Charles River at the far edge of Newton, Massachusetts, homeless working boys of the Boston area had a place to rest their head. The Working Boys Home was established in 1883, as a new Catholic charity in Boston. Its mission was to provide a home for working adolescent boys (messenger boys, newsboys, boot blacks, etc.) who had no place to call home and often slept in abandoned buildings, alleys, stables, and other such places. The Working Boys Home was open to homeless boys between 12 and 17 years of age, and all were expected to work and contribute a part of their wages to the support of the home. The original space in Jamaica Plain and subsequent Bennett Street (North End) locations were deemed too inadequate. In 1890, the 48-acre estate in the Oak Hill section of Newton was purchased and this four-story brick building built from plans by William H. McGinty. After WWII, city prosperity other services reduced childhood homelessness, and the last group of boys moved out of the Working Boys Home in 1961. The property was sold in 1979 to the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston to be used as a center for activities meeting cross-generational needs, now known as JCC Greater Boston.
Ellen Banning Ayer Country Estate – “Ledgebrook” // c.1905
Ellen Banning Ayer (1853-1918) of Minnesota married Frederick Ayer in 1884 and her life completely changed. Frederick Ayer was one of the richest men in New England and he was involved in the patent medicine business, but is better known for his work in the textile industry. After buying the Tremont and Suffolk mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, he bought up many textile operations in nearby Lawrence, combining them in 1899 into the American Woolen Company, of which he was the first president. The couple had at least three houses in Lowell, Boston, Pride’s Crossing and had three children (one of whom Beatrice, later married the famed general George Patton). As the Ayer Mansion on Commonwealth Avenue was being built, the family was looking for a country house near the city. One year, Frederick asked Ellen what she wanted for a gift and she said “roses”. Frederick purchased an old farmhouse on Nahanton Street in Newton and had greenhouses and a stable built immediately, followed by a Colonial Revival country house for his wife Ellen. The mansion held lavish parties for the Ayers, who loved to entertain and it was passed down to their eldest daughter Katharine Ayer Merrill. After her death in the 1980s, the large site was eyed for redevelopment. The architectural firm of Dimella Shaffer was hired, and they restored the Ayer House, and designed forty residential units on the site, all tucked into the woods gently peering out here and there.
Kistler House // 1893
In 1852, Beacon Street in Newton was extended westward from Chestnut Hill through Newton Centre. The village’s suburban development accelerated through the activities of real estate developers as the city became connected to Downtown Boston by roadways and rail. This home was built in 1893 for Andrew and Ann Kistler. Andrew Kistler worked as a leather dealer in Boston, and commuted into the city daily. The Kistler House is an excellent example of Colonial Revival with some added oomph.
Ms. Grace Weston House // c.1898
At the end of the 19th century, much of Boston’s suburban communities saw rapid development where country estates and farmhouses were razed and their properties laid out for residential development. This house in Newton was built around 1898 as a late Queen Anne and it has so many details and intricacies. The earliest known owner was Grace M. Weston who was mentioned often in local newspapers as an expert on antiques.
T. C. Sullivan House // 1898
Behold this Queen Anne painted lady in all her glory! This home was constructed in 1898 as a late Victorian addition to Newton’s built landscape. The home’s earliest known owner was a T. C. Sullivan, who left the property to his family upon his death. The house is painted some pretty bold colors, which does an effective job at highlighting the many architectural details and intricacies in the design, but the home would have never been painted like this historically. A little history lesson: the “painted lady” trend took off in San Francisco when after WWII, disinvestment in the urban core led many Victorian homes there to be demolished, altered and covered with siding, and many were painted gray with war-surplus Navy paint (battleship gray). In 1963, San Francisco artist Butch Kardum began combining intense blues and greens on the exterior of his Italianate-style Victorian house. His house was criticized by some, but other neighbors began to copy the bright colors on their own houses. Kardum became a color designer, and he and other artists / colorists began to transform dozens of gray houses into Painted Ladies. By the 1970s, the colorist movement, as it was called, had changed entire streets and neighborhoods. This process continues to this day. The trend took off all over the United States as urban centers saw re-investment and gentrification. While not historically appropriate, the Painted Ladies can really make people happy and show pride in ownership.
Barrows-Goddard House // 1898
Happy Halloween! To celebrate I wanted to feature one of the more creatively decorated houses in the Boston area, which blends spookiness with architecture! This is the Barrows-Goddard House, so named after its first two owners. The house is located in Newton and was built in 1898 as an eclectic Queen Anne/Shingle style home. The original owner was Joseph Barrows, who developed the property and sold it within a year, relocating to a new home on a less busy street. The property was owned next by Christopher Goddard, an insurance agent with offices in Boston. Architecturally, the gable roof of the main block is intersected by an over-scaled gambrel cross-gable clad in patterned cut wood shingles. The focal point of the design is the Syrian-arched entrance porch of coursed, dressed fieldstone which this time of year, eats trick-o-treaters!
Lower Falls Firehouse // 1900
The Newton Lower Falls Firehouse was built in 1900 to serve the village’s fire prevention needs. As nearby Waban Village’s population surged (along with a stronger tax base) the City of Newton constructed a new fire station in 1918, that could serve both areas. This, the already outdated station, was converted to a village library on the ground floor with a janitor’s apartment and storage above. The space was determined to be surplus by the City and was sold off in 1979, quickly converted to housing by a developer. The building retains much of its original character, down to the hose-drying tower.
Crehore Mill Worker’s Cottage // c.1840
My favorite of all workers cottages/houses in Newton’s Lower Falls village is this home, a c.1840 dwelling which is a vernacular Greek Revival style home with excellent proportions and design. Toward the middle of the 19th-century, the Newton Lower Falls Village developed into a premier paper-manufacturing center of eastern Massachusetts, largely due to the water power supplied by the Charles River. One of the most successful paper mills in the area was owned by Lemuel Crehore (1791-1868), who with his success, built workers cottages for his employees and their families! This home was occupied by Nathaniel Wales and his wife Abigail (Jackson). Nathaniel was from Watertown and came to Newton to work in the paper industry. He left and went to Canada in 1802 to create a paper mill there, soon after returning to marry Abigail. The home features a full-length front porch with tapered columns, pilasters at the entry, and Victorian-era windows in a 2-over-2 configuration.
Crehore Mill Worker’s Cottage // c.1848
Toward the middle of the 19th-century, the Newton Lower Falls Village developed into a premier paper-manufacturing center of eastern Massachusetts, largely due to the forests and water power supplied by the Charles River. One of the most successful paper mills in the area was owned by Lemuel Crehore (1791-1868), who with his success, built workers cottages for his employees and their families (imagine if businesses did that today)! This Greek Revival workers cottage was occupied by employees of the mill before it was sold when the mill closed, to a house painter. The modest house stands out for the gorgeous wrap-around porch supported by fluted Doric columns, an off-center entrance with sidelights, and corner pilasters.
Crehore Mill Worker’s Cottage // c.1848
Toward the middle of the 19th-century, the Newton Lower Falls Village developed into a premier paper-manufacturing center of eastern Massachusetts, largely due water power supplied by the Charles River. One of the most successful paper mills in the area was owned by Lemuel Crehore (1791-1868), who with his success, built workers cottages for his employees and their families (imagine if businesses did that today)! This Greek Revival workers cottage was occupied by employees of the mill, and was sold off after the mill shut down. The house features a deep piazza with three Tuscan columns across the front and scroll-sawn bargeboards at the porch and hanging along the roof, giving it a slight Gothic Revival element.