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.
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!!
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!
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.
David Stoddard Greenough IV (1844-1924), was a descendant of David Stoddard Greenough and Anne Doane, who acquired the Loring-Greenough House after it was taken from loyalist Joshua Loring. David Greenough IV became a businessman and real estate developer, following his father’s footsteps, after the development of much of the family land near the old homestead. It was David who sold the old homestead out of the family, likely for development, as Jamaica Plain had become a streetcar suburb, with many older estate lots subdivided and homes demolished for commercial buildings or smaller homes. Luckily, the old estate was purchased and saved by the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club. This home built for David Greenough IV was constructed in 1893, possibly as a high-end rental property. The home is a blending of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles, which serves as a transition house from the Georgian style Loring-Greenough House to the intricate Queen Anne homes in the Sumner Hill neighborhood behind. The home was purchased by Susan W. Fitzgerald in the 1910s. Ms. Fitzgerald (1871-1943) is best known for her commitment to the women’s suffrage movement and her involvement in progressive political organizations, including sitting on the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1923-1925.