Incredible triple-decker vibes with this beauty on Providence’s College Hill neighborhood. In 1847, this home was built as a single-family, Greek Revival style home for Henry G. Mumford, who worked as a City Marshal for the City of Providence at City Hall. The house was likely originally a one-story or two-story Greek Revival cottage which was upgraded in a BIG way after Mumford’s death! His heirs sold the family house in 1859 it was owned by John A. Brown and his wife, Ellen. It was likely Ellen who had the property converted to a triple-decker with three units in the home. It was modernized with Italianate detailing, including the elaborate window hoods, front portico and side porch, round arched windows, and extra floor for additional rental unit. The property was later owned by Governor and member of the Taft Political family Royal C. Taft as an income-producing property.
J. B. Mulvey Triple Decker // 1904
Across the street from the Lannin Triple Deckers (last post) this large triple decker (and the others in the row) was built in 1904 for developer John B. Mulvey. Mr. Mulvey was born in Ireland and migrated to Boston at the age of 16. He climbed his way up the ladder and worked as a builder and developer, largely in Boston-area suburbs and neighborhoods. At the turn of the century, these triple deckers (also known as three deckers) proliferated throughout the Boston suburbs around train stations providing affordable flats to residents. Many were built and rented out by developers, but eventually, owners would live in one unit and rent the other flats for additional income, providing upward mobility and equity, largely benefiting immigrant communities. This high-style example is very well maintained and is a more uncommon double-three decker.
Joseph J. Lannin Triple Deckers // c.1910
In 1892, Thomas Minton who lived nearby Forest Hills Cemetery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, was hired by landowners Brown and Weld to subdivide their land for house lots near the Forest Hills station. Three residential streets were laid out, terminating at the edge of Forest Hills Cemetery for residential lots. Much of the parcels were developed within ten years of the platting of the site, with some vacant lots of more difficult land to develop. Some parcels included massive outcroppings of stone which made building difficult and thus, more expensive to develop. Savvy developer Joseph John Lannin (1866-1928) purchased these lots from Edwin Weld and hired a local architect to design matching triple-deckers on the ledge. Lannin was orphaned at the age of 14, and migrated from Quebec to Boston, where he found work as a hotel bellboy. He soon learned about real estate and the commodities market by listening to conversations of the wealthy patrons at his hotel and solicited advice from those who were willing to share their insights with him. He began investing in real estate and made a small fortune in Boston and New York City. In 1913, Lannin and a group of investors purchased 50% of the Boston Red Sox baseball team and a year later, he became the sole owner of the Red Sox. In 1914, he purchased the rights to bring Babe Ruth to Boston. The team went on to win the World Series in 1915 and 1916.
Rawson Road Triple-Deckers // 1913
A collection of seven picturesque Spanish style triple-deckers on Rawson Road provide density while adding to the idillic quality of Aspinwall Hill. Developed in 1913, the homes were developed by Alexander C. Chisholm, who owned the parcels. Chisholm was a Brookline real estate developer and builder who resided at nearby and maintained an office on Beacon Street. His advertisement in the town’s 1913 directory noted he offered “apartment houses for sale and to-let”. Before entering the real estate market in Brookline, Chisholm was known for the design and construction of apartment houses in Dorchester and Roxbury. The Spanish Revival buildings are all wood frame and clad with stucco. Sitting upon raised fieldstone foundations, the houses feature porches, bracketed hoods over entrances and windows, and decorative parapets, all common in Spanish revival architecture.
Ms. Paul Triple-Decker // 1898
The Triple-Decker housing type is extremely iconic around New England and every medium-to-large city can claim them in their neighborhoods. The style became prevalent after the American Civil War, when immigrants from Europe came to New England in force for manufacturing jobs. Many working-class immigrant families moved near factories and mills for work, but at first many scrounged for a place to live. They jammed into stables, cellars and even tents, until higher density options became available. Investors and developers saw an opportunity to build three-story flats in mass, and gave new residents the opportunity to pool money and purchase the buildings, with the ability to rent out the other two floors to family.
Lesser-known, by the end of the 19th century, “immigration reformers” under the guise of public safety, pushed for the banning of triple-deckers in Brookline and other affluent towns. Men including Prescott Farnsworth Hall, noted that these dense wood-frame structures with kitchens above the ground floor were a fire hazard, citing the Great Chelsea Fire of 1908, but it was clear that the reformers were against the idea of immigrants entering the middle-class and purchasing homes. Under pressure from such groups, Massachusetts in 1912 passed a law allowing cities and towns to ban triple deckers. Not in so many words, though. The language said municipalities could prevent construction of any ‘wooden tenement’ in which ‘cooking shall be done above the second floor. In 1915, Brookline banned the housing style.
What they lost out on was more gorgeous dense housing, as an alternative to the later Pillbox (boxy, lacking detail or depth) apartment structures that sprouted up after WWII. This triple-decker in North Brookline was built for Ms. Paul, a widow who sought income after her husbands death. Ms. Paul sold her large single-family home just a couple streets over and hired an architect to design an attractive multi-family home where she could have a steady stream of income from the other two units. This property was larger than many and featured pleasant shingle-style detailing and a large recessed off-center entry, judging by the mailboxes near the door, the property has more than three units, providing dense housing with appropriate design, a win-win!