Woodbourne Historic District
The material that follows is an excerpt of the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form prepared in April 1999 by Greer Hardwicke, Preservation Consultant, and Betsy Friedberg, Massachusetts Historical Commission. The Woodbourne area was subsequently added to the Register on June 4, 1999. A number of photographs, maps, and other material attached to the Form have been omitted.
Statement of Significance
The Woodbourne Historic District in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, Massachusetts is a residential development that contains early twentieth-century suburban architecture and planning. This section developed from nineteenth-century summer estates into a streetcar and model suburban enclave during its period of significance, 1898-1945. It contains examples of representative New England suburban architecture and design by local architects and builders, including Woodbury & Stuart, Frederick H. Gowing, Munhall & Holmes, and Murdock Boyle. It also contains an unusual garden city model housing development by the Boston Dwelling House Company designed by prominent Boston architects, Kilham & Hopkins and Charles Colleens and laid out by Robert Anderson Pope in 1911-1912. Woodbourne represents a universal pattern of development in history and style of suburban areas and represents a unique area of architect-designed model housing and garden-city landscape design.
The nominated district retains integrity of location, design, settings, materials, workmanship, feeling and association and fulfills criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places at the local and regional level.
The 30-acre parcel of the National Register district consists of three historical parcels, each with their own history. Located within the Jamaica Plain area, Woodbourne was once part of the original 1630 Roxbury land grant. The Town of Roxbury was divided with the legal separation of West Roxbury (including Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and Forest Hills) in 1851, which was in turn annexed to Boston in 1874. The evolution and development of Woodbourne represent several important phases of late - nineteenth to twentieth-century housing developments in the United States, including examples reflecting civic and housing reform of the 1910s and the suburban development from World War I to post World War II. This area encompasses the variety of styles and development patterns common to the outer edges of urban Boston, which transformed agricultural and estate properties into moderate income, residential enclaves.
In 1845, this section of Jamaica Plain, a charming wooded area of rolling hills and the meandering Stony Brook, attracted many Bostonians. Bourne Street had been a public way for over 20 years; it connected Walk Hill Street, a century old public road, to Canterbury Street. Walk Hill began at the Toll Gate — the first gate from Roxbury on the private Norfolk and Bristol Turnpike (incorporated in 1803), which ran from Boston to Providence, Rhode Island. Named the Dedham Turnpike, this road went from present day Dudley Square to the Dedham Courthouse along Washington Street. The site where carts and wagons were weighed and charged was the Toll Gate at South and Washington Streets. This locus was renamed Forest Hills after the establishment of Forest Hills Cemetery in 1848. The impetus for development of the area was the opening of the Boston & Providence Railroad in June 1834 with a station at Toll Gate, now the Forest Hills Station. The turnpike fell on hard times and became a public road in 1857. Florence Street was also laid out in 1848 to go between Bourne Street and the Boston & Providence Railroad station. In 1874, this was renamed Washington Street. By 1874 Walk Hill Street, Hyde Park Avenue and Florence Street (part of now Florian and Southbourne Streets) had been put in.
Part of the top or north section of Woodbourne bounded by Walk Hill belonged to the Andrew J. Peters family. The Peters family was a local Jamaica Plain family that had many politicians and legislators. Peters, a Jamaica Plain native, was a wealthy merchant with an estate on South Street. His son, Andrew J. Peters, was the mayor of Boston from 1918-1921 during the violent and controversial Boston Police Strike of 1919.
The adjacent parcel extending from Walk Hill Street to Hyde Park Avenue belonged to Richard Olney. In 1864, Olney bought 10 acres of land with a house and a stable along Walk Hill Street, abutting the Minot estate. Olney’s house, at 56 Patten Street, is the oldest in this area. He reputedly had one of the first tennis courts in Boston. The neighboring families of the Minots and Guilds would often play here.
Richard Olney served as Attorney General (1893-95) and as Secretary of State (1857-97) in the administration of Grover Cleveland. A corporation lawyer, Richard Olney was born in Oxford, Massachusetts in 1835, to a wealthy cotton manufacturer. He graduated from Brown University in 1856 and from Harvard Law School in 1858. Olney worked as a lawyer, specializing in wills and trusts and worked most of his professional life at 23 Court Street. He married Agnes Thomas, daughter of Judge Benjamin F. Thomas. Olney was a leading authority on railroad law and at the age of 40 reorganized and saved the Eastern Railroad Company. This became his specialty thereafter devoting his professional career to the regulation consolidation of railroads. He joined the Board of Directors of the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1884 and served as its general counsel. Olney was recommended to Grover Cleveland in his second term and was appointed U.S. Attorney General. As Attorney General, he negotiated the end of the Pullman Palace Car Company workers strike in 1894. He also argued successfully in favor of the unconstitutionality of the Income Tax Law before the Supreme Court in 1884 (it was later enacted under President Woodrow Wilson).
In 1882, Olney sold both his house and property on Walk Hill Street to his old partner Andrew J. Peters. He moved his family to Boston’s Back Bay next door to George Richards Minot’s home on Marlborough Street. In October 1890, Richard Olney’s daughter, Agnes, married George Richards Minot III at the Olney summerhouse in Falmouth. Richard Olney retired from government at the end of Cleveland’s term in 1897 and returned to his Boston Law practice.
In 1899, two of the community buildings were erected, the Francis Parkman School, 25 Walk Hill Street and the Upham Memorial Church, 156-158 Wachusett Street. In 1896, the City of Boston took an acre of land from Andrew J. Peter’s estate for the Francis Parkman School, designed by Charles B. Perkins in several stages between 1899 and 1904. The school was named after the historian whose summerhouse overlooked Jamaica Pond. It now serves as a counseling center for the Boston School system. The Forest Hills Methodist Society began to build their church at the corner of Wachusett and Patten Streets, on land donated by Peters. The Forest Hills Methodist Society had been holding services in a rented hall in October 1893 in the Forest Hills area. The new church, designed by James G. Hutchinson in 1899, was in a Tudor Revival style with a corner tower and half-timbering. It was finished in 1901. A later addition was added in 1925. The Knights of Columbus purchased the building in 1977. Aluminum siding currently conceals all evidence of its architectural details.
The electrification of the streetcar system by the West End Railway Company by 1890, and the opening of the first subway route in 1897 improved speed and accessibility to more outlying areas, setting the stage for the Woodbourne developments. Several lots were slowly sold off and by 1898, modest construction had begun.
A later purchase in 1901 of the remaining Peters/Olney estates by Hosford and Williams signaled a new phase of development for this country retreat. The developers subdivided it and laid out Rodman, Patten, and Eldridge Streets. They advertised lots, stressing the proximity to Forest Hills Station. By 1904, Rodman and Eldridge Streets were open and Wachusett was extended to Eldridge Road. While full-scale subdivision did not begin until 1901, several houses were erected on Walk Hill Street, Wachusett Street and Rodman Road beginning in 1898. Construction continued until 1916 but was interrupted by the onset of World War I. Construction was later resumed in 1922.
Woodbourne’s core or middle section belonged to the Minot family, who initially used this as their summer estate. William Minot purchased the original parcel of land in November 1845 from Ebenezer Weld, a successful local farmer. Minot, like many other elite Bostonians such as Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Benjamin Faneuil, Joshua Loring, William Fletcher Weld, John Lowell Gardner, and Francis Parkman, purchased this outlying property as a summer home to escape Boston’s summer heat and seasonal cholera outbreaks. He was later joined by his children, William, Jr., Mary and Julia, who bought and built a house in close proximity. It soon became a compound of the extended family, with the father summering and the rest of the family living here all year round.
William was the son of George Richards Minot, a historian, lawyer and judge (1758-1802). His accomplishments included being the Orator of Boston and being a judge of the Probate Court and Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas as well as the Municipal Court Judge of Boston in 1800. He was also one of the original incorporators of the Massachusetts Historical Society. His son, William, was born in 1783 in the family house on Spring Street in Boston. Married in 1809, William Sr., moved to a town house, reputedly designed by Peter Banner at 61 Beacon Street opposite the Common in 1817. He made this his primary residence; the property at Woodbourne was his summer estate. He managed the Benjamin Franklin Trust for the City of Boston. He died on June 2, 1873 leaving the Woodbourne property to his children: George Richards Minot II, William Minot, Jr., Julia Minot, and Mary Minot.
The Minot houses were built in the 1840s; William Sr.’s was constructed in 1847. The houses were located atop a hill with scenic views to the Blue Hills. The estate was named Woodbourne by Julia Minot, the invalid daughter of William, Sr. It was named after the home of Guy Mannering in the novel Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott in 1829. Not only did it match the description of the woods along Bourne Street, the description of the house must have reminded Julia of her own home.
Woodbourne was a large comfortable mansion snugly situated beneath a hill covered with wood, which shrouded the house upon the north and east; the front looked upon a little lawn bordered by a grove of tall trees; beyond were some arable fields, extending down to the river, which was seen from the windows of the house. (Guy Mannering, Vol. 1. Chapter XIX, 1895 edition).
In 1855, some land was sold to Charles Eliot Guild for a summer retreat. It later became the house of Massachusetts Governor Curtis Guild.
The Minot compound contained several households, including children, servants and often guests. The terrain had a large grove of pine trees on the north side; the southern and western areas contained a landscaped area of garden, trees, and shrubs. Both father and son loved landscape gardening and made Woodbourne into a showplace. In 1850, William Minot, Jr. wrote about the estate:
Our roses are just out. Our honeysuckles too. The new mown hay, almost half a ton, lies spread on the garden lot. The pears are shaping themselves. Strawberries ripening. Raspberries well formed. The laurels are opening new leaves. All is green, growing, gracious.
In 1850, Minot and his two sons, William, Jr. and George Richard bought a large parcel on the east side of Bourne Street (originally part of Ebenezer Weld’s land), enlarging their holdings. In 1864 William Jr., who resided in his father’s house year round, purchased another parcel, which included three houses (site of #114 and #124 Bourne) at the corner of Eastland Street. George Richards Minot bought the western parcel in 1856.
George Richards Minot, the eldest son of William, built a summer residence in 1846 near his father’s house. After attending private school he became a merchant like many of his Minot and Weld relatives. He began working for the firm of Chandler & Howard on Commercial Warf as an apprentice in 1829 at the age of 16. He sailed on East Indian ships for the next 10 years before opening his own Indian trading company, Minot & Hooper of Marblehead in 1839, sending ships to India and China. After a financial collapse in 1857, his firm became agents for Southern cotton mills. After the Kingston Street firm’s headquarters was destroyed in Boston’s 1872 fire, his son George Richards Minot II, rebuilt for his father who was in Europe at the time. George II lived with his wife on Pinckney Street on Beacon Hill and summered at Woodbourne; he and his family relocated to Jamaica Plain in 1849. He had vegetable gardens, pigs, horses and cows. His animals used the Stony Brook for water. George died at Woodbourne in December 1883 of a heart attack. He had been looking at the house Cabot & Chandler were designing for him at 254 Marlborough Street in Boston. His wife and children moved back to Boston after his death.
William Minot, Jr. felt most at home at Woodbourne. He was born (1817) and raised in Boston, first on Charles Street and later at 61 Beacon Street. After graduating from Harvard in 1836, he joined the family law firm. In 1842, he married Katherine Maria Sedgwick (1820-1880), the niece of Maria, the well-known novelist. They lived on Beacon Street until moving out to Woodbourne in 1847. His first child was named after this estate, Alice Woodbourne, born that same year. William Jr. was an accomplished gardener and spent much of his time improving he grounds.
William Sr. died in 1873; sister Julia died in 1875 in her Woodbourne house; Katherine died in 1880 and his other brother in 1883. Alice also died in 1883, leaving William, Jr. the lone survivor. He moved back to Boston in 1884, into a town house at 22 Marlborough Street. The estate reverted back to a summer residence. The Minot houses were torn down when the estate was sold in 1911. The family is buried across Walk Hill Street in the Forest Hills Cemetery. Those who died earlier were reinterred from the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston to Forest Hills.
In 1895, another momentous change came to this area. The Boston & Providence line of the NY, NH & Hartford Railroad was elevated. A viaduct designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge was designed and constructed in 1898 that rerouted the Arborway under the new 4-track design. This massive elevated structure was demolished between 1981 and 1984 for the Southwest corridor project. In 1909, the Boston Elevated Railway built the new station at Forest Hills designed by Alexander W. Longfellow.
Early in 1911, Robert Winsor, investment banker with the firm Kidder, Peabody & Company, and one of the directors of the Boston Elevated Railway, raised the possibility of building a model residential enclave near the carbarns of the elevated railway system at Forest Hills for its conductors and motormen. Its location was “within fifteen minutes of the business center of Boston on a five cent fare.” He began discussing the idea of creating a “scientific, model residential enclave for its conductors and motormen as an alternative to the ills of urban housing and congestion” with an additional goal to be an “object lesson, which will lead others to make similar investments.” He also sent agents to study developments in Europe. Among developments investigated were the projects built by the London County Council as well as a large private development in London. The agents also went to Liverpool, Birmingham and Germany.
Debates over congestion and substandard housing were abounding in Boston at this time. “Boston-1915”, founded in March 1909, by Edward Filene (retailer) and other civic, educational, and business leaders hoped to provide a blueprint for coordinated response for every department in Boston. It aimed to increase efficiency and cure many of Boston’s problems.
This concern about housing workers had evolved in New England during the nineteenth century — from mill girl boardinghouse system of industrial textile centers; company-owned family tenements in factory villages; and widespread speculative building in and around large cities. A few industrialists adopted “model” housing and developed communities with an eye to sanitary, aesthetic and landscape concerns. Manufacturers willing to develop factory communities according to the ideals of the professional architects and landscape architects provided the first testing ground for the new multiple-family housing designs and garden-suburb planning. The garden-city solution was the idea of Ebenezer Howard: new towns on less expensive, cooperatively-owned land developed either to support a local industry or connected to urban centers by rail. In America, the ideal garden city became a small garden suburb at the edge of the urban core linked by transportation. Such residential developments tended to be guided by traditional American ideas of philanthropic investment: the housing was expected to earn a modest profit. Model towns based on cooperative schemes similar to those in Britain met with resistance. However, in both countries, the high cost of model housing meant that it could compete with speculative building only through “collective” purchase, design, and development of a large site.
The efforts at inexpensive home ownership in a planned natural environment required architects to define what a home should be. The home must look like a house, whether for one or two families. It must be domestic in scale and sited to provide open space for fresh air, light, privacy and recreation.
In the debate of affordable housing and lack of home ownership, Winsor envisioned his plan for housing as a “solution to some of the most serious problems of city life, the ills of urban housing and congestion.” Not only would it provide decent housing, the model community would be “an object lesson which would lead others to make similar investments.” It was during a period of concern for affordable housing and the lack of home ownership.
On November 30, 1911, the Boston Dwelling House Company was formally organized with a Declaration of Trust to develop a 30-acre site near the carbarns. Henry Howard was named the president and Robert Winsor, Jr., treasurer. The Trust was formed “with the object of providing desirable, attractive, and sanitary homes at a moderate cost or rental for persons, desiring the same and for the purpose of acquiring the real estate hereinbefore described…” The directors were many prominent social, civic and religious leaders including: Robert Woods, leader in the settlement house movement; William Cardinal O’Connell; Frank A. Day; John Wells Farley; Frederick P. Fish; Mrs. Bertha Hazard; Charles H. Jones; James Prendergast, (a Catholic stock broker who encouraged Cardinal O’Connell to join); James L. Richards; Mrs. Richard M. Saltonstall; Frederic E. Snow; and Carl Dreyfus. Two trustees were directors of Filene’s “Boston-1915” which had planning and housing reform as goals.
Henry Howard, vice-president of a chemical company, was a member of the Massachusetts Commission on workmen’s compensation, later the Mass. Employees Insurance Association, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He was also a classmate of Water Kilham at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Minot estate was bought in 1911. The family had contemplated selling the property off in lots, like Hosford & Williams. The estate was sold to Harriet A. Connors of Ashland on January 11, 1911. Later in the year, The Boston Dwelling House Company purchased the land from her. (The entire BDHC purchase encompassed more than is in the district, another section of Woodbourne Road, Eastland Road and Wayburn Road.)
Stock prospectus and newspaper articles appeared soon after. The trustees announced that they had shared “modern viewpoint of philanthropy, and it justifies itself when placed on a sound economic basis.” The houses would not be subsidized, but would earn an economic return. The architects identified with the project were Kilham & Hopkins, Parker, Thomas & Rice as well as Grosvenor Atterbury of New York and correspondence with Coolidge & Carlson.
With the information from recent garden cites in England and on the Continent, Winsor and similar-minded Bostonians turned to the Olmsted Brothers, landscape architects and planners, which in turned worked with three other architectural firms including Kilham & Hopkins, to demonstrate the advantages of laying out the tract as a whole and building the houses on the old Minot estate purchased in December 1911, a half-mile beyond the new Forest Hills terminal of the Boston Elevated Railway. Its location was “within fifteen minutes of the business center of Boston on a five-cent fare.” Winsor envisioned the site as a garden suburb for the carmen and solicited other stockholders for financial support. The Olmsteds’ plans and drawings were similar to their 1909-10 plans for the Long Island development of Forest Hills Gardens, financed by the Russell Sage Foundation; Grosvenor Atterbury, architect. The plans demonstrate a design relationship between the two projects that went beyond a similarity in names and proximity to commuter railways. Five of the winding streets in the Woodbourne plan met in a large circle, which held a circular pool surrounded by larger public buildings, very much like parts of Forest Hills Gardens in New York. The cottage designs of Kilham & Hopkins and by Thomas, Parker & Rice show the influence of Atterbury and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. in the New York project. The initial Olmsted plan included a curvilinear street pattern that was naturalistic and romantic.
The cottages and community would have been completed by the next year if there had not been a conflict between Henry Howard and the landscape planner, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. The Olmsted firm had been hired to plan the development, but heard nothing for several months. They presented their first plan in April 1911. It was reminiscent of their Riverside, Illinois, and Forest Hills, New York plans, particularly with curvilinear streets off an axis. There were many multi-family houses with gabled central bays and an open gateway leading to a playground, while two attached towers flank an arched gate. There were apartment buildings along Hyde Park Avenue. It contained many curvilinear streets and picturesque islands with multifamily and double cottages.
Howard felt that the Olmsted plan was too expensive and had circulated an alternative plan prepared by another designer, Robert Anderson Pope of New York. This breach of contract and trust caused Olmsted to withdraw from the project on February 8, 1912. In a letter to Winsor, Olmsted stated that he was “unable to understand Howard’s action (and certain other indications of his attitude toward my firm that have come to my attention) upon any other ground than a lack of frankness and of ordinary business decency on his part…” Pope was able to reduce the cost of the design, an expertise he was later known for. In his report to the BDHC, Pope thought the need was to minimize development cost by economizing in use of land and by fitting as close to possible the roads to existing topography. He based his design on the assumption that the natural beauty not be sacrificed for the purpose of getting fill to raise the low property. He wrote that the low areas could be filled with the excavation from the Hyde Park Avenue apartments and some roads; he also advised using a greater amount of the existing vegetation. He redesigned the plan for the knoll — 18 house sites at the same elevation, grouping the houses to make possible a “picturesque result”, saving the important pines on the slopes and using existing old roads.
Pope was a self-proclaimed specialist in the design of model communities. He was a more radical thinker than Olmsted and was influenced by Ebenezer Howard and Piton Kropotkin. Pope adopted Kropotkin’s belief in decentralization, cooperation, and “mutual aid” as forces in racial evolution. (Kropotkin was a Russian anarchist who believed that pre-industrial craft villages could be recreated in modern decentralized “industrial villages” communes. He believed that communal spaces and interchanges were also important.) Like many of his generation, Pope believed that the physical environment could affect man’s morality and development. He stressed that planned communities should be designed to relieve urban congestion and ameliorate the struggle between capital and labor. Pope also was an enthusiast of the Garden City movement. He felt that good planning could feed physical and spiritual needs.
The emphasis on Garden City tenets and the belief in communal arrangements were designed into the Boston Dwelling House development. There was not only the grouping of multi-family houses, but there were also community gardens and spaces. Pope modified the Olmsted plan by adding a roadway that had octagonal and lozenge-shaped dividers (not extant). He was able to redesign the streets based on traffic projections: those to be used solely for residential use were made narrower than these for through traffic. A large oval island (similar to the Olmsted plan) to the south was designed with small cottages by Kilham & Hopkins. The communal playgrounds and open spaces are surrounded by two groups of brick multifamily units. These were built on a slight rise and placed so as to “preserve the wonderful old trees that occupied the land before.” This gave each house a view of park-like space and an unbuilt area across the street. At the end of these complexes stood a group of one and two-family cottages designed by Allen & Collens for the smaller family or newlywed couple. Pope’s plan called for gardens behind the apartment buildings. The land between Stony Brook and Westbourne Terrace (now Bournedale) held double or multifamily units with two circular turnarounds.
The housing project of Woodbourne was designed by the firm of Kilham & Hopkins. Formed in 1901, the firm specialized in public schools, urban apartment houses, and Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival homes for the middle class. By 1912, on the eve of the designing of Woodbourne, Herbert Croly described the firm as “fairly typical of the better contemporary architectural practice” with a region-wide reputation for holding a high level of excellence.
Forest Hills Cottages — quickly renamed Woodbourne — had four separate areas each with a distinctive character. Along Hyde Park Avenue, screening the cottages behind from traffic stood six large apartment buildings designed by Kilham & Hopkins, no longer extant, were said to be the creation of Henry Howard, these were to be “a new type of low-priced apartment house that surpassed the triple-decker in cost, convenience and appearance.” Enclosed loggias, with flower boxes, on the front and rear facades created an open wall, extended the living space and provided fresh air while preserving privacy. The roofs were built for use of all the occupants, giving each family and opportunity to develop roof gardens (an idea that had appeared earlier on the Phipps House tenement in New York, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury). These apartments were demolished in 1970s.
Single-family cottages were constructed on the oval island between Wachusett and Florian Streets. Designed for the smaller family, these hollow-tile dwellings were parged with stucco; some were further embellished with half-timbering. They were built facing each other with a communal path through the middle. These stand at #288, #296 and #302 Wachusett, #90, #94, #96, #98 Florian Street and #15 and #21 Southbourne.
The next area contained two clusters of brick housing along Southbourne Road, #30 to #84 Southbourne (1912). Jordan Marsh and Co. furnished #48 in 1913. Each group had two single-family houses (similar in plan to the ones on Florian), at the ends, two brick duplexes and a U-shaped six-family house at the center facing open park space with paths. They resembled the buildings constructed at Forest Hills on Long Island. This section also had playgrounds and communal park areas, an important ingredient in Pope’s belief and design system. The Boston Herald reported in July 1912 that the development “was located on a high knoll, with long vistas under tall pines.”
Sitting right next to these up the hill was a cluster designed by Allen Collens at #78, #80-82 and #84 Southbourne Road. A small stucco one-family house frames either end with a duplex set back in the center. In 1914, Charles Collens designed the Clubhouse at #83 Bourne Street. The Clubhouse was a comfortable lodge with an exterior chimney and two tennis courts of crushed stone. This club was used in the promotional material to emphasize the sense of community, and was said to “stimulate social life.”
After construction began at Woodbourne, Kilham embarked on a trip to England in the autumn of 1911. He visited Lever Brothers’ Port Sunlight near Liverpool and then Cadbury Cocoa Village of Bourneville, near Birmingham, which he felt was “architecturally charming, but fearfully paternalistic as only the English can be.” He also reviewed Hampstead Garden Suburb where he met Raymond Unwin who showed him plans for the new town. Kilham thought Hampstead more practical, but it was still a white-collar place, which did not solve any social problems. He also compared the English buildings with those in Boston, stating that the “Letchworth house without cellar, closets, bathroom, electricity or furnace cost the equivalent of 15 cents per cubic foot, while his own Boston houses, also built of brick with slated roof, containing all these amenities, cost no more and were better.”
The development was meant to provide housing for the moderate-income worker. The cottages, especially, were intended to foster home ownership. This project was meant not in “the spirit of charity, but in the spirit of good citizenship.” The financial success of this development never fully materialized and the project was financially successful only because the company sold off unused land for new single-family house lots in the 1920s, erasing the original plan by Pope.
Woodbourne, like the Filene Cooperative Homes project in Franklin Heights, Roxbury (several years before) and many others of this period, never fully lived up to the goals of their creators.
Kilham, commenting on the Woodbourne project in later years, describes what he thought went wrong with this and other similar projects for low-income workers. Although they started off with providing “simple habitation for working people,” architects tended to incorporate too many amenities such as “fireplaces, furnaces, and piazzas.” These extras pushed the rental and sales prices beyond what working people could afford. At Woodbourne, stated Kilham, “the apartments were immediately seized upon by teachers, dentists, and so on, and the houses similarly.” The Boston elevated “mechanics and street-car workers never got their houses.” About a decade later this area was predominantly upper-middle class. Kilham & later partner, William Roger Greeley, blamed the failure of reform housing (as did many others) on land and building costs for new construction. Critic Lewis Mumford adopted a similar position, although coming to a different conclusion, during the early years of the Depression. Rejecting the ideas of those who envisioned factory-made prefabricated housing as a panacea, he stated that to “Modernize the dwelling house and create adequate quarters for our badly housed population,” the government must be involved. (Lewis Mumford, “Mass-Production and the Modern House,” Architectural Record 67, no. 7 (February 1930: 116).
Florence Street, renamed Southbourne, bisected the lower or southernmost parcel from the Minot property. George H. Williams and Charles F. Curtis bought the site in 1871 for $25,000. The land then included a house and some outbuildings, a stream and a pond. Thomas Weld who left it to Elizabeth Bradstreet, possibly his daughter, had originally owned it. In May 1873, the Boston North End Mission became the new owner of the property. The estate was bought to provide a summer residence for children and a year-round house for women in need.
The Boston North End Mission was established in June 1865 as the Hanover Street Home Mission Society to service the poor immigrants of Boston’s North End. In 1870 it was reincorporated as the Boston North End Mission. They purchased a former dance hall at 201 North Street and renovated it as a school and shelter (an airshaft for the Callahan Tunnel sits on the old site today). The Mission was a Protestant religious society, with most of its missionaries from Baptist and Methodist sects. Its purpose was to be a temporary refuge for fallen women (as stated in the Annual Reports), providing them with a room, education and training until employment could be found. One of the leaders of the Mission was Eben Tourje, the founder and Director of the New England Conservatory of Music. He became the Superintendent of the Sunday school in 1867, and served as President for a term. The North Street building held an industrial school, which taught young women and girls to sew and to make their own clothes in preparation for being a seamstress. It also held religious services seven times a week, which tried to include the sailors from the docks. Temperance meetings were held every Saturday.
The Trustees of the Mission bought the land at Woodbourne for the same reason as the Minot’s — to escape the crowded city for open land. The Curtis/Williams Estate was bought as a summer home for inner-city children and as a year-round home for some of the women to remove them from the temptation of their former lives. The trustees named it the Mt. Hope Home. It was a substantial brick structure built before the Civil War. The property originally had a large pond at the corner, but it was filled in by 1914, perhaps in response to the 1909 cholera epidemic.
By 1874, 86 women lived at this estate, rotating through every six months. The Mission encouraged daily church services and scripture readings. A laundry was established next to the house where girls and women took in washing and ironing from the surrounding area; the laundry generated a small income. The seamstress school also continued here in the summer. It cost $4,765 to operate the home. Due to financial strain, in 1877, the Mt. Hope Home was closed for women and remained open only as a summer camp for children. This camp was described in the 1876 Annual Report: “Their pale little faces seen in such numbers in the neighborhood of the Mission — often peering in at its doors — have long appealed to the sympathies of those who labor here.” Friends of the Mission conceived of the plan of opening a summer home, to give the children of the poor a glimpse of God’s beautiful world, a respite from noise and strife, and a few weeks of pure air, good food, and tender treatment. A large and well-ventilated building on the Mt. Hope Home estate with a cottage attached was fitted up for them, with 59 roughly made bedsteads in two large chambers. As many as 104 children a season spent their summers there, staying for two weeks.
In August 1923, John Goodway bought the Mt. Hope Home property and subdivided the property into house lots with a road through the middle, named Goodway. He retained the original building for himself and an acre of land (now #59) Southbourne Road and #30, #34, and #38 Goodway Road. He built a number of houses as well as selling off lots. He built #35 Southbourne Road as a Boarding House for Infants, probably for the continuation of the North End Mission’s work. Goodway’s house and land were sold to John Gately in 1963. The old house either burned or was razed for five single-family houses and one duplex on the site in 1963-64 by Gately.
World War I brought a halt to any residential building in the entire Woodbourne district. There were some houses built in 1916 and a few a garages before 1922. Both the BDHC and individual developers began anew in 1922. Kilham & Hopkins were no longer involved with the BDHC and it appears that this project went the way of most others in New England — reform housing was no longer a big priority. The BDHC became strictly a real estate developer. They constructed seven houses in 1922, nine houses in 1923, four in 1924, six in 1925 and one in the years 1926, 1927 and 1937. The architects they used were Mulhall & Holmes, Woodbury & Stuart and James G. Hutchinson. By 1929, the company sold off large blocks to two developers — Martin J. Herbert and James C. Martin. Herbert put in a street and named it after himself. He bought land not included in the NR district as well as a parcel on Herbertson Road and Eldridge Road. It appears that Herbert built the first houses in this area with built-in garages. Albion Brodin, a local architect, moved to 30 Bourne by 1931 from 10 Hadwin Place in Roslindale. Godway resided at 15 Southbourne. The northern parcel continued to be developed by property owners and small developers.
James C. Martin, an architect from the office of Kilham & Hopkins, bought many of the 77 lots taken from the BDHC by the City of Boston in back taxes in 1934. Martin began by converting the clubhouse on Bourne for his own uses to a one-family and built three more houses by 1937. He designed and constructed 12 more houses on Northbourne and Wachusett by 1942, with an additional one in 1955. (The lots also included land on Eastland, Wayburn, and Woodbourne Road, not included in the NR District.) He also purchased a bit of land designed by Pope as part of the common green for the Southbourne houses. He altered the property lines and built a house on the service drive at #24 Southbourne Road in 1937.
Over the years, Southbourne, Bournedale, Northbourne and Bourne have been widened. The Stony Brook was converted in 1934. The City of Boston took the land from the BDHC and an individual between Eldridge and Northbourne for the Edwin P. Seaver School at #35 Eldridge in 1929-30. The city leveled the parcel and built a huge concrete retaining wall in the rear. John F. Cullen designed the present Colonial/Georgian Revival building in 1930; the side wings added in 1931. Seaver had been the headmaster at English High School in 1874 before becoming Superintendent of Schools in Boston from 1880 to 1904. This building was sold by the City and turned into condominiums in 1983 by the Finch/Abbey Group.
While there have been a few additions and intrusions since 1945, the Woodbourne area with its model houses and design along with the harmonious residences remains a testimony to the housing styles, trends and development practices of the early twentieth century. Much of the early picturesque curvilinear designs of Pope remain, respecting the topography and landscape. Many of the trees of the nineteenth century still grace the streets and front lawns. The core of the area contains the brick housing, set back and on the rise, the stucco cottages on the oval island are surrounded by compatible houses, which match the scale, detail, set back and feel of this early period. Many of the properties now have garages, added or built on, reflecting the shift from streetcar suburb to automobile suburb. They represent the ways suburbanization developed in Boston.
The Woodbourne National Register District is a residential district located in the northeast section of the Jamaica Plain area of the City of Boston. It encompasses Walk Hill Street, Bourne Street, Florian Street, Wachusett Street and Goodway Road. This 30-acre parcel was originally several separate mid-nineteenth-century estates; it is now a cohesive and harmonious enclave of buildings primarily from the first four decades of the twentieth century. Woodbourne represents several important developments of early- twentieth-century housing — the transformation of country estates to housing, the culmination of Boston’s long experiment with reform/model housing, the rise of streetcar suburbs and the early influence of the automobile. This district is an almost intact example of the development of middle-class housing of New England in the first decades of the twentieth century. The district was developed in three distinct patterns, but the result is a cohesive neighborhood with a range of housing styles nearly intact from the early twentieth century.
The district contains 424 resources, none previously listed on the National Register: 332 contributing buildings, 46 contributing structures, and five contributing objects. There are 41 non-contributing buildings, mostly built outside the area of significance. The contributing buildings primarily consist of one-family to multi-family residences from the streetcar suburb and garden city suburb traditions. These buildings represent a range of suburban house forms — the suburban villas, homestead temple/end house, bungalow, four square and cape. Other types include Shingle Style, Queen Anne, Craftsman single-family, two-family houses, Colonial Revival residences, in many variations, duplexes and a range of Arts & Crafts model housing. The contributing outbuildings are primarily detached garages located to the sides and rear. They represent the evolution of this building type in early suburbs. Contributing non-residential resources include two schools (one is now a condominium; one is an administration site), walls and sidewalk cobbling.
The overall design of Woodbourne is one of modest single-and multi-family houses with uniform setbacks and a design that follows the topography. The highest elevations are at the top of Bourndale Street where the original nineteenth-century houses were located and a section of Northbourne Road. The southern side of Walk Hill Street faces St. Andrew’s Church and the fence along a section of the 1848 picturesque Forest Hills Cemetery. Proceeding down Bourne and Wachusett, the two outermost streets in the district, the land slopes down towards Hyde Park Avenue. Wachusett has small curves at either end, while Bourne Street is curvilinear all the way down. Patten Street also begins on a high slope near Wachusett and rolls down the hill to Bourne. Rodman and Eldridge have a similar profile. Northbourne Street and Bournedale both have higher elevations in the middle of the street and slope down at either end. Many of the houses on the north side of Northbourne are built on the hill with garages at street level, built into the hill. The north side of Southbourne is also on a ridge; the houses are built on a rise above the level of the street. The Florian island and the lower part of Wachusett are on the flats. Because of the topography, the street design is curvilinear and varied. There are no grid patterns; each block has its own unique shape and configuration. Outside the original building design of the Boston Dwelling House Company’s (BDHC) houses, the majority of the house lots are similar, but the placement on the lot is somewhat varied due to the differences in elevation.
The northern section of the district lies between two older streets, Walk Hill Street and Hyde Park Avenue and what is now Northbourne Road. The development took place beginning in 1898 when the open land around the Olney estate was sold and subdivided. Lots were laid out and streets put in by 1905. The streets were primarily curvilinear, following the varying elevations.
The middle or core section’s landscape and architectural design are the result of BDHC original plans from 1911-1913. This section was originally the Minot family compound that was built as a model housing development. The designer, Robert Anderson Pope, respected the topography and existing landscaping. The Garden City movement and the importance of open space and gardens also influenced him, as reflected in the design of curvilinear street patterns and different shaped blocks and picturesque groupings. He retained as many mature trees as possible. Pope’s original design can still be seen in three complexes on Southbourne with the open parks and paths in front, the Florian island cottage complex and the outline of Northbourne (the lozenge-shaped and octagonal dividers were never built). Walls of stone stand behind the houses on Northbourne.
The smaller southern section was laid out by one developer, John Goodway, on the parcel that had been the property of the North End Mission. The older nineteenth-century house was destroyed in the 1960s and modern residences put in. Goodway built a few houses himself and sold off the rest of the lots. This section is a more grid-like plan, but is less noticeable because of the changes in elevation and residual landscape elements of the nineteenth century; like the BHDC section, large pines and walls remain scattered on Southbourne and Goodway.
Aspects of the nineteenth-century estates still remain along Southbourne and Goodway Streets. Large pine trees of the Minot estate and the Mt. Hope Home are scattered throughout this section, as are several large oaks. Large pines are located throughout the brick Boston Dwelling House complexes on Southbourne and between #43 and #51 Soutbourne Road. They are also visible at #14, #22, and #26 Goodway Road. Coupled with stone walls and outcroppings and rear retaining walls, some of this area conveys the sylvan nature of the original Minot/Olney estates. There is cobbling at the edge of the sidewalk along sections of Bourne Street.
The majority of the housing resources of the Woodbourne Historic District are representative of modest middle-class suburban development of the early decades of the twentieth century. The forms included homestead temple, bungalow and cape as well as the period revivals. The styles include Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Craftsman, Art & Crafts, Colonial Revival and Dutch Colonial. There is also single-family, two-family and multi-family garden city suburban housing.
The earliest contributing house in the district is #71 Walk Hill Street (1896). This Queen Anne style house has a two-story pitch roof with paired brackets and bays on the front and side, distinguished by a two-and-one-half-story conical roofed corner and a projecting portico with columns. The next group of houses was constructed between 1898 and 1899. They include #162 Wachusett Street (1898), #6-8 Rodman Street (1889), #47 and #55 Patten Street (1899); #162 Wachusett is a two-and-one-half story suburban Queen Anne style house with a front porch; #47 Patten is a two-and-one-half-story structure with a Palladian window in the front gambrel gable. The projecting front porch has two sets of paired half columns; #55 Patten is a two-and-one-half-story house covered in shingles with a projecting entrance portico. The most distinguishing feature is a balustraded recessed curved arch in the gable with a balustrade across it in the gable.
Examples of the suburban Shingle Style are primarily found in the northern section. They include #15 Bourne Street (1909), reminiscent of #47 Patten, with its intersecting overhanging gambrel roof and grouped half column porch. It has eyebrow windows in the gables. A later variation of the Shingle Style are the houses at #186-188 Wachusett Street (1911) and at #16, #28 and #34 Rodman Street (1905) with large gambrel secondary mass dormers on the front roof slopes.
A common house type in Woodbourne is the Homestead suburban temple house, or end house, that became popular in the nineteenth century and allowed the development of suburban subdivisions on small rectangular lots. The main body of the house was reoriented and the roof ridge is perpendicular to the front wall showing the narrow gable end to the street. These could vary from modest one-story examples to two story versions. They were clothed in a variety of styles. The internal layout was often the side-hall plan, with an entry in the side bay. This house type reached its apex in the years preceding World War I.
Examples of this form include the one-and-one-half story gambrel roofed Dutch Colonial style end houses with full length front porches at #15 and #17 Rodman Street (1911); #35 Southbourne Road (1914); and #189, #193 (1911), #197 (1925), #201 (1911), #205 (1912) Wachusett Street.
The two-family house with its stacked apartments is another variation on the Homestead temple house. They include hipped roofed Craftsman structures, and gable and gambrel-fronted houses with Queen Anne and Colonial Revival details. Common secondary masses include bay windows and/or porches. Examples of this type found are the very articulated at #165 Wachusett Street (1914), to moderately detailed ones at #177 (1906), and #181 (1910) Wachusett Street. Other examples can be seen at #55 (1913), #61 (1931), and #63 (1907) Walk Hill Street. Two unusual brick buildings of this type stand at #32 and #40Eldridge (c.1925).
Another popular house form was the four square which emerged at the turn-of-the-century. The house is a cube-shaped structure with a hipped or pyramidal roof and dormers. Often, there is a one-story porch across the front. This form developed as a reaction against the clutter and excesses of the Victorian period. Both the interior and exterior is simple and restrained. Four square examples include #42 (1925), and #43 (1922), Patten Street. The Craftsman style can be found at #87 Walk Hill Street (1925), #30 Bourne (1930), #42 Eldridge Street (1929), and #18 Goodway Road (1927).
By far, the most common style in the Woodbourne district is the Colonial Revival. It appears in a variety of forms and interpretations. The Colonial Revival style coincided with a period of growing self-consciousness and self-awareness of the professional and upper middle class elites and was set against massive changes brought on by urbanization, industrialization and immigration. Professional and upper class Americans sought to bring to life idealized colonial attributes that would reaffirm their traditional role and would help them in their efforts to redirect American society. The elite’s goal was to create an “ideal” of a higher community, to create a sense of loyalty to an abstract community ideal above personal greed. The movement was characterized by a dual nature — its adherents were believers in social progress and advance as well as advocates of a nostalgic and sentimental vision of the pre-industrial era.
The Colonial Revival style began in the 1880’s and reached its peak in the period between 1890 and World War I. The Centennial in Philadelphia focused the nation’s attention on its heritage. As the early decades of the twentieth century progressed, the style spread to encompass suburban housing, apartment buildings, and even gas stations and settlement houses. For the client, the colonial revival was the physical representation of the values and lifestyle sought during this period. For the architect, the colonial revival was one answer in the search of a national style and an alternative to the Late Victorian aesthetic of overindulgence. The Colonial Revival style was rooted in the past with traditional values of nationalism, harmony, refinement, and restraint. On the practical level, buildings in the colonial revival were cheap and economical to build, strengthening its appeal to a broader, less self-conscious audience.
The Colonial Revival as built at Woodbourne represents the suburban, practical aspect of the style, which is also found throughout the Northeast, and appears in pattern books and mail order catalogues.
The Colonial Revival and Dutch Colonial appears in Woodbourne in a host of variations which include the center and side-entrance gable block; the center-entrance gambrel block; and the gable-fronted end house and gambrel-fronted end house forms and four squares.
The gable block center entrance as seen at #40 Bourne (1927); #6 (1923), #10 (1923), and #41 Bournedale Road (1926); #29 Goodway Road (1927); #18 Northbourne (1922); and #236 (1941), #238 (1941); #251 (1926); #199 Wachusett Street. Many have pedimented porticos and sun porches. Gable block houses with off-center facade gables are located at #1 Goodway Road (1926). Structures at #25 Bourne Street (1925), #23 Bournedale Road (1937), #30 Northbourne Road (1937), and #271 (1926) and #285 (1937) Wachusett Street are examples of side passage entrance gable block residences. A representative of the gambrel-block central entrance can be found at #51 Southbourne Road (1926); a similar grouping of this variation is lined up at #32 (1926), #27 (1922), #33 (1924), #36 (1926), and #37 (1926), Bournedale Road.
The district’s two rare triple-deckers display Colonial Revival ornament and represent two typical Boston types; #235 Wachusett moved from Hyde Park Avenue is a gabled-roofed structure with the characteristic projecting bay and open porch features. There are dentils around the cornice. The other, at #211 Wachusett (1923) has a flat roof with brackets, and a wide entablature. There is also a three-story side-bay and balustraded porch on all three floors.
Another two-family solution was the side-by-side house, or duplex. Examples can be found at #18-20 Northbourne Road and #239-241 Wachusett (both 1939) and are sheathed in Colonial Revival detailing.
There are two distinctive Tudor Revival house types in Woodbourne. The Tudor Revival was popular during the early decades of the twentieth-century, especially in suburban developments. It offered a picturesque, asymmetrical element to the houses and the streetscape.
The Woodbourne example is an unusual house type, described as a gable-fronted saltbox, has the signature roof profile with one slope significantly longer than the other. It originated in the Colonial-era when lean-to additions were made to the rear of gable-block houses. Each has side-passage entries with gabled pediment at the doorway, often with one or two square oriels on the facade and a gable dormer on the side slope. All the examples have Colonial Revival detail. These first appeared during the second phase of BDHC development beginning in 1922, #14 (1922), #24 (1923), #26 (1923), #30 (1922), #49(c. 1923) Bourndale Road; #10 (1922), #33 (1924) Southbourne Road; #55 (1922), #59 (1922), #60 (1924), and #63 (c.1923) Bourne Street.
Another Tudor Revival house type in Woodbourne was designed by local architect Albin Brodin for private owners. These houses are actually gable block-center or side-hall entrance in form with asymmetrical facade gables and the high pitch roof profile, characteristic of this style. They are located at #42 (1933) and #46 (1933) Bourne Street; #50 (1931) Northbourne Road; #263 (1932) Wachusett Street.
The other housing types scattered throughout the district include the bungalow, cottage and cape. The bungalow, similar to the four square house type, was connected with the home economics movement and the efficiency movement. The word bungalow is derived from the Hindustani word “Bangla” used to describe low houses with a verandah used by the British colonists in the nineteenth century. The American bungalow is a one-story structure with a broad covered porch created by the extension of the roofline and exposed rafter ends. A true bungalow stands at #259 Wachusett Street (1924), and at #20 Bourne Street (1930). Not many of this type were constructed, but bungaloid buildings (houses with bungalow features more than a single story) add to the variety in the district. The cape style, a small, three bay, one-story house appeared in New England in the 1600s. It became popular in the early twentieth century because of its modest size, ease of caring and simple, efficient plan. Capes are located at #19 Bournedale Road (1937); #43 (1937), and #47 Northbourne Road (1934). This style was very popular in this area, but the majority of those built lie outside the designated district. One-story cottages are found at random. Nestled into the hill amidst the pine trees stands #22 Goodway (1923).
Many of the Woodbourne houses have single or two-car freestanding garages from the 1920s and 1930s reflecting the shift from streetcar transportation to automobile culture. The first houses built with garages were #22 (1927) and #26 Eldridge (1928). Several houses have an attached garage such as #238 Wachusett (1941).
The most unique housing of the district are the buildings designed by Kilham & Hopkins and Charles Collens for the BDHC in 1911-1912. These range from one-family, duplex and multi-family dwellings designed together with the plan of the development. Robert Anderson Pope was the designer.
The Boston Dwelling House Company bought the Minot estate in 1911, razed the old houses on Northbourne and reconfigured the landscape for model housing. Fill from excavating the foundation of the apartment buildings (demolished) on Hyde Park Avenue was used. Southbourne, Northbourne, Florian (then Florence), Bournedale (then Westbourne Terrace), and the lower part of Wachusett (then Westbourne Road) were laid out, taking into account the contours of the hills and the existing trees. The houses were constructed to fit into the plan by Pope and to convey a sense of garden city community living. The first phase of construction took place between 1911 and 1914.
Florian Island, a landscaped oval developed with 10 stucco-parged, hollow-tile single-family two-story cottages, is part of the original BDHC construction. This cluster contains six single-family houses facing a central walkway with four houses on the ends, #288, #296 and #302 Wachusett, #90, #94, #96, #98 Florian Street and #15 and #21 Southbourne (1912). The pathway down the middle evokes an English village lane. Several houses have jerkin-head roofs with half-timbering. The others have gambrel roofs with dormers and inset porches and attached trellises. All the houses within this pod share the following common features: green slate roofs, copper flashing and dormers on either side or on the front. Each cottage had a living room, dining room and kitchen on the first floor, with four bedrooms upstairs. The rooms’ dimensions were a cozy 11 feet by 11 feet; 10 feet by 11 feet; and 13 feet by 15 feet.
Across the street and up the hill stand the two terraced housing clusters, also part of the original BDHC plan, #30 to #76 Southbourne (1912). These tapestry brick houses, also of hollow-tile construction, frame a geometric open space. These developments are raised above the sidewalk and nestled in a designed wooded landscape. Each grouping has a pair of single-family houses at the edges, a pair of two-family houses and at the point a U-shaped path, a six-family attached unit facing a U-shaped park-like area with paths. All reflect Arts & Crafts (English vernacular) design and correspond to the snugness and compactness of the Florian Island cottages. The single-family houses are similar in form to the Florian Island houses, but are sheathed in brick. The duplexes have pitch roofs with pent roof dormers across the facade and an enclosed porch with a flat arch entrance. Some entrances have been closed in. The six-family houses are U-shaped in plan. They are one-and-a- half stories with pent roof dormers with jerkinheads and three gables. Each unit has an enclosed porch that opens onto the living room. The saltbox profiles are reminiscent of C.F.A. Voysey’s home, the Orchard (1900-1901) and a pair of Voyseysque cottages at Letchworth Garden City (1905) by M. H. Bailie Scott.
While each complex contains three distinct building types, each blends with the others in materials, detail and scale. In the original design the land adjacent to the multi-family buildings was intended for use as playgrounds. These are now used for parking. One side section was sold to James C. Martin, who constructed a residence on the site, #24 Southbourne.
Adjacent to the Southbourne complexes stands yet another component of the original BDHC development. Similar in plan and scale, the complex at #78-84 Southbourne was designed and developed by Charles Collens of Allen & Collens. Designed in a “U”-shape plan, these are more diminutive than the brick complexes. A pair of stucco singly-family cottages stands towards the street with a double stucco-parged house recessed at the center facing a green open space. Each unit has a living room with a fireplace and a kitchen downstairs with two bedrooms and a bath upstairs nestled under a green slate roof.
The Woodbourne Clubhouse at #84 Bourne Street (1914) was constructed in order to reinforce the concept of communal living and provide recreational amenities (which probably helped put this development out of reach for the intended audience). It was a one-story bungalow lodge with fieldstone foundation and a fieldstone end wall chimney. In 1934, James C. Martin purchased the property and remodeled it, adding a colonial portico. Four houses were erected over the tennis courts.
The district has gone through minor changes since its period of significance. There have been major alterations to a small number of historic buildings, 14, making them noncontributing; the rest have undergone minor changes such as window or door modifications and porch enclosures. The single-family buildings that were constructed after 1945 are compatible in scale, materials, size and setbacks.
The contributing community buildings of the Woodbourne district are two schools and a church. In 1899, The City of Boston built the Francis Parkman School at #25 Walk Hill Street (1899, Perkins; addition 1904). Located on a rise surrounded by a wall, the original Classical Revival school building was a rectangular red brick edifice with a projecting portico. The most distinctive characteristic is the terra cotta trim on the stringcourse, windows and cornice. The first story windows have flared lintels and the second story ones are round arched. The rectangular addition towards the north is also of red brick with terra cotta trim at the cornice.
The Edwin P. Seaver School, at #35 Eldridge Road (1930) is a Colonial Revival structure from the 1930s with minimal detailing. The original school was built in 1924 by Blackall, Clapp & Whittemore and was remodeled or rebuilt in 1930. It is an H-shaped building that was cut into the hill. The entrance has a large entablature with dentils and medallion designs. The half columns are fluted. A leaded fanlight in a glass transom highlights the doorway. There are small modillions around the eaves. Although it has been changed into condominiums, it still retains its educational appearance.
The oldest house in the district is #56 Patten Street, built in the mid-nineteenth century and owned by Richard Olney from 1864 to 1882. The Olney House originally faced Walk Hill Street and its property line extended down to Hyde Park Avenue. It is a non-contributing resource to the district, due to its early date and the major alterations completed in 1921. Due to the twentieth-century application of stucco and half-timbering, an addition, and a change in orientation, it has lost its original integrity. Local resident Harold Peters bought it in 1914.
The most dominant non-contributing resource is the Upham Memorial Church at #156-158 Wachusett Street (1899, Hutchinson; additions, 1920 & 1925). The Upham Memorial Church was originally a Medieval Revival edifice with a stucco-and half-timbered gable roof and square tower. The tower and the main body each had an entrance ornamented with a hood with vergboards. It was bought by the Knights of Columbus, Shawmut Chapter, in 1977 and was subsequently stripped of the high tower and covered in blue aluminum siding.
Another non-contributing community structure is the low horizontal St. Andrew’s Community Building at #43 Walk Hill Street (1923). A portable, prefabricated building by Brooks- Skinner, it stands on a rise surrounded by a wall and a large puddingstone outcropping facing Patten Street. St. Andrews the Apostle Church lies across the street. The parish was created out of the St. Thomas Parish in 1918; the church structure was built in 1921, designed by Richard Shaw and lies right outside the district.
Post-1945 has occurred primarily in the southern section along Goodway Road and the lower section of Bourne Street. The houses are of the same scale and setbacks as the contributing properties.
Walter Harrington Kilham (1868-1948) was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, the son of a banker. He graduated in 1889 from the pioneer architectural course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After working for several prominent firms in Boston, he won the Rotch traveling scholarship, which allowed him to study independently through Europe from 1893- 1895. He returned to the U.S. and began work for Winslow & Wetherell and in 1898, struck out on his own with fellow designer James Cleveland Hopkins. The firm was established in 1901, with the first large apartment project, Technology Chambers in Boston.
James Cleveland Hopkins (1873-1938) was the son of a Boston leather merchant. He grew up in Jamaica Plain near Centre Street and the Jamaica Pond. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1896, he went to work at the firm of Winslow & Wetherell. He rose to the status of supervisor before forming a partnership with Kilham. He married a socialite in 1908 and moved to the pastoral town of Dover. Hopkins was not as involved in the public arena as Kilham (or later partner William Roger Greeley), but he did visit England every year, influencing his taste for half-timbered residences and keeping him abreast of the garden-city movement.
Kilham lived in suburban Brookline and served on the committee that in 1914 became the local planning board under the leadership of Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. He was also a member of Robert S. Peabody’s circle, which met often to discuss improvement schemes for the City of Boston. In 1906, these ideas were collected for publication by the Boston Society of Architects as the, Report on Municipal Improvements, and Kilham joined Peabody’s “flying column of members” which promoted these ideas through lectures and lantern slide talks to the city’s clubs and societies. Kilham was the author of Boston After Bullfinch. Among Kilham’s special concern was the “three-decker evil, which has ruined so many suburbs of Boston.” He championed the Massachusetts zoning law, which permitted local governments to outlaw this building type. (His Brookline adopted this statute). He designed brick two-family houses on Highland Road in Brookline to show an alternative to the wooden triple-decker.
By 1911, the firm of Kilham & Hopkins began to define their own ideas about affordable housing, which would serve the users and community aesthetics. They compiled a scrapbook of published housing projects at the same time they began to design Forest Hills Cottage, later known as Woodbourne; their first self-contained suburban housing development built on garden-city principles.
Kilham & Hopkins went on to design many other model developments as well as single-family houses, schools, and town halls. They designed, with Philip Horton Smith, a group of low-rent brick cottages in Salem after a fire in 1914. The Salem Rebuilding Trust had bought land to erect some “low cost cottages for workmen with the idea of getting them to see the advantages of living away from congested sections.” They next designed housing and a community building for the Mt. Hope Finishing Company in North Dighton, Mass. The Massachusetts Housing Commission (MHC) sponsored the next major housing project, a state agency established to “assist mechanics, laborers, and others to acquire homesteads or small houses and plots of ground in suburbs.” MHC hired Kilham & Hopkins to design houses for a plan drawn up by Arthur Comey. Lowell, Mass. was chosen as the site for this experiment. Although 50 houses had been planned, only 12 were built starting in 1917. The MHC lasted only six years before being absorbed into the state’s planning agency. World War I provided the last opportunity for large-scale housing projects. The federal government, in order to maintain the necessary armaments for war, needed to build communities to house war workers. One agency responsible for the shipyard workers was the Emergency Fleet Corporation. It hired Kilham & Hopkins to construct the community at Atlantic Heights, Portsmouth, Maine. The firm’s experience at Woodbourne and subsequent jobs stood them in good stead, as speed was the essence in this period.
Herbert Croly observed that Kilham & Hopkins were not innovators, but added to the region’s stock of well-built traditional buildings and to reform housing. They did however make a substantial response to the housing and planning issues of the early twentieth century. Their synthesis of the New England village tradition and the picturesque suburban movement with the garden-city philosophy contributed to the larger efforts of the emerging regional planning movement.
Charles Collens (c. 1873-1956) designed the small stucco single-family houses and duplex at the edge of the development as well as the Clubhouse at 84 Bourne Street. Charles Collens apprenticed with Peabody & Stearns before establishing the firm of Allen & Collens in 1904 at 6 Beacon Street Boston, with Francis R. Allen (1865-1931). The firm is best known for their institutional projects. Its commissions included the Women’s Hospital NYC (1904); Williams College Infirmary (1912); Second Church, Newton, Mass. (1917); Union Theological Seminary, NYC (1909); City Hall, Newton, Mass. (1933); Riverside Church, NYC, (1930); the Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum, NYC (1934-38); and buildings on the campuses of Middlebury, Vt.; Andover Theological Seminary, and Vassar College, NY. The complex at Woodbourne is a rare and early domestic design for Charles Collens.
Peters & Rice, architect of #162 Wachusett consisted of William York Peters (1858-1938) and Arthur Wallace Rice. Peters was related to Andrew J. Peters and designed his and his wife’s headstone at Forest Hills Cemetery. Peters graduated from Harvard College in 1881, apprenticed at Strugis & Brigham in Boston before going to Paris in 1883. In Paris, he studied at the atelier of Julian Gaudet, never attending the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Peters returned to Boston and opened his own practice before joining with Rice in 1898. Peters withdrew from active practice in 1903 due to ill health.
James C. Martin was a draftsman and designer in the Kilham & Hopkins firm in the early twentieth century. He retained an active interest in this area and bought land and designed over fifteen houses from 1935-1941. He converted the old clubhouse into his private residence in 1934.
Frederick H. Gowing was a local architect who lived at 74 Monmouth Street in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1899. His office was located on Tremont Street in Boston. He began as a builder and began to design houses by 1913. He published a pattern book with his designs in 1920, entitled Building Plans for Modern Houses. His houses appear in a number of surrounding towns and cities near Boston.
Albin F. Brodin was listed as a draftsman in 1925, living in Roslindale, Massachusetts. By 1931 he resided at #31 Bourne and designed many houses in the area. Mulhall & Holmes had an office at Copley Square in Boston. The firm, J. Edward Holmes and William J. Mulhall, designed the Hugh O’Brian School in Boston as well as the Dorchester District Court on Washington Street, Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Daniel Howard Woodbury and George B. Stuart established their firm in 1916; the partnership lasted until 1936. By 1926, they labeled themselves as church architects. The firm designed the Methodist Church in Clinton, Mass. in 1926-27. Each had a practice before their partnership. Woodbury designed a house for the Harriman Brothers in Annisquam, Mass. in 1896; the Town Hall in Wrentham, Mass., and the Fiske Memorial Library, both c. 1896; a three-family brick house at 151 Highland, Roxbury, Mass., in 1900 and Valencia Chambers, 164 Strathmore Road, Brighton, Mass. in 1913. Stuart lived at 677 Wachusett for a time. Murdock Boyle designed several apartment blocks on Beacon Street in Brookline as well as a house at 53 Bay State Road in Boston for Frederick Johnson. The firm of Dow, Harlow & Kimball lasted from 1921-1929 with partners Albert H. Dow, Hamilton Harlow and Kenneth C. Kimball. Joseph Selwyn was a local architect/builder who also designed houses on Cushing Road and Somerset Road in Brookline in 1941 and 1942.
Bergeron, Ralph. “Housing the Middle Class Man, ” Technical World 14, no. 2, April 1913
Boston Dwelling House Company. Woodbourne: A Real Estate Development of the Boston Dwelling House Company. Boston: Walton Advertising and Printing Co., n.d.
___________. Circular. Boston (May 1912)
Boston American. “Scientific Model House Community,” December 19,1911
Boston Herald. Articles (April 24, 1899; May 8, 1904; April 18, 1913; July 3, 6, 1913)
Boston North End Mission. Annual Reports 1877 - 1890.
Candee, Richard and Greer Hardwicke. “Early Twentieth Century Reform Housing by Kilham & Hopkins Architects of Boston,” Winterthur Portfolio, Spring 1987, no. 1, vol. 22.
Channing, K.M. Minot Family Letters, 1773 -1871. Sherborn, Mass., 1957.
City of Boston. Inspectional Services Department. Building permits.
Croly, Herbert. “The Work of Kilham & Hopkins, Architects of Boston, Mass.” Architectural Record 31, no. 2 (Feb. 1912).
Drake, Francis S. The Town of Roxbury. Boston: Alfred Mudge and Son, 1878.
Eggat, Gerald. Richard Olney, Evolution of a Statesman. 1847.
A Genealogical Record of the Minot Family in America and New England. Boston, 1897.
Heath, Richard. “Summer House to Garden Suburb: A History of Woodbourne in the Forest Hills Section of Jamaica Plain,” Boston, 1997.
Kilham, Walter H. Autobiographical Sketch in the Third Book of the Class of Eighty-Nine. Boston, 1915 (M.I.T.)
____. “Group Housing,” Our Boston 2, no. 5 (April 1927)
____. “Personal Reminiscences,” 1937. Typewritten mss. In two vols. At the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Jamaica Plain Historical Society note: Annie Finnegan informs us that the description listed for #55 Patten Street is actually for #63 Patten Street. The date of construction for the house is 1902.