Five Eliot Street

5 Eliot St. Courtesy of Mark Bulger.

5 Eliot St. Courtesy of Mark Bulger.

A major source of information on the older houses of Jamaica Plain is the 1982 Survey & Planning Grant: Inventory Forms, compiled by the Boston Landmark Commission. Street by street this document provides evaluations of the homes by type, description, condition, architectural, and historical significance. In a project of such scope the researchers of necessity provide only a minimum of information on past owners of the houses. Sometimes further investigation can shed interesting light on the occupants. One of the houses described is 5 Eliot St. the last house on the left before the Monument, a "stick style" frame house of two stories. The first two owners of the house identified were Joseph Hankey and Anthony Hankey. Joseph Hankey, a confectioner, purchased the property from Stephen M. Weld in 1863. The survey report postulated that the current house was built sometime prior to 1874.

Until the 1920's, according to a long time Jamaica Plain resident, the house faced Centre Street. The 1874 Boston City Directory suggests that the entrance to the confectioners shop was on Centre St. and the residential entrance on Eliot. The property was sold in 1873 to Anthony Hankey, although his brother Joseph evidently continued to live there until his death in 1880. Joseph's wife, Abby Simonds Hankey, a Lexington native, assisted him in the confectionery business until her death in 1878. Maud Howe Elliott once described the excursions of a group that she belonged to in childhood.

"The 'Rovers of Boston,' the earliest association I ever joined, were divided in their views on the question. Where can the weekly five-cent allowance best be spent?" --- In the spring, when the weather was warm, the Rovers grew adventurous and hiked out to Mrs. Hankey's shop in Jamaica Plain, in search of the cocoanut cakes that made her name famous to many generations of girls and boys."

The Hankey's were successful examples of Jamaica Plain's once thriving German community. There were three of them, Joseph, born 1817, John, born 1822, and Anthony, born 1824. As children they emigrated from their birthplace of Kutzenhausen, in the French Department du Bas Rhin, Alsace. Although French, their native region had strong ties on both sides of the Rhine, and the Hankey's in this country were all married in Holy Trinity Church on Harrison Avenue, the German Church, in the City of Boston.

In 1848 Anthony Hankey, in partnership with Francis Stiles, Jr. and H.C. Bishop purchased property in the Village of Rochdale, Massachusetts where they established a manufactory of machine knives. His activities in manufacturing led him into invention. Patents for his devices, which ranged from an "Improved Machine for Grinding Knives," Patent No. 17,952, dated August 4, 1857, to a mechanical "Street Sweeper," Patent No. 553,751, dated March 4, 1895. By 1881 the firm of A. Hankey & Co. could boast in Hurd's 1889 History of Worcester County that they were the "largest and most complete shop in the world for the exclusive manufacture of machine knives." Hurd also claims that the first knives that were used on a planning machine in this country were forged by hand by Mr. Hankey in Boston, and also that the first dies for cutting out paper collars were made at his shop in Rochdale. In 1881 a branch plant was established in Philadelphia. Following Anthony Hankey's death in 1899 the business was carried on by other family members until 1922.

By Henry Scannell


  • Boston Herald, Feb. 10, 1880, p. 2, death notice of Joseph Hankey
  • Boston Landmarks Commission, Boston Redevelopment Authority, 1982 Survey and Planning Chart, Part II - Jamaica Plain Inventory Forms
  • Deaths in Boston, Reg. no. 3723, July 10, 1878, death record of Abby HankeyElliott, Maud Howe, "The Old Rosewood Desk," in Days and Ways of Old Boston, Boston: R.H. Stearns & Co., 1915, 5th ed., 1972, pp. 61-76.
  • Hurd, D. Hamilton, History of Worcester County, Massachusetts, Vol. 1, Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1889, p. 722
  • Jamaica Plain News, June 24, 1889, p. 2, obituary of Anthony Hankey
  • Strasbourg Archives Departmentale, Documents no. 4E253(2): 1817, No. 43; 1822, No. 15; 1824, No. 36.U.S. Patent office. Commissioner's Reports.
  • Letterhead from author's personal files.

Reprinted from From the Archives, Fall 1989, a newsletter once published by the Archive Committee of the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. Copyright © 1989-2003 Jamaica Plain Historical Society.