Jamaica Pond Historic Photographs Lecture by Nancy Graves Cabot

Excerpts from an illustrated lecture given to the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club at the Loring-Greenough House on December 2, 1952

Nancy Graves Cabot (Mrs. Samuel) was born in Newburyport MA, the daughter of Edmund P. Graves, in 1890. She moved with her family to Argentina when she was 9, returning to attend Miss Winsor's School (now, The Winsor School), from which she was graduated in 1908. On October 16, 1909, she married Samuel Cabot (Harvard class of 1906) an industrial chemist, who became president of his family's firm, Samual Cabot, Inc. Mrs. Cabot first became a member of the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club in 1925. She left the rolls for a time and returned in 1944, remaining a member until her death in 1969.

Mrs. Cabot was known as an expert on historic textiles. She compiled data for the Textile Department of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the British Museum. She wrote several articles on textiles and gave an illustrated lecture to the New England Historical and Genealogical Society on "New England Embroidered Pictures" in 1944.

Mrs. Cabot had four children and 13 grandchildren She died on January 14, 1969, at 79, at her home in Longwood Towers. Her beloved estate on the pond has since become the Cabot Estate Condominiums.

On December 2, 1952, Mrs. Cabot presented a lecture, illustrated with lantern slides to the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club, entitled: Historic Pictures of Jamaica Pond. Later she gave many pieces of her unique collection to the Club, along with the lantern slides.

That Mrs. Cabot refers to herself in the third person through most of this talk could well be explained if the typescript, from which this pamphlet was produced, was transcribed after the fact. It was sent to Mrs. Dorothy Winkfield, Club President, in 1953. The memorialist is unknown.

The Jamaica Pond collection of pictures was begun soon after the First World War when Mr. and Mrs. Cabot moved into the old Quincy Shaw house on Perkins Street on the northern shore of the Pond, near the Brookline line.


From their house on the top of the hill, we have a lovely view of the pond, and overlook the rooftops and spires of Jamaica Plain. On clear days you can see to the Blue Hill range and beyond.

In Antiques Magazine for February 1925 there was an article entitled: "Skating Prints" by Aaron Davis, Showing a Lithograph by J. H. Bufford of Jamaica Pond in 1858. It is the same scene that you have here in the Loring-Greenough House in the downstairs hall.

It occurred to Mrs. Cabot then that it would be of interest to acquire an original of the Bufford lithograph if possible, and to collect any other pictures and material relating to the Pond that could be found.

Thanks to the help of many kind friends, the collection grew steadily. It now consists of pictures, maps, photographs, letters and journals, all of the 19th century. Previous to 1800 the Pond seems to have been taken for granted: its charms and beauties did not burst into woodcut and illustrations until after the movement of the fashionable world to its shores, for fine residences and recreation.

Of its earlier history there are a few meager gleanings of interest. You know of course that geologically it is a glacial kettle hole of great size, similar to the smaller cup-like dry hollows near the old Children's Museum on Pine Bank.

Its area comprises about 70 acres. Authorities differ as to its greatest depth somewhere between 50 and 65 feet roughly, in the center. There are some who claim it has no bottom at all.

Originally it was called The Great Pond, and the Plain contiguous to it The Pond Plain, but by 1677 both had received the name of Jamaica probably in compliment to Cromwell in commemoration of his valuable conquest of the Island of Jamaica from Spain. A description of Roxbury at the close of the Revolution says: "It has several high hills, which afford an agreeable prospect of the town and harbor of Boston, and one large pond covering about 120 acres, near which is a Plain of a mile in length, known by the name of Jamaica Plain, remarkable for the pleasantness of its situation and the number of gentlemen's houses upon it. "

This is one of the maps in the collection showing the Pond and its surroundings in 1874. The Loring-Greenough House is not shown but would be at the bottom, just to the left of the title, West Roxbury. From Centre Street, (formerly Old Dedham Road) running horizontally from the bottom on the right the two roads that lead to the pond and skirt it are Pond Street below it on the south, and Perkins Street above it on the north.

Perkins Street, originally Connecticut Lane, was named for William Perkins who settled in Roxbury in 1632, not for the Perkins Family who built on Pine Bank in 1802, and who have lived in its neighborhood ever since.

Starting at Pine Bank, Edward Perkins's place, the point that juts out into the Pond from the right, I should like to take you for a quick trip around the Pond, naming the different places on the shore at this period.

Adjoining it and just below Pine Bank are the large Curtis lands, farms that had been continuously in the Curtis family since 1689. The Curtis orchards were famous for their apples, which were shipped to foreign ports in great quantity.

Next we come to five small rectangular properties with the names first Adams, then Winslow, Spaulding, Gorham and Munson. Then, following along Pond Street, near the water passing by the foot of Burroughs Street, just opposite Eliot Street we come to the great storehouse of the Jamaica Pond Ice Co. , the main source of supply of ice for Boston for over 50 years.

Just beside the icehouse lived a Mrs. Dyman on a small lot, then the almost square Frothingham place that had its entrance on Prince Street, which connects Pond with Perkins.

Prince Street at this end was laid through the property that had belonged to the Royal Governor, Sir Francis Barnard, from 1760-1769. It was he, you will remember, who was recalled to England by urgent Colonial request. Sir William Pepperel then occupied the house for a few years, until in 1779 the property was confiscated by the State and sold to Martin Brimmer of Boston who lived here until his death in 1804. Capt. John Prince then purchased the place where he developed fine orchards, famous for their variety, of pears, plums, apricots, grapes and apples.

Beyond the Frothingham land is the long and narrow property of Robert M. Morse, and next to it another ice House of the Jamaica Pond Ice Co. This icehouse is of later construction than the one by Eliot. It is not shown on the map of 1858.

We then come to the property of Francis Parkman, the historian, which today is marked with a granite memorial on the site of his house. He spent his summers here from 1852 until his death in 1893.

On the corner where Prince and Perkins Streets meet, and running back to the Pond is "Lochstead" the home of David Wallace.

Across Perkins Street there is quite a settlement of small places encroaching on the lands of Ignatius Sargent. Gradually these small houses were acquired by Mr. Sargent and his son Charles, and demolished for the improvement of the entrance from the Pond to "Holmlea" the famous Sargent Estate.

Then comes the Cabot place, the house built by Quincy Shaw in the 1860s and next to it the land of Mrs. Henry Cleveland and Charles Perkins, sister and brother of Edward Perkins of Pine Bank.

Just across Perkins Street, behind Pine Bank, is Ward's Pond, another lovely, but quite small glacial kettle hole.


Here you have one of the means of transportation between Boston and Jamaica Plain around 1855. It is an illustration from the popular weekly, "Ballou's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion". Can you read the sign, "Boston and Jamaica Plain" in large letters on the side?

As early as 1826 there was a service of coaches running on the hour between Boston and Roxbury. They were called "Hourlies. " And, by 1834, the Providence R. R. had laid a single-track line, for the express convenience of commuters. Access to the Pond, until well on in the 19th century was from the Jamaica Plain side there was no road connecting the Pond with Brookline. Augustine Shurtleff in the "Sagemore", the Brookline High School paper for 1895, describes memories of reaching it from Brookline about 1839.

Here you have a woodcut by Winslow Homer entitled, "Skating on Jamaica Pond, near Boston". It appeared in Ballou's Pictorial for Jan. 29, 1859. You can see Homer's signature on the small sled on the right.


The paper describes it thus:

The graceful picture below was drawn expressly for us by Mr. Homer, and faithfully represents the favorite winter sport on Jamaica Pond.

The larger figures in the foreground were sketched from life, as their spirited and natural action indicates, and are likenesses of individuals, which will be readily recognized by their friends. The topography of the distant shore of the pond is accurately sketched, as any resident of the locality will testify and the whole is an expressive record of winter amusements at one of the most popular end fashionable places in the vicinity of Boston. The companionship of ladies on the skating field, and their earnest participation in the sport is a pleasing novelty.


A larger and perhaps less aristocratic scene was published in Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1858. Here you can plainly see, in the background, the ice House at Eliot Street and on the left, buildings that, by comparison with a map of the same date seem to be Farrington [and] Amory houses. In the figures there is verve and elan, there is feminine dash and there is conjugal devotion. Three on the extreme left find warmth in the bottle rather than in exercise. There is a small iceboat in the distance and a line of figures as rhythmic as Rockettes, executing "Snap the Whip. "


And here is the Bufford Lithograph of 1858 that appeared in Antiques Magazine in 1925, the start of the collection. On the extreme left in the background are the trees of Pine Bank. The Farrington, Amory and Curtis houses must be there but have not been identified. There is a grace and style here, ermine and silk top hats, the mood gay, but more restrained than in the past picture.

In her diary for the years 1855 to 1859, Elizabeth Rogers Mason of Boston, who later married Walter Cabot of Brookline, has a description that fits the scene before you.

On Jan. 26, 1855 she writes: (Extract from the diary of Elizabeth Rogers Mason, (Mrs. Walter Cabot) owned by Charles C. Cabot. )

Jan. 26, 1855

I failed to mention a new amusement which has arisen on the Boston horizon, skating. Last Wednesday, having heard of the performances of some of the ladies who live on Jamaica Pond, the two Mrs. Bacons (nee Low) and many others, a party of girls determined to go out to the omnibus to see them. The weather was fine, and having had an early dinner, and borrowed Fanny Cary's skates, Willy and I proceeded to the omnibus on Park Street corner, at quarter of three where we found Mrs. Sam Hooper and Annie, Lucy Sturgis, Nelly Hooper, and the Grays a Mr. Lord and his sister of New York and Mr. John Hanson, Mr. Joe Gardner etc. Arriving at Green's corner in little more than half an hour, we walked onto the Pond, where we found crowds of people skating, or learning, sliding, laughing, etc. I put on Fanny's skates, and was able to stand on them very well and to be pulled about, that is by taking the arm of some one who skated well, I could follow, taking no motions myself, but without losing my balance. Mr. Fay was very polite, and carried me many times over the ice, also Mr. Edward Perkins, Mr. Gardner, and others. In coming home, it snowed hard, and the walk to the cars by which we returned, which is more than half a mile, was by no means delightful. Neither can I say much for the walk from the Providence depot through Charles Street, which was wet, cold and horrid.

Jan 30, 1855

Good skating again. . . . I was glad to arrive at length at the omnibus. Our party, which was very large, soon more than filled it, so that some of the gentlemen got a carriage, and invited Mrs. Hooper and myself to ride in it. We, making ourselves small rode on the back seat with Willy and Mr. Lord, Frank Palfrey and Mr. John Higginson occupied the front one. The pond was covered with people amounting to five or six hundred, the afternoon was brilliant and I enjoyed it excessively.

Jan. 31, 1855

This morning called for Lucy Sturgis and raced down at ten to the Providence depot. Here we found Willy Amory, Mr. Higginson, the Grays, Mr. Lord, Mary Quincy, George Dexter, and others. The weather was brilliant, the skating splendid, and to our great surprise, we met a good many people on the pond. We all had a very grand time; one sees people in such an easy, pleasant way. Altogether we passed a very gay morning, and returned by the omnibus at one, in very high spirits.

Feb. 1, 1855

. . . notwithstanding the snow, which fell fast, called for the Hoopers, and with them proceeded to the omnibus for Jamaica Pond. Mrs. Hooper, Annie, Suzy Welles, Charlotte Gray, Lizzie Winthrop and myself, with Mr. Higginson, Mr. Gardner and Willy formed our party. We thought ourselves very energetic, and were mutually surprised to find each other. Lucy Sturgis rode out with Mr. John Reed Arrived at the pond and we found Mr. Willy Otis, Mr. Peabody, Mr. Palfrey, and all the world. Sheltons, Mary Coolidge, Mr. Dixon, Mr. Brimmer, an assembly in fact. Mr. Otis was in great distress, because having promised to carry Mattie Parker out in his wagon, he had thought her in jest and had driven out without even calling for her, while Charlotte Gray left her at half after ten, waiting with all her things on. I enjoyed the afternoon more than ever before. The sun had checked the wind. It was mild; good skating and I felt remarkably well. I crossed the pond with Lucy Howard, who does not skate better than myself, several times, we found long lines of a dozen all taking hold of hands, we were pushed in a sleigh belonging to the Bacons, and in a kind of high chair on runners, which Mr. Joe Gardner had made expressly for the purpose; and altogether it was splendid. I never felt a sensation of cold, even in my feet, which generally suffer horribly, and was in high spirits. In crossing the pond on our return I had my first real fall, for being behind the others, and dragged very rapidly by a long stick, I came suddenly to very rough ice without perceiving it, and measured my length, without injury, however, except to my bonnet, and in getting very wet from the snow. We rode in sitting in each other's laps, the omnibus being perfectly crowded, and at home found Aunt Ellen and Uncle John to tea.

Mon. Feb. 8, 1858

A fine dry day though windy. Skating as a matter of course. We tried a little pond called Ward's near Jamaica but found it terribly windy, and crossed over to Jamaica where under the lee of the shore we had a very nice place.

Sat. Feb. 27, 1858

Went out to Jamaica Pond this morning. The ice rather poor. Lewis Cabot was there and very pleasant.

Thurs. Mar. 4, 1858

Went out to Jamaica Pond today, but the skating was poor excepting a little patch twenty feet long, where I tried the outer edge alone, and did not get it.

Fri. Mar. 5, 1858

Went to Jamaica Pond but it was so bitterly cold that I was perfectly exhausted when I got home.

Jan. 25, 1859

Went out skating with Nellie Hooper to Jamaica.

Jan. 26, 1859

Went today to some meadows near Jamaica Pond. Perfect ice and hot weather.

Jan. 31 1859

Went to Jamaica Pond to skate after dinner.

Feb. 1, 1859

Went out this morning to Jamaica. A snowstorm came Thursday.

Feb. 6, 1859

Buried the skating, rather to my relief for one cannot stay at home when it is good.

By March 5, 1858 perhaps thrill and enthusiasm had waned a bit for she records "Went to Jamaica Pond today but it was so bitterly cold that I was perfectly exhausted when I got home. "

Although the skating scene on this sheet of music is entitled: "View on Jamaica Pond", it does not show in the slide. The very same Skating Polka can be found dedicated to other bodies of water Central Park, for instance. However, this may be the original one, and it does look like Pine Bank in the background. It serves to show you the last word in fashion for the period on the young lady in the foreground, who has discarded the bonnet for the daring new hat, known as the "Tom and Jerry. " And you get a good view here of the skates that James DeWolf Lovett has described so graphically in his reminiscences Old Boston Boys.

Ice skates in those days were clumsy affairs, the front end piece curling back over the foot in a large scroll usually ornamented with a brass acorn fixed upon its tip. A simple straight spike fitted a hole bored in the boot heel and the skate was held on to the boot by straps, necessarily drawn up almost to the breaking point and crossing over the top of the foot, thus most effectively stopping all circulation and causing an excruciatingly painful coldness in that member.

This appeared in Ballou's Pictorial 1855. It was taken from the shore near Burroughs Street and looks toward Pine Bank, beyond to the slope on which Quincy Shaw built his house about ten years later.

The popular weekly Ballou's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion originated in 1851 as Gleason's Pictorial. In 1854 it had changed to Ballou's. On the under side of this print is the editorial page of the paper with an item or two of interest. In the letter column a subscriber from Hartford, Conn. had written:

"Mr. Ballou, Dear Sir-

In renewing my subscription for your illustrated paper, I cannot refrain from expressing my satisfaction at its increased excellence and my hearty approval of its character. Its weekly visits are looked forward to by my family with much interest and while its admirable reading matter has amused and instructed my children, its elegant illustrations have created among them a taste for drawing and designing which has elicited a talent that would otherwise remain dormant. The pure moral tone of your columns is beyond praise. I do not fear to place the Pictorial in my daughter's hands, because I know that you never sully its fair pages by even a word that good taste and propriety may question. Such a journal is a valuable aid to intelligence and art, and is a national good. Your obedient servant. . .

And in another column there was reference to a recent performance of "The Opera of Don Giovanni. "

We sincerely trust, for decency's sake that this obscene composition may never again be produced in Boston. Captivating and superb as the music is-it cannot in the least degree atone for so objectionable a libretto.

Is it not regrettable that so aggressive a moral influence ceased publication in 1859?


Here is practically the same view of the Pond on a summer's day (In 1878, 23 years later). The Quincy Shaw house has been built on the slope beyond Pine Bank. On the extreme left are Lochstead and its boathouse and behind the cluster of small houses, later demolished, that mark the entrance to the Sargent estate.

Three houses have succeeded each other on Pine Bank. James Perkins of Boston who married Sarah Paine of Worcester built the first in 1802 for a summer home. He died there in 1822. Their granddaughter, Sarah Perkins Cleveland has left many descriptions of life and events at Pine Bank in her family letters. She had spent most of her youth there, with her grandmother, and it was her home after her marriage to Henry Cleveland, in 1838. In a foreword to the letters, Miss Eliza Cleveland, her daughter, who had them typewritten, wrote.

I have often heard my mother describe the summers at Pine Bank, the boating on the Lake, the long rides on horseback, the four hours spent each day reading to her grandmother, the visits of the large family circle, and the boys coming back from school and college. Once a year Sarah drove with her grandmother, in stately fashion, in the chariot with yellow wheels, the pair of roan horses, and Calvin Swallow, the American coachman, to Worcester, on a visit to the Paine relations. My great-grandmother sat erect and never leaned back once, all the 50 miles.

She was a grand lady of the times and a witty friend once said that if Madam Perkins was approaching the Gates of Heaven, she would say to her coachman, 'Drive right in, Calvin. '

My mother had a love for Pine Bank that amounted to a passion.

After her husband's death Mrs. Cleveland relinquished her share in Pine Bank to her brother Edward, on his marriage, and he tore down the old house and in 1848 built a grander one on its foundations, from plans of a French architect, Le Monier "not, to my taste, becoming to the place", wrote Mrs. Cleveland, "French, square and heavy. "

To her brother in Europe she wrote poignantly of the destruction of the old house.

Charley dear, our own dear Pine Bank house is no more-the old house nearly level. I have not looked upon its murder, though when I was the other day on your land I heard the dear old boards and planks sighing and screaming as they were rent asunder it seemed to me that they told, one by one, the years in succession that had been numbered since it stood 1804 with a shriek, 1805 with a scream, 1806, a shudder, it ripped apart.

In 1868, twenty years later on the 10th of February, the second house, "French, square and heavy" was completely destroyed by fire.

She wrote:

The fire originated in a chimney which caught and burned furiously at 4 P. M. It was when the housemaid kindled the fire in Mary's bedroom to be ready for her return from Boston. It is now ascertained that the brick-work of the chimney was cracked and open during its burning, and thus fire must have dropped into the woodwork.

Mary and Edward returned in the afternoon and hearing from the servants what had occurred, made very thorough examination in the rooms where the chimney passed and all seemed perfectly right, no smell or smoke or undue heat to be anywhere, and the poor darlings being tired after a town day, took a little repose on the sofa, and Edward fell asleep. He was roused by a muffled explosion, and rushing to the window as he rushed upstairs, the glare of a large glow shone out from the burning roof and was reflected on the white lawn of snow. Within 10 minutes all hope of saving the house had vanished. It was 7: 30 P. M. and the neighbors all were at their various homes and came so promptly, rich and poor, that all the furniture of second and lower stories, and all the books, pictures bas-reliefs, even the chandeliers and several marble fire places were saved by their friendly energy and kindness.

The night was very cold and very slippery. Later some bad and rowdy men came as they always will and stole some things and many clothes and broke into a wine cellar and drank up a quantity of choice wine.

We had to watch the great leaping flames which painted the outline of the beloved home against the sky.

In 1870, two years later Edward Perkins built another house, the one we know still standing on Pine Bank. It was of red brick, this time with ornamental courses of moulded white tiles that were ordered from England 11, 000 of them. "My aunt called them the 11, 000 virgins of St. Ursula, " wrote Miss Cleveland. And Mrs. Cleveland wrote, "The Pine Bank house is truly a beauty, a benefit to the public as it is an introduction of bricks of various colors, such as have never been seen here before. " Mrs. Cleveland had built her own final home on the land adjoining the Quincy Shaw place, happy to be so near her beloved Pine Bank.


This is a summer view from the Cabot side of the pond, an illustration from the magazine Picturesque America about 1875. A bit of Pine Bank on the left, both ice houses in the background and on the extreme right the Parkman place.

Mr. J. Templeman Coolidge of Boston married Mr. Parkman's daughter Katherine. As a very old gentleman he sat, one day, on the Cabot's terrace overlooking the pond and told how, in his courting days, he would come out to Jamaica Plain by train and walk to the edge of the Pond, and how this lovely girl would row across to meet him and bring him back to her house

Exhausted from his great literary labors, Mr. Parkman suffered a severe mental breakdown. As a change of occupation he took up horticulture with noteworthy success. He had a greenhouse here and made a specialty of roses, having 1000 varieties, and the hybridization of lilies. The Lilium Parkmana he sold to an English florist for $1000.

His constitutional was an hour's row daily on The Pond, which he never omitted or shortened. To overcome boredom he would name the points of land after famous capes, one was the Cape of Good Hope and one cove was Bering Sea. He was taking his usual row one Sunday in 1893 when he became ill with appendicitis and died a few days later of peritonitis.

Here you have the Jamaica Pond Ice Co. at work, and can see the checkered surface where the blocks have been measured and marked for cutting. Mrs. Robert Stone used to say that it was a thrill and excitement of her youth to try to slip undetected up the long chute and climb about in the gables of the icehouse roof.

Besides being the source of Boston's ice supply, the Pond was the first source of water supply for Boston. The Jamaica Plain Aqueduct Co. incorporated in 1795, laid about 45 miles of pipes, made of pitch pine logs but in trenches only 3 to 3