Melville Avenue / Wellesley Park
AREA FORM from Boston Landmarks Commission prepared as part of 1994 Survey of Dorchester. Dated May, 1995 and recorded by Edward W. Gordon.
[Note: this reproduction of the information in the Boston Landmarks Area Form may have typographical errors, and for technical matters, the reader may want to consult a copy of the original, which is available at the Boston Landmarks Commission or the Dorchester Historical Society]
Map showing boundaries:
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Melville Avenue/Wellesley Park ranks among the best places in the Boston area to study unusually stylish and substantial suburban houses dating primarily from the last quarter of the 19th century. This area is roughly bounded by Park Street on the north, Gibson Park on the cast, and Lyndhurst Street on the south and Washington Street on the west. Included within these boundaries is the cavalcade of commodious, unusually architecturally ornate houses that border Melville A venue between Washington and Wellesley Park as well as the discrete enclaves of upscale housing bordering Tremlett Park, Centervale Park and Paisley Park. Above all, this area includes Wellesley Park, which ranks among the most extraordinary Late Victorian suburban developments in the United States; substantial, primarily Queen Anne and Queen Anne/ Colonial Revival houses border a large oval green. The great, unbroken sweep of Wellesley Park's irregular forms, ornate detailing and complex roof configurations represents an extraordinary survival within a neighborhood which has seen considerable socio-economic change. Lyndhurst Street also has its share of noteworthy, well designed Victorian era housing but not with the same consistency of Melville Avenue or Wellesley Park. This area's great strength lies in its late Victorian housing whose architects did not err on the side of restrained conservatism evident in so many Boston suburbs. This is one of the few areas in greater Boston that approaches the exuberant form and ornamentation, if not always vibrant color schemes associated with San Francisco's famous "Painted Ladies". Indeed. if the Boston skyline had been near enough to serve as a backdrop for Wellesley Park's Queen Annes, this area would rival San Francisco's famed "Post Card Row" in terms of visual impact.
In general, all of the streets and elliptical parks in this area are bordered by single- and two-family residences of the 1880s-early 1900s. The oldest structure in this area is the former Dorchester Academy at Lyndhurst. Built in 1831, this temple- form building exhibits a main facade dominated by monumental fluted Tuscan columns which support a low, pedimented attic with heavy entablature and lunette window. Rising from the center of the roof is an octagonal cupola. Consisting of a rectangular, clapboard-clad main block, this building once had extensive rear ells.
The architecturally distinguished residences of Melville Avenue are located primarily between Washington Street and the MBTA Red Line rail road tracks. One of the earliest houses in this linear development is 35 Melville Avenue, designed by and built for City of Boston architect Arthur H. Vinal in 1882. This house is arguably one of the finest upper middle class streetcar-suburb residences built in any Boston area suburb. Compact, yet asymmetrically massed, this Queen Anne house is enclosed by steeply pitched and intersecting hip roofs. Still intact are its slate shingles and terra cotta ridge tiles. The main facade features the rare use of masonry materials in an area of overwhelmingly wooden buildings. Access to 35 Melville A venue's main entrance is reached via an open front porch with low rusticated brownstone railings. Rising from these railings are short squat Romanesque Revival columns which support broad segmental arches. Projecting from its main facade is a narrow gable roofed bay. This gable contains raised lattice work detail. To the left of this gable is a polygonal oriel with bell cast, finial topped roof cap. Around the corner, on the east wall is a more grand oriel which presumably lights a stairway. Enlivened by stained glass windows and enclosed by a canopy-like cast metal roof, this polygonal oriel is a particularly noteworthy feature. In general, and in typically Queen Anne fashion, this house's walls are pierced by windows representing a variety of shapes including standard size, arched and an ornately enframed oval attic window on the Allston Street side. According to architectural historian Douglas Shand Tucci, "35 Melville Avenue is part of one of the most sumptuous ensembles in the city of late nineteenth century street-car suburb architecture." This ensemble or group of mostly Arthur Vinal-designed Queen Anne houses includes 29, 33, 37, 39 as well as 35 Melville Avenue. (39 Mellville Avenue is attributed to Vinal). Particularly noteworthy is 33 Melville Avenue which as designed by L. Underwood in 1886. This Queen Anne house is characterized by an asymmetrical form and a pleasing blend of materials including granite block basement, brick chimney with ornamental niche (Allston Street facade), clapboard clad first floor and wood shingles on the upper floors. Memorably addressing the Allston Street/Melville Avenue corner is a three story tower with conical roof cap and copper weather vane. Its Melville venue porch features well turned porch elements.
In contrast to the densely massed streetscapes Arthur Vinal was creating around the Allston Street/Melville Avenue intersection, Tucci notes that "several other architects at the other end of the street (near Washington Street) were developing a more spacious variant with more generous setbacks and circular drives leading under porte cocheres to large barns." The precedent for houses on more spacious lots was introduced to the section of Melville Avenue near Washington Street in 1879 by E.A. Poe at 6 Melville Avenue. This house represents another compact yet asymmetrical Queen Anne house clad with clapboards and patterned shingles. The apex of its facade gable is ornamented with fairly intricate stick work. By far the most spectacular example of a commodious house on an ample lot is 10 Melville Avenue. This Stick Style house represents a miraculous survival. It is the type of large Victorian residence that, because of prohibitive heating and maintenance costs survives only in period photographs. Together with its extensive front lawn, old copper beech trees, and meandering drive way, this house exemplifies the type of estate that has all too frequently disappeared from the Dorchester scene. Designed by George Meacham in 1880, 10 Melville Avenue is a fine example of an asymmetrical Stick Style house which rises 2.5 stories from a granite block basement to an intersecting gable roof. The gable?s Palladian window strikes a Colonial Revival note.
Further to the east 92 Melville Park (1890) is a Queen Anne house noteworthy for its asymmetrical form which includes a large corner tower which is enclosed by a bell-shaped roof. To the left of the tower is a steeply pitched gable which surmounts a trio of small, square attic windows. On the first floor of the Melville Avenue facade is an open front porch with paired Tuscan columns which rise from granite block piers. Rising from the east side of the hip roof is a paneled, yellow brick chimney. 98 Melville Avenue, corner of Upland A venue was built c. 1895-97 and represents a marriage of High Georgian gambrel roofed form with Federal style bow fronts symmetrically located on either side of the center entrance pavilion. Once again, this is a design that eschews an archaeologically correct interpretation of the Colonial Revival style in favor of mixing sub styles of this popular architectural mode. More or less rectangular in form, the center pavilion projects slightly from the main block and exhibits an open front porch with paired Tuscan columns and modillion block-edged pedimented roof. The main entrance is flanked by attenuated pilasters and sidelights. Above the entrance porch is a tripartite window and at the center of the roof is a gambrel gable containing a tripartite window with raised and well-molded enframements. This house represents a sub-trend in Colonial Revival domestic architecture of the mid 1890s that derived inspiration from the Massachusetts Pavilion at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, which in turn was inspired by the design of the old gambrel roofed Thomas Hancock mansion which once stood atop Beacon Hill next to the State House. Although the Hancock House was torn down in 1863 it was and is one of Boston's best remembered "lost landmarks". This house was a much-studied Colonial touchstone for late 19th century Boston area architects.
Topographically the residential park squares or ovals of the Melville Avenue / Wellesley Park area are situated on the flat plain that runs from the base of the Washington Street ridge to Dorchester Bay. In general the residential enclaves and thoroughfares of this area are bordered by mature trees. Scattered around this area are large and "ancient" copper beech trees like the ones at 10 Melville Avenue which complete an unspoiled glimpse of an 1880 suburban Boston estate or the enormous copper beech at the Washington Street end of Lyndhurst Street which serves as a memorable, "placemaking" natural feature which dates to at least the early 19th century. Also included within this area is the Gibson Playground, a recreational area which is essentially a large, flat, open field with trees at its periphery and a c. 1920's park house of little architectural distinction bordering Dorchester A venue, nearly opposite Gibson Street. This playground contains wooded spectator stands and a baseball field at its Park Street and Dorchester corner.
Wellesley Park was set out in 1897-98 and is characterized by a broad oval green surrounded by two dozen houses. The prevailing architectural style is Queen Anne. These houses are all constructed of wood, rise to a height of 2.5 stories, exhibit street-facing gables and in many cases one and two story porches. Occasionally corner towers with pyramidal roof cap project from rectangular main blocks. A high percentage of these houses are well maintained and painted with appropriate Late Victorian paint colors. It is difficult to single out buildings around the park as being of particular architectural significance since Wellesley Park as a suburban residential enclave is in many ways greater than the sum of its parts. Noteworthy residences and groups of residences include 40 and 42 Wellesley Park East, 24; 26; 30; 32 Wellesley Park East and 27; 29; 31; 33 Wellesley Park West.
Both 40 and 42 Wellesley Park East are rectangular 2.5 story residences rendered asymmetrical by a polygonal three story corner tower. Both houses feature two story front porches and possess three-story polygonal corner towers. While number 40's tower culminates in a flat roof, number 42's tower is crowned by a truncated and ed pyramidal roof cap. Both houses exhibit attic windows with elaborate enframements. Number 40 's double attic windows are set within a swans neck scroll with center urn eframement. The octagonal shingles of the attic are carried over to the third floor of the tower. Its front porch exhibits paired Ionic columns which rise from stone piers. Particularly memorable are the attic surface treatments of 42 Wellesley Park East which encompass double windows with raised enframements featuring Ionic pilasters and entablature as well as an ornamental balcony. Above these windows are a pair of high relief plaster laurel wreaths which ornament a broken pediment. The entire attic gable is enlivened by a covering of diamond shaped shingles which contrast with the rectangular shingles of the lower floors.
24; 26; 30 and 32 Wellesley Park East represent rectangular 2.5 story late 1890's 2-farnily houses. The porches, second floor porch railings and projecting gables of these Queen Anne houses constitute a pleasing, rhythmic repetition of forms, adding interest to the parkscape by virtue of their similar designs. 32 Wellesley Park East deserves recognition for its extraordinarily beautiful painted surfaces with the raised, well crafted diamond shapes.
27, 29,31, 33 Wellesley Park West, on the other hand, represent the diversity of Queen Anne design utilized by Wellesley Park's architects. Number 27 is an asymmetrical wood shingle clad residence with a front porch featuring short and paired Tuscan columns situated on wood shingle clad piers. The columns support a broad porch. Particularly noteworthy is this house's picturesquely rendered roof line. Rising from the center of the porch roof is a polygonal dormer with finial topped pyramidal roof cap. To the left of this dormer is a higher, narrow, steeply pitched gable containing an oriel window with curved corners. Number 29 exemplifies the gambrel roof variation, on the more typical A-shaped gable. Number 31 is a rectangular residence rendered asymmetrical by a three story polygonal tower with a flat rather than pyramidal roof. Number 33 represents the boxy Queen Anne house with overhanging front gable that appears with considerable frequency around Wellesley Park.
Before considering this area?s three small residential parks, mention should be made of Upland Avenue which is a north-south street between Paisley and Centervale Parks and Wellesley Park. This thoroughfare is built up with stylish and substantial Queen Anne and/or Colonial Revival residences. Particularly noteworthy is the c. mid 1890s 10/12 Upland Avenue. This T-shaped Colonial Revival residence celebrates the gambrel roof profile with 3-bay side walls culminating in broad, overhanging gambrels. The 3-bay main facade features a projecting center pavilion which also culminates in a gambrel roof with a deep overhang. Particularly noteworthy is the main facade's full length front porch with granite block piers which support short, square posts. The lower half of these posts is smooth, the upper half is fluted. The posts? capitals consist of egg and dart moldings. Porch railings feature well-proportioned Georgian Revival balusters. The projecting center porch roof pediment is noteworthy for its beautifully carved swans neck scroll which is superimposed against an elliptical fan. Like 98 Melville Avenue mentioned above, this house illustrates the 1890s penchant on the part of architects for blending Georgian and Qassical elements in creative but non archaeologically correct Colonial Revival designs.
Bordering the east side of Upland A venue are Paisley and Centervale Parks. Set out during the mid 1890s, the thoroughfare called Paisley Park is currently completely paved with asphalt. Its narrow oval park strips disappeared at an undetermined date. Compared to Centervale Park, Paisley is more densely built-up, its front lawns are smaller and its housing is less ornate. Nevertheless, Paisley Park has its share of noteworthy turn-of-the- century two-family houses. 4 Paisley Park was built between 1894 and 1898. Noteworthy as an asymmetrically massed Queen Anne house it retains original clapboard and wood shingle fabric. Enclosed by intersecting gables, a three-story tower with ornamental panels and conical roof cap is situated at its northeast corner.
More typical of Paisley Park residences are 5 and 7 Paisley Park. The former is a rectangular, 2-story, two-family Queen Anne house with broad street facing gable. Its originally open first and second floor porches were enclosed at an undetermined date. The latter is a rectangular, 2-story, two family house which is enclosed by a hip roof. Projecting from the center of the roof is a double dormer topped by a swans neck scroll. Indeed, the south side of Paisley Park is characterized by every other house being enclosed by a hip and gable roof.
Centervale Park was set out c.1890-1894 and is noteworthy for its two narrow elliptical parks bordered by fairly subbstantial residences of considerable design merit. Particularly noteworthy is 2 Centervale Park which is a square, two story rectangular Colonial Revival house. Built c. l894-98, this house, like so many others in this area, illustrates the non archaeologically correct phase of the Colonial Revival suburban house. Instead of its main facade having symmetrical bow fronts, this house's recessed center entrance is flanked by a bow and a flat bay. The bow is surmounted by a pedimented gable which is much wider than that of the pedimented gable above the flat bay. The broader gable contains a Palladian window while the narrower gable contains a modified Palladian window with wide pilasters taking the place of windows flanking an arched window. The main facade's gables project from a hip roof. This house's edges are accented by Ionic corner boards. Access to the main entrance is gained via an open, Tuscan columned porch. The c. 1900 7 Centervale Park ranks among the most intriguing and unusual stylistic hybrids in Dorchester. The Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Bungalow styles converge at 7 Centervale Park to form one handsome, cohesive design. This L-shaped, hip roof cottage in typically Bungaloid fashion features a roof slope that sweeps down to enclose an open front porch with tall rubble stone piers which support paired Tuscan, Colonial Revival columns. The Queen Anne style is in evidence in the broad, polygonal bay of the main facade and above all, in the modified one story tower with distinctive bell-shaped roof cap. This tower rises from the intersection of two hip roof segments. 5 Centervale Park represents a relatively rare Melville Ave/Wellesley Park area foray into the Shingle style. Covered with a "skin" of dark brown shingles, the architect of this boxy rectangular house utilized the gambrel roof in a manner more aligned with the Shingle rather than Colonial Revival style. At 5 Centervale, the main facade's roof slope sweeps down over the front porch. Interspersed between the shingle covered porch posts are two dimensional, boldly curved Georgia Revival balusters. At the center of this roof slope is a gambrel containing a projecting, square oriel lit by a tripartite window. A curious, retardataire feature for a house of the early 1900s is the arched Stick Style bracing and modified king post which appears at the apex of the side wall's gambrel. Representing a variation on a straightforward front gable design is 10 Centervale Park. Built between 1894 and 1898, this house is noteworthy for its deeply recessed front porch with Colonial Revival porch elements, bowed oriel at its southwest corner and broad gable which contains a double, recessed attic window which is flanked by curved, wood shingle clad walls. The lower floors are clad -clapboards and edged by narrow comer boards. The aforementioned houses speak to the diversity of late turn-of -the century architectural styles and combinations of styles bordering Centervale Park.
Bourneside Street, a north-south street located between the Gibson Playground and Paisley-Centervale Parks serves primarily as a fine backdrop for the ample expanse of the recreation area's lawn. Its Queen Anne/Colonial Revival houses, built for a solid middle class citizenry, are perhaps viewed to best advantage from Dorchester Avenue looking west across the playground. The houses of Bourneside Street represent well-crafted two family dwellings that barely hint at the architectural treasures situated to the west of their back lot lines.
Situated to the west of Wellesley Park is Tremlett Square, another residential park noteworthy for its felicitously-designed collection of Queen Anne and/or Colonial Revival residences built during the 1890s and early 1900's. Tremlett Square is perhaps most memorably approached from the west, walking along Tremlett Street, down the steep slope of the Washington Street ridge towards this long elliptical green space.
Evident from this elevated vantage point is the pleasing way the houses bordering the corners of the elliptical park are stepped back from the street in a way that gradually reveals one house after another. The tree-dotted elliptical "square", itself, extends eastward over the beginnings of a flat plain that extends to the sea. Each house faces a lawn which is slightly more ample than those of Paisley and Centervale Parks.
In terms of architectural design, Tremlett Square's houses represent fairly individualistic approaches to the Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival styles. On the south side of this park. 35; 37; 41 and 43 Tremlett Square provide a "snap shot" of typical middle to upper middle class housing ranged around this green space. At 35 Tremlett Square, a lower gambrel roof slope sweeps down to partially shelter the three bay main facade and open front porch with Colonial Revival elements. The overhang of this L-shaped house's roof slope is supported by boldly curved brackets. Contributing to the Medieval sensibility of this house are its dark brown wood shingle covering and pair of dormers with steeply pitched gable roofs. 37 Tremlett Square is another boxy, L-shaped house whose main facade represents a playful employment of bowed walls. Situated to the right of its Tuscan columned entrance arch is a one- story bay whose bowed form is echoed in the second floor oriel; an oriel which rests atop the roof of the entrance porch. Situated between the second floor bow and a standard size window is a key stone-edged oval window. This hip roofed house's clapboard-clad walls exhibit narrow corner boards. Its main facade's single roof dormer is surmounted by a splaid arch roof cap. 41 Tremlett Square represents another whimsical foray into Colonial Revival design via the Queen Anne style's disregard for standard window size, shape or symmetrical surface placement. This L-shaped, hip-roofed house is clapboard-clad and edged with narrow comer boards. Opening onto the Tuscan-columned front porch is a sidelight-flanked main entrance and a Palladian window above the entrance bay. Its single dormer is surmounted by a semi-circular, finial-topped arch with a roof configuration that continues the arch shape. 43 Tremlett Square provides further evidence of the popularity of the gable front, Queen Anne residence. This asymmetrical house features a Colonial revival entrance porch with paired and attenuated Tuscan columns which support a pedimented roof with a heavy entablature. Its steeply pitched gable features a modified Palladian window. Pairs of gable roof dormers project from the long, side roof slopes. Situated at the head of Tremlett Square is 21 Waldeck Street. This boxy, essentially rectangular hip roofed house exhibits a highly symmetrical main facade. Its handsome Tuscan columned entrance porch is flanked by two story, 2-bay bow fronts. At the center of the second floor is a tripartite window which opens on to a porch with slat-work railings. This house is crisply accented by base, side, fascia and Doric corner boards.
Mention should be made of Tremlett Street which runs eastward from Washington Street over level ground to a point four or five houses before Hooper Street where the land abruptly slopes down to the level land containing Tremlett Square. Hugging the side of this steep hillside is the asymmetrical, towered house at 23 Tremlett Street. Painted in colors appropriate for a Queen Anne house of c. l885-93, this house is composed of a T-shaped main block and three story round tower at its northeast comer. Its front porch exhibits well turned posts, saw cut post bracing ornamented with circular bosses and punched and cut railing balusters. Its main block is enclosed by a broad street-facing gable with double attic windows recessed within curved walls. The remaining houses on Tremlett Street tend to be earlier than those of the mid 1890s Tremlett Square houses by 5-10 years and almost uniformly represent various approaches to Queen Anne architectural design.
Finally, Lyndhurst Street, the southern most street in this area runs between Washington Street and Allston Street. In several instances, its housing represents a continuation of the fine late 19th century suburban residential design bordering Melville Avenue. Particularly noteworthy is 92 Lyndhurst Street at Allston Street. Occupying an ample corner lot, this mansion-scale residence is essentially rectangular in form with its long 3-bay main facade facing Lyndhurst Street. Its walls are sheathed with clapboards and it is enclosed by a hip roof.
Projecting from its west wall is a low, pedimented and projecting off-center gable. Its main facade is composed of two story bowed segments which flank a flat entrance bay and polygonal second story oriel. 92 Lyndhurst Street's front door opens onto a full-length front porch with short, paired and clustered Ionic columns. These columns rise from tall rock faced stone piers and support a flat modillion block edged porch roof. Its main fa?ade?s roof features a bank of dormer windows. Designed by A.B. Pinkham in 1899, Tucci notes that its interiors are "among the most lavish and unusual in the city". 74 Lyndhurst Street is more typical of this thoroughfare's houses. It is an asymmetrical Queen Anne house which is covered with wood shingle sheathing, much of it applied in decorative patterns. Its main facade exhibits a full length open front porch with unusual narrow and flared posts, U-shaped bracing and spindle work transoms. Its main facade features a flat entrance bay and two story polygonal bay. Its east wall displays an off center polygonal bay which is surmounted by an overhanging second floor with saw tooth fringe. The smaller of the main facade's two gables features a sunburst pattern of shingles. 55 Lyndhurst Street, in terms of relatively large scale, compact yet highly plastic form and attention to ornamental details is on a par with Melville Avenue residences of the 1880s. This hip roof house is essentially rectangular in form with projecting porches and bays. The slender, well turned posts and spindle balusters of the front and shallow, polygonal second floor porches strike a decidedly Queen Anne note. Projecting from the northeast comer is a square, pedimented one story bay with vine and floral stencil detail which may represent a restoration of original detail. Projecting from the center of the main facade's roof slope is a sentinel-like polygonal bay with pyramidal roof cap. A more substantial and extraordinarily ornate Queen Anne house is situated at 41 Lyndhurst Street. This house celebrates mass-produced saw-cut details, its architect and/or builder lavishing the main facade with a variety of wooden elements. Characterized by an asymmetrical form and enclosed by intersecting gables, this house exhibits lively front and second floor porch treatments. Its front porch features well-turned posts and transom spindles as well as a gable exhibiting a punched and cut sun burst motif, pendants and a finial at the gable's apex. The second floor porch, like that of the first floor displays two-dimensional bowed balusters with low, ball-topped posts. At the center of this railing is a single turned post with an ornate floral capital. Springing from this capital is a short post with curvilinear bracing with pendants and circular punched and cut floral detail. This post supports a square attic oriel with a double window set within a broken scroll pediment with flaming urn. Projecting from the east wall is a two story polygonal bay which is surmounted by a side gable. Situated at the corner of Lyndhurst and Washington Streets is a cluster of large turn of the century Queen Anne / Georgian Revival apartment buildings at 6 and 12/14 Lyndhurst Street and 544 Washington Street. These three story buildings are constructed of brick with rock faced brownstone trimmings. The Greek Revival temple form house at 18 Lyndhurst Street (see earlier description) was moved to accommodate these apartments from its original location facing Washington Street.
The only non residential building in the Melville A venue/Wellesley Park area is the Dorchester Municipal Court House which was built in 1925 at 510 Washington Street, between Melville Avenue and Tremlett Street from designs provided by . Blending elements of the Renaissance, Georgian and even Egyptian Revival styles, this T ?shaped, two- story court house possesses a long rectangular main block. Its main facade is divided into three parts: broad, free stone-faced center entrance bay with monumental portico reached via flight of broad stone steps. Its entrance bay is flanked by 2-bay brick segments with free stone employed in the high basement and window trimmings. Its entrance bay is dominated by a portico composed of six monumental Egyptian Revival columns with carved papyrus leaf capitals. The verticality of these columns serve as a foil for the overwhelming horizontality of the main block's massing. Its center entrance is set within well molded Renaissance Revival enframements which include a broken pediment containing high relief ribbon and swag detailing. This building is enclosed by a flat roof and culminates in a Georgian Revival parapet with rectangular openings containing balusters.
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Created: February 22, 2012 Modified: February 24, 2012