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Franklin Field North
 Franklin Field North

AREA FORM from Boston Landmarks Commission prepared as part of 1994 Survey of Dorchester. Dated March, 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]

For a pdf version of the map showing the boundaries of Frannklin Field North, Click here

Architectural Description

Franklin Field North is roughly bounded by Blue Hill Avenue on the west, Glenway Street (southwest side) and Fowler Street (both sides) on the north, the New York, New Haven and Hartford R.R. tracks on the east and Talbot Avenue on the south. For more accurate boundaries, see the attached map. This area is primarily characterized by mid-sized to substantial late 19th / early 20th century Queen Anne and Colonial Revival houses with several mid-19th-century dwellings along Harvard Street, the oldest thoroughfare in the area. The boundaries of this area have been drawn to link high profile, institutional buildings situated at its corners. Anchoring the northeast corner is the Beth El or Fowler Street Synagogue at 94 Fowler Street. It was built in 1910-1912. Although in very poor condition, with its great center dome partially destroyed and interior in ruin, the outer walls of this large, Classical Revival edifice still constitute a noteworthy design. Anchoring the northwest corner at 2 McClellan Street is the McClellan School, a large Georgian Revival building built in 192 from designs provided by Anchoring the southwest comer is the Chai Odom synagogue (1922) at #103 Nightingale Street. This synagogue is noteworthy for its boxy, rectangular form (4-bays x 10 bays) and main facade which effectively mixes tall, tapered Egyptian Revival window enframements with Neo Adamesque entrance treatments. The southeast corner at Talbot Ave. and Wescott Street is devoid of an architecturally significant, "anchor" building. This area is bounded on two sides by substantial green space, including Franklin Field on the south side of Talbot Avenue and Franklin Park on the west side of Blue Hill Avenue.

Evidently, the oldest property in this area is the Carpenter Gothic cottage at 184 Harvard Street. This gable fronted, side passage house overlooks a broad front lawn. Its front porch trimmings and gable barge boarding incorporate acorn motifs. Italianate and Italianate/ Mansard housing is pretty much confined to Abbott Road with the most substantial Italianate house in the area situated at 31 Abbott Road. Although covered with asphalt shingles, this house retains its distinctive pedimented gable form and elements including a polygonal front porch with console bracketed arches. This porch is flanked by square bays with deep bracketed eaves. Completing the formal surface finishes is a center, pedimented gable at the main facade. Noteworthy Italianate / Mansard housing on this street includes #6 Abbott Road with its early 1900s 2-story Colonial Revival front porch. The main entrance is set within a paneled polygonal bay. Its 3-bay x 4-bay main block retains its clapboards (in badly weathered condition) and is surmounted by a straightsided hip roof. Further down the street at #26 Abbott Street is another large Italianate Mansard with stucco wall covering and windows with Italianate cornice headed lintels. This house is enclosed by a straightsided mansard roof paired and pedimented dormers.

In this area the Stick Style generally appears in the form of isolated elements within Queen Anne housing. #70 Bernard Street, for example, stands with 2-bay end wall gable to the street; its interest mainly lies within its attic?s lively diamond shaped shingles and boss-ornamented barge boards. Further down the street at #'s 80, 82 (the more intact of the two) and #'s 86, 88 Bernard Street are twin houses with 6 bay main facades, scalloped shingle banding beneath the eaves and center scalloped shingle covered gables with barge boarding ornamented with incized rectangles. Also blending the Stick with the Queen Anne style in a memorable way is 186 Harvard Street with an end wall gable that combines a lower apron of shingles with curvilinear raised board ornamentation.

The Queen Anne style is scattered about the area and is best represented on Charlotte Street. Situated off Blue Hill A venue, near Franklin Park, its streetscapes speak to the incredible variety of structural forms inherent in popular 19th century architectural styles with towered, intersecting gambrel, and boxy hip roofed structural configurations. In a sense, Franklin Park is continued down this street via its grassy, hedge-bordered front yards. The wood shingle covered #28 Charlotte Street is one of the finest examples of a towered Queen Anne / Jacobethan style house in the city of Boston. Its front porch with all the exuberance of a San Francisco Queen Anne (exotic Turkish arch, well turned balusters and posts as well as turned work in the transoms) links such visually separate structural components as a conically capped corner tower and Medieval Revival bay which culminates in board and batten gable treatment. These treatments, including splaid eaves are repeated in the center dormer. Another Charlotte Street Queen Anne of note for its asymmetrical form is the towered residence at #44 Charlotte Street. Here, a Tuscan columned porch wraps around the off-center tower and north west corner. The tower culminates in a distinctive bell cast shape, adding to the overall interest in the streetscape. #35 Charlotte Street is a very substantial Queen Anne/Colonial Revival house noteworthy for its paired bow fronts, full length front porch with paired Tuscan columns, original front door with large oval pane and leaded glass side lights as well as a stained glass window on a side wall.

Easily the most dramatically sited Queen Anne house is 686 Blue Hill A venue (near McClellan Street). Situated on a high rise overlooking Franklin Park, this wood shingle covered house is noteworthy for massing that encompasses towered and polygonal forms.

Kingsdale Street boasts an interesting collection of Queen Anne style housing, including #48 Kingsdale Street, with its encircling verandah displaying clapboards and wood shingles, turned posts and transom elements, as well as 2-story polygonal bay at the street-facing gable. This house retains a sense of a Victorian garden setting. #?s 53 and 55 Kingsdale Street speak to the variety of ways a basic, boxy, "end-wall gable to the street" Queen Anne can be enlivened by projecting entrance bays, one story corner bay and two story octagonal bay. The double attic window, which is recessed deeply with curving, wood shingle covered side walls, is a picturesque Shingle Style element.

Across the street is the altered but still architecturally significant, Shingle/Colonial Revival 56 Kingsdale Street with its sweeping roof lines, projecting center pavilion with arched bracing and tall stair hall window to the left of the porch with its carved, broken scroll Colonial Revival enframents.

Across Glenway Street from the Sarah E. Greenwood School at #185 Glenway is a Queen Anne/Shingle style house whose street-facing gambrel exhibits a great sun burst detail.

Artfully blending Queen Anne form with Colonial Revival elements is 37 Bernard Street. Standing with gable end to the street, this house features a full length Tuscan columned front porch, off center bow front and a pedimented gable with a Palladian window set within a broad, semi circular arch. This arch springs from short, stocky, over size balusters. Marking the curve in Bradshaw Street as it meets Charlotte, the large Queen Anne/Colonial house at Bradshaw Street exhibits a front porch with paired Tuscan columns and a number of secondary masses, specifically bowed and polygonal bays -- all of this enclosed by an intersecting gable roof with well rendered Palladian window on the main facade's attic gable.

The Colonial Revival Style, like the Queen Anne style, is best represented in the Franklin Field North Area on Charlotte Street. #38 Charlotte Street is a fine example of Georgian Revival, near-mansion scale residence composed of a 3-bay x 2-bay main block with full-length Tuscan columned front porch, pedimented center pavilion which is flanked by bow fronts. Its edges are accented by Ionic pilasters while Doric pilasters accent the edges of the center pavilion. This roof is enclosed by a low hip roof. Paired and pedimented dormers appear at the roof slopes. #62 Charlotte Street, corner of Bradshaw Street, combines relatively rambling Queen Anne form with Colonial Revival elements, serving as a fine "gate-way" structure to the architectural treasures of Charlotte Street.

Another well rendered Colonial Revival house is #42 Bicknell Street. This 3-bay x 2-bay residence features a full length front porch with high rusticated stone piers which support Tuscan columns. The center entrance is flanked by narrow sidelights and is set within a well molded enframement. One story polygonal bays flank the front door. At the second level what had been a large segmental headed window has been converted into a porch door and is flanked by oriel windows. This house's edges are accented by Ionic pilasters. At the center of the main roof slope is a pair of dormers with broken scroll pediments.

Perhaps the most extraordinarily eclectic house in the Franklin Field North Area is 51 Bicknell Street with its memorable blend of Richardsonian Romanesque (broad rusticated brownstone and yellow brick entrance arch), Queen Anne window shapes, broad Shingle style end wall gable at the main facade and Chateauesque hip roof.

Although this area was essentially built up by the time of World War I, the boxy, hip roofed rectangular house at 166 Harvard Street, with Colonial Revival elements and exposed, Craftsman Style rafters attests to trends in both local and national building trades around 1920.

Noteworthy, non-residential architecture in this area include a church, two schools and two synagogues. St. Leo's Roman Catholic Church at # 96 Esmond Street was built in the Renaissance Revival Style in 1902 from designs provided by an undetermined architect.

The Georgian Revival William E. Endicott School at #2 McClellan Street was built in 1906 from designs provided by James E. McLaughlin. The Georgian Revival Sarah Greenwood School at 18 Glenway Street was built on the former Charles Greenwood farm in 1919. The Greenwood School was designed by Funk and Wilcox .

Historical Narrative

The Franklin Field North Area did not begin to develop as a densely built-up residential area until as late as the 1890s. Harvard Street is the oldest thoroughfare in the area, part of a system of roads that dates back to the 17th century. Blue Hill Avenue, which forms this area's western boundary was set out as a Federal period toll road called the Brush Hill Turnpike in 1804. The 1850 Map of Dorchester and Milton shows a half dozen houses in this area including #184 Harvard Street, a c. l840s Carpenter Gothic cottage which is labeled R.F. Hanet. #184 is the only house on the south side of Harvard Street -in this area during the mid 19th century. No longer extant on the north side of Harvard Street are houses belonging to the Pierce, Gleason and Greenwood families. The northern portion of the Franklin Field North area contained the houses of the Abbott, Bangs, Bowman and McClellan families. Franklin Park, the largest component in Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace system of Boston Parks was set out in 1883. This 527-acre park, located partly in Dorchester and partly in Roxbury, encompasses an 18-hole golf course and ?zoological garden?. In a sense, the Franklin Field North area had already long been associated with horticulture because of the presence of Charles Greenwood's farm at the corner of Glenway and Harvard Streets (mid 19th c), now the location of the Sarah Greenwood School at 180 G1enway Street. Franklin Field was set out as a park in 1892 and prior to purchase by the city, this tract was called the "Peat Meadow". Franklin Field is described in Dorchester Old and New as "probably America's oldest playground, for it contains 77 acres available for baseball and other sports." By 1911, one of these "other sports" was weekly horse racing conducted by the Dorchester Gentlemen's Driving Club. Chartered in 1890 but not officially organized until 1899, the club was composed of Dorchester men "who enjoyed racing their horses in a competitive manner for awards and recognition". Originally, the weekly races were held on Blue Hill Avenue between Talbot and Callender Streets but as Blue Hill Avenue became more of a major traffic artery, the club petitioned the city of Boston to allow them to grade a portion of Franklin Field for a speedway and grandstand. In 1912, President John F. Kennedy's grandfather, Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald won the silver cup at the one-seated carriage races on Dorchester Day. The Dorchester Gentlemen's Driving Club continued to race at Franklin Field until the rise of the automobile by 1920. Undoubtedly the proximity of these parks and the activities of the Dorchester Gentlemen's Club figured in the building boom which took place along the streets north of Franklin Field around 1900. Actually an earlier residential development was set out c. 1870 (and "in place" by 1874) in the triangular section bounded by Harvard, Blue Hill A venue and Wales Street (including Abbott and Vesta Road). Once part of the William E. Abbott farm, which was oriented to the Brush Hill Turnpike (Blue Hill Avenue), this tract encompassed a "house, stable, shop, corn barn and one-half of a barn on 27 acres." This residential development was, with its substantial Italianate / Mansard residences, architecturally comparable to and contemporary with the eastern portion of Dix Street in the King Square area. Survivors from this earliest phase of relatively large scale residential development include the Italianate Helen C. Dove House at 31 Abbott Street, which judging by style may be the earliest (c. late l860) house in this development. By the 1910s this was the home of Mrs. Claude F. (Marie C.) Morand and by the early 1930s was the residence of Samuel and Bessie Rosemark. Mr. Rosemark was the treasurer of the Mayflower Colonial Shops and was associated with the Boston Parlor Frame Co. at 53 Wareham Street. Other relatively intact houses from the 1870s Abbott development are 6 and 26 Abbott Street (both extant by 1874, the former lived in by Smiths, Sumners. Bowens and the latter by Marks', Hayes', and Hildreths). Of the three streets in this development, Abbott Street provides the most evidence of the 1870s streetscape of Italianate/Mansards while Vesta Road is largely lined by the three deckers of later, turn of the century development. Wales Street presents a mixed collection of 1910s and 20s brick Georgian Revival apartment buildings as well as housing from the old Abbott development of the 1870s such as 40 Wales Street which was owned by a Morse & Hardy in 1874 and later by Whitneys from c. l880 until at least the early 1930s.

Most of the residential development in the Franklin Field North area dates from c. 1890 to 1910. This area developed from south to north. The houses bordering Bernard, and Kingsdale Streets in the southern portion of this area present slightly earlier, sparsely ornamented historic architectural styles than that of the more formal and substantial housing north of Harvard Street. For example the Stick / Queen Anne house at 70 Bernard Street was built c. late 1880s. Its land had been part of the Mt. Bowdoin Land Association's multi-lot tract (1870s) which was quite extensive, with lots bordering either side of Glenway, Bernard, Glen, York and May Streets. During the early 1880s its lot was part of the less extensive Gooch tract and by the late 1880s, a Charles O. Wheeler lived at #70 Bernard. From the early 1900s until at least the 1930s, Winifred L. Sinnott, book keeper (1910's) owned this house, renting all or part of it to John A. Cunningham, an inspector of milk for the City of Boston. Also dating to the late 1880s and standing on a Mt. Bowdoin Land Association lot is the Queen Anne 48 Kingsdale Street which was built for an E.F. Tiden and lived in by Frederick F. Noonan, photo engraver by the early 1930s. Kingsdale Street was set out by 1874 and was originally called Coolidge Avenue. Across the street at 53/55 Kingsdale Street is a Queen Anne house built in 1895 for a J.H. Dufill by a C. Hodgdon, architect and James H. Hutchins, builder.

The area south of Harvard Street has the lion's share of multi-family dwellings in this area with three deckers, now mostly altered, bordering Nightingale, Kingsdale, Browning and Kerwin Streets. Perhaps the most interesting example of a multi- family house in this area is #40 Kingsdale Street. Exhibiting a three Tuscan columned porch with distinctive "chamfered" bays, #40 was built in 1909 for and by Herbert S. Ray, builder from designs provided by John S. Ray.

By the 1920s, most of the lots in this area had been built -up with residences. 166 Harvard Street, a Craftsman Style house of the 1920s was built on a portion of the once extensive George E. Nightingale tract. It was designed by architect Harry M. Ramsay (office 50 Bromfield Street) and was originally owned by Louis Segal who is listed as the mechanic involved in the project.

Two of Franklin Field North's most important historic resources are its houses of worship and schools. Two synagogues provide evidence of Franklin Field North's once thriving Jewish community (early 1900s-early 1950s.)

Discussion of Franklin Field North's synagogues should be briefly prefaced by a look at the important role Boston's Jewish community played in shaping this area from 1900 until the late 1960s. From the early 1900s until the mid 1920s, the suburban center of Boston Jewry was in Dorchester and Upper Roxbury. As early as the late 1890s mostly Eastern European Jews from Boston's North End began to settle in areas bordering Blue Hill Avenue. One measure of the Jewish community's early growth in this area was the ability of only 140 families to raise the money necessary to fund the construction of the enormous Adath Jeshurun synagogue on Blue Hill Avenue and Brunswick Street in the Grove Hall section. By the mid 1920s the stable middle class Jewish population of Franklin Field and other areas along Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan Square to Grove Hall began to move farther out into the suburbs. This affluent group was followed by working class and lower middle class Jews who were attracted to the new apartments being built along Washington Street, Blue Hill Avenue as well as some of the multi -family housing on side streets. By the late 1920s / early 1930s 77,000 Jews lived in the Dorchester/Mattapan area--roughly half of the entire Jewish population living in the greater Boston area. By 1950, the Jewish population had declined to 70,000 and numbered less than 1,000 by the end of the 1960s as the population became increasingly composed of Afro Americans, Haitians and other Carribean island groups, Cape Verdeans etc.

Organized during the 1910s, #103 Nightingale Street was built as the Chai Odom Synagogue in 1922. Its congregation moved to a Queen Anne mansion at 77 Englewood Avenue in 1968. No architect has been identified for the 1922 synagogue on Nightingale Street. Franklin Field's Chai Odom was built on what had been part of the Elizabeth Floyd tract during the 1870s, later passing to Newhalls (1880s), J. Frank Pope (1890s) and Marion Wolf by the 1910s. In 1898, a large wooden building owned by Pope, covered this lot.

Anchoring the northeast comer of this area is the large Fowler Street Synagogue or Congregation Beth El at # 94 Fowler Street. The beginnings of this synagogue lie in the middle of the early 1900s when a small group of Jewish families in the Mt Bowdoin district organized a congregation and in 1910, purchased land on Fowler Street, two blocks from Mount Bowdoin Station. Beth El's Fowler Street Synagogue was dedicated in September 1912. During the 1920s, Beth El was among the Dorchester congregations that became less conservative, abandoning their late Friday evening services and choirs as well as youth activities, hymnals and family pews. This move away from the Conservative Movement in the 1920's was a reflection of the change from the needs of a more tradition bound middle class exiting the area to a more liberal working and lower middle class constituency.

North of Harvard Street, housing bordering north-south streets such as Esmond, Bicknell and Gleason Streets seems to have been largely a product of the mid 1890s building boom. For example, 51 Bicknell Street, a well designed Queen Anne / Shingle / Richardsonian Romanesque hybrid, was built in 1895 for M. Varnum Swift by H.F. Purinton, architect and James H. Davidson, builder. Over 15 years later, Bicknell Street was still being built up with architecturally significant homes, including 30, 32 Bicknell Street which was built in 1913 for an S. Rubenstein who lived at 85 Quincy Street. It was designed in the Colonial Revival Style by the Silberman Engineering Co.

Although Blue Hill Avenue is bordered by mostly large apartment buildings from the 1920s exhibiting designs of moderate interest, a free-standing, wood frame Queen Anne house high on a rise at 686 Blue Hill Avenue represents a remnant of the old Thomas C. Wales estate. The Wales House actually stood behind #686. The Wales heirs sold their land to William Donaldson et al during the 1890s. In 1900, 686 Blue Hill Avenue was built by William Donaldson from designs provided by architect Nathan Douglass. It was built as a 2-family dwelling. Owned for several decades by the Bossert family of the Bossert Electric Construction Company, this house was owned by Samuel M. Pearl, physician, by 1933.

Glenway Street, together with Bernard Street forms a major north-south artery in this area and here and there it is bordered by housing that approaches the style and substance of the streets to the west. 109 Glenway Street is a substantial Queen Anne residence that was built for architect James D. Mc Kay. Although Mc Kay designed several houses in this area, including 51 Charlotte Street, A.B. Pinkham was #109 Glenway's architect. Pinkham designed 96 Lynhurst Street in the Melville Park section of Dorchester, cited in Douglas Shand Tucci's Built in Boston as having one of the most lavish interiors in Boston. Further study is needed on housing between Glenway, eastward to the New York New Haven Railroad tracks. Built up between 1895 and 1915, this area was part of the Mt Bowdoin Land Association lots shown on the 1874 Atlas. (includes Brenton, Roxton. Maybrook, York. Harlem and Fowler Streets).

Charlotte Street is by far the most architecturally significant street in this area with house after house representing well crafted and well designed "pure" and hybrid examples of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. Charlotte Street was set out between 1894-1898. During the 1870s, it was part of the Bicknell/Williams tract. By c. l890 it was part of a large rectangular, 531,998 tract that stretched southeastward from Blue Hill Avenue and was owned by William Minot Jr. et al, trustees. Boston Building Directories' listings of the 1920s and 30s reflect the trend toward ownership in western Dorchester and Mattapan by members of the Jewish community who moved here from the North End, West End, north slope of Beacon Hill and the Dover street section of the South End.

An early example of upscale housing on Charlotte Street is the Colonial Revival residence at 38 Charlotte Street that was built for and by Joseph F. Mills in 1896, Grocery Co. Inc., at 60 Fulton Street. Mills was already living in the area at 22 Nightingale Street. By 1910 Charles A. Smith of Smith Brothers, 1211 Washington Street, lived here and by the early 1930s, it was owned by Barnett Kuposky. A major example of the work of Dorchester architect Samuel J. Brown stands at 28 Charlotte Street. Built for Ferdinand N. Triffit in 1898, this towered Queen Anne house was owned by an Elizabeth F. Pinkham (wife of architect A.B. Pinkham?) during the 1910s and by provisions dea1er Samuel Polimer by the early 1930s. #28's architect, Samuel J. Brown was responsible for unusually robust, well crafted and fancifully designed Queen Anne houses elsewhere in the Boston area including the Mitchell House on Walnut Street between Highland Avenue and Austin Avenue, Newton (1885), the Fottler house at 389 Washington Street (1900) , and 102 Ocean Street at Ashmont, Dorchester (1899).

Turning to the schools in the area, The William E. Endicott School at 2 McLellan, corner of Blue Hill Avenue was built in 1906 from designs provided by James E. Mc Laughlin. As early as 1874, a wood frame school house had been situated on this lot. The Endicott serves to anchor the northwest corner of this area. Situated in the heart of this district is the Sarah Greenwood School at 18 Glenway Street. It was built in 1919 from designs provided by Fink and Wilcox. It stands on the site of the old Charles Greenwood farm. Charles Greenwood was born in 1832, the son of Artemus and Sarah Dudley Greenwood. The large Greenwood farm was located on Harvard Street between Waterlow and Gleason Streets, running back to Mt Bowdoin. The Greenwood homestead, 29 Harvard Street, was a white clapboard house, set back from the street, near what is now Greenwood Street. This farm also had a "well-kept" barn and a "fine herd of cows". Charlie Greenwood was a bachelor, farmer, milkman, and real estate operator who was a liberal contributor to the Harvard Congregational Church.

Statement of Significance

Franklin Field North.

Considered eligible for its inclusion of an exceptional and extensive group of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival houses bordering Charlotte (most notably the towered Queen Anne at 30 Charlotte Street), Bicknell and Glenway Streets. Although primarily built up between 1890 and 1915, this area also encompasses a pocket of substantial Italianate and Italianate/Mansard houses on Abbot Road (worth noticing are 6, 26, and 31 Abbott Road). The oldest house in this area is the Carpenter Gothic cottage at 184 Harvard Street. The setting out of the 77 acre Franklin Park [Franklin Field?] during the 1890s was the scene of spirited horse races that attracted prominent participants such as Boston Mayor Fitzgerald. Between Franklin Park and Harvard Street thoroughfares such as Bernard, Kerwin, and Kingsdale Streets are lined with less ornate, but nevertheless interesting houses such as the Stick/Queen Anne double houses at 80/82 and 86/88 Bernard Street which are noteworthy for patterned shingles at the fa?ade gables and incised barge boarding. During the early 1900s, the settlement of Jews from Boston neighborhoods such as the North, South and West Ends resulted in the construction of architecturally significant synagogues such as The Fowler Street Synagogue or Congregation Beth El (Classical Revival, interior currently in ruins) at 94 Fowler Street and Chai Odom Synagogue at 103 Nightingale Street (Neo Adamesque and Egyptian Revival detail, dates to early 1920s). This area satisfies criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places. Franklin Field North is also recommended as an architectural conservation district.

Bibliography and/or References

Boston and Dorchester Maps/Atlases-1794, 1830, 1850, 1874, 1884, 1894, 1898, 1910, 1918, 1933

Boston Directories: 1870-1945

Various authors, The Dorchester Book Illustrated, 1899

arna, Jonathan D. and Smith, Ellen. The Jews of Boston, 1995

Dorchester Community News, 15 April, 1994- "Franklin Field Once Served as Speedway" Anthony Mtchel! Sammarco.

Berry, Lawrence F., Greenwood Memorial Church. 1936

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Created: July 18, 2005   Modified: March 14, 2012