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Pleasant Street North
 Pleasant Street North Area

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]

Map showing boundaries:

For a pdf version of the map showing the boundaries of Pleasant Street North, Click here

Architectural Description

In many ways, the Pleasant Street North area is the most representative of all the study areas in terms of housing built in Dorchester/ Mattapan over three centuries. Ranging from the Blake House of 1650 through Federal farm houses, Greek Revival residences, Italianate dwellings, Mansard houses, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival mansions to late 19th/early 20th century 3-deckers, the story of Dorchester's architectural development over time is encompassed within this area. For the purposes of this survey, this area is bounded by Dorchester Avenue on the east (the boundary line mostly confined to the west side of the street, although a few architecturally significant properties on the east side of the street have been included). The northern boundary takes in East Cottage Street, Pond Street, and Richardson Park. The western boundary begins at Sumner Street and East Cottage, turning south and taking in Sumner Terrace, continuing along the south side of 29 Sumner Street, turning south along the back lot lines of Dawes Street and extending south along Bakersfield Street, jogging west to encompass Stoughton Terrace and then south to Stoughton Street. The southern boundary follows Stoughton Street from Bakersfield to Pleasant, crosses Pleasant along the south lot line of 54 Pleasant. Street, jogs around commercial infill at Thornley and Pleasant and continues along the south side of Thornley to Dorchester Avenue. This area is situated on the level land once known as Allen's Plain. This area is more or less bisected by Pleasant Street which possesses housing representing a long developmental time frame from the 184Ds to early 20th century.

At the northwest corner of this area is Richardson Park, since 1895 home to the James Blake House of the Dorchester Historical Society. It is considered a ?study house? for students of First Period architecture. This wood shingle clad, 5-bay x 1-bay, gable roofed house's current appearance dates to a mid 1890s restoration by Dr. Clarence Blake and-Dorchester architect Charles Hodgson. The interior restoration of the Blake House was completed in 1910 and included ?stripping, staining, and polishing of exposed oak framing; the replacement of most of the structure's sills and the bottoms of the posts with new oak which was stained and chamfered to match the original timbers".

Pleasant Street North's side streets tend to be bordered with housing representative of a particular architectural style or form. For example, Pearl Street possesses a fine collection of Greek Revival residences; the southern end of Dawes Street is built up with modestly scaled Italianate housing; Thornley Street provides a glimpse of mostly modestly-scaled mid-19th century dwellings with intact examples of the Italianate and Italianate mansard styles, while examples of the Queen Anne style are represented in a significant way along the side streets off Pleasant, particularly along Willis, Mayfield and Howes Streets. The Colonial Revival is mixed in with Queen Anne houses along the aforementioned streets. Three-deckers are also well represented in this area and tend to be built along the entire length of streets such as Dawes, Chase, Taft and Trescott Streets. In a sense the best way to get a sense of the full sweep of Dorchester architecture from English settlement to electric trolley commuter-related housing is to look north along the 3-decker lined Dawes Street to the distinctive First Period form of the Blake House in its park setting.

The boundary lines of this district have been drawn to encompass the Federal Style house at #978 Dorchester Avenue. Presently serving as the Dorchester Baptist Church, this L-shaped structure (5-bays x 2-bay main block with center entrance) is situated on a granite block basement and is enclosed by a low hip roof. Sheathed in wood tingles, this building's proportions speak to the hand made, rather than machine made, nature of its construction.

The Greek Revival Style is concentrated primarily on Pearl Street, with interesting examples at #s 20, 24, 32, 33, 37 and 40 Pearl Street. One of the more intact examples of a side hall plan Greek Revival house stands at #32 Pearl Street. This house's 3-bay main facade features tall windows which open on to a full length front porch with Tuscan columns. This house is enclosed by a pedimented gable. This house's edges are accented by wide corner, frieze and side boards. Across the street at #'s 33 and 37 Pearl Street is a 3-bav x 2-bav Greek Revival house with unusually broad, paneled Doric pilasters (width of pilasters speaks to the influence of the British Regency style). At the center of the second floor, main facade is a Queen Anne octagonal bay addition. Still extant at #10 Pleasant Street is a relatively substantial, very intact, side hall plan Greek Revival house with a full length Tuscan columned porch, entrance with side lights and transom intact, flush boarding at the main facade and a pedimented gable with pedimented dormers on the Howes Street facade.

The Carpenter Gothic is represented by the T-shaped house at #10 Thornley Street. Standing with a deep set back from the street this house has been altered by the installation of modem siding but retains original barge boards.

The Italianate style in the Pleasant Street North Area is most memorably represented by the mansion-scale residence at 19 Sumner Street. Built on a large scale similar to Mill Street Area houses of the mid 19th century and situated on a low rise, this house is composed of a 3-bay x 2-bay main block with a rear ell . The ell exhibits a side porch which retains its fluted Ionic columns. Its 3-bay main facade features a center pavilion with heavy scrolled door hood, original multi panel front door set within a well molded segmental arch, a pair of tall arched windows second level surrounded by unusual, incised diamond shaped pattern. The front door is reached via a flight of granite steps. Its main entrance is flanked by octagonal bays. Its windows are fully enframed and exhibit cornice headed corbels[?]. Al1 that remains of the original cupola is its octagonal base. This house is situated on a still-ample lot

The Italianate/Mansard style is scattered about this area with a substantial, stucco -covered double house of this mode at 210/220 Cottage Street adjacent to Richardson Park. Several noteworthy examples of the Italianate/Mansard style line Thornley Street at the southern end of this area. Good examples include 7 Thornley Street, with its high style surface treatments, including corner quoins, fully enframed cornice headed windows and denlillated cornice. This house is enclosed by a bell-cast mansard roof. This house is also of interest for its extensive wood and brick rear ell and cobble-stone covered driveway. Other Thornlev Street Italianate/Mansards of note include 10 and 29 Thornley Street.

Before considering the Queen Anne style, it should be noted that the boundary lines of this district have been drawn to jog eastward across Dorchester Avenue (the boundary line primarily adheres to the west side of the Avenue) to include the large L-shaped Italianate house (now a funeral home) with long, three-bay side facing the street at 1020 Dorchester Avenue, the compact Queen Anne with appropriate paint colors and highly plastic surfaces alive with bays and oriels at 5 Romsey Street, corner of Dorchester Avenue, 6/8 Romsey Street which is a charming double mansard house characterized by an L-shaped form, paired entrances and a heavy mansard roof.

The Stick Style is generally incorporated with the Queen Anne. By far, the most stylish and substantial Stick/Queen Anne hybrid in the area is 30 Pleasant Street, corner of Mayfield Street. Here, facade treatments include an overlay of vertical and horizontal boards, clapboards and scalloped shingles. This house is also of note for the very high craftsmanship level evident in the turnings of its encircling verandah. The main facade features an attic gable with small oriel window. Tall, very English Queen Anne chimneys with deep, arched brick work panels, rise from the roof?s intersecting gables. Summer Street, near East Cottage Street, is something of a repository for ornate Stick houses with full blown examples at 18 and 22 Summer Street.

The Queen Anne style is the most widely represented architectural style in this area. On street after street, this style, with its asymetrica1 massing, encircling verandahs and in some cases towered components add considerable interest to the streetscape. Streets such as Howes, Mayfield, Willis and Hinckley possess well crafted collections of Queen Anne's dating from the 1880s-early 1900s. 24 Mayfield Street is a robust example of a towered Queen Anne house with well formed and detailed front porch (short, squat Tuscan columns support segmental arches, porch entablature exhibits delicate swag and ribbon detailing in raised plaster relief). Willis Street is primarily lined with Queen Anne 2-family housing characterized by broad street facing gables with deep scroll bracketed eaves and palladian attic windows (19, 21, 23 Willis Street).

Serving as a "gateway" structure to the Queen Anne housing of Willis Street is 11 Pleasant Street which combines highly plastic Queen Anne form (including unusual double dormer with paired Ionic columns and pyramidal roof cap) with Colonial Revival elements. Although one block away from each other, 14 Hinckley Street and 76 Mayfield Street are basically the same in terms of design with irregular form, square corner tower (pyramidal roof cap) and exceptionally well rendered turned porch elements.

Although not built as a private residence, the old Dorchester Club at #52 Pleasant, corner of Pearl Street, presents the appearance of an enormous Queen Anne, mansion-scale residence with highly irregular massing, front porch with graceful arches rising from squat, paneled Doric pilasters and a once open, now enclosed, side porch with broad segmental headed arches. Towered segments project from the Pearl/Pleasant Streets corner and from the P1easant street facade. The Pleasant Street wall exhibits a well crafted, very medieval -appearing brick chimney with recessed arched panel, plaque bearing the date "1892" and angled corbelling. This club started out in "rooms at Fields Corner" and in 1892 moved into #52 Pleasant which upon completion "contained handsome parlors, reading rooms, billiard rooms and banquet halls, four spacious bowling alleys and a fine concert hall". For many years this has been (and still is ?) a Knights of Columbus lodge.

In the Pleasant Street North Area, the Colonial Revival style rarely appears in "pure" form and generally appears as isolated elements in concert with Queen Anne form and elements. The noteworthy exception to this rule is the robust Georgian Revival mansion at 38 Pearl Street with its handsome center pavilion composed of paired Ionic columns and deep pedimented gable which is edged with brackets and enframes a Palladian attic window. Also noteworthy are fan and side light enframents of the center entrance and the handsome swans neck scroll lintels of the first floor windows. Enclosed by a hip roof with slate shingles mostly intact, this house exhibits well delineated dormers with swans neck scroll pediments.

The Pleasant Street North Area possesses one of the finest collections of three- decker housing in Dorchester. It is probably fair to say that three-deckers with broad, robust and circular corner towered segments is one of the predominant triple decker types in this area and is well represented along Chase Street (7-19 and 8-22 Chase Street) in the north central part of this area. Several Streets are comprised entirely or almost entirely of three- deckers noteworthy for form, elements, and in the case of Taft Street, siting. 5-30 and 7-33 Taft Street constitutes a collection of three-deckers whose importance is greater than the sum of their parts. Many of these buildings have sustained alterations to fabric via vinyl siding but it is the streetscapes along Taft that are memorable. Here closely placed triple deckers with porches fronted by monumental columns are closely spaced. forming rythmic repetitions of columns, porch railings, octagonal bays and well molded cornices - these triple deckers follow the gentle bend in Taft Street's path. Trescott Street, between Pleasant and Bakersfield Street at 6-26 Trescott Street and 16-36 Stoughton Street, directly behind the Trescott 3-deckers form an exceptionally well-rendered node of housing of this type. These triple deckers are of interest primarily for their porch railing treatments which feature angled and fret-work baluster treatments on three floors. Three-decker construction of the period 1890 to 1915 represents the final chapter in the architectural development of the Pleasant Street North area.

Historical Narrative

The Pleasant Street North area is of enormous historical significance within the annals of Dorchester history as one of the areas of first settlement in the 1630s.This area has strong ties with the development of Dorchester's first town center; development still evident in the street patterns of the area and the presence of the 1650 Blake House, which although not on its original site, provides a physical link with this distant, seminal time in the history of Dorchester. Secondly, this area's historical significance lies in its ability to chronicle virtually every phase of Dorchester's historic architectural development from the mid- 17th- century to 1930. This area was also home to important 17th century Dorchester personages, including Rev. Richard Mather and Roger Williams, founder of Providence, R.I. [note - the Roger Williams who came to Dorchester was probably not the Rev. Roger Williams, founder of Providence, RI - editorial note written by Earl Taylor]

The Pleasant Street North area is located in the flat area between Jones Hill on the southwest and Savin Hill on the southeast. It was at nearby Savin Hill that the first landing of the company of Englishmen from the Mary and John landed on June 1, 1630. Pleasant Street has been in existence since the 1640s and was originally called "Green Lane." The first meeting house stood on a small island of land on Allen's Plain, delineated by Pleasant, Pond and Cottage streets. The thatched structure was enlarged in 1634 by a window-lit loft. The meeting house was rebuilt in 1645 and was moved to Rocky Hill (Meeting House Hill) in approximately 1673. By the mid-late 18th century, the Pleasant Street north area was called Allen's Plain after William Allen whose house on Pleasant Street was destroyed in 1784. In 1804, the Dorchester Turnpike was set out through this area from Lower Mills at the Neponset River to West Fourth Street in South Boston and ultimately linked up with the Dover Street (Berkeley St.) bridge to Boston. The turnpike was said to cost more than had been originally estimated and the charging of expensive tolls caused many travelers to bypass Dorchester in favor of a Roxbury to Boston route. Nevertheless considerable money was made from the turnpike polls and it was only with the coming of the Old Colony R.R. through the area in 1844 and the corporation losing a costly turnpike-related accident law suit in 1852 that the turnpike faltered, failed, and was finally opened as a free public way in 1844. It was first called Dorchester Avenue in 1854-55 and then was called Federal Street until 1870 when the name reverted back to Dorchester Avenue. Venerable survivors from the old turnpike days are pretty much confined to the House at 978 Dorchester Avenue.

The 1850 map of Dorchester shows the Pleasant Street North area as relatively densely settled. At that time there were no side streets in the large rectangular area bounded by Dorchester Avenue, Pearl Street (which is actually the first side street in this area), Pleasant Street and East Cottage Street. The ancient oval area bounded by Pond and East Cottage Streets that contained the first meeting house is clearly shown. Additionally, Summer Street is shown running between Stoughton and East Cottage Street. Seven houses are shown bordering Pearl Street, 10 houses are shown bordering Summer Street, four houses border Pleasant Street and one house was located on the island created by East Cottage and Pond Streets. Pond Street was named for a long ago filled in pond that was located near Richardson Park.

The James Blake House was built c. 1650. It is the oldest house within the boundaries of the City of Boston. According to Orcutt, James Blake was a prominent man in the affairs of the town, holding some public office every year from 1658-1685. He was a selectman for thirteen years; and also served as rater, constable, deputy to the General Court, clerk of the writs, recorder, and sergeant in the military company. He was deacon of the Church for fourteen years, and was ruling elder for the same length of time. He died on June 28, 1700. The Blake House remained in the family until 1825. It was moved to its present location in Richardson Park in 1895 at which time it came under the ownership of the Dorchester Historical Society.

Pleasant Street, Pearl Street and Sumner Street are currently the repositories for the oldest housing in the Pleasant Street North Area. All of the housing listed below deserves further research in Norfolk County deeds to determine date of construction, the possible identities of carpenter/builders etc.

#10 Pleasant Street (comer of Howard) is a full blown Greek Revival house that may appear on the 1850 Dorchester Map-deed work is recommended here for a house that probably dates to the mid 1840's. The earliest readily accessible deed reference to this house appears in a Norfolk County deed dated April 10, 1855. At that time, Richard Uran of Dorchester sold "a certain lot of land with the buildings thereon" to John B. S. Jackson of Boston for $6,198.00. Reference is made to the fact that Richard Uran purchased this "estate" from Peleg Sprague on November 13, 1824. (Norfolk Deeds Vol 75, p.13). 10 Pleasant Street?s appearance, however, suggests a construction date of the 1840s rather than 1820s. For many years it was owned by Dr. J.B. S. Jackson and his heirs. Prior to 1885, this house had a much larger lot that extended northward to East Cottage Street. Between 1894-98, this house acquired a larger rear ell and a rectangular stable at the rear of its lot. In 1898, Howard Street was a cul de sac off the west side of Dorchester Avenue and was not extended all the way to Pleasant Street until c.1905. Later owners included Mary G. Murphy and Frances A. and John W. Lane (1910's-30's).

Pearl Street has the largest number of extant pre-1850 houses in this area. #32 Pearl Street was owned from at least 1869 until c.1895 by a John Ferns. Later owners included Ida M. Walzinger, Catherine A. Griffin and Mary McManus.

Victoria, Mayfield and Howes Streets are lined with substantial, well-detailed Queen Anne and Colonial Revival houses that date to the 1880s-carly 1900s. 24 and 25 Mayfield Street are superb examples of c. 1890 towered Queen Annes.

Bibliography and/or References

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

Boston Directories: 1870-1945

Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts, A Conference held by The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1974

Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester. 1893

Various Authors. The Dorchester Book. Illustrated, 1899

Taxable Valuation of the Town of Dorchester, 1869

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Created: July 18, 2005   Modified: February 22, 2012