Virginia / Monadnock
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 Virginia Monadnock area, Click here
The Virginia-Monadnock area is situated directly west of the Upham's Corner commercial urea. It is included in the part of Dorchester known as St. Kevin's Parish. This study area is bounded on the west by the Penn Central Railroad tracks (Midland Branch); on the north by the abutting Dudley Street area; on the east by the rear property lines of Virginia Street; and on the south by the edges of the intersection of Virginia, Monadnock, Bird and Sayward Street as well as the cul de sac known as Cedar Place. Topographically, Virginia Street runs along the crest of a hill while Monadnock Street follows its base, curving to its contours on the south side. Virginia and Monadnock Streets form an elongated island of house lots. This area is an oasis of residential calm surrounded on two sides by commercial concerns and their attendant activity and railroad tracks which separate the Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods. The buildings of the Virginia/Monadnock area arc mostly large, single-family homes of high architectural quality dating from c. 1880-1915. Most have ample front yards and/or side lawns. Architectural intrusions include vinyl siding, unsympathetic additions, and alterations to fenestration. Buildings beyond the intersection of Sayward and Bird arc smaller in size, of lesser architectural quality and are set much closer together and closer to the street. Cedar Place, a cul de sac off the southern end of Monadnock Street, has been included in this area because of its small, relatively well -preserved collection of mid 19th century Italianate cottages which provide a glimpse of this area before wealthy late 19th c. suburbanites moved here.
Virginia Street's streetscape is characterized by a large houses set on spacious lots which is very different from the more densely built up streetscapes of Monadnock Street. One of the earlier houses on the street, the Isaac H. Allard House at 16 Virginia Street, is a substantial mansard roofed residence with a front porch unusual in its employment of Carpenter Gothic elements mixed with Italianate brackets. Good examples of large Queen Anne houses with irregular forms and well-crafted elements include 21 Virginia Street with its rambling, irregular form and corner tower with bell -shaped roof cap and intact slate shingles throughout. Other Queen Anne houses of interest on Virginia Street include #'s 28, 41, 48, 50 and 54. The Queen Anne/Colonial Revival 2.5 story square, side hall plan (?) house at #11 Virginia Street shows positive evidence of recent rehabilitation work, while #15 Virginia Street deserves praise for an appropriate color scheme over a typically Queen Anne sheathing of clapboards on the first floor and patterned wood shingles on the second floor. Its irregular form is enclosed by an intersecting gable roof. Relatively intact residential examples of the Stick style, with symmetrical massing and stick work detail are in evidence at 38 and 44 Virginia Street.
Monadnock Street presents a much more varied streetscape in terms of residential building types including single, !-family , and 3-deckers rubbing elbows on lots less spacious than those of Virginia Street. The proximity to the railroad tracks and less elevated terrain resulted in a more moderate demand for house lots. Consequently this street was built -up over a longer timeframe than that of Virginia Street. Large, irregular Queen Anne housing similar to that of Virginia Street appears at the southwestern end of Monadnock Street (i.e. 61, 65 and 69 Monadnock Street) but these houses by no means represent the norm for housing on this street. A particularly charming foray into the Queen Anne vernacular is the towered, wood shingle clad house at #41 Monadnock Street. The best preserved Queen Anne house on Monadnock Street is #29 with its turned porch elements and wealth of original and relatively ornate detail. Striking a decidedly urban note in Monadnock Street's suburban streetscape are the c.1890 bow front brick apartments at 50, 52, 54, 56 Monadnock Street. #'s 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48 Monadnock Street are three deckers with Classica1 Revival elements, including 2-story porches with monumental, square and fluted porch posts. These 3-deckers were built on this area's narrowest lots between 1912-1913.
During the mid 19th century the Virginia-Monadnock area was owned by Ebenezer Sumner. By 1874, his heirs controlled a large tract containing 537,333 square feet that stretched from Dudley Street to Cedar Place. The first housing in the area appears to have been built on Cedar Place in the early 1870s in the form of Italianate cottages, a good example of which stands at 6 Cedar Place, with its boxy 1.5 story cottage scale and total lack of architectural pretensions--a far cry from the substantial. ornate housing that would be built on a Virginia and Monadnock Streets in the 1880s and 90s.
The Virginia and Monadnock area had the advantage of being located just across from the Dudley commuter stop on the Midlands Branch of the Penn Central Railroad which was constructed around 1870. It was also close to the burgeoning commercial area at Upham's Comer and yet had all the rural suburban qualities prized by middle class Yankees anxious to escape the social problems and increasing industrialization of the city.
The homes built on Virginia and Monadnock Street during their first twenty years of development from 1880-1890 were large single family homes on the hill which overlooked the city. The first house to be built on Monadnock Street was #29. Exhibiting a date plaque which reads" 1880", this house has been sensitively restored, representing an interesting blend of the Mansard, Stick and Queen Anne styles. Over time members of the E.G. Smith (1880's), Alda M. Jones (1890's), Florence D. Reynolds (1900's) , Julia G. Flaherty (1920's) and Ellen E. Mahoney (1930's- ?) families lived here. Another early house in this development was #16 Virginia Street the home of Isaac H. Allard who owned a livery stable at 767 Dudley Street. A number of doctors settled on Monadnock Street during these early years of development so that by 1900 this street was sometimes called Pill Road. By the 1930s Percy I. Minard lived here. The Minards built a six car concrete garage behind this house in 1925. The brick bow front row houses at #'s 50 to 56 Monadnock Street may represent the work of prolific late 19th century architect and developer William H. Besarick. These houses are listed as being owned by Besarick's wife (?) Elizabeth from c.1890-1920.
B y 1912, most of the land was developed with the exception of the narrow, steeply sloping hill section of Monadnock treet which was least desirable for development because of its topography. In 1912, this last area, still valuable for its location in a fine neighborhood close to transportation and commerce, was subdivided into narrow lots and a set of double and single triple deckers with fine classical detail was built between 1912 and 1913. Expansion of the street car lines by this time was so extensive and fares so reasonable that more moderate income families could afford to move to the area. By the 1940s wide spread automobile ownership resulted in many of this area's residents moving further out into the suburbs. During the 1940s and 50s many of the larger homes were subdivided into boarding houses.
Bibliography and/or References
Maps/Atiases-1830, 1850, 1874, 1884, 1894, 1898, 1910, 1918 and 1933
Boston Business Dircctorics-1874-1945
Boston Landmarks Commission Files- Virginia-Monadnock Area Profile
Orcutt, William Dana, Good Old Dorchester, 1893
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Created: July 18, 2005 Modified: March 14, 2012