Anna Harris Smith House, 65 Pleasant Street

, , ,

No. 13347 65 Pleasant Street, photograph July 29, 2012.

No. 9489 65 Pleasant Street.

Anna Harris Smith House

The following are notes presented by Roysin Bennett Younkin at BLC hearing to accept  the property at 65 Pleasant Street for study as a possible Boston Landmark, May, 2007

65 Pleasant Street Preliminary Hearing notes

Planning Background

The house at 65 Pleasant Street, Dorchester, was individually inventoried as part of the Dorchester and Mattapan Survey undertaken for the BLC in 1977.

 It was also included within the Jones Hill survey area evaluated as part of the more recent survey of Dorchester in 1995.

 At that time, the Jones Hill survey area was recommended for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a district under criteria A and C at the local level. 

In August of 2006 BLC staff evaluated the property’s eligibility for individual listing on the National Register and the MHC found the property eligible for individual listing on the National Register.

The property was brought to the attention of BLC staff  by a member of the Board of the Animal Rescue League who had done extensive research on Anna Harris Smith, the founder of the League, and her residence at  65 Pleasant Street.

Clapp History

The house at 65 Pleasant Street was constructed in 1804 by Samuel Clapp, of the prominent Dorchester Clapp family.  Samuel was a cooper.

With his brother Seth, Samuel inherited the property on which the house now stands in 1787 from his father David Clapp who had purchased the property (12.5 acres) in 1755.  The property at that time included a house which dated to 1636 and belonged to Thomas Jones, original owner of the slope of the hill named for him.  Jones was a Town selectman and a wealthy landowner.  In 1804, the 17th century house was destroyed by a fire and Samuel Clapp built the current house. 

Despite alterations in roofing and cladding which occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, and removal of window shutters, the house appears today much as it did in the late nineteenth century.  (see historic photograph) 

Animal Rescue League of Boston

65 Pleasant Street was the long-time home of Anna Harris Smith, founder of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. 

Anna Harris Smith, was the granddaughter of Samuel Clapp, and daughter of Anna Larkin Clapp and Boston printer, William Harris.  She was born in the house in 1843, and resided there until 1908.

During her occupation of 65 Pleasant Street, Smith organized the Animal Rescue League of Boston in 1899. 

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) predated the formation of the Animal Rescue League, however, the MSPCA did not accept stray animals, a service which Anna Harris Smith identified as necessary and lacking in Boston. 

At this time, a significant number of stray animals, many of which were injured or sick, roamed the streets of Boston. 

The founding purpose of the Animal Rescue League was to provide a place for these animals to be brought so that they could be placed in homes to be cared for, or euthanized if need be. 

In the first annual report of the League, excerpts of which were published in the Boston Daily Globe, Anna Harris Smith reported, “Until our league was formed there was no place in Massachusetts to which animals owned or not owned, sick or well could be carried and made happy until either put in a good home or humanely killed.”

 According to Smith, the formation of the League was welcomed by the MSPCA as a necessary addition to the cause of animal welfare in Boston.

The work of the Animal Rescue League expanded considerably under the leadership of Anna Harris Smith, and was recorded in small initiatives such as the introduction of water basins throughout the city providing fresh drinking water for dogs and cats, and in larger missions, like the establishment of a Horses Aid Association which provided regular veterinary treatment for the many work horses of the city, free of charge. 

Among its many responsibilities, the League also promoted humane treatment of animals, and rewarded those who treated animals well with public recognition.  In 1907, the League purchased a 14 acre farm in Dedham primarily to provide a country retreat for work horses that were beyond their useful working life.  Cats and dogs were also cared for on these grounds. 

Shortly thereafter, Anna Harris Smith sold the house at 65 Pleasant Street and moved to the grounds of the farm in Dedham.  Smith remained the President of the League until her death in 1929.  Upon her death, Sydney Coleman, the President of the American Humane Association was moved to write, “We are shocked to learn of the death of Mrs. Smith who for so many years has stood for the very finest and best of animal protection work.  The institution which she built has been the model of many organizations throughout the country.  It will stand for years to come as the finest monument to a noble soul.  We have all lost a loyal friend, and the humane cause an advocate such as cannot be replaced.”

The influence of the Animal Rescue League extended far beyond Boston.  The League’s annual reports enumerate Rescue Leagues founded with Smith’s guidance and modeled on the Boston League, many adopting the name.  Some of these included a rescue league in Manchester, NH, the Berkshire Animal Rescue League, the Animal Rescue League in Washington, DC, several shelters in Rhode Island, and even the Shirley Home for Cats as far away as England.

 In the 1911 annual report, Smith wrote, “I have spoken for this cause in several other cities and states.  I have replied to many letters and sent many of our reports to more distant cities where they wished to start a shelter for animals, but I wish to mention only enough of this work to show how far the influence of any good work spreads and to say that for this reason we ought to make our own organization here in Boston as perfect as possible.  The better it is, the more likely it is to lead others to copy it.”

Today, the Animal Rescue League of Boston serves communities throughout Eastern Massachusetts.   It has facilities in Boston, Dedham, Brewster, and Pembroke and remains dedicated to their founder’s mission of rescuing and caring for animals that are injured, displaced, abandoned, or abused.


As the ancestral home and birthplace of Anna Harris Smith, who continued her residence at the house through the formative years of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, an organization which appears to have at least a regional, if not national significance, the staff of the BLC recommend accepting the petition for further study.


Posted on

March 22, 2020