The Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District is located in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. The district extends roughly 923 feet along Columbia Road from just south of Supple Road at the southern end of the district to Geneva Avenue at the northern end of the district. The district boundaries also extend east to include the western side of Strathcona Road. The district’s main street, Columbia Road, is a major thoroughfare that runs northeast through Dorchester from Franklin Park to the Dorchester Bay. This highly traveled road accommodates four lanes of traffic and street parking in the district it is divided by a concrete median planted with street trees at the southern and northern ends of the district the median narrows as it approaches the intersection with Washington Street, where it is paved with brick.
The district is composed of eight apartment buildings and one commercial building constructed between 1910 and 1928; construction occurred in two phases with eight of thenine buildings constructed during the mid- to late 1920s. The apartment buildings constructed in the 1920s are much larger in scale than the 1910 apartment building, accommodating 24-58 units in contrast to the 11-unit building constructed in 1910. All of the buildings in the district reflect the Colonial Revival architectural style, popular during the district’s period of development. The earliest building in the district reflects a more ornate expression of the style than those that followed in the 1920s. Characteristic Colonial Revival features found in the district include accentuated entrances and fenestration, wide corn ices, quoining, and classical detailing including columns, pilasters, and ornament. While there is variation in massing and detailing of the apartment buildings, they all conform to a uniform height of three stories over raised basements. The buildings on the east side of Columbia Road are set above street level behind retaining walls due to the slope of the ground between Washington Street and Geneva Avenue. Each apartment building isfreestanding with no shared party walls. Because of this, secondary facades, while utilitarian in appearance, do feature some attention to detail, usually limited to the fenestration in the form of cast-stone lintels and sills. Vegetation in the district is characterized by street trees and planting beds. The buildings are intact with exterior alteration on apartment buildings limited to the replacement of original sash and doors, removal of rear balconies, masonry repair, and in-filled windows at basement levels and on secondary elevations; the commercial building has undergone alterations to some storefronts. Despite these modifications, the district retains a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
The Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District is located in Dorchester, Boston’s largest and one of its most diverse neighborhoods. Dorchester lies south of the city’s downtown and is bordered by South Boston to thenorth and Roxbury and Mattapan to the west; the Neponset River and Boston Harbor form its southern and eastern boundaries. Dorchester encompasses approximately six square miles and contains many smaller villages within its large boundaries. Its diverse population includes both long-time residents and more recent immigrants from Ireland, Vietnam, and Cape Verde. The Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District is located in northern Dorchester, between Franklin Park and Upham’s Corner.
The stretch of Columbia Road between Franklin Park and Upham’s Corner features a variety of building types that reflect continuous development of a long-serving local road. These building types include single and multi-family frame houses, frame and brick apartment houses, one-story commercial buildings, as well as new construction. While some vestiges of mid-19th-century development remain, the majority of buildings date from the late 191‘ century through the first quarter of the 20th century. The Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District lies at the southern end of two other historic districts that represent development along Columbia Road during this period: the Columbia Road-Bellevue Street Historic District (NR 2017), which lies about two-thirds of a mile north of the district, and the Columbia Road-Devon Street Historic District (NR 2017), which lies just under 600 feet north of the district These three districts are separated from one another due to swaths of demolition and new construction that interrupts the historic fabric.
The Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District is a cohesive collection of buildings representing multi-family apartment house and commercial development along this thoroughfare during the first two decades of the 20′h century. Though the majority of these buildings were developed simultaneously, they are separated by demolition and new construction. The boundaries have been drawn to exclude the heavily altered buildings and new construction. Frame, two-family houses are the dominant building type in the vicinity of the district, including on Columbia Road south of the district, Supple Road, Geneva Avenue, Brinsley Street, and the east side of Strathcona Road. Washington Street is characterized by a mix of frame two-family houses and triple-deckers and masonry apartment buildings.
Individual Resource Descriptions
Green & Shapiro Apartments, 90-94 Columbia Road (305.17901, Photo 1, Map #1)
This 24-unit buff-colored brick apartment complex was constructed in 1925 and is located at the southwest corner of Columbia and Supple roads. The primary elevation faces east onto Columbia Road with a secondary elevation facing north onto Supple Road. The complex is comprised of two adjoining ‘shaped buildings that form an interior lightwell. Encompassing two separate lots, the building is set back slightly from the sidewalk with planting beds of low shrubs and a tree. The beds are enclosed by a metal fence. The complex rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and extends twelve bays along Columbia Road and nine bays along Supple Road. The complex is constructed primarily of buff-colored brick with cast-stone embellishment around the two entries, fenestration, and between floor levels as a ground-floor watertable and a third-floor lintel course. Cast stone also embellishes the roofline in a corbelled, dentilated cornice and ornamental plaques. On the Columbia Road elevation, the adjoining, identical buildings are each comprised of six bays: two recessed bays with central entries and two bays flanking these.
The entries are the focal point of the facade. Each entry is reached by a flight of concrete stairs that lead to modern glass and metal doors set within elaborate, Colonial Revival-style, cast-stone door surrounds. On each surround, fluted Doric columns support a broad entablature and a broken curved pediment with a finial rising from the center. Small, single windows with cast-stone sills and splayed keystoned lintels flank the entries. The upper floors of th ese recessed bays feature paired windows in each bay of the two bays. All of the windows display cast-stone sills; the second-floor lintels feature brick lintels with cast-stone keystones and splayed end-stones. Above the cornice and centered on the entries, large cast-stone plaques set within a brick parapet display a cartouche between two swags in relief. The parapet is capped with cast-stone scrolls flanking the plaques. Single windows light the two bays on either side of each of the recessed entries; all of the cast-stone embellishment of the fenestration is identical to the receded bays on all floor levels. Basement windows are obscured by the shrubbery and are infilled.
The Supple Road elevation echoes the massing and architectural treatment of the Columbia Road facade. This facade is organized around a recessed central group of five bays, with identical flanking blocks of two bays each. The watertable, lintel course, cornice, and parapet all continue onto this elevation so do the cast-stone lintels and sills with the differentiated adornment by floor level identical to the Columbia Road elevation. The recessed bays hold a small central entrance into the basement level which, like the basement windows, has been infilled. Two single windows located directly above the door are located between floor levels. A rectangular panel fills the space between the two windows. The third-story window is terminated in a brick- and cast-stone arch with cast-stone keystones and end-stones. Two bays of single windows flank the middle bay of this recessed section. A cast-stone plaque identical to those on the Columbia Road elevation is set in the parapet directly above the door. The two bays that flank the recessed bays hold paired windows on all floor levels of the innermost bay and single windows in the outer most bays.
The south and rear elevations of the complex are utilitarian with brick quoin ing extending around the corner and a change in materials to a lighter brick. The south elevation presents a blank terminating wall where the elevation is visible from the street. The rest of the elevation is obscured by mature trees planted close to the building. The rear elevation is also constructed of a lighter brick with no architectural adornment of the fenestration. The twelve bays hold single windows and groups of tripartite windows with a large central window that was originally a door leading to rear porches. The building underwentrenovations in 1967 and again in 1984. Original windows, doors, and rear porches were removed during the first renovation. Windows currently hold 1/1 metal sash.
Krinsky& Babbitt Apartments, 102-108 Columbia Road (BOS.16486, Photo 2, Map #2)
This 37-unit buff-colored brick apartment complex was constructed in 1924 and is located on the northwest corner of Columbia and Supple roads. The primary elevation faces east onto Columbia Road with secondary elevations facing north onto Washington Street and south onto Supple Road. The complex fills an entire block and is comprised of three adjoining buildings on a single lot; the central building is I-shaped in plan, creating interior light wells between the buildings. The complex is set slightly back from the sidewalk with planting beds of low shrubs and trees. The beds are enclosed by metal fen teat. The complex rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat rubber-membrane roof with a parapet wall and extends twenty-two bays along Columbia Road and nine bays along Washington Street and Supple Road. The complex is constructed primarily of buff-colored brick with cast-stone embellishment around the three entries, fenestration, and as cladding of the ground floor below the watertable. Cast stone also embellishes the roofline in a corbelled cornice. On the Columbia Road elevation, the adjoining buildings each feature their own entrances located within recessed central bays. The recessed entry bays of the middle building are two bays wide with three flanking bays, while the recessed entry bays of the end buildings are one bay wide with three flanking bays. The entries are identical; each is reached by a flight of concrete stairs and holds a modern glass and metal door set within a Colonial Revival porch. Four fluted Doric columns and pilasters are surmounted by a wide entablature supporting an elliptical pediment. The entry to the middle building is flanked by small, single windows. Basement windows are obscured by the shrubbery and are infilled. Each of the three recessed entry bays holds tripartite windows on the upper floors and each of the flanking bays hold single windows. All windows feature cast-stone sills and keystones set within brick lintels.
The materials and architectural embellishment of the Columbia Road facade are carried onto the Washington Street and Supple Road elevations. The planting beds also carry onto the Washington Street elevation; the Supple Road elevation is flush with the sidewalk. Each elevation features a simple ground-floor entrance placed slightly off center. These entrances share the embellishment of the fenestration with a brick lintel and cast-stone keystone. Two small single windows between floors are centrally located with paired windows to either side. These three bays project slightly on the Washington Street elevation, but are flush on the Supple Road elevation. Tripartite windows flank the three central bays and the two outer bays hold single windows. Several basement windows on the Supple Road elevation have been restored and feature metal grates; the remainder are infilled.
The rear elevation is utilitarian in appearance with brick quoining extending around the corner and a change in materials to a lighter brick. There is no architectural adornment of the fenestration or entrances. The twenty-two bays are organized around a recessed central group of four bays with nine bays to either side. These hold single windows and groups of tripartite windows with a large central window that was originally a door leading to rear porches. The building underwent renovations in the late 1980s at which time original windows, doors, and rear porches were removed. Windows currently hold 1/1 metal sash. The complex was designed with twelve apartments in each of the three buildings; an additional unit was probably added during the 1980s renovation.
The Charlotte A. Powell Apartments, 105-111 Columbia Road (BOS.1642.7, Photos 3-5, Map #3)
This eleven-un it red brick apartment building was constructed in 1910 and is located on the southeast corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street. It is the oldest building in the district, pre-dating the other apartment buildings by more than a decade. The building is roughly U-shaped in plan with a rear, interior courtyard, and a wide driveway between it and its southern neighbor. It is situated in the northwest corner of its lot facing north onto Washington Street and west onto Columbia Road. The building is set back slightly from the sidewalk with a small, unkempt planting area behind a metal chain-link fence.
The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof. It is primarily constructed of red brick with ashlar-stone and cast-stone ornament, and a wide, modillioned copper cornice. The primary elevation is the Washington Street facade. Two rounded bays with three windows delineate the east and west ends of the facade with five flat bays between them. A first-floor stone watertable and smooth and rock-faced, ashlar-stone basement form the base of the facade. A cast-stone sill course marks the third floor.
The entry is asymmetrically placed in the fourth bay, which is the most elaborate on the facade. A long flight of concrete stairs with low concrete walls and metal rails leads to the ornate Classical Revival entry. The wide entry holds what appears to be an original wood door surround with a fanlight and sidelights that terminate in raised wooden panels. The door itself has been replaced with a paneled wood door that holds a fanlight. This is set within an elaborate, arched, ashlar entry surround that features a keystone, pilasters with Ionic capitals, and swags supporting a wide entablature with wreaths in relief set in the frieze above the capitals and a corbelled cornice. Directly above the entry is a tripartite window surrounded by ashlar quoining, wide stone lintels and sills, and crowned by a scrolled pediment with a cartouche and swags adorning the tympanum and a carved stone ornament bridging the volutes. The upper sashes of the outer windows retain their original vertical muntins. The third floor of the entry bay holds a smaller tripartite window with narrow windows flanking a wide central window and is adorned with a splayed cast-stone lintel with a keystone. Each of the narrow windows retain their original vertical muntins. Single windows light each of the bays of the rest of the facade, their size and ornament specific to floor level. First-floor windows are taller than those on the upper floors with a transom light above the double hung sash. Some original sash remain revealing a 2/2 muntin pattern. The windows flanking the entry are framed with smooth ashlar while the remaining first-floor windows are framed with rock-faced ashlar quoining; all are crowned with stone lintels and corbelled cornices. The second-floor windows feature wide cast-stone sills and splayed cast-stone lintels. Third-floor windows are incorporated in the third-floor sill course and feature splayed cast-stone lintels with keystones.
The Columbia Road facade features two rounded end bays and a middle angled bay with two flat bays in between. Three windows light the rounded corner bay and the angled middle bay, and two windows light rounded bay at the southern end of the facade. The main entry on this facade is located in the last flat bay at the southern end of the facade. The adornment is similar to the Washington Street entry but more modest in scale. This entry is also reached by a long flight of concrete stairs with low concrete walls and metal rails. The wood door surround appears to be original with a rectangular transom light and side lights that terminate in raised wood panels. The original door was replaced with a wooden door that incorporates a fanlight. The stone surround features ashlar pilasters with Ionic capitals with swags, and a corn ice identical to the one on the Washington Street entry. The second-floor window is framed with rock-faced ashlar quoin ing and wide stone lintels and sills with a corbelled cornice topped by a carved stone cartouche. A secondary entrance on this elevation is located at the basement level in thenorthernmost bay. The fenestration on this facade is a combination of double windows in the bays north of the angled middle bay and single windows in the bays south of the angled middle bay. The adornment of the fenestration is identical to that on the Washington Street. Basement-level windows on this facade have been infilled.
The southern and eastern elevations are far more utilitarian in appearance, displaying the same materials but with less ornament and no corn ice. Paired windows light the southern elevation with flat cast-stone lintels. Single windows light the eastern elevation, also with flat, cast-stone lintels. The building underwent some renovation in the late 1980s when the original doors and several windows were rep laced. The majority of windows hold 1/1 metal sash. Where original windows remain, they hold 2/2 wood sash. The original occupancy of the building was nine apartments. In 1955, the occupancy was changed to accommodate an additional unit and a basement-level store. The store space alternated between retail and office space through the 1980s. The current occupancy of eleven residential units dates to 1994.
Columbia Arms, 129-135 Columbia Road (BOS.16489, Photos 6-8, Map #4)
This 58-unit red brick apartment building complex was constructed in 1927 and faces west onto Columbia Road. It is the largest building in the district, occupying the entirety of its double lot, which extends southeast to Strathcona Road. The complex is comprised of four adjoining buildings arranged in a “U” shape around a central courtyard. Each of the apartment blocks fronting Columbia Road contain fifteen units, and the rear blocks along Strathcona Road contain fourteen units each. The complex sits above street level with courtyard access from a set of centrally located stairs set in a wall constructed of concrete blocks. A modern chain-link fence sits atop the wall. The apartment complex rises four stories to a flat roof. The Columbia Road elevation presents a formal facade with symmetrical Colonial Revival detailing and massing. The entire ground floor of the facade is clad in scored limestone, and stone sills and keystoned lintels adorn the second- and third-floor fenestration, enlivening the undecorated red-brick facade. A cast-stone sill course extends around the entire third floor and a broad, modillioned cast-stone corn ice caps the elevation. The outer wings flanking the courtyard each extend eight bays across with three recessed central entry bays flanked by blocks of three bays on the courtyard side and two outer bays. A small, metal replacement door with a limestone pediment is centrally located in the recessed bay and flanked by paired windows. The upper floors of the entry bays mirror the ground-floor arrangement with paired windows flanking small, central single windows. Single windows evenly spaced define each of the flanking outer bays. The courtyard elevations extend seven bays deep with a four-bay hyphen connecting the wings. The fenestration of the wings is regularly spaced with single-, paired-, and triple-window arrangements. The hyphen features two central bays of triple windows flanked by paired windows in the outer two bays. The courtyard elevations feature the same stone details with the addition of limestone cladding of the first three floors of the central two bays in the hyphen. The stone cladding is terminated with broken pediments with decorative urns in relief; ornamental limestone brackets frame the fourth-floor windows at the sill level. The courtyard itself is arranged around a central grass bed with planting beds along the building of recently planted trees, grass, and flowers. Concrete paths lead around the beds to the building’s entrances. Modern metal gates mark the planting areas.
The north and south elevations of the complex are utilitarian in appearance. The north elevation is clad in buff-colored brick. The cornice is not carried onto these elevations. Despite being visible from Washington Street, the southern elevation is simply ornamented with flat cast-stone sills and lintels on the fenestration the only enhancement. Several window openings on this elevation have been altered, evidenced by brick infill.
Despite being a street elevation, the Strathcona Road elevation is a true rear elevation in treatment. It features a recessed central block that extends twelve bays across, flanked by wings that extend three bays across. The central block holds two small entries at the basement level in the second and tenth bays. This elevation originally featured porches, and access doors were located in the upper stories of these bays. These have been bricked in, as have windows that looked ontotheseporches where the recessed block intersects with its end bays. Paired window arrangements flank the entry bays and single windows fill the six bays in between. Windows in the fourth and ninth bays have been bricked in. The flanking outer blocks feature triple windows in the outer bays and single windows in the central and inner bays. This elevation is not totally devoid of ornament: all fenestration is framed by cast-stone stills and lintels, and a modest broad cornice caps the facade.
This building underwent several renovations in 1968,1985, and 1997. All windows and doors in this complex have been replaced. Windows are 1/1 metal sash and the doors appear to be metal.
The Maxwell, 137 Columbia Road (805.16490, Photo 9, Map #5)
This fourteen-un it red-brick apartment building complex was constructed in 1928 and faces west onto Columbia Road. Much smaller than the neighboring complex, Columbia Arms, 129-153 Columbia Road both buildings shared an architect and a common Colonial Revival stylistic vocabulary, namely symmetrical facades, ornamental entrances, large grouped windows, and stone enhancements across the facade and framing fenestration. The building occupies nearly its full lot. Its footprint is largely rectangular with recessed bays on all but its rear elevation. Like its neighbor, it sits above street level with a stone retaining wall topped with a metal chain-link fence. Planting beds containing shrubs and small trees fill the space between the wall and the building. Three flights of stairs provide access to the building at the center and ends of the retaining wall.
The building rises four stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and features a limestone watertable between the first and second floors, limestone sill and lintel courses at the fourth-floor level, and limestone trim on fenestration at the second and third floors. A corbeled stone corn ice caps the building. The Columbia Road facade extends eight bays across with the two central bays slightly recessed behind flanking wings. The recessed block holds a centrally located entry at the ground floor. The modern glass-and-metal doors are set with in a Colonial Revival entry portico supported by two fluted, Corinthian columns and two pilasters. These support a wide entablature with a dentilated cornice. A metal balcony adorns the flat portico roof. Single windows flank the portico at the ground floor while paired windows define each of the two bays on the upper stories. The second-floor windows feature flat stone lintels with square stone tiles defining the corners while the third floor windows feature flat keystone lintels with swags in relief adorning the keystone. The outer bays that flank the recessed entry bays are identical, each arranged from the outside in with paired windows, a single window, and triple windows with stone sills and lintels identical tothose in the entry bays. Rectangular brick panels with square stone tiles marking the corners are located beneath th e paired and triple windows on the second floor. The east and west elevations share the architectural treatment of the Columbia Road facade, with red brick and limestone trim, though stone lintels and sills are flat and without decorative treatment. Centrally located recessed bays hold balconies with metal rails on these elevations. This building underwent its first renovation in 1969, when original windows were likely replaced. It most recently underwent a renovation in 2010 using historic tax credits. Non-historic windows and doors were replaced at this time. All windows currently hold 1/1 metal sash.
Abraham 1. Marks Apartments, 143-147 Columbia Road (1305.16491, Photos 11-12, Map #7)
This 30-unit red brick apartment complex was constructed in 1927 and faces west onto Columbia Road. The complex is comprised of two adjoining I-shaped buildings that form an interior courtyard and sits on two separate lots. The lots extend from Columbia Road in the west to Strathcona Road to the east. Each building was designed to hold fourteen apartments, but interior alterations introduced an additional two apartments. The complex, like its neighbors, sits above street level behind a retaining wall. Trees and shrubs fill the planting beds that stretch between the complex and the concrete wall. The adjoining buildings rise four stories to a flat roof and extend ten bays across. On the Columbia Road facade, the complex is primarily clad in red brick with an ashlar limestone-clad ground floor, and cast-stone lintels and sills adorning fenestration on the upper stories. A cast-stone fourth-floor lintel course, corbeled corn ice, and cap form the crown of the facade. The adjoining, identical buildings are each comprised of five bays: three recessed bays hold the central entries and two single bays flank these. The entry bays each feature slightly projecting rounded-arch door surrounds with keystones and stepped shed roofs that extend slightly into the second story. These surrounds hold modern glass-and-metal doors. The entries are each reached by two flights of stairs from the sidewalk that are framed by the stepped retaining wall and metal railings. The inner and outer bays that flank the recessed entry bays feature paired windows on all floor levels. The upper-floor fenestration is enhanced with splayed, keystoned lintels. Then orth and south elevations of the complex are utilitarian in appearance. These elevations feature blank red brick on the terminating ends of the “I” with buff-colored brick used for the hyphens. The fenestration on these elevations is simple and unadorned with paired and single windows.
The eastern elevation fronts Strathcona Road. While it displays more detail than the side elevations, it is primarily a secondary elevation in treatment. This elevation extends eight bays across, each bay holding paired windows on all floor levels with flat cast-stone sills and lintels. A flight of stairs leads to a below-grade basement level entrance in the fifth bay. A cast-stone fourth floor lintel course, corbeled cornice, and metal cap are the only other ornament on this elevation. A chain-link fence marks the property line with grass planted between the fence and the building. This building underwent its first renovation in 1968 when original doors and windows were replaced. Further renovations occurred in 1984. All windows now hold 1/1 metal sash.
The Samuel Price Apartments, 16 Strathcona Road (805.16492, Photo 10, Map #6)
This fourteen-un it red brick apartment building was constructed in 1927 and faces east onto Strathcona Road. It is the only building on the west side of Strathcona Road that presents its primary elevation to this street. The building has a rectangular footprint and occupies most of its lot, which abuts the lot of The Maxwell, 137 Columbia Road on its western boundary. The building rises four stories to a flat roof and presents eight bays to the street. It is slightly set back from the sidewalk with small shrubs planted in the space between the sidewalk and the building. The building is constructed primarily of red brick with cast-stone embellishment around the entry and fenestration. All windows feature cast-stone sills and keystones with in decorative brick lintels on second- and third-floor windows. Cast stone is also employed in the watertable between the first and second floors, and in the corbelled cornice and cap. The facade is organized around two recessed middle bays that hold the centrally located entrance. The entrance is slightly below grade and reached by a flight of concrete steps. A modern glass and metal door is set within a cast stone surround of pilasters surmounted by a segmental arch with a corbelled corn ice. The tympanum is adorned with an urn surrounded by floriated vines in raised relief. The pilasters also feature ornamental flowers in a vertical line in relief. Two narrow windows flank the entry, each surmounted by cast-stone round arches adorned with a cartouche and swags in relief. The upper floors ofthe recessed entry bays feature pairs of windows in each of the two bays. The three bays on either side of the recessed entry are organized identically with pairs of windows flanking a small central window on each floor level. For the most part, the side and rear elevations of the building are utilitarian in appearance. These elevations are constructed of buff-colored brick, feature recessed bays, and are devoid of the ornamentation of the facade. The exception to this is on the north elevation, which features redbrick walls and cast-stone sills and lintels for the portion of the elevation that is not obscured by the neighboring building the Abraham 1. Marks Apartments, 143-147 Columbia Road. This building underwent renovations in 1998 when windows and doors were replaced; all windows currently hold 1/1 metal sash. The renovation also added two additional units; the building contained twelve units when it was built.
The Farrington, 150-156 Columbia Road (BOS.16493, Photos 13-15, Map 48)
This 24-un it buff-colored brick apartment complex was constructed in 1925 and is located at the southwest corner of Columbia Road and Geneva Avenue. The primary elevation faces east onto Columbia Road with a secondary elevation facing north onto Geneva Avenue. The complex is comprised of two adjoining buildings on a single lot. It is set slightly back from the sidewalk with planting beds of low shrubs and a tree. The beds are enclosed by a metal fence. The massing of the complex reflects its oddly shaped lot; the two buildings have differing and unconventional footprints but the Columbia Road facade presents a symmetrical composition. The complex rises three stories over a concrete-clad raised basement to a flat tar-and-gravel roof and extends twenty bays along Columbia Road and fourteen bays along Geneva Avenue. The complex is constructed primarily of buff-colored brick with cast-stone embellishment around the two entries, fenestration, and between floor levels as a ground-floor watertable and a first-floor sill course. Cast stone also embellishes the roofline in a corbelled, modillioned cornice. A brick parapet with a simple metal cap completes the facade. On the Columbia Road elevation, the adjoining buildings are each comprised of ten bays: four recessed bays with central entries and three bays flanking these. The entries are the focal point of the facade. Each entry is reached by a flight of concrete stairs that lead to modern glass-and-metal doors with glass transom lights set within two-story Colonial Revival cast-stone door surrounds. Each surround features a stepped composition with Doric pilasters supporting a broad entablature with rosettes in relief in the frieze directly above the capitals and a corbelled cornice. This is surmounted by a stepped, rectangular molding carved with three rectangular niches. Single windows flank the entries and light each bay of the upper floors of these recessed bays. Single windows also light each of the bays on the remainder of the facade. All of the windows display cast-stone sills and splayed cast-stone lintels with keystones. Basement windows have been infilled.
The materials and ornament of the Columbia Road facade are carried onto the Gen eva Avenue elevation. The facade is organized around four recessed bays in the center of the elevation with balconies that extend its full width. These balconies have concrete floors and metal rails. Five bays of single windows on each floor level flank the balcony bays. The eastern-most block of five bays is angled to allow a symmetrical organization of the Columbia Road facade on an oddly shape corner lot. The angle creates a setback from the sidewalk that is filled with planting beds of low shrubbery and flowers. The balcony bays and western-most block of the elevation are flush with the sidewalk. The fenestration of the central bays is asymmetrical with an unadorned ground-floor entry with two single windows in its western-most bays. This pattern is repeated on the upper floors with small windows in the second bay on the second and third floors. Access to the balconies is from doors on each of the perpendicular walls of the balconies. All basement windows have been infilled.
The south and rear elevations are utilitarian; they are constructed of lighter brick with no architectural embellishment and a surface parking lot abuts the rear wall. The south elevation features a centrally located group of recessed bays that allowed for more light into units on this end of the building. The rear elevation is slightly angled where the Geneva Avenue elevation terminates. The division of the two adjoining buildings is visible on this elevation with a narrow courtyard between the buildings. The rear elevation of 156 Columbia Road, the northern-most block, holds single windows and tripartite windows as well as long windows that once held doors to r ear balconies that are no longer extant. Thereat elevation of 150 Columbia road, the southern-most block, holds single windows and paired windows with two bays of long windows that were formerly doors. These, too, originally accessed balconies. This complex underwent its first renovation in 1968 and a second renovation in the 1980s. Original windows, doors, and rear balconies were removed during those renovations. All windows currently hold 1/1 metal sash. The parapet was rebuilt in 1984.
The Philip Markovsky Stores, 114-126 Washington Street (BOS.16488) Photos 6, 16, 17; Map #9)
This commercial building was constructed in 1927. The building is located at the northeast corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street, and rises one story over a stone foundation to a flat roof. It extends seven bays along Washington Street, its primary elevation, and has chamfered corners at the eastern and western ends of the building. Each chamfered corner holds an additional storefront. The building is primarily constructed of red brick with wood storefronts. Some storefronts have been altered, but most retain their tripartite division with a recessed central door and flanking large, glazed openings flush with the sidewalk. The storefronts are framed by recessed wood panels and divided by decorative brickwork resembling fluted pilasters. Some of the upper wood panels are obscured by signage. The east and west elevations front Strathcona and Columbia Road, respectively. These are largely utilitarian in appearance, with blank brick walls that terminate in a brick parapet with cast-stone coping.
The Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District consists of a collection of eight residential apartment buildings and one commercial building constructed between the years 1910 and 1928 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. These buildings were constructed by speculative developers looking to capitalize on the improvements to mass transit along Columbia Road that began in the late 19′h century with the expansion and widening of the former local highway into a major transportation artery lined with electric streetcars. The construction of this district that occurred in the mid- to late 1920s coincided with a great expansion of a movement of Jewish immigrants into Dorchester that began in the first decade of the 20′h century. The vast majority of the apartment buildings in the district were built and owned by Jewish immigrants, and were home to this population through the 1950s. These immigrants came primarily from Russia, arriving in the United States in the late 19′h and early 20′h centuries. The district is locally significant under National Register Criterion A in the area of Community Planning and Development for its association with apartment building and commercial development along Columbia Road following its expansion and introduction of streetcar transportation, as well as for its association with the integration of a Jewish immigrant population into Dorchester during the first half of the 20′h century. All of the buildings in the district were designed in the Colonial Revival style, an architectural aesthetic at the height of its popularity during the district’s period of development. The adoption of this national style of architecture reflected the widespread proliferation of a fashionable architectural aesthetic and may also reflect a hopeful enthusiasm by an immigrant community for the values of freedom and opportunity embodied in the architecture of the American colonies. The district is therefore additionally significant under Criterion C in the area of Architecture as a well-preserved collection of Colonial Revival apartment buildings, designed by locally significant architects including Saul Moffie and Samuel Levy, that represent assimilation and the aspirations of Dorchester’s Jewish immigrant community The period of significance for the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District begins in 1910 with the construction of the first apartment building and because of its continuous use ends in 1968, the 50-year age guideline for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Narrative Statement of Significance
The Development of Dorchester and the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District
The Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District is located in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester on a stretch of Columbia Road that lies between Franklin Park and Upham’s Corner. Dorchester was founded by English settlers in 1630 and remained an independent town until 1870 when itwas annexed to the city of Boston. Dorchester began as a rural farming community with a network of roads connecting outlying farms and small villages that were located at the crossroads of these local highways. Industry was centered on the lower Neponset River in southern Dorchester, which was home to various m ills. Relics of Dorchester’s earliest history are scattered throughout the neighborhood. One of the most notable of these, Dorchester North Burying Ground established in 1664 by the town’s first settlers, lies approximately a mi le north of the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District at the intersection of Columbia Road and Stoughton Street. From this intersection sprung a village that became known as Upham’s Corner around 1800 for a store owned by Amos Upham located at the crossroads.
Upham’s Corner, also known as Columbia Square in the early 20th century, grew to become a major commercial village through the 19th and 20th centuries.
Dorchester remained largely rural, characterized by farms and country estates, until the mid-19th century when the Boston & Providence and Old Colony Railway lines were introduced to theneighborhood in 1835 and 1844, respectively. The Boston & Providence line (later the Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad, the New York and New England Railroad, and the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad until 1968, now part of the MBTA’s commuter rail system) ran through the western portion of Dorchester whilethe Old Colony Railway line ran through th e neighborhood’s eastern villages. These rail lines made Boston accessible to Dorchester commuters and initiated the transformation of the rural town into an early suburb for wealthy Bostonians. Large, single-family homes in proximity to rail station stops were constructed on established streets like Columbia Road (known until 1897 as Columbia Street), while smaller house lots were developed close to the stations.
The Columbia Road-Swathcona Road Historic District lies at the intersection of Columbia Road and Washington Street. The closest station to this major juncture was the Mt. Bowdoin Street station stop on the Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad. The station was located less than a quarter-mile east of the district near the intersection of Washington and Eldon streets. While no buildings from this period of development remain in the district, Dorchester atlases from 1866,1874, and 1894 provide a sense of the developing streetscape in the vicinity at this time. The atlases depict accelerating suburban development occurring in proximity to the Mt. Bowdoin Street station in the decades following the introduction of the rail line. During this transitional period, large house lots along Columbia Road and Washington Street were interspersed with smaller subdivided parcels closer to the rail line. Side streets between Columbia Road and Erie Street were introduced by 1874 and between Washington Street, Gen eva Avenue, and the railroad tracks by 1894 (figures 1-3).
In keeping with development patterns along established roads during the period that followed the introduction of the railroad to Dorchester, four wealthy Boston businessmen owned sprawling houses on generous corner lots at the intersection of Columbia Road and Washington Street. Moving clockwise from the southwest corner of Washington Street and Columbia Road, these owners were Marshall P. Wilder, Ivers Adams, Albert Morse, and Samuel Atherton (figure 3). Marshall Wilder’s affiliation with his property dates back to 1831, but the others arrived after the introduction of the railroad to the neighborhood. Artherton arrived in 1856, Morse moved in by1866, and Adams joined the neighborhood between 1874 and 1880.’ These men were all wealthy merchants who held prominent positions in local government and Boston society.
Marshall Pinckney Wilder (1798-1886) was a wealthy merchant of dry goods who became a prominent Bostonian holding prestigious positions including serving in the role of president of the State Senate, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Massachusetts Central Board of Agriculture, the U.S. Agricultural Society, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and as the first named trustee of the Amherst Agricultural College (UMASS Amherst). His extensive property was formerly home to Massachusetts Governor Increase Sumner in the second half of the 18th century and passed to Sumner’s son, William Hylsop Sumner, a nationally prominent horticulturalist, in 1799. Wilder’s interest in
The Rev. Andrew P. Peabody asserts Wilder’s arrival date in A Memorial Address on die late Marshall Pinckney Wilder President of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (Boston: NEHGS, 1888). Atherton and Morse appear on the 1866 Walling Atlas of Dorchester, and Adams does not appear on the 1874 atlas, but is listed at die intersection of Washington and Columbia streets in die 1880 census.
horticulture drew him to Sumner’s estate where he took up residence by 1831.7 Wilder used the grounds for the experimental hybridization of fruit, reportedly producing more than 1,200 varieties, including over 400 varieties of pears. He also cultivated camel IMs. The Massachusetts Agricultural club named a strawberry for him: the President Wilder Strawberry. Wilder’s property extended from the corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street where his house was located, nearly to Blue Hill Avenue.
Ivers and Sarah Adams owned the nearly four-acre tract across Washington Street from the Wilders. Like Wilder, Ivers Whitney Adams (1838-1914) was a wealthy Boston merchant. He was a director of the John H. Pray Company, a wholesale and retail carpet dealer located at 558-560 Washington Street in downtown Boston. He was reportedly one of Boston’s richest men. He was also director of the Commercial National Banks of Boston, the American Net and Twine Company, and the Linen Thread Company. In addition to his business pursuits, Adams was a baseball enthusiast and was responsible for bringing professional baseball to Boston, serving as the club’s first President. Adams’ property encompassed nearly the entire block between Washington Street and Geneva Avenue and extended west to Bishop Joe L. Smith Way (formerly Wilder Street).
Albert Morse (1823-1887) owned the extensive property on the eastern side of Columbia Road, directly across from the Adams property. Two acres of the three-acre property were bound by Columbia Road and what is now Brinsley Street on the east, and from Washington Street to Brinsley Street where it curves to the north. An additional acre of land lay north of Brinsley Street. Morse was a dry goods merchant, a partner in the firm Morse, Shepard & Co. Morse’s house was located at the northeast corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street, facing Washington Street. We know from his will that his property was agricultural; he kept cows, horses, and poultry.’ Shortly after Morse died in 1887, a portion of his estate was advertised for auction by his trustees. The advertisement high lights the neighborhood’s defining characteristics: well-heeled neighbors and proximity to transportation:
These are the finest building lots ever offered at auction in Dorchester; near the estates of Mr. Samuel Atherton, Mr. LW. Adams, and the late Marshall P. Wilder…; 2 minutes from Mt Bowdoin Street station, NY &NERR, with 20 trains each way daily; horse cars pass by on Washington Street, elevated ground, commanding a view of the city, the harbor and the Milton Hills.
To ensure the highest quality of development, any dwellings built on the lots were required to exceed $4000 as part of the sale agreement`
Samuel Atherton (1815-1895) owned nearly three acres of land on the south-east corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street, extending across Glenarm Street. He acquired the property in 1856.7 Atherton was a leather merchant, a partner in the shoe and leather company Atherton, Stetson & Co. (later Atherton, Hull & Co.) with offices at 60 Pearl Street. Like the other wealthy merchants in the neighborhood, he held numerous prominent positions outside his business, including representing Dorchester in the State Legislature in 1867, 1870, and 1877, and serving as director of the New England Bank, the Prescott Insurance Company, the Massachusetts Loan and Trust Company, and as President of the Dorchester Gas-light Company.
Between 1898 and 1918, the prominent corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street experienced a period of transition as development gradually encroached upon its large suburban tracts. This was due in large part to the extension and widening of Columbia Road in 1897 and the subsequent introduction of electric streetcars to the new boulevard. The formerly modest local road was widened significantly to 110 feet; it was also extended so that it connected Franklin Park to Dorchester Bay. Franklin Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted during the 1880s, is the largest park in a string of Olmsted-designed landscapes and parkways known as Boston’s Emerald Necklace. It is located about a quarter-of-a-mile southwest of the district. The Boston Globe reported on the project enthusiastically, claiming the improved new road would “complete the magnificent chain of parkways which now encircles the city… it will be a magnificent boulevard, and over the greater portion of it the electric cars will run .”° Another article speculated that the redesigned road would become one of the most significant in the neighborhood: `This improvement will prove a notable one, from the fact the street is used as much as any in Dorchester, and is now destined to be one of the prominent thoroughfares in this part of the city.”2The work on Columbia Road was the largest and most expensive undertaking in Dorchester up to that time with total land damages for takings associated with widening the street alone exceeding $500,00042 While horsecars ran along nearby streets like Washington Street and Dorchester Avenue, the introduction of streetcars to Columbia Road served as the first affordable mass public transportation to Columbia Road itself (figure 4). Railroad fare was significantly higher than the price of a ride on a streetcar; thus, the introduction of the streetcar to Columbia Road made its environs accessible to those who previously could not afford a suburban commute.
The widening and extending of Columbia Road had a substantial effect on the value of property fronting the boulevard. Shrewd real estate investors saw the opportunity for development at once. The project spurred many property owners to put large tracts of previously undeveloped land up for sale. The Boston Globe called attention to the increase in value along Columbia Road, specifically of the Morse estate in 1899:
The property in the immediate vicinity has since the improvement [of Columbia Road] caused it to rise in value, the land now being valued at some 35 cents per square foot, where before the improvement it was nothing near this figure. Practically speaking, the Morse property, by the improvement, has benefited both in value and surroundings.
As property owners sold off their valuable land along Columbia Road, multi-family housing that could accommodate streetcar commuters became the dominant form of new development. Between 1901 and 1933, apartment buildings sprung up all along Columbia Road interspersed with two-family houses and triple-deckers, which also filled the side streets. The Boston Globe reported on the phenomenon in 1905:
It is not necessary to go into any detailed statement of the condition of the real estate market in Dorchester during the past year, as the activity, which has been manifest in this section for the past few years, continued during 1905. At the present time, it is to the interest of the home buyer to state that many properties are being sold here at prices with in the reach of not only the middle classes, but also the masses, many small houses having been constructed and finding a ready market. The number of apartment housesthat have been erected in Dorchester the past year demonstrates the fact that also people are now turning to this class of house that in previous years were satisfied with single dwellings. The claim is that the numerous improvements, such as heat, hot water, and janitor service, are responsible for this state of affairs.
The article went on to report that apartments along Columbia Road offered good rental prices, rented quickly, and were occupied by the best quality of tenants.
As the family patriarchs of the Wilder, Adams, Morse, and Atherton families died off, their heirs took advantage of the rising property values associated with the Columbia Road expansion and sold or subdivided the formerly large estates, retaining their houses and a portion of the surrounding land for themselves, and inviting development of new streets laid out through their properties (figures 5-6). Wilder Road and Pinckney Road (now Supple and Pasadena roads) and Normandy Street were laid out through the Wilder Property in 1898:4 The property was subdivided into house lots of between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet with larger lots of about 5,000-6,000 square feet along Columbia Road. These lots were steadily developed primarily with frame two-family dwellings during the first two decades of the 204‘ century. Wilder’s son, Edward B. Wilder, a real estate agent, retained the two Wilder family houses on a 34,240-square-foot lot at the southwest corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street, and a 20,000-square-foot lot on the southwest corner of Columbia and Wilder (Supple) roads. Similarly, a portion of the Adams estate fronting Geneva Avenue was sold in 1905, divided into 4,000-square-foot lots and gradually developed with frame two-family dwellings:5 Like the W ilders, the Adams family retained their house on a large parcel of 62,468 square feet at the northwest corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street (figure 7). Strathcona Road was laid out through the Morse estate in 1907, and the portion of the estate between Strathcona Road and Hawes Avenue (now Brinsley Street) and the portion that extended across Bowdoin Avenue (now Brinsley Street) was sold and subdivided into house lots of between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet and gradually developed with frame two-family dwellings and triple-deckers between 1907 and 1918 (figure 8): 6 As with the Wilder and Adams families, the heirs of Albert Morse retained a large portion of the estate consisting of 62,000 square feet at the corner of Washington Street and Columbia Road for themselves.
Unlike their neighbors, the Atherton family did not remain on their property during this transitional period. The Atherton estate was sold in its entirety to Charlotte A. Powell sometime between 1904 and 1908. Charlotte A. Powell was a Dorchester developer who, with her brother Francis G. Powell, a local architect, was responsible for developing many Dorchester streets with two-family houses and apartment buildings following the widening of Columbia Road. Powell’s development of the Atherton property epitomizes the speculative development that transformed Dorchester along Columbia Road at this time. Powellton Road, named for Ms. Powell, was laid out through the Atherton estate in 1908, and Powell subdivided the property into lots of approximately 4,000 square feet with the exception of the frontage on Washington Street between Glenarm Street and Columbia Road; this was divided into two large parcels of 14,000 square feet at the corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street and 23,487 square feet at the corner of Glenarm Street and Columbia Road. The small lots were steadily developed with two-family frame houses, and the large lots along Washington Street and Columbia Road were developed with acombination of brick apartment houses and two-family frame houses, all from plans of Francis G. Powel1.17 The Atherton house remained on the property until 1911 when the Powells replaced it with two two-family houses.
The first building constructed in the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District The Charlotte A. Powell Apartments, 105-111 Columbia Road was constructed on the 14,000-square-foot parcel at the corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street in 1910. An advertisement for apartments in the building emphasized modern conveniences, proximity to the new boulevard, and a high-class neighborhood. Under the heading “Exclusive Apartments,” the notice read, “Beautiful surroundings at the corner of two boulevards, steam heat, continuous hot water, janitor service, large sunny rooms, spacious closets, magnificent view, and modern in every particular.”” The first record of residents of the new building is the 1920 Federal Census. These residents were a combination of multi-generational New England families and first generation Americans with parents from Canada and Ireland. They represented the new class of neighborhood residents made possible by the introduction of the streetcar: largely middle-class commuters, employed as company managers, opticians, newspaper editors, and clerks.
An interview with Francis G. Powell that appeared in a building magazine in 1913 described the architect as “one of Boston’s most successful home builders,” in large part because he recognized the demand for multi-family dwellings in Dorchester to accommodate streetcar commuters:
The past quarter century in Boston has seen a tremendous growth in the way of providing housing for the ever increasing population who live within a five-cent trolley ride of the business section of the city. The large estates of the Dorchester District, for example, which in former days consisted of roomy dwelling houses with plenty of land about them, have been divided up to provide sites for a host of more closely built, lower-priced habitations…’One thing has been proved,’ says Mr. Powell, ‘namely that for the average citizen the one-family house in cities is becoming obsolete. Central care, a central heating plant, and lessened household work and expense appeal strongly to the average American of both sexes.
With their savvy business sense, Charlotte and Francis Powell were an active development team in Dorchester from the late 1890s through the 1920s. Prior to that time, Charlotte was employed as a school teacher while Francis, ten years her senior, was a practicing architect. In 1880 they were living with their parents, Irish immigrants, and siblings on West 4′ Street in South Boston. By 1900 the family had moved to Dorchester, and were living on Mayfield Street. The sibling pair purchased large estates and subdivided them for development primarily with two-family frame dwellings described in the local papers as “high-class houses.” They developed properties on many of the sidestreets in the vicinity of the district, including Normandy, Wolcott, Hewins, Glenarm, and Erie streets, as well as on Columbia Road. It was they who purchased a 20,000-square-foot portion of Ivers Adams’s property at the corner of Columbia Road and Geneva Avenue and proceeded with development of two-family dwellings. They also developed about 40 two-family dwellings in the vicinity of Mayfield Street.7° All of these properties sold quickly and were typically purchased by people who lived in one unit and rented the second. Charlotte Powell resided in several locations in Dorchester, always in buildings she developed with herbrother, including 21 Columbia Road, 2 Hewins Street, and 61 Columbia Road. Francis Powell resided at 64 Pleasant Street and maintained an office in the Charlotte A. Powell Apartments.
The development of the district, initiated by the Powel Is in the early 1910s, slowed during the First World War, and the intersection of Columbia Road and Washington Street remained largely unchanged in 1918 (figure 9). However, with the war over, the 1920s ushered in the transformation of the district to its present appearance. A sign of a revived market the Charlotte A. Powell Apartments sold in 1921 for well over its assessed value!’ That same year, Albert Morse’s widow Ellen died, freeing the property from its long-time resident. With the older residents dying off and real estate values rising, the corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street was ripe for new development. With the exception of the Adams house, which remained standing until sometime between 1955 and 1969 when it was replaced with surface parking and shopping centers, all of the 191h-century family homes at the prominent intersection were replaced by large apartment buildings and a commercial building between 1924 and 192842
The sale of the Charlotte A. Powell Apartments was also a sign of shifting neighborhood demographics. The buyers, Jacob and Annie Previa, were Lithuanian immigrants who emigrated in first decade of the 20′1 century. They purchased several apartment houses in the neighborhood in 192142 The apartment buildings that sprung up in the district between 1924 and 1928 were owned and designed by a handful of Eastern-European immigrants and first-generation Americans who were part of Boston’s significant Jewish population; together they transformed this stretch of Columbia Road and created accommodations for a burgeoning Jewish community in Dorchester (figure 10).
The first apartment buildings constructed in the district during the development boom of the 1920s were the Krinsky and Babbitt Apartments, 102-108 Columbia Road constructed in 1924 and the Farrington 150-156 Columbia Road constructed the following year. These buildings replaced the long-time Wilder family home on the corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street and occupied a portion of the subdivided Adams property at the corner of Columbia Road and Geneva Avenue, respectively. As would become the pattern of development in the district at th is time, these buildings were erected by shared owners/developers, and were designed by a common architectural firm. Julius K. Krinsky and Abraham D. Babbitt were the owners and the buildings were designed by the architectural firm of Silverman, Brown, and Heenan. Krinsky and Babbitt were both Jewish immigrants who partnered and also worked individually as real estate developers and builders. Krinsky emigrated from Russia in 1893 and resided in the North and West Ends of Boston, as well as in Dorchester, and later in Brookline and Newton, all neighborhoods with substantial Jewish communities. Many of his real estate transactions reported in the local newspapers in the first decades of the 20th century occurred in the North and West Ends and in Dorchester and Roxbury. Abraham Babbitt emigrated from Poland in 1900 and lived in Dorchester. Babbitt’s real estate transactions occurred predominantly in Dorchester and Roxbury. Silverman, Brown, and Heenan designed many apartment buildings in the Boston neighborhoods of Brighton, Dorchester, the Fenway, the Back Bay, Dorchester, and Roxbury, as well as in the neighboring communities of Brookline and Cambridge during the 1920s. The firm was formerly known as the Silverman Engineering Company and then as Silverman Ss Brown. David Silverman, founding partner of thefirm, was also part of Boston’s Jewish community. He was a first-generation American born to Russian-Jewish immigrants.
A second apartment house was constructed on the old Wilder property in 1925. The Green &Shapiro Apartments, 90-94 Columbia Road were developed by owners James D. Green and Solomon Shapiro and designed by Saul E. Moffie. Green and Shapiro were both in the real estate business and, like Krinsky and Babbitt, were both of Jewish heritage. Green, a Brookline resident, was a first-generation American born to Russian parents, and Shapiro emigrated from Russia in 1906 and resided near the district on Gannett Street. Moffie, who would become a prolific designer of apartment houses in Boston and Cambridge, was also a member of the Jewish community and a first-generation American. Moffie attended Franklin Union and Tufts University as a civil engineering student and received his bachelor of science degree in 1921. As a student, Moffie worked for the nationally renowned designers of Lockwood, Greene, and Company, specialists in industrial and manufacturing buildings. He started his career as a draftsman with the Lamson Company in 1922 and later worked as a structural draftsman for the Boston and Maine Railroad before starting his own firm in 1924.
The Green & Shapiro Apartments were among his earliest commissions. For the remainder of his career, Moffie worked as a self-employed architect designing more than 70 buildings, predominatly apartment houses, between 1924 and the early 1950s. Examples of Moffie’s work include a thirty-six unit apartment complex at 1810-1820 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton (1927; BOS.8610, BOS.17500), a three-story brick and stone apartment house at 136-140 Seaver Street in Roxbury (1928), an eight-un it brick apartment building at 120 Beacon Street (1937; BOS.4150; NR 1973), and a twenty-three-unit brick apartment building at 255 Beacon Street (1938; BOS.2819; NR 1973).16 All of these buildings share the brick and stone materials and Colonial Revival stylistic elements of the Green &Shapriro Apartments. Moffie is most well-known for Commonwealth Gardens (commonly known as Fidelis Way Housing), the largest of his commissions. The 648-un it complex at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Washington Streets in Brighton was completed for the Boston Housing Authority in 1950. After the early 1950s, Moffie focused solely on real estate sales and management as the owner of Beacon Street Properties. Moffie’s list of clients suggests that many of his connections to developers were through the local Jewish community, including his partnerships with Green and Shapiro and Philip Markovsky in the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District.
Construction in the district flourished in the years that followed. Between 1927 and 1928 four new apartment buildings and one commercial building were erected on the Morse property. Saul Moffie designed three of these buildings: Columbia Arms, 129-135 Columbia Road and the Philip Markovsky Stores were erected in 1927 and The Maxwell, 137 Columbia Road was erected in 1928. The remaining two apartment buildings were designed by brothers Samuel and Bernard Levy in 1927. Samuel designed the Abraham J. Marks Apartments, 143-147 Columbia Road and Bernard designed the Samuel Pr ice Apartments, 16 Strathcona Road.
Like the other architects working in the district during this period, the Levy brothers were of Jewish heritage. They were born to Russian-Jewish parents; Samuel was born in Russia and immigrated with his parents to New York in 1889 where Bernard was born several years later. The Levy family relocated to Boston by 1900 and by 1910, Samuel Levy was registered as an architect and was residing with his parents and siblings on Wayland Street, just outside Upham’s Corner?* Although little is known about hisformal schooling in architecture, his career was greatly assisted by the massive 1908 fire that destroyed much of the city of Chelsea, a city with a significant Jewish population and which sits across the Mystic River from Boston. Levy’s first known building, the Julius Cohen Apartments at 481-483 Broadway in Chelsea (1910), led to a plethora of commissions for the young architect’ Between 1911 and 1916, Levy filed permits for at least 30 building projects in Chelsea including both small commercial and mixed-use buildings.’ Levy’s early designs were nearly all of brick construction and incorporated Colonial Revival decorative elements. In addition to his long list of buildings in Chelsea, Levy worked on a handful of stand-alone projects in East Boston, Brighton, and Brookline between 1912 and 1915, all of which were owned by developers for whom he was working in Chelsea!’ During W or Id War I, Levy worked as an architect for the Hood Rubber Companyin Watertown which was expanding their facilities as part of the war effort!’ After the war, Levy produced a commercial building in Watertown (608-616 Mount Auburn Street, 1923) and three single-family houses of different styles on Verndale Street in Brookline before turning his architectural practice back to brick apartment house construction!’ From 1924 until 1929, Levy produced at least 21 apartment buildings in Dorchester, Roxbury, Brookline, Jamaica Plain, and Newton. For some of these buildings, including the Samuel Price Apartments in the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District, his younger brother, Bernard Levy, appears as the architect of record for neighboring apartment buildings, and it is likely that they worked together in securing and completing work.34 In 1928, Levy designed, arguably, his most important building—the Congregation Ezrath Israel Synagogue in Malden, which is no longer extant’ There are no records of commissions after 1929. He lived in a two-family home on Warren Street until his death in 1936.36
The developers and owners working with Moffie and the Levy brothers also shared their ethnic background. Philip Markovsky, a builder and contractor who emigrated from Russia in 1901 was the developer and owner of Columbia Arms and the Philip Markovksy Stores; Abraham Marks, a realtor who emigrated from Russia in 1902 was the owner of The Maxwell and the Abraham J. Marks Apartments; Samuel Price, a second-generation Russian Jew owned the Samuel Price Apartments. This group of men were part of a shared profession al community as well, and jointly participated in the development of the Morse property. Marks and Markovsky were in business together as the Aspinwall Construction Company with offices at 43 Tremont Street’?Markovsky served as the contractor for both of the buildings owned by Marks. They were all residents of Dorchester and Roxbury.
Like the owners and designers of then ew apartment buildings, the vast majority of the residents of these buildings were Jewish. Ninety-three percent of the residents of the Krinsky and Babbitt Apartments andseventy-two percent of the Farrington were either immigrants from Russia, Poland, Austria, and Romania or were first-generation Americans born to Russian immigrants. The remaining families hailed from France, the United Kingdom, and Holland or were first-generation children of parents from those countries. These families were largely working class, employed in the clothing trades as furriers, tailors, and shoemakers, and as salesmen, peddlers, and merchants. Many of these workers owned their own businesses. Likewise, a significant number of residents of the Green& Shapiro Apartments were also of Jewish heritage. More than half of these were first generation Americans born to Russian and Austrian parents, and the other half were immigrants from Russia and Poland who emigrated in the late 19′h century. A small percentage of residents hailed from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland (which became an independent country at the end of this period). These were also largely working-class families with many heads of household employed as tailors and salesmen. Most of them worked for others, but a small number owned their own businesses. The residents of the buildings constructed on the Morse property were predominantly Russian Jews, with a handful of families from Poland and Romania. The vast majority of residents were immigrants with a few first-generation children of Russian parents. Most of these families arrived in the late 19′h and early 20′h centuries, though a few arrived in the 1910s and early 1920s. The professions of these residents were eclectic, but they were predominantly middle-class business owners, medical professionals, pharmacists, lawyers, and managers as well as salesmen, teachers, actors, and musicians!’
As the development team and the residents of the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road area during the 1920s attests, Dorchester and its bordering neighborhoods—Roxbury and Mattapan—was home to a significant Jewish population in the early decades of the 20′h century. The vast majority of this general population were Jewish immigrants from Russia who fled state-sanctioned repression of Jewish faith and culture under the Russian tsar in the late 1880s and early 1900s.39 Though the first wave of Jewish immigrants arrived in Boston in the 1840s and settled in the lower South End, a majority of Boston’s Jewish immigrants arrived in the 1880s and 1890s, and settled in the North End. The West End gradually absorbed this population between 1895 and 1905 and remained the largest Jewish district in Boston until about 1910. Typically, these immigrants arrived as skilled tradesmen. Many found employment in Boston’s textile and shoe industries, often beginning as peddlers and accumulating enough capital to open their own small businesses.2 Beginning in the 1890s and continuing through 1917, many of the Jewish immigrants who had become successful in their trades began moving to less dense areas of the city like Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, which were just beginning to blossom into attractive streetcar suburbs:
What originated as a small movement of the more elite Jewish population out of the North and West Ends became amass exodus by 1918; in 1920 approximately 44,000 Jews were living in Dorchester and Upper Roxbury. However, this second wave of Jewish immigrants moving into Dorchester differed from their predecessors as the population was typically working class. At this time, many of the more affluent Jewish settlers of Dorchester began to move to Boston’s outlying suburbs of Brookline and Newton. However, the working class Jewish population of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan continued to thrive in the second quarter of the 20′h century, increasing their numbers to 77,000 by the early 1930s. Thedevelopment of the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District with large apartment buildings in the late 1920s reflects the demand for housing for the growing Jewish population. The demographics of the residents of the district also reflect the rise of the working-class Jews who first ventured out a decade earlier, many of whom owned their own businesses in the 1930s. This upward trend held through the 1940s. The residents of the district at that time were predominantly first-generation, American-born Jews. By the mid-20′h century, the Jewish population of Dorchester was beginning to follow their predecessors into Brookline and Newton. However, as late as 1950, about 70,000 Jews still resided in the neighborhood.”
With the rising number of Jewish immigrants living in Boston in the late 19′h century came the demand for Jewish-specific businesses and institutions. These businesses were prevalent in the North and West Ends, and migrated to Blue Hill Avenue as the Jewish population moved into Dorchester and Roxbury in large numbers after the turn of the 20′h century.” These included kosher butcher shops, bakeries, grocery stores, and fruit shops, some of which would likely have occupied the commercial building at the corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street. Religious institutions also migrated to Dorchester and Roxbury to serve the burgeoning Jewish population as well. Though there were many small congregations, five major synagogues served the Boston Jewish population in 1918, four of which were located Dorchester and Roxbury. The Dorchester synagogues were located on Crawford Street, Blue Hill Avenue, and Fowler Street, while Moreland Street was home to the Roxbury synagogue.” All of the major Dorchester synagogues were located within half a mile of the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road area, and the Roxbury synagogue was just a mile and a half away. Synagogues were more than just religious institutions, they were places that solidified business relationships within the community and thus served as important centers for the developing neighborhoods of Roxbury and Dorchester.” Saul Moffie’s commissions in the 1920s may have been influenced in part by an association with the AdathJeshurun congregation.” The leaders responsible for construction of the AdathJeshurun synagogue, including Davis Kr okyn, Nathan Pinanski, Joseph Rudn ick, and Myer Dana, were also in the real estate business. Given the interconnected relationships among the developers of the district, it is likely that a shared connection existed with the Levy brothers as well. Like h is earlier Chelsea projects, most of Levy’s commissions during the 1920s were generally for Jewish developers and housed Jewish tenants. These projects were focused on the rising population in Roxbury, Dorchester, and the suburbs west of Boston.”
The racial demographic of Dorchester began to change in the 1950s and 1960s. During this time Dorchester’s Jewish population migrated in increasingly large numbers to Boston’s outlying suburbs; between 1950 and 1960, the Jewish population of Dorchester shrank from 70,000 to 47,000. This trend continued over the next decade: in 1970 there were 16,000 Jewish residents of Dorchester, and by the end of the decade only several hundred remained. Jewish surnames are regularly listed in the city directoriesfor the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road apartment buildings through 1960 indicating that the tapering off of this population in the district occurred between 1960 and 1970. This demographic shift coincided with a growing number of African-Americans moving from the southern United States to the North, known as the Great Migration. Dorchester became the center of civil rights activism into the 1950s; it was home to Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the duration of his Ph.D. studies at Boston University. A majority of the African-American population began settling in the Blue Hill Avenue section of Dorchester, which, by 1980, had become a predominately African-American community. Today the vast majority of this area of Dorchester is home to a mix of residents, the greatest number of which are of African-American and Hispanic descent.
The Colonial Revival Movement and the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District
The dominant architectural vocabulary of the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District is the Colonial Revival. This style was immensely popular in the United States from the late 19th through the mid-20th century. The Charlotte A. Powell Apartments were constructed at the height of the popularity of the Colonial Revival style but enthusiasm for the style endured through the 1950s, as evidenced by the district’s apartment buildings constructed in the late 1920s. While early interest in the colonial past was triggered by the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago cemented the enthusiasm for reviving its relics in the minds of the nation. The occasion marked the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America, and presented visitors with innumerable opportunities to experience the colonial past. Colonial architecture was on exhibit in many of the state buildings erected at the fair; their decorative interiors, commemorative displays, and historical exhibitions flooded the fairgrounds!’ Massachusetts recreated the John Hancock House, built on Beacon Hill in 1737 and demolished in 1863. This colonial celebration coincided with mass immigration to the United States from Europe in the 1880s and 1890s, which fueled a desire to underscore and impart American values. Reviving elements of the colonial past was reassuring at a time of great change.
Colonial Revival architecture began as loose interpretations of colonial-period buildings, but took a more serious turn in the early 20th century when publications like The American Architect and Building News began publishing measured drawings of colonial buildings and the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs printed photographs of colonial precedents!’ The single-most defining characteristic that was reproduced in the revival movement is an emphasis on the door surround of th e main entrance, which often features pilasters or slender columns supporting a pediment or entablature as seen in the Georgian style, or a fanlight above the door as seen in the Federal style. Other characteristic elements of the revival style include elaborate cornices, symmetrical fenestration arrangement, light-colored brick, bay windows, multi-pane double-hung sash windows commonly featured in pairs, and in urban examples, bowed fronts, which allowed for increased light to reach apartments in buildings erected on deep, narrow lots”
The apartment buildings in the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District share many of the stylistic characteristics of the Colonial Revival. All buildings in the district emphasize their entries with elaborate cast-stone surrounds that incorporate columns, pilasters, and pediments. The Charlotte A. Powell Apartments feature particularly elaborate and intact entry surrounds that incorporate fanlights and sidelights set within the cast-stone surround. Its wide, modillioned copper cornice and incorporation of bowed bays mark it as an earlier example of the style in the district. The Green & Shapiro Apartments, Krinskey& Babbitt Apartments and the Farrington all employ buff-colored brick, symmetrical facades, and swags and cartouches—classical motifs. The red-brick apartment buildings on the east side of Columbia Road that were the last constructed in the district between 1927 and 1928 also employ Colonial Revival elements, most notably the entry portico of the The Maxwell the wide dentilated cornice of Columbia Arms as well as the cast-stone cladding of its courtyard facade. The names of the buildings given by their developers also reflect the Colonial Revival tradition. English sounding names were popular during the Colonial Revival period for their phonetic effect as well as their associations with an upper class. “Arms” originates from the names given to traditional English Inns. “Farrington” is a small village in Lancashire, England. It was also popular during this period to attach familial names to apartment buildings. The Maxwell” may have had some significance to Moffie or Marks.
Given that the primary developers of the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District were of Russian-Jewish descent, it may seem incongruous that these men would look to an architectural vocabulary that celebrated a colonial past and American values. Their use of the Colonial Revival may have been motivated by several factors. Firstly, the Colonial Revival would have been an architectural vocabulary that was familiar to them. Apartment buildings all along Columbia Road between Upham’s Corner and Franklin Park developed a decade earlier adopted Colonial Revival forms and details. Prime examples in this district was the Charlotte A. Powell Apartments at the corner of Columbia Road and Washington Street, as well as the apartment buildings several blocks away in the Columbia Road-Devon Street and Columbia Road—Bellevue Street Historic Districts (both listed in the NR in 2017). A second explanation for the developer’s promotion of the Colonial Revival style in their buildings may be that the district’s developers were businessmen with an interest in constructing marketable properties. Their buildings were typically quickly sold to third parties interested in long-term real estate investment. Operating within a favored architectural vocabulary guaranteed speedy sales. An American architectural vocabulary would have been appealing to future residents as well, regardless of their heritage The Jewish immigrants who resided in these buildings may have considered the stylistic presentation of the buildings as a welcome means of embracing their adopted country. The majority of residents of the district had immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the time they arrived in Dorchester, many had worked their way out of the North and West Ends as their businesses thrived. Their new country had allowed for their advancement; it was an association worthy of celebrating.
Summary of Activity in the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District Post-1968
The years following the gradual exodus of the Jewish community from the Columbia Road-Strathcona Road Historic District during the 1960s and 1970s were a transitional period for the district. Many of the buildings were cited for unsafe conditions, namely parapets and porches. The Green & Shapiro Apartments suffered afire in 1962. The Green & Shapiro Apartments Columbia Arms the Maxwell and the Abraham J. Marks Apartments all underwent renovations from 1967-1969. The 1980s and 1990s saw additional citations for neglect and also reinvestment and rehabilitation of the buildings for subsidized housing. The Samuel Price Apartments vacant and being vandalized in the early 1990s, were renovated at the end of that decade. During this transitional period, the demographics of th e neighborhood also shifted from a predominantly Jewish community to a mixed community largely comprised of African-American and Hispanic residents. In 2010, only two percent of the population of the area in which the district is located identified as white, while nearly fifty-three percent of the population identified asAfrican-American and thirty-seven percent identified as Hispanic!’ This is a pattern that has continued to the present. In 2010 The Maxwell at 137 Columbia Road underwent a renovation, using historic tax credits, for continued use as affordable housing. Work was focused on addressing issues of deferred maintenance on the interior and exterior of the building including the repointing and repair of masonry, the replacement of non-historic windows and doors, repainting and replacement of non-historic finishes and fixtures on the interior, and the refinishing of historic wood floors. All work met the Secretary of Interior Standards for the Treat