Crescent Avenue

Crescent Avenue

The following is from the AREA FORM from Boston Landmarks Commission prepared as part of 1994 Survey of Dorchester. Dated March, 1995 and recorded by Edward W. Gordon.

[Note: this reproduction of the information in the Boston Landmarks Area Form may have typographical errors, and for technical matters, the reader may want to consult a copy of the original, which is available at the Boston Landmarks Commission or the Dorchester Historical Society]

The Crescent Avenue Area is a residential section on the east side of Dorchester Avenue, which encompasses a varied collection of primarily wooden structures dating from the second half of the 19th century. This area has highly irregular boundaries owing to the realities of concentrations of historic resources and the existence of fairly large vacant lots (northwest side of Mosely Street). For brevity’s sake, the boundaries might be generally said to be circumscribed by Sydney Street on the east, Crescent Ave. on the south (including the northern half of Grant Street), Buttonwood Street on the west and Columbia Road on the north. (For more exact boundaries see the attached map). The earliest house in this area is the c.1820 Federal Holbrook House at 56 Crescent Avenue.This 5-bay double pile house with side and rear ells (additions?) is covered with wood shingles and enclosed by a low hip roof with fairly massive (off center) brick chimney. This house currently stands vacant and partially boarded up with some signs of renovation (restoration?) in process. Its center entrance is simply enframed, flanked by Doric pilasters (attenuated Federal proportions) and the appearance of infill where side lights were originally located. The fully enframed, cornice headed window enframements are of interest as relatively formal exterior treatments on what is essentially an unpretentious farm house in a once relatively remote section of Dorchester. The Greek Revival is not represented in this area and one has only to look at the 1850 Map of Dorchester to see why at mid century only three houses were extant in this area. By the time of the post -Civil War building boom in this area the Greek Revival had gone out of style with the Italianate and to an even greater degree the Italianate /Mansard representing the styles of choice.

Architectural Description

The Italianate Style generally appears in tandem with Mansard roofed housing, it is represented “on its own” in a pair of double mid 19th century Italianate houses at 1/2 and 5/7 Buttonwood Court (narrow, fairly picturesque lane off the east side of Buttonwood Street). These boxy doubt: houses exhibit paired entrances reached via wooden steps and are surmounted by bracketed door hoods. These houses are enclosed by low hip roofs with brackets at the eaves. Completing Buttonwood Court’s charming scene, on its south side (3/7 Buttonwood Court) is a double Italianate/ Mansard with paired entrances, bracketed door hood and straight- sided mansard with slate octagonal shingles still intact. The wood- shingle covered Italianate. side- hall plan house at 59 Crescent Avenue is of interest because of contiguous components which form are L-shaped configuration and consist of several oddly shaped sheds and an old boarded – up, wood frame, one story “mom and pop” store which fronts on to Newport Street. The Italianate style makes a more formal appearance at 9 and 11 Grant Street. These boxy, 3-bay residences possess designs that are unique within Dorchester. Here, their 3-bay double pile main facades feature open, two story front porches which constitute a central pavilion-like effect and are composed of chamfered posts, segmental arches, and heavy brackets at the gables. The front doors are set within segmental headed enframents and pilasters appear at either side of the doors. Double polygonal oriels flank the front doors and these houses are enclosed by low hip roofs with deep eaves and heavy brackets.

The Italianate /Mansard Style is the best represented of the historic architectural styles in the Crescent Avenue Area with several straightforward L-shaped cottages at 10 and 12 Grant Street (2-bay main facades with heavy, bracketed door hoods and polygonal bays). 12 to 28 Carson Street , on the west side of this thoroughfare, is characterized by a pleasing progression of cottage- scale Italianate /Mansards whose ornate, saw cut brackets, deep eaves and paired dormers draw one’s eye along the streetscape. Across the street from this group at 11 Carson Street is a relatively substantial Italianate / Mansard residence which originally was located facing Crescent Avenue. Although covered with vinyl siding it retains its original fcrai and trimmings. Its Victorian double doors are enframed within a segmental arch and open on to a porch with chamfered posts. Windows are fully enframed and are surmounted by cornice headed lintels. This house is enclosed by a bell cast mansard roof with paired and arched dormers. Mosely Street (east side) is another streetscape characterized by Mansards of various forms, sizes and states of preservation. (see 27, 31 and 35 Moseley Street). Striking a decidedly urbane note amidst the frame architecture of this area are 1-7 Crescent Avenue which constitute two contiguous pairs of 2.5 story bow- fronted rowhouses, each with paired entrances reached via low stoops and surmounted by heavy bracketed door hoods. These houses are enclosed by straightsided mansards with exceptionally well detailed (dentil courses and modillion blocks) wooden cornices. Single and tripartite dormers project from these roofs. Otherwise, Crescent Avenue is characterized by three- decker housing, most of which has been drastically altered by the application of vinyl siding and the removal of original elements.

This area also encompasses Queen Anne/Colonial Revival 3-deckers at 45 and 47 Buttonwood Street as well as the trio of Queen Anne triple deckers at 843, 845 and 847 Columbia Road.

Historical Narrative

Historically, Crescent Avenue was a path leading from Allen’s Plain (Pleasant Street area) to Columbia Point or the Cow Pasture as it was called for many years.In 1804 the Dorchester Turnpike was completed on the western edge of this area, linking Lower Mills with Boston. When the Old Colony Railroad was set out through this area in 1841, it would seem logical that residential development would follow in the Crescent Street area soon after the introduction of such a major transportation improvement. The 1850 Dorchester Map, however shows only three houses in the vicinity of Crescent Avenue which include a house on either side of Crescent Avenue owned by the Mosely family and a dwelling labeled G. Clapp at the southeast corner of Crescent Ave and Dorchester Ave. The oldest house in this area is located at 56 Crescent Avenue and may be the house shown on the 1850 map north of Crescent Avenue labeled T. Mosely. By 1874 this house was one of two houses on a 5,000 square foot lot labeled S.P. Holbrook. S.Pinckney Holbrook played a major role in the development of late 19th century Dorchester through his real estate and auctioneers company called Holbrook and Fox (based at 8 Kilby Street Boston. ) #56 Crescent Street was apparently the secondary house on the property. A much larger house, now the site of modern condominiums was the main Holbrook residence. By the 1930s this house had evidently become a boarding house whose tenants included Louis De Simone, painter, James Beith, machinist, as well as Thomas H. O’Neil and Clifford Pennington, occupations unlisted).The Italianate house at the corner of Crescent and Newport Streets has firm historical associations with the Mosely family Nil10 had been associated with this area since at least 1850. In 1874, Elisha Mosely,coal dealer is listed here (working out of 86 Devonshire St., Boston). Mosely’s house lot encompassed 16,000 sq. ft. extending from Newport St to Spring Garden Street. By 1894, the Mosely’s had sold this property to a James and Margaret Daly, lunch room owners and the lot was reduced to its present size. The Dalys lived here until at least the early 1930s.

This area encompasses two north-south streets that were set out in the 1860s, including Mosely Street and Carson Street (originally called Carlton Street). Both streets were built up with Italianate/Mansard residences of varying size. Residents of the 1870s on Mosely street included members of the Mosely family at 19 and 21 Moseley Street; S.H. L. Pierce, planing and moulding mill employee at 27 ,and George P. Brooks, apothecary at 35 Moseley Street. By the 1930’s 27 Moseley Street was the home of John P. Fahey, chauffer, 31 was owned by William P. Collins, mariner and William Dale of the Dale Oil Company lived at 3 5.

Perhaps the most charming streetscape in this area is provided by the narrow way known as Buttonwood Court which runs southeastward from Buttonwood Street. Set out c.1870, it originally “dead-ended” into a large Mosely-owned tract on the west side of Mosely Street. The modestly scaled double Italianate housing that was built here during the early 1870’s seems to have been targeted for a solid middle class. Late 19th century owners included William T. Leach, grocer at #5 and Charles H. Mc Afee, train master at #1. By the early 20th century, machinists, inspectors, clerks, horse collar makers and brass molders lived on Buttonwood Court.

Similarly,Carson Street was set out during the 1860s and by the mid 1870s was built up with cottage -scale mansard cottages. 11 Carson Street is of interest as a house that was moved from its original site a few yards to the south overlooking Crescent Avenue. This house was built c.1867 for well – to – do Boston Crockery dealer William H. Bangs who worked for Curtis, Collamore and Co. during the late 1860’s before working out of a series of stores on State, Milk and Exchange in downtown Boston. By the early 1890s, his widow Mary E. Bangs lived here. This house was moved tpo its present location between 1894 and 1910. By 1933 Mrs Mary V. Donnelly and John P. Gorham, lab worker lived here.

Grant Street, off the south side of Crescent Street represents a discrete enclave of wood frame Italianate and Italianate/Mansard houses that was developed and built by Alfred Ford, carpenter during the early 1870’s. Ford was also responsible for the bow front brick Mansard/Italianate row houses at the corner of Crescent and Grant Streets.(1,3,5,7 Grant Street). In 1874, this entire row was owned by Alfred Ford. During the late 19th century, Abner Coburn and his heirs owned #1 while the remaining houses were owned by the Wareham Savings Bank. By the 1930’s, John J. Dixon, photographer lived at #1; Charles P. Sances, milkman lived at #3; Albert T. Salaway is listed at #5 and Richard Rodwell, machinist, resided at #7. Grant Street started out as a cul de sac, not achieving its present length until some point between 1884-94. A sampling of property ownership along Grant Avenue in 1874 shows Alfred Ford owning #’s 10 and12 and E.R. Cresswell (occupation?) owning #9 while an E. Poole owned #11. By the early 1930s, Patrick J. Casey, stockman and Augustus Peters, machine operator lived in #10; Henry Heinmeyer, sexton of St. Margaret’s Church lived in #12, Anyhony W. Carella, mail carrier for the Jamaica Plain Post office lived at #9 and Gennaro Garguilio, barber (shop at 929 Dorchester Avenue) lived at #11 Grant Street. In other words, a solid middle class lived in this area with few vacancies listed even during the Depression.

A double house built at 31 and 35 Crescent Avenue by Alfred Ford c.1875-1883, was the residence of Washington I. Tuckerman by 1885. He is listed as a “horse shoer” with a black smith shop located at 237 Dorchester Avenue. By 1910, Tuckerman was living and working in Fast Boston and it is not until 1933 that #31 and 33 Crescent Street’s occupants are identifiable. In that year , Walter P. Crowley, “inspector, wire division, 60 Bristol” lived at #31 while a Mrs. Elizabeth Murphy lived in #33. Today, this area is a vibrant melting pot with Irish, Asian and Hispanic residents.


Posted on

June 13, 2022

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