Report prepared in 2002
[Note: this reproduction of the information in the National Register Nomination 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]
Harrison Square/Clam Point
The Clam Point/Harrison Square Historic District, Boston, is located in east central Dorchester between the MBTA subway tracks on the west and Morrissey Boulevard on the east. Clam Point’s acreage originally encompassed upland pasture, salt marsh, and flats. Most of the district’s streets traverse level terrain, including Park, Everett, Mill, and Blanche Streets. South of Green Hill Street, Blanche, Everdean and Mill Streets descend more or less gradually to Victory Road. Early 20th century landfill operations have drastically altered the edges of the district. The meandering course of Tenean Creek once circumscribed the west side of the district. The windows of houses on the east side of Blanche Street originally overlooked a tidal inlet called Barque Warwick Cove; a cove that separated Clam Point from Commercial Point. Similarly, the east side of Freeport Street originally ran along the Dorchester Bay. During the early 20th century, the creek, cove, and waterfront disappeared as the result of landfill operations. Landfill on the east side of Clam Point resulted in the creation of the Old Colony (later William T. Morrissey) Boulevard.
In the northwest corner of the district, Ashland Street ascends from lower elevations at its intersection with Park to high ground at Mill Street. Elm Street descends gradually from Everett Street to lowlands west of Ashland Street. The back yards of houses on the east side of Mill Street, between Freeport and Ashland, slope down to house lots set out over lowlands bordering northern Everdean Street. The west side of Ashland and Mill Streets slope down to the 20′ tall granite block railroad embankment which was built in 1905 for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Indeed, the embankment is one of the key man-made landscape features of the area, looming above the back yards of Ashland and Mill Street houses, and walling off Clam Point from Dorchester neighborhoods to the north and west.
Until recently Clam Point was called Harrison Square, or simply “The Square.” The name commemorated William Henry Harrison’s visit to Dorchester during the presidential campaign of 1840 and honored his memory, as he died of pneumonia shortly after taking office. Harrison Square referred to both the node of industrial and commercial buildings constructed around the Harrison Square Old Colony Railroad depot (1844), as well as the residential district that later became known as Clam Point. When rail service to Harrison Square was discontinued in 1957, the Harrison name began to fade from the memories of area inhabitants. The Harrison Square Depot was demolished around 1970. Just as the Church Street district in Boston was renamed Bay Village during the 1960s, the name Clam Point is said to have been coined during the 1970s by Realtors intent on touting the area as a desirable coastal community of antique homes. For the purposes of marketing houses, Clam Point was evidently viewed as a more evocative name than the more historic name of Harrison Square.
Clam Point figured minimally in the annals of Dorchester history until the second quarter of the 19th century. Despite its location just to the east of the Lower Road (later Adams Street), a major Colonial era highway linking Meeting House Hill with South Shore settlements, Clam Point remained a backwater, removed from the early areas of settlement between Savin Hill and Edward Everett Square in North Dorchester. The colonial era mills of the Breck and Tileston families located to the southwest of the district were primarily local commercial concerns that called but little attention to the area. The early 1800s ship building and trading activities conducted briefly by Newell and Niles at nearby Commercial Point, on the other hand, caused Boston businessmen to look at the area with great interest.
The War of 1812 and other factors resulted in a cessation of commercial endeavors at the Point. By the early 1830s a business syndicate formed by Elisha Preston, Nathaniel Thayer, Josiah Stickney, and Charles Whittemore was established to manage whale and cod fisheries. Preston built a chocolate mill and augmented his family’s long-held lands at Clam Point with additional extensive tracts. Although Withingtons, Balcoms Noyes and Herseys had owned property at Clam Point for decades, and the Prestons since as early as the mid17th century, it was not until the opening of the Old Colony Railroad during the mid-1840s that the first significant, intensive residential development began to take shape in the district. As early as 1841, surveyor Thomas Mosely, together with architect Luther Briggs, Jr., devised a grid plan at the northwest corner of the district near the Harrison Square Depot. Local real estate speculators began to purchase large parcels of land with the intention of building houses impressive for their large scale and fine design. During the second half of the 19th century, a remarkable community of educated, successful commuter businessmen, social activists, and talented artists evolved at Clam Point, including India Wharf merchant and horticulturalist Elisha Loring (21 Mill Street, photo 1), abolitionist Joseph Lindsley (25-27 Park Street), Boston City Hospital surgeon Dr. William Cranch Bond Fifield and his daughter, First Parish Church historian Mary Fifield King (4 Ashland Street), Boston lithographer John H. Bufford, Jr. ( Elm Street), and nationally acclaimed pianist Martha Dana Shepherd (15 Ashland Street).
By 1850, lured by the leafy charms, salubrious sea breezes and convenient commuter rail service, a dozen or more affluent families had set up housekeeping in the neighborhood south of the Harrison Square depot, later Clam Point. Commodious residences border Mill, Park, Ashland, and Everett Streets; the influence of Hudson River Valley landscape architect and critic Andrew Jackson Downing and New York City-based architect Alexander Jackson Davis is evident in the design of several houses in the district.
For example, the Italianate villas at 23 and 25-27 Park Street (photos 9, 12) represent a variation on the rusticated Tuscan or “modern Italian” residences illustrated in Downing’s The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Substantial residences possessing square and rectangular main blocks with extensive rear ells presided over spacious lots traversed by carriage ways and dotted with stables and other ancillary structures. Miraculously, many of these generous house lots escaped later subdivision, retaining mid 19th century landscape features as well as the residence themselves.
Between 1840-1870, the talented Dorchester architect Luther Briggs, Jr., designed a dozen or more stylish and substantial houses at Clam Point/Harrison Square. Briggs’ residential work referenced Downing and Davis’ influential works, including Rural Cottages and The Architecture of County Houses. The focus of the district, in terms of high quality architectural design, intact 19th century streetscapes and historical associations with the area’s early development is the Mill/ Ashland streets intersection.
The majority of the district’s buildings represent the styles and forms popular in New England between the early 1830s and the 1910s. At Clam Point/Harrison Square, as in most New England communities, the Greek Revival style is frequently blended with the Italianate mode (i.e. 15-17 Ashland Street and 13 Park Street (photo 2)). Most of the district’s houses, however, fall into stylistic categories: the Italianate and the Stick/Queen Anne styles.
Harrison Square’s development did not cease with the commencement of the Civil War. The glory years of upscale house construction were extended into the early 1870s by Briggs, who continued to design mansion-scale residences for the area. Briggs’ later work is represented by a handful of Italianate residences enclosed by “modern French” or mansard roofs. Characterized by substantial, T-shaped forms, ornate, architectonic entrances and window surround and cornices accented with modillion blocks, stylish and substantial examples of his post-war housing included 40 Mill Street (photo 3) and 14 Everett Street.
Although primarily significant as a mid 19th century romantic suburb of Greek Revival, Italianate, and Italianate mansard residences, the area is also noteworthy for housing characterized by the asymmetrical form and picturesque elements of the Stick and Queen Anne styles. These late Victorian era architectural modes are represented by a handful of substantial residences scattered about the district and especially by more modest tract houses encompassed within four post-1880s enclaves.
Around 1880, a half dozen stylish and substantial Stick Style houses were built in the district from designs provided by the important Dorchester architect John A. Fox, who may be seen as the successor to Briggs as the district “court architect.” Like Briggs, Fox designed substantial housing noteworthy for memorable siting, bold forms, and picturesque design. These Stick Style residences reflect a design evolution that acknowledges the debt owed to earlier styles such as the Carpenter Gothic and Swiss Chalet. Most of these houses display the asymmetrical massing, steeply pitched gables, highly decorative juxtapositions of clapboards and wood shingles, rustic porch treatments, ornamental stick work, and paneled and corbelled chimneys associated with the Stick Style. Fine examples of Fox-designed domestic architecture in the district included the 1887 house of coal dealer Dexter Cutter at 15 Blanche Street; 8 Everett Street; 26-28 Mill Street; 30 Mill Street (photo 8); and 43 Mill Street. In addition, the district’s largest and most exuberant example of the Queen Anne Style is the towered, verandah-encircled ca. 1890 Krogman House at 29 Mill Street (photo 5).
Between 1880-1900, Harrison Square’s housing stock was significantly augmented by the development of four nodes of modest Stick Style and Queen Anne suburban houses bordering Blanche, Everdean, and northern Mill Streets. With a few noteworthy exceptions, the later commuter houses were built for middle income and working class families intent on realizing their dream of suburban home ownership.
The enclave of Queen Anne houses bordering the east side of Blanche Street, north of Green Hill Street, is the oldest and most architecturally distinguished of the late 19th century subdivisions in the district. 2 and 10 Blanche Street along with 12 and 14 Blanche, and 46 and 50 Everdean were developed for families headed by middle managers, clerks, salesmen, and the like. Asymmetrically massed and artfully ornamented, these Stick/Queen Anne houses constitute a remarkable enclave that documents the social aspirations and aesthetic choices of a later, middle income generation of suburbanites. Here residences on lots ranging from 3500-5000 square feet face small-to-medium sized front yards. Clad with a blend of clapboards and wood shingle sheathing, these houses incorporate corner towers, square bays, and angled Chinese Chippendale porches; achieving, on a much smaller scale, the sense of ease, order, and genteel living in evidence at the earlier, mansion-scale residences of Mill, Everett, and Park streets.
In terms of scale, Blanche Street houses, south of Green Hill Street, range from modest to moderate, and are set close to the street on 1800-1900 square foot lots. Facing narrow front yards, most of the houses encompassed within the street’s odd- and even-numbered groups (19-33 and 20-34 Blanche Street) possess simple, rectangular end gable forms. Built during the mid-to- late 1890s by the Howard Brothers contracting firm, these houses concede little to stylistic pretensions and may be nominally categorized within the Queen Anne style by virtue of occasional turned porch posts and spool work railing balusters as well as surfaces which alternate between clapboards and wood shingles. Dating to the middle 1890s, the third enclave of modest Queen Anne houses is located on the east side of Everdean Street, south of Green Hill Street. Developed in a manner similar to that of lower Blanche Street, these end gable houses were erected by North Cambridge contractor D.L. Spaulding, 74-84 Everdean Street. Standing close together on 1800 square foot lots, minimal space was allotted for front and back yards.
Situated on Mill Street, overlooking the Byrne Playground, the Queen Anne dwellings at 4-18 Mill Street were built during the 1890s and early 1900s. Sited close together on lots ranging from 4300-4700 square feet, most of the houses in this linear development were built and designed by local contractor and architect Isaac Shurman. Sheathed in clapboards and/or patterned shingle and enclosed primarily by intersecting gables, these houses exhibit little in the way of ornamental flourishes beyond turned porch posts and spool work transoms.
Public Parks and Privately-owned Open Spaces
The only park in the area is the asphalt-paved Byrne Playground at Mill, Everett, and Elm Streets, which was the site of Franklin King’s mid-19th century mansion. While not representative of a public park, the recent retention of the great side lawn of the Loring Mansion at 21 Mill Street (photo 1) illustrates how a balance can be achieved between a community’s need for open space and the developer’s desire to create market rate housing on a large house lot. New housing was placed on a part of the property that would not compromise the historic appearance of the old estate.
Commodious front yards enclosed by a near-continuous line of hedges between 8 and 26 Everett Street constitute a greenbelt of privacy between houses and the street. Particularly noteworthy is the stately progression of tree-shaded front lawns in evidence between 29-43 Mill Street. In most cases, these grassy tracts are demarcated by granite gates and fence posts and overlaid by straight and semi-circular driveways. These front yards provide a fine setting for handsome residences exhibiting Greek Revival and Italianate characteristics. The undeveloped lots of demolished Clam Point houses contribute to the open, semi-rural “feeling” of the area (i.e. open lots at 6 Ashland, 5 and 6 Elm and 3 Mill Streets). To the west of 28 Park Street is a rare district example of a sizable lot that has never accommodated buildings or structures.
Over time, reversible alterations have been made to numerous buildings in the district. Original clapboards have been replaced by asbestos, asphalt, and vinyl sheathing, as well as by wood shingles. For example, the Italianate house at 4 Ashland Street is currently in the process of stucco removal to reveal original clapboards. Around 1980, a modern two-story addition was removed from the main face of the Italianate Mansard house at 2 Everett Street, and a stylistically appropriate, well-designed front porch was recreated at the main elevation.
While changes to the original fabric have occurred with considerable frequency, the siting, form and elements of Clam Point’s residences are essentially intact, characterized by boxy square and rectangular main blocks with extensive, multi-segmented rear ells. Highly plastic main blocks with numerous excrescences are the norm. Projecting from main and side facade are porches, square and polygonal bays as well as towered components. Four mid-19th century houses retain cupolas. In several cases, changes to the fabric and fenestration of 19th century houses has been so drastic that it is difficult to visualize the original appearance of the house – such is the case at 1 Everett and 9-11 Park Streets where basic forms and granite foundation materials identify these houses as dating to the initial development of the area. At 13 Everett Street, an extensive rear ell containing condominium apartments has been added to the original ell of this Federal/Greek Revival house.
On the whole, alterations to the original fenestration has been minimal, in part because early to mid 20th century homeowners may not have had the means to update their houses. The majority of houses retain original window sash configurations including 6/6, 2/2, and 1/1, and Queen Anne multi-pane sash types. The neighborhood retains a significant proportion of the buildings ever constructed here. The nominated district encompasses 107 contributing and non-contributing buildings. Here and there, however, substantial mid 19th century residences have been razed, including the Franklin King House (now the site of the Byrne Playground); the Frances Humphreys House, later the Ellsmere House at 3 Mill Street; the Gibbs House which stood on the site of two bungalows at 20-22 Elm Street; the Charles Townsend House which was located behind 10-12 Ashland Street; and the Greek Revival double house at 36-38 Park Street which was razed during the 1980s.
Scattered about the district are granite elements that date from the original, 191h century, development, Virtually every substantial pre-1870 870 residence retains granite elements. The Elisha Loring House at 21 Mill Street (photo 1) boasts the most extensive and varied collection of features composed of this durable material.
7.2 Topography and Settlement
The district was originally part of a two-pronged peninsula that included Commercial Point to the east and Clam Point to the west. Landfill operations during the first three decades of the 20th century obliterated bodies of water that had defined the shape of the peninsula. No longer in evidence is the meandering course of Tenean Creek which was located to the west of the Old Colony Railroad tracks, now the Braintree and Ashmont branches of the MBTA subway line. To the east of Clam Point, Barque Warwick Cove, a tidal inlet on the north side of Tenean Creek, originally separated Clam Point from Commercial Point. Originally skirting the edge of Dorchester Bay, Freeport Street is separated from the bay by landfill created to accommodate Morrissey Boulevard.
Along with Boston, Cambridge and Roxbury, Dorchester was settled by English Puritans in 1630. Original population centers were located further to the north between Savin Hill and Edward Everett Square in North Dorchester. Clam Point remained virtually uninhabited from the Colonial era until the early 19th century. Breck’s Mill, later Tileston’s Grist Mill, was established before the Revolution on the west side of Tenean Creek, near Adams Street. By the early 1800s, business partners Newell and Niles considered establishing milling operations of their own, but instead turned to ship building and maritime trading. The partners’ initiative called attention to Commercial Point’s potential as a base for profitable industries, but the War of 1812 and other factors caused Newell and Niles to abandon the Point in 1813.
Although whaling operations (1830-1840) were short-lived at Commercial Point, other industries came to the fore during this period and continued to flourish. Investors in Commercial Point businesses began to look at nearby Clam Point with an eye towards residential development. Commercial Point chocolate and cocoa manufacturer Elisha Preston augmented his family’s existing land holdings with the purchase of additional tracts. As early as ca. 1830, Preston built the wood-frame late Federal house at 32 Mill Street. During the 1870s and 1880s Commercial Point residences and businesses were systematically leveled to ensure safety in the production of gas by the Boston Gas Works (later Boston Edison).
Over time Clam Point developed from north to south. By 1841, as plans for the Old Colony Railroad began to unfold, a street grid was drawn up by surveyor Thomas Mosely and architect Luther Briggs, Jr. Real estate speculator John Robinson, iron foundry owner Axel Dearborn, druggist brothers Franklin and Edward King, and merchant Elisha Loring made a significant investment in the area. By 1859 the street grid northwest of Mill Street contained twenty Greek Revival, Italianate, and Italianate/Mansard residences. By that time, the west side of Mill Street, between Ashland and Preston (later Victory Road), had been built up, with four substantial houses on unusually ample lots.
The southeast side of Mill Street has a much more complex development history. Prior to 1880, most of this land was owned by members of the Noyes, Hersey, and Preston families. Indeed, the Prestons owned all of the land bounded by Mill, Ashland, and Blanche Streets and Victory Road. Between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the century, four residential developments were carved from tracts located on the southeast side of Mill Street. Subdivision of the Preston estate in the 1870s and 1880s resulted in the selling off of house lots and the construction of three imposing Italianate/Mansard residences at 40, 42 and 44 Mill Street (photo 3). The large John A. Fox-designed houses at 26-28 and 30 Mill Street (photo 8) around 1880 demonstrated Harrison Square’s continued appeal to affluent commuter homeowners while the development of more modest, 1890s Queen Anne houses at 2-14 Blanche Street began a new chapter in the District’s evolution, marketed as these were to middle managers rather than captains of industry.
Considerably more modest, in terms of lot size and building scale, is the speculative development bordering both sides of Blanche Street and the east side of Everdean, between Green Hill Street and Victory Road. Built during the mid-1890s, these streetscapes are densely built-up, with dwellings sited close together, their end gables facing small front yards.
A fourth collection of mid-sized Queen Anne residences were built during the mid 1890s at 4-18 Mill Street. The design interest of these houses lies in the variety of compact forms which incorporate polygonal and bowed bays as well as roof configurations characterized by intersecting, end, and clipped gables.
One of the features that sets Harrison Square apart from other Dorchester neighborhoods is the fact that the majority of its ante-bellum houses are still surrounded by ample yards. In most Dorchester neighborhoods the electric streetcar triggered explosive growth in the form of three-deckers. That Clam Point escaped subdivision of large lots for multi-family development may be attributed to the fact that the heirs of its founding families held on to their properties until as late as the 1910s and 1920s, after the three-decker construction boom had largely subsided. Lot size at Park, Mill, and to a lesser extent Ashland and Everett Streets, more or less represents original square footage. Still extant on Clam Point parcels are substantial houses, stables, one or two carriage ways and commodious yards. Indeed, Alice A. Burditt of 42 Mill Street, writing in 1926, observed that, “none of these estates were large but they were so well laid out that they comprised a great deal often including strawberry beds, currant, and other bushes and all variety of fruit.” Bordering the north side of Park Street, for example, are mid 19th century residences retaining more or less original lot configuration, ranging from 12,000 to over 20,000 square feet. More generous, still, are house lots bordering the north side of Mill Street between Victory Road and Ashland Street. Here lots range from 17,000 to almost 50,000 square feet. At 63,389 square feet the former Elisha Loring tract is the largest of the first generation of estates at Clam Point.
7.3 District Boundaries
Clam Point’s isolation from the rest of Dorchester accounts, in part, for the area’s well-preserved mid-to-late Victorian era character. Prior to early 20th century landfill, waterways such as Tenean Creek to the west, Barque Warwick Cove to the east, and Dorchester Bay to the northeast rendered Clam Point a place apart. Since 1844 the area has seen separated from the Field’s Corner section of Dorchester to the west by the railroad tracks of the Old Colony line (later the New Haven Railroad and the MBTA Red Line). By the early 1920s, Old Colony Boulevard (later William T. Morrissey Boulevard) cut Clam Point off from Commercial Point and Dorchester Bay.
The boundaries of this district are circumscribed by the back lot lines of Park Street to the north (just short of Freeport Street), the back lot lines of Everett Street on the east, the back lot lines of Mill, Ashland, and Blanche Streets so the southeast, while the southern boundary follows a rather irregular path up and down lot lines bordering Blanche, Green Hill and Mill Streets. Logically, Victory Road is the southern boundary of this area, but its building stock tends to be undistinguished mid-20th century residential, commercial, and light industrial structures. The western edge of this area border the former Old Colony Railroad tracks, now the Braintree branch of the MBTA Red Line.
7.4 Architectural Overview
The Clam Point Historic District is overwhelmingly residential in character. Approximately 80% of the district’s housing stock was built between 1840 and 1900. Because of this long period of development, several generations of suburban house enclaves are represented within the district’s boundaries. The designs of the first. generation of residences, many of them by architect Luther Briggs Jr., attest to his familiarity with the builder’s guides written and illustrated by New York- based designers Andrew Jackson Downing and Alexander Jackson Davis. Built for an affluent clientele of merchants and industrialists, the Point’s first families were succeeded during the late 19th century by families of more modest means, a reality reflected in the smaller scale and less finely detailed, more vernacular designs of their houses which were built within discrete subdivisions.
Over 20 pre-1860 residences are located on the west and northwest sides of Mill Street. Within the 1841 street grid containing Ashland, Elm, Everett, and Park streets are 1840s to early 1860s houses exhibiting the forms and elements of the Late Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate and Italianate/Mansard styles. Overwhelmingly constructed of wood, these houses rise from granite block and brick foundations to end and intersecting gables as well as hip and mansard roofs. Only a handful of brick buildings were ever built in the District, including the ca. 1830 Federal style Withington-Safford House at 19 Ashland Street (photo 10) and a ca. mid-19th century suburban house at 5 Everett Street.
Built during the 1840s and 1850s, the first generation of commuter houses possess the three-bay, side hall plan, end gable forms that became popular after ca. 1830. Also represented are the rectangular, center entrance, three bay-by-two bay main blocks associated with the Italianate style. Both types of main blocks, together with original and later rear ells constitute T and L- shaped forms. Indeed, most of the rear ells, with their multiple one and two story components, date to the construction of the main block. In the case of the ca. early 1840s 1 Ashland Street, its rambling, L-shaped rear ell is much larger than its small, pedimented, two bay-by-one bay main block.
Bisecting the district on a northeast-southwest diagonal, Mill Street boasts the outstanding collection of mansion scale houses and intact Victorian era streetscapes in the district. The trio of Luther Briggs-designed Italianate/Mansard houses at 40-44 Mill Street (photo 3) are major landmarks at the southwestern edge of the district by virtue of their substantial size and cupola-topped mansard roofs. Structural excrescences such as small entrance porches with square posts and curvilinear bracing as well as polygonal bays at side walls, moderate the boxy geometry of these mansion-scale residences.
In terms of historic styles, the Federal is minimally represented in the district by two 2 1/2-story, center-hall plan, residences. Measuring five bays by two bays, both 19 Ashland Street (photo 10) and 32 Mill Street are shown on the 1831 Hales map of Boston and environs. Evidently built for members of Dorchester’s Withington family, 19 Ashland’s main block exhibits planar brick walls, a fanlight-surmounted center entrance as well as the early 19th century predilection for orienting the main facade of freestanding houses to facing south. The present side gable roof with return eaves may have replaced a hip roof when the east walls’ square bay and wooden rear wing were added ca. 1860. The Preston homestead at 32 Mill Street is clad with clapboards and possesses the rectangular five bay by two bay form characteristic of Federal residences. Later Gothic Revival lancet windows and Italianate front and side porches as well as the west wall’s two-story Italianate polygonal bay update the simple Federal style form.
The Greek Revival style, America’s “first democratic style,” popularly employed in the design of houses great and small from Maine to Oregon is represented at Clam Point in only a handful of houses built during the 1840s. The most architecturally significant example of this style is the Elisha Loring House at 21 Mill Street (photo 1). Clearly the work of an as-yet-to-be-identified architect, this stately residence is composed of a generously proportioned three bay by three bay main block and a substantial rear ell. The house’s original clapboards were replaced by wood shingles at an undetermined date. The main elevation’s pedimented center pavilion exhibits a small front porch whose Ionic columns support a heavy, cornice-headed entablature. The porch’s roof is set off by an ornate cast iron railing. Both the front door and second floor porch door above are flanked by multi-pane sidelights and enframed by raised moldings. Flanking the center pavilion are fully enframed windows. The side walls are unusually wide, culminating in broad pedimented attics containing elliptical lunette windows. The house’s south and west walls exhibit an encircling verandah with fluted Ionic columns. The Loring property’s numerous granite elements, including the block of the house’s foundation, front steps, fence posts, and curving perimeter walls, represent the full range of granite elements found elsewhere in the district. Undoubtedly these granite materials originated at the famous quarries of nearby Quincy. These granite elements merely hint at the more extensive use of this durable material in the construction of Greek Revival public and commercial buildings during Boston’s so-called “Granite Age” (ca. 1810-1860).
Greek Revival houses of considerably more modest scale than the Loring house survive in altered states while retaining their original forms complete with square and rectangular main blocks surmounted by pedimented attics. Less formal than the Loring house is a vinyl-sheathed Greek Revival end house at 7 Everett Street (photo 7). Composed of a two bay by three bay main block and a five bay by two bay rear ell, a verandah with slat work rails and fluted Doric columns wraps around the street gable. Although sheathed in asbestos shingles, the Greek Revival 1 Ashland Street retains the distinctive forms of its pedimented, unusually small three bay by one bay main block and extensive rear ell. Here and there Greek Revival elements have been incorporated into the forms of essentially Italianate residences. For example, 13 Park Street (photo 2) exhibits paneled Doric pilasters at the comers of a main block whose rectangular, horizontal orientation was a preferred Italianate housing form. Additionally, its west elevation’s two-story polygonal bay is typically incorporated into the designs of Italianate houses.
Similarly, 33 Mill Street (photo 11) blends Classical elements with the long, rectangular three bay by two bay orientation of mid 19th century Italianate houses. While the Ionic columned porch and corner pilaster may represent a later, Colonial Revival embellishment, shouldered window enframes and a broad frieze board at the cornice strike a Greek Revival note and appear to be original to the house’s 1844 construction. At the main elevation’s second story, a center pavilion is suggested via paired Tuscan columns that support a heavy entablature and a pedimented attic pierced by an elliptical window. Rising from the center of the roof is the type of square cupola with deep eaves typically constructed atop substantial Greek Revival residences.
As is the case in most sections of Dorchester, the Carpenter Gothic style is represented in a rather limited manner. At Clam Point this style is confined to the isolated elements of late Federal and Greek Revival houses, including the pointed arch windows of 32 Mill Street’s attic and 1 Ashland Street’s main entrance’s narrow lancet arch side lights. The pitch of 37 Mill Street’s center gable alludes to the steep pitch of Gothic Revival gables.
The Italianate style, on the other hand, is widely represented in Clam Point. Indeed, it was the historic architectural style most widely employed for housing at the Point between 1850-1870. The Italianate style is in evidence in houses that possess a variety of forms whose rigid geometry is relieved by polygonal bays, front and side porches, and deep bracketed cornices. In typically Italianate fashion, curved lines are celebrated in porch bracing and arched windows. Here and there, in the houses of the 1840s to early 1870s, fine Italianate detailing is noted in the form of rope entrance moldings, rusticated walls, Palladian windows, and guilloche and dentil course at roof cornices.
Representing the full range of Italianate house forms are a pair of identical end dwellings at 7-9 Elm Street, a cross-shaped house such as 20 Mill Street, and rectangular, center hall plan, five bay by two bay residences, including 17 Park Street and 31 Mill Street, as well as the aforementioned square Italianate villas (i.e. 23 Park Street (photos 9, 12) and 25-27 Park Street). Substantial examples of long, rectangular three bay by two bay center entrance Italianate residences bordering Mill Street include 31, 33, and 37 Mill (photo 11). Composed of a gabled- roofed main block and a 2 l/2 story and a one story rear wing, 31 Mill Street (photo 4) exhibits a projecting center pavilion with a Palladian attic window distinctive for its diminutive scale. At the center of the projecting pavilion, the main entrance retains its original multi-panel doors and heavy, molded enframents. A square bay projects from the main block’s southwest wall. Still intact is the encircling verandah at the northeast corner. The inclusion of front and side porches into the design of mid-century housing provides evidence of a way of life that was becoming less formal and structured as families gathered in these “outdoor parlors” to contemplate their leafy surroundings, read, visit, and engage in other forms of socializing in full view of neighbors and passersby. The eaves at the end walls are deep, flared and lack the returns typically characteristic of Italianate gables.
Five large Italianate Mansard residences designed by Luther Briggs Jr. between the late 1850s and early 1870s provide physical evidence of Clam Point at the height of its popularity as an upscale suburban development. The “modern French roof” was first employed in the United States in 1847 at the Deacon Mansion in Boston’s South End. Built in 1859, from designs provided by Briggs, the Sarah K. Safford House at 2 Everett Street is a two bay by two bay Italianate/Mansard. Probably the first residence to be enclosed by a mansard roof at Clam Point, 2 Everett’s 2-story main block and rear ell are covered in clapboard-style vinyl siding. The placement of its entrance suggests a side hall interior plan. Beneath the eaves of the main facade’s bell-cast mansard roof is a handsome guilloche molding.
Built ca. 1870 for cotton broker Freeman S. Packer, 14 Everett Street is a handsome, formal example of a Briggs-designed Italianate Mansard residence. Although sheathed in vinyl siding, this house retains its siting, form, and elements. Set back from the street facing an ample hedge-enclosed front yard, the three bay main facade exhibits a center pavilion and full-length front porch which undoubtedly appealed to summer guests who vacationed here when this house was known at the Russell House Hotel during the 1890s and early 1900s. Possessing a T-shaped form, this house rises two stories to a substantial mansard roof.
Built around 1870, the trio of Italianate Mansard houses at 40-44 Mill Street (photo 3) constitute one of the most memorable Victorian vignettes in the district. Presiding over the crest of a rise at Green Hill and Mill Streets and exhibiting the form and detailing typical of Luther Briggs Jr.’s mature work, the trio’s 19th century landscape features include a semi-circular driveway and granite gate posts.
According to Marcus Whiffen in American Architecture Since 1780. A Guide to the Styles, “the Stick Style may be counted with the Shingle Style as one of the two purely American styles of the nineteenth century.” Although Clam Point does not have any example of the Shingle Style, the Stick Style is well represented by five stylish and substantial examples designed by Dorchester architect John A. Fox, during the late 1870s and 1880s. The term was coined during the early 1950s by Professor Vincent Scully of Yale to describe the type of rustic house which evolved from “Swiss Cottages” illustrated in Downing’s The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). The style was advocated by Downing because of his insistence on “truthfulness” in wooden construction, which “in his view was to be achieved, for example, by the use of vertical boarding on the outside of walls.” To Downing, the vertical boarding echoed the interior timbers which supported the structure and “properly signifies to the eye a wooden house.” In additional to vertical boarding, clapboards were typically overlaid by horizontal and diagonal boards. Asymmetrical forms, extensive verandahs with roofs supported by posts with diagonal braces, steeply pitched gable and clipped gable roofs are all hallmarks of the Stick Style. By the time of the American Centennial of 1876, the style was nearing the zenith of its popularity. Fox designed five large Stick Style houses at Clam Point between the late 1870s and 1880s, illustrative of his distinctive interpretation of the Stick Style.
Fox’s most successful design at Clam Point is arguably that at 30 Mill Street (photo 8), a substantial residence illustrative of his interpretation of the style. Picturesquely enframed by mature trees and shrubbery in a manner reminiscent of illustrations in The Architecture of Country Houses, this house is prominently sited on a corner lot. Its main facade is treated as an unusually broad end gable. Essentially rectangular in form, this compact house is an atypical example of a Stick Style residence. In addition to its symmetrical form, the suggestion of a center pavilion at the entrance bay is an unusual feature. Above the rustic entrance porch is a projecting wall segment which is too broad and shallow to be considered an oriel but nevertheless carried upwards to the apex of the facade gable. The distinctive, projecting, gable-like lintels at the center of the second floor echo the shape of the gable-roofed porch whose eaves exhibit small, circular punched and cut detail. The Ashland Street elevation exhibits a multi-pane glass conservatory atop a side porch. Still intact are a pair of narrow, corbelled chimneys.
Less cohesive in terms of its design is the double Shingle Style house at 26-28 Mill Street. Built in 1879, the remarkably intact residence possesses one of the most complex forms and roof configurations at the Point. Clad with clapboards at the first and second stories, its six intersecting gables are sheathed with scalloped shingles. Marking the main entrance at the center of the Mill Street facade is an open porch with square posts and railings exhibiting turned balusters. Projecting onto the roof porch is a gable whose shingle apron is surmounted by a pair of small triangular windows at the gable’s apex. To the right of this gable is a square second floor oriel which is carried into a gable roof dormer. Stick work is in evidence beneath the dormer’s window. The Ashland Street facade is even more complex with two side gables and a two-tier porch enlivened by Chinese Chippendale and spool work railings. The taller, 2 1/2 story gable exhibits a pair of square, shed roofed windows at the first floor. The eastern gable exhibits a deep overhang supported by fairly extensive curved brackets which spring from posts. In addition to the overhang, Medieval Revival characteristics include the steep pitch of the gables as well as three corbelled and paneled brick chimneys.
Although 43 Mill Street’s stick work has been obscured by vinyl siding, this early 1880s residence designed by Fox retains its siting, asymmetrical massing, and a complex configuration of intersecting roof types. Together with the altered Stick Style house at 11 Blanche Street, the D.J. Cutter House at 15 Blanche Street was built in 1887. Like 30 Mill Street, 15 Blanche’s form is unusually compact for the style. Possessing a boxy, rectangular, center entrance plan, the house rises two stories to a steeply-pitched hip roof whose east elevation exhibits a low tripartite dormer enclosed by a sweeping roof slope. Crisply accented by corner boards and a string course between the first and second stories, this house retains its clapboard sheathing. A flight of wooden stairs provides access to a center entrance which is sheltered by a rustic gable-roofed front porch. First floor windows are surmounted by unusual wood shingle-clad aprons which descend and flare out from the second story’s string courses to the heads of the windows.
The Queen Anne style is represented within the district primarily by modest to medium-sized wooden houses located within 1890s subdivisions. The noteworthy exception to this rule is the substantial, towered residence at 29 Mill Street (photo 5). Built ca. 1890 for salesman W. Libby Krogman, the pronounced sculptural qualities of this residence, together with the juxtaposition of clapboards and patterned shingles, variety of window sizes, and ornamentation place this house squarely within the pantheon of important Queen Anne designs within the city of Boston. Painted in a manner that showcases its sheathing and ornament to great advantage, this well-preserved house is particularly noteworthy for its graceful verandah that encircles a distinctive, round, conically-capped tower at its northeast corner.
More typical of the style are the modest to mid-sized end houses of suburban developments bordering Blanche, Everdean, and northern Mill Street. The one-to-two story houses of upper Blanche Street (2-14 Blanche Street) exhibit a modicum of concern for forms that eschew the simple box, with small encircling porches and, in one case, a corner tower. On the other hand, the Queen Anne houses on lower Blanche Street (19-33 and 20-34 Blanche) as well as lower Everdean Street (74-84 Everdean) are more modest, straightforward, rectangular end houses. Built for laborers, municipal workers and others, these modest 2 1/2 story end houses’ aesthetic interest lies primarily in the juxtaposition of clapboards and wood shingle sheathing and turned front porch elements.
Bordering the curving path of Mill Street, south of Freeport, the group of houses numbered 4-18 Mill Street are primarily Queen Anne, possess compact rectangular two-story forms and are enclosed by gable roofs representative of the end, intersecting and clipped types. References are made to the Craftsman and Bungalow styles via the exposed timbers at the roof eaves of the late 1920s double house at 8A and B Mill Street and the sweeping roof slope of 18 Mill Street.
At Clam Point/Harrison Square, the Colonial Revival style manifests itself in isolated elements rather than designs in their entirety. The exuberant, aforementioned Queen Anne residence at 29 Mill Street (photo 5) blends Colonial Revival elements such as Tuscan porch columns and swans’ neck scroll pediments with Queen Anne patterned shingles and ornamental porches.
The Bungalow style is represented by a pair of cottage-scale residences at 20-22 Elm Street. Built in 1916 by contractor Frederick Kilpatrick of Newbury Street, Boston, from designs provided by architect W.M. Harris, these houses possess the low, boxy rectangular forms and side gable roofs typical of Bungalow houses during the first quarter of the 20th century. The great sweep of the Elm Street slopes shelters open-front porches with turned columns. An off-center entrance is flanked by a pair of fully enframed windows to the left and small rectangular windows set high on the wan to the right. Rising from the center of the main elevations’ roof slopes are hip-roofed double dormers.
Clam Point/Harrison Square does not possess tracts of multi-family housing. Double houses with side-by-side units include the Italianate house at 15-17 Ashland Street and the Stick Style residence at 26-28 Mill Street. Two-family residences, with units tacked atop the other were popular during the 1910s and 1920s but are barely represented within the District’s streetscapes. The late 1920s Craftsman style residence at 8A/B Mill Street is the only example of this residential building type in the area. While the three-decker is well represented in most Dorchester neighborhoods, only a handful of examples exemplify this distinctive type at Clam Point. Typically exhibiting three tiers of porches at the main and rear facades, street elevations are generally characterized by planar entrance and polygonal or bowed bays, as well as elements of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles.
Popularly employed as a means of housing commuting workers in a manner that was cost-effective, commodious and aesthetically pleasing, the three-decker came to the fore around 1880. During the 1890s and early 1920s, they were built in great numbers in South Boston, Roxbury, and especially Dorchester. That three-decker construction was the exception rather than the rule at Clam Point may be attributed to its insularity and the fact that Harrison Square’s old families held on to their estates longer than their counterparts did in other parts of Dorchester. Immigrant newcomers to the area evidently did not have the means or inclination to subdivide their lots to accommodate multi-family housing. For the most part, the few three-deckers that were built in the area date to the 1910s and 1920s. During these decades this building type’s popularity was on the wane as commuters began to settle in areas beyond the city limits.
Particularly noteworthy are the pair of three-deckers which stand on the northwest corner of Mill and Freeport Streets. Marking the principal eastern entrance to the district, 315 and 317 Freeport are “gateway” buildings which are essentially intact, retaining their wood shingle sheathing and trim. 315 Freeport’s first floor was evidently modified to accommodate a corner store. The polygonal bay at the Mill and Freeport corner probably rose from the first rather than the second floor while the lower portion of its three-tier porch has been removed to accommodate the former store front’s entrance. The second floor porch is supported by turned, diagonal bracing which may have been recycled from an earlier house in the area. In evidence above 315′ s first floor is a two-story polygonal oriel. Both of the main facades culminate in deep, molded, and bracketed cornices.
Noteworthy for their progression of monumental columned porches, the trio of three-deckers at 18-24 Everett Street represent the district’s most outstanding examples of multi-family residential design as well as the most extensive contiguous collection of housing of this type. Built in 1911 by contractor Ambrosio Piotti, these buildings are sheathed in wood shingles. Exhibiting flat and polygonal bays, their main facades possess three-tier porches with monumental Classical Revival columns. Less intact examples of three-deckers are located at 23- 29 Elm Street (1916) and the Weinbaum and Wexler-designed 10-12 Ashland Street (1928).
Still extant within the boundaries of the district are a half-dozen mid-to-late 19th century stables, including those at 7 Everett Street (photo 7); 9-11 Park Street; and 33 Mill Street.
Built primarily during the 1920s and 1930s, a dozen garages are located within the district. Well preserved, representative examples include the brick and concrete pyramidal-roof enclosed two-car garage at 9 Elm Street and the wooden, pyramidal roofed garage at 8 Everett Street.
Mill/Ashland Streets intersection
Much of the Clam Point Historic District’s charm is dependent on the unspoiled, mid-to-late 19th century appearance of the Mill and Ashland Streets’ crossroads. Located in the heart of the district, this intersection is characterized by a memorable marriage of historic architecture and natural and man-made landscape features. Dating from ca. 1830 to 1890, the residences located near this intersection rank among the finest examples of their respective historic architectural styles in Dorchester. The most prominent landmark in the area is the Elisha Loring House at 21 Mill Street (photo 1). Particularly noteworthy is the siting of the substantial early 1840s Greek Revival main block and extensive rear ell in relation to its deep, curved southwest lawn. Built ca. 1840-1845, the Loring House presides over an ample tract whose Mill and Ashland Streets edges are enclosed by a low, random ashlar granite wall. The Mill Street facade exhibits a projecting and pedimented center pavilion, while the unusually broad southwest side gable retains its Ionic columned portico and large attic lunette window. Two enormous copper beech trees shade the Mill Street edge of this old mansion house estate while a variety of granite elements, including the encircling perimeter wall, complete this remarkable vignette of the suburban domain of an early railroad commuter.
Visible from Mill Street, across the Loring’s southwest lawn is the Withington House at 19 Ashland Street (photo 10). Built ca. 1830, this red-brick Federal style building had an extensive Italianate ell added to its rear wall during the 1860s. The main block’s side gable roof with return eaves may have replaced a hip roof. Particularly noteworthy is the visual dialogue between the sweeping arc of Ashland Street’s path, and the angled, T -shaped form and red brick and wooden materials of the Withington House. The bend in Ashland as it approaches Mill is accentuated by a wooden, reproduction mid-19th century fence.
Picturesquely anchoring the southeast and southwest corners of this intersection are the Stick Style, John A. Fox-designed residences at 26-28 and 30 Mill Street (photo 8). Built in 1879 for the Misses Noyes and Hersey, 26-28 Mill Street replaced an early 19th century cottage. Sheathed with clapboards, patterned shingles, and stick work, the house’s complex asymmetrical form, plethora of bays and porches, as well as its paneled, corbelled chimneys lend considerable interest to the streetscape. The mature fir trees and shrubbery that enframe 30 Mill Street recall landscape features illustrated in Downing’s Rural Cottage builders guides. Built during the early 1870s for a member of the Thomas Wales family, this house possesses a compact essentially rectangular clapboard and wood shingle-clad form. Characterized by the type of highly inventive design that set its architect apart from the average practitioner of suburban house design, the main facade is treated as a broad end gable divided into thirds by a shallow, overhanging entrance bay. Projecting from the center of the main facade’s first floor is an open Stick Style porch which is enclosed by a steeply-pitched roof. The pitch of the porch roof is echoed, in the small and shallow gable-like lintels that shade a pair of narrow windows above the entrance porch. Projecting from the Ashland Street elevation is an open side porch which is surmounted by a multi-pane conservatory.
Across the street to the west at 29 Mill Street (photo 5) stands one of Boston’s finest mature expressions of the Queen Anne style. Built in the late 1880s for salesman Washington L. Krogman, on land that had been part of George L. Guild’s house lot, this house is noteworthy for its substantial, towered form, encircling verandah, and profuse ornament. Although adjacent to, rather than directly bordering the Mill Ashland intersection, the ca. 1830 house of Elisha and John Preston at 32 Mill Street is a key component within the historic crossroad area. Like the Loring House, the Preston place blends memorably vernacular domestic architecture and period landscape elements. Shaded by a large copper beech tree, the clapboard-clad, five bay by two bay, center-hall plan main block is essentially a late Federal vernacular dwelling which was updated ca. 1860 by the addition of front and side porches as well as an extensive rear ell enlivened by Italianate design elements. The stylistic eclecticism of this house is further evident in the lancet Gothic Revival attic windows of the side gables.
Mill Street Northeast of Ashland Street
Marking the eastern entrance to Mill Street are two well preserved three-deckers at 315-317 Freeport Street that were built by Dorchester contractor Ambrosio Piotti in 1912. Behind this duo, on the northeast side of Mill Street, is a large, undeveloped lot. Once the site of ca. 1868 Italianate Mansard Frances Humphreys House, and later adapted for reuse as the Ellsmere Hotel, this parcel has reverted to a wild, overgrown state while the Mill Street perimeter of the property is bordered by remnants of an old rubble stone wall. Continuing along the north side of Mill Street, between the undeveloped lot and Everett Street are two early 1890s clapboard and wood-shingle clad Queen Anne houses at 7 Mill Street and 26 Everett Street which may have been built as part of the hotel complex.
On the south side of Mill Street, between 4-18 Mill is a collection of Queen Anne houses which date primarily to the mid-1890s. Standing with end walls to the street, 4-8 Mill Street are simple vernacular end houses enclosed with gable and clipped gable roofs. 10 Mill Street is a handsome, wel1-designed Queen Anne house which may represent the work of John A. Fox. Characterized by an L-shaped form, an encircling verandah is enlivened by turned posts with curvilinear bracing and bowed, two-dimensional railing balusters. Covered with a skin of wood shingles, 10 Main Street’s facade exhibits an entrance bay and two-story polygonal bay which is sheltered by the overhang of a pedimented attic, which exhibits a picturesquely rendered oriel supported by simple brackets. Above the oriel, at the gable’s apex, is a stucco surface overlaid with ornamental stick work.
Set back from the bend in Mill Street, just beyond the late 19th century development at 4-18 Mill is a cross-shaped, Italianate house at 20 Mill Street, built ca. 1864 for mechanic Ellis Tipping. Next door to the south is an early 1900s three-decker at 24 Mill. Across the street from the Tipping House is the Greek Revival Loring House.
Mill Street West of Ashland Street
The west side of Mill Street, south of Ashland ranks as among the most evocative mid-19th century streetscapes in the district. Here a cluster of historic properties around Mill Street’s intersection with Ashland form a unique sense of place via a memorable marriage of fine, mid-to-late 19th century architectural designs and streetscapes rich in landscape features.
The Mill Street perimeter of these properties exhibits granite fence and gate posts, hedges, commodious front lawns as well as semi-circular and linear carriage drives. Mid-to-late 19th century stables are located behind 33 and 41 Mill. The horizontal orientation of the Italianate main blocks at 31-37 Mill Street (photos 4, 11) contrast with the side hall plan Italianate end house at 41 Mill Street and the asymmetrical massing of the altered Stick Style house at 43 Mill Street.
On the east side of Mill Street, south of the old Preston homestead at 32 Mill, are two modern suburban ranch houses which are located on the site of the Preston’s formal garden. Adjacent to the intersection of Mill and Green Hill Streets is a trio of large, T-shaped Italianate Mansard villas at 40-44 Mill Street (photo 3). Designed by Luther Briggs Jr. around 1870, these 2 1/2 story residences were built on the site of the Preston’s apple orchards. All three houses possess center entrance porches and have elaborate window surrounds exhibiting Eastlakian ornamentation. Visible from the nearby Red Line, 40 and 44 Mill Street’s distinctive octagonal cupolas are major landmarks on Clam Point’s “skyline.” The buildings are situated on an incline that descends gradually from Green Hill Street to Victory Road.
Ashland Street’s housing stock ranges from the brick Federal style main block of the ca. 1830 Withington House at 19 Ashland (photo 10), through Greek Revival and Italianate end houses and turn-of-the-century Queen Anne single and multi-family houses to 1920s three-deckers as well as mid 20th century ranch houses. Covering a century or more of development, these houses represent the full spectrum of housing forms and historic architectural styles extant at Clam Point.
Returning to the Park Street end of Everett Street’s east side, the handsome Italianate Mansard house at 2 Everett Street was built in 1859 from designs provided by Briggs. In recent years, a two-story addition has been removed from the main elevation and the front porch has been expertly recreated. The placement of the front door suggests a side-hall interior plan.
Next door to the south, is a large lot containing a small modern cottage, followed by a well-detailed, asymmetrically massed ca. 1880s Stick Style/Queen Anne residence at 8 Everett Street. This end house’s clapboards are overlaid with vertical and horizontal boards. Chinese Chippendale railings enliven the off-center porch as well as shallow porches atop square bays at the main and south elevations.
Few houses at the Point can match the formality of the Luther Briggs Jr. designed house at 14 Everett Street. Built ca. 1870, the T-shaped Italianate Mansard house’s three-bay main facade exhibits a formal center pavilion and a full-length front porch which must have appealed to prospective summer guests when this house was operated as the Russell House Hotel at the turn of the century. To the south of the hotel is a quartet of well preserved six-family, three-deckers at 18-24 Everett Street. Built in 1911, these Classical Revival buildings are noteworthy for their rhythmic repetition of polygonal bays, three tier porches supported by monumental Doric columns and bracketed cornices. Situated at the northwest corner of Everett and Mill Streets, 26 Mill Street is a restrained, compact, clapboard and wood shingled Queen Anne house that was built around 1890.
Elm Street’s streetscapes document a complicated development history involving lot subdivisions and loss of three houses at the western end. Beginning at the southwest corner of Elm and Everett, on the south side of the street is the chain link fence enclosed, asphalt paved Byrne Playground, once the site of the Franklin King House. Adjacent to the playground are a pair of Queen Anne three-deckers at 27-29 and 23-25 Elm, followed by an altered Greek Revival house at 19 Elm Street. Situated on a low rise, its facade gable overlooks a narrow passageway behind a pair of early 20th century multi-family buildings; these buildings stand on the site of 19 Elm Street’s front lawn. Bordering on the south side of Elm Street, between Ashland Street and the railroad embankment is an L-shaped Italianate end house at 11 Ashland Street, followed by a pair of identical Italianate side hall plan end houses at 7-9 Elm Street (photo 6). Overgrown, undeveloped lots to the west once contained L-shaped houses numbered 1 and 3 Elm Street.
Returning to the Everett end of the street, the north side of Elm Street begins with the side wall of the Greek Revival/Italianate Axel Dearborn House at 13 Everett Street. Next door to the west at 20-22 Elm Street are the only examples of early 20th century Bungalows in the district. These well designed 1 & 2 story dwellings are characterized by sweeping roof slops which shelter open front porches. A pair of tall, mature, fir trees mark the entrance to the bungalow at 22 Elm Street. The remaining houses on this block include a modern suburban house at 16 Elm Street followed by an early 20th century Queen Anne two-family residence at 14 Elm. The latter building stands with gable end to the street, its wood shingle-clad walls exhibiting changes to fenestration.
Blanche Street may be divided into four segments. The upper segment’s western half encompasses a rectangular block bounded by Green Hill, Everdean, and the dogleg and linear segments of Blanche Street. This block contains two large 1887 Stick Style residences at 11 and 15 Blanche Street. The eastern half of the upper segment encompasses a subdivision of seven medium sized Queen Anne residences at 2-14 Blanche Street which possess uniform setbacks from the street, asymmetrical forms, porches with turned posts, and in several cases Chinese Chippendale railings as well as clapboard, wood shingle and modern replacement sheathing materials.
Lower Blanche Street encompasses more modest Queen Anne end houses. Bordering both sides of the street, 19-33 and 20-34 Blanche are clad with clapboards and/or wood shingles as well as modern sheathing materials. These houses stand close together on 1800-1900 square foot lots that allow for only minimal front and rear yards.
Included within the district are houses bordering the east side of Ever dean Street between Ashland Street and Victory Road. Everdean Street’s west side is not included in the district, lined as it is with ca. 1950s, architecturally undistinguished one-story suburban houses. Beginning at the Ashland Street end of Everdean, 46 and 50 Everdean are Stick/Queen Anne end houses that are part of the upper Blanche Street subdivision around the corner. Continuing southward, the east side is bordered by the rear elevations of the substantial Stick Style houses numbered 11 and 15 Blanche Street. South of Green Hill Street, Everdean descends gradually to Victory Road. Standing close together, facing small front yards, the 2 ½ story Queen Anne end houses at 74-84 Everdean Street were built during the mid 1890s.
Originally called Preston Street, this thoroughfare was set out during the late 19th century to connect Adams Street at King Square with Commercial Point via a bridge over Barque Warwick Cove. Two houses bordering Victory Road fall within the boundaries of the district, including the dramatically altered ca. late 19th century worker’s cottages at 116 Victory Road, corner of Blanche Street, and the fairly substantial five bay by two bay center hall Italianate residence at 112 Victory Road (fig. 42).
No archaeological statement was submitted by the City of Boston’s archaeologist for this nomination.
The Clam Point/Harrison Square Historic District in Boston’s Dorchester section encompasses much of the area circumscribed by the Red Line MBTA tracks (the former Old Colony Railroad tracks) on the northwest, Freeport Street on the northeast, Morrissey Boulevard on the southeast and Victory Road on the southwest. The residential area presently known as Clam Point was part of a larger area known as Harrison Square that extended northwestward across the Old Colony’s tracks to include the commercial and industrial buildings adjacent to the Harrison Square depot, between Clayton and Beach Streets. Named in honor of President William Henry Harrison who visited Dorchester during the presidential campaign of 1840, the Harrison name remained associated with the area until it became known as Clam Point during the 1970s.
The introduction of the railroad line through eastern Dorchester during the early 1840s enabled merchants, bankers, salesman, industrialists, and the like to commute from suburban homes in leafy enclaves such as Harrison Square, Savin Hill, and Port Norfolk to downtown Boston. Between the 1840s and 1890s several generations of commuters settled in discrete enclaves of suburban residences as “The Square.” Much of the district’s significance lies in the development of the first generation of commuter houses erected within the grid of streets reportedly devised by architect Luther Briggs, Jr. and delineated by surveyor Thomas Mosely in 1841. The first generation of commuters built their version of landscape architect and nationally-known taste maker Andrew Jackson Downing’s vision of genteel country living illustrated in his Rural Cottages and American Country Houses builder’s guides of the 1840s and early 1850s. The streets northwest of Mill Street, including Ashland, Park, Everett, and Elm Streets were built up with a fine collection of Greek Revival residences and Italianate villas, several of which have been documented as the work of Luther Briggs, Jr.
Despite late 19th and early 20th century landfill at the periphery of the district, the essential character of a fashionable mid-to-late 19th century commuter suburb remains remarkably intact. Unlike other sections of Dorchester, many of the mid 19th century houses in the district retain their original, or near original lot size. Substantial Late Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Stick and Queen Anne residences preside over commodious lots, many of which retain their original carriage drives, stables, mature trees, and granite elements. The Clam Point – Harrison Square district retains integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and meets criteria A and C at the local level.
Clam Point in the Colonial and Federal Periods: Commercial Activity, 1630-1780
Clam Point figured but little in the annals of Dorchester history during the Colonial and Federal periods, remaining a little-frequented backwater that was identified, if at all, by its association with the Preston family. The area did not figure in military or civilian activities during the American Revolution, and it was not until the first half of the 19th century when industrial activity and transportation improvements at the edges of the district brought it to the attention of real estate speculators and prospective homeowners.
Dorchester was settled in 1630 by a group of Puritans who sailed into Dorchester Bay on the Mary and John. The first settlement was at Savin Hill and the Edward Everett Square section of North Dorchester where the first meeting house was subsequently established under the leadership of the Reverend Richard Mather. According to historian Anthony Sammarco, “the shore, fronting on Dorchester Bay and near woodlands to the west, supplied early settlers with food and building materials. The water power of the Neponset River enabled settlers to found the first grist mill in the United States and various other industries which sustained the settlement.” During the 17th century Clam Point was part of extensive, sparsely-settled, town-owned agricultural lands located south of Meeting House Hill and east of Adams Street called the Eastern Great Lots.
Originally the western prong of a two-pronged peninsula, Clam Point’s early history is inextricably bound to that of Commercial Point, which, prior to early 20th century landfill was separated from Clam Point by Barque Warwick Cove. The name of this inlet was derived from the British ship Warwick, that grounded in the cove during the 17th century, and whose hull was visible for many years at low tide.
Commercial Point attracted mariners and fisherman and was called “Captain’s Point” in honor of Thomas Hawkins, a prominent shipbuilder and navigator living in the area during the 1630s and 1640s. By 1643 John Holland lived at the point. Engaged in the work of a ferry keeper and mariner, he was absent from Dorchester for a time due to his involvement in the Virginia tobacco trade with England. His heirs sold “the dwelling house, 2 barns, yards, garden and orchard” to Daniel Preston, another mariner. The site of the Holland-Preston House was located east of the district, approximately at the intersection of Freeport and Ashland Streets with Morrissey Boulevard. Thus began the Preston family’s long and profitable association with Clam and Commercial Points; an association which lasted until the early 20th century. Over time Preston’s heirs acquired land at both points. The chocolate and cocoa manufactory founded by Preston at Dorchester Lower Mills in 1768 was moved to Commercial Point ca. 1830, and the Elisha and John Preston House at 32 Mill Street was built shortly thereafter.
Mill Street, Clam Point’s principal residential thoroughfare, derives its name from a mill established in the area by Edward Breck as early as 1646. A harbinger of the more extensive commercial activity conduced at Commercial Point during the 19th century, the early settlers discovered that the irregularity of the coast nearby provided excellent opportunities for damming and mill development. Breck’s Mill was located in the vicinity of Mill Street’s intersection with Victory Road, on the west side of Tenean Creek, and would become Timothy Tileston’s gristmill during the 18th century. The first leg of Mill Street (later part of Victory Road) was extended from Adams Street, and the Points, Clam and Commercial, remained rural backwaters for most of the 18th century, separated from the rest of Dorchester by the circuitous course of Tenean Creek, which defined the area’s southern and western edges.
Commercial Activity at Commercial Point Intensified: From Newall and Niles to the Syndicate, 1780-1840.
During the Federal Period, a burst of commercial activity at Commercial Point ensued when business partners Joseph Newall and Ebenezer Niles saw the potential for profits along Dorchester’s eastern shores. In 1807, they purchased most of Commercial Point, constructing wharves, stores, and vessels. Newall and Niles named the creek, originally located on the southwest side of Clam Point, Tenean, after the South Seas island where spices, gums, and other products were obtained by the partners’ representatives for transportation in their vessels to these shores. The exotic name lives on at Dorchester’s Tenean Beach. Newall and Niles intended to erect a dam across the creek to gain sufficient waterpower for the construction of mills and factories. The owners of the Tileston Dam objected to these plans as their operation was located above the projected site. Rather than becoming embroiled in a protracted legal battle, Newall and Niles abandoned their plans for milling operations, turning instead to shipbuilding and trading operations at Commercial Point. The partners built commodious Federal-style mansions near the wharves, but their initial success could not be maintained because “their ambitions were greater than their means or abilities.” The War of 1812 disrupted American trade on the high seas and forced coastal communities to put defense ahead of commerce as a priority. A small fort was reportedly placed at Commercial Point. Although Newall and Niles’ business ventures failed, they introduced the Point to the Boston maritime and mercantile communities as a strategic coastal location from which to launch a variety of enterprises. While it would be two decades before Commercial Point reentered the spotlight as a focus for trade and industry, the seed had been planted by the industrious risk-takers for its rediscovery.
In 1832 a syndicate was formed by Nathaniel Thayer, Elisha Preston, Josiah Stickney, and Charles Whittemore to manage whale and cod fisheries. This group purchased wharves, built copper shops, a ship chandlery, and a dry goods store for the sale of sailor’s clothing, and began a whaling operation that, although short-lived (1832-1840), began to rival those of New Bedford and Fall River. The partners owned a fleet of commercial ships that included the schooner Superior as well as more substantial vessels, including the Charles Carroll, Herald, Courier, and the Barque Lewis. The four-year expedition of the Charles Carroll to the Pacific in 1833-1837, was one of the epic voyages of the Whaling Age, returning to Dorchester with 2000 barrels of sperm oil and a large quantity of whalebone.
Dorchester in 1830 was “an agreeable town of about 2000 residents, most of whom were farmers. The development was minimal, and much of the land was still owned by descendants of early settlers.” During the 1830s the syndicate began to buy up enormous tracts of land at both Commercial and Clam Points. One of the partners, Elisha Preston, considerably augmented his already extensive land holdings. In addition to land, Preston had inherited the family chocolate and cocoa business begun by his father in Lower Mills, and moved the business to Commercial Point during the 1830s. Preston built the Federal Italianate style, center-hall plan, residence at 32 Mill Street ca. 1830. Elisha’s son John Preston inherited both the house, business, and extensive land holdings. By 1874 the Preston estate occupied most of the block bounded by Mill, Preston Street (later Victory Road), Blanche, and Ashland Streets. In addition to the main house and a large stable, the property included a large rectangular garden, now the site of a pair of modem tract houses at 36-38 Mill Street. This may be the garden Alice Burditt described in her 1924 memoirs as “the little enclosed park that had deer and pheasants.” According to Burditt, “in winter, by the courtesy of Mr. John Preston, the meadow back on Mill Street was flooded and young and old repaired there to skate.” John Preston gradually sold off his father’s land holdings between the 1860s and 1880s. From the 1880s until the early 1910s, 32 Mill Street was owned by Charles H. Nutt, a purveyor of tailor’s trimmings,” and his heirs. From the late 1910s until at least the early 1930s, the old Preston House was owned by Julia F. O’Neil.
Situated at what would become the Mill and Ashland Streets crossroads, 21 Mill (photo 1) together with the Withington House at 19 Ashland Street (photo 10) and the demolished Noyes House, which stood at the site of 26-28 Mill Street constitute the historic nucleus of the Clam Point/Harrison Square neighborhood. 19 Ashland Street was reportedly built for Daniel Withington, who had owned property in the area since at least the early 1800s. This Federal style, red-brick, fanlight-surmounted, center-entrance residence may date back to the first quarter of the 19th century. The gable roof of the Withington House’s main block may have replaced a hip roof during the 1860s when an extensive, Italianate, rear ell was added to the masonry main block. Withington’s widow lived here until at least 1850, and by 1859, wholesale druggist and real estate speculator Edward King owned 19 Ashland. Located to the west of the district at the Adams and Neponset Streets intersection, King Square is a reminder of the influence Edward and his brother Franklin King had in the area. Attorney Nathaniel F. Safford and Sarah K. Safford (1860s to early 1900s) owned this house as investment property, residing nearby at 2 Everett Street. [Note: I have found no evidence that Nathaniel F. Safford was related to Sarah K. Safford and does not seem to have had an interest in real estate in the Harrison Square district] Later owners included William Small (1910s), Hazel L Tomlinson (1920s), and a D. Santoro (1930s).
From the Introduction of the Old Colony Railroad to the Annexation of Dorchester by the City of Boston: Clam Point/Harrison Square’s Glory Years as an Upscale Commuter Enclave, 1840-1875.
By 1840 Commercial Point’s brief period as a major whaling port was nearing an end. Industrial activity began to expand, revolving around Emory’s timber and coal wharf, the chocolate factory of John Preston, and especially the forge of Axel Dearborn, the original owner of 13 Everett Street. The shoreline near Park and Commercial Streets became a district of wharves, lumber yards, and sawmills. At the same time, construction on the Old Colony Railroad from Boston to Plymouth was underway – a public transportation project that would have enormous impact on the fortunes of Clam Point after its opening on November 10, 1845. The Harrison Square depot, just northwest of Clam Point was one of twelve Dorchester stations along the two Old Colony lines. It was named in honor of William Henry Harrison, who campaigned in Dorchester during the presidential election of 1840. The name Harrison Square should be reinstated to describe the district, given its long period of use from the 1840s until the mid 20th century.
Nathan Carruth, the first president of the Old Colony set out railroad tracks which provided Harrison Square with a well-defined northwestern boundary. In 1905 the tracks were raised atop a 20-foot high random ashlar granite embankment by the New Haven Railroad. This massive embankment reinforced Clam Point’s image as a place apart and undoubtedly helped to preserve the area as an undisturbed oasis of mid-to-late 19th century, mansion house estates. In 1841 surveyor Thomas Mosely, working from a plan credited to architect Luther Briggs, Jr. set out a grid of streets to the northwest of Mill Street which included Park, Everett, Elm, and Ashland Streets. Carruth hired Briggs to design Beechmont, his grand residence (since demolished) which was built in the Ashmont section of Dorchester.
Briggs also designed at least half a dozen area houses, including 23 and 25-27 Park Street (photos 9, 12), 2 Everett Street, 14 Everett Street, as well as a stately trio of Italianate Mansard residences at 40-44 Mill Street. Born in Pembroke, MA, Briggs was apprenticed to his uncle-in-law Alexander Parris, the architect of Quincy Market, at the time he designed Harrison Square’s first street system in 1841. Following his apprenticeship, he was in partnership with Joseph Howard. From the 1840s to the early 1870s Briggs was responsible for picturesque suburban residences whose designs were influenced by houses illustrated in Andrew Jackson Downing’s builders guides. Briggs designed numerous houses in communities bordering the Old Colony line as well as in other sections of Dorchester. In Boston itself he designed the1850s town house at 532 Massachusetts Avenue that currently houses the South End Historical Society. During the mid-1850s he designed a college building for freed American slaves in Monrovia, Liberia. His link with the anti-slavery and African colonization movements were causes he shared with the ardent abolitionists of the Harrison Square-community. From 1871-1887 he was principal of L. Briggs and Co.; thereafter the architect worked as a consultant until his death.
Although the rigid geometric street grid Briggs devised for the northwestern corner of Clam Point does not reflect the winding drives prescribed by Downing for romantic rural suburbs, Briggs-designed residences at Harrison Square do represent many of the ideal qualities for country living advocated by Downing in books such as Cottage Residences (1842) and The Architecture of Country Houses (1849). Downing’s books were aimed at an emerging affluent class of young families not unlike the first generation of home owners at the Square. The heads of these households were typically self-made men who had made fortunes in dry goods, insurance, wholesale drug, and other commercial ventures.
Interestingly, the Gothic Revival cottages favored by Downing and his illustrator, Alexander Jackson Davis, do not figure at all in the domestic architecture of Harrison Square. Instead, boxy, cupola-topped Italianate and Italianate/Mansard villas are the rule rather than the exception. Bristling with front and side porches as well as the square and polygonal bays featured in Downing’s books, Briggs’ Park and Mill Street residences preside over ample lots possessing semicircular carriage ways and substantial stables.
Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852) was born in the Hudson River town of Yonkers, New York. At age 22 he became the proprietor of his family’s nursery business, becoming acquainted with the horticultural predilections of well-to-do New Yorkers. Not content to concentrate solely on his nursery business, Downing set out to become a taste maker in collaboration with his illustrator, New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis. The duo went on to publish a string of influential books that shaped national domestic architectural and landscape tastes of several generations of affluent suburban commuters. Harrison Square’s initial development during the 1840s coincided with the period of Downing’s rise. Today at Clam Point, the influence of Downing is more evident in spirit rather than fact. Tangible evidence of Downing’s influence as (interpreted by Briggs and his clients include surviving copper beech and fir trees, and curving side lawns (21 Mill Street, photo 1), semicircular carriage drives (40 Mill Street, photo 3), and rusticated wooden faux masonry facades (23 Park Street, photo 12). According to J. Stewart Johnson in the introduction of the Dover reissue of The Architecture of Country Houses, “Downing’s importance is not so much that of an innovator as a popularizer, relying heavily on the ideas of other architects and writers, reproducing many designs by the former and quoting liberally from the latter.” Downing’s untimely death at age 36 in a steamboat accident on the Hudson, left his wife, Caroline De Windt, a great-niece of John Quincy Adams, a widow, and deprived young architect Calvert Vaux of a partner in their newly formed architectural firm. Although America had lost a brilliant arbiter of taste, Downing’s work lived on long after his death in books that were published as late as the 1880s, influencing later generations of suburban homeowners.
The principal investors in the new development that would become known as Harrison Square, included John Robinson, Franklin and Edward King, Elisha Loring, and Axel Dearborn. While the former was primarily a local real estate speculator who had inherited extensive tracts of land from his family and lived outside the district, the Kings and Loring commuted by train from Harrison Square to their Boston businesses. Robinson was born in 1809 and conducted major real estate speculation in Dorchester during the mid-19th century. Prior to the Civil War he is said to have owned all of the land east of Dorchester Avenue from Fields Corner to Dorchester Bay. Robinson was also active in the activities of the First Parish Church, being frequently elected to its standing committee. In reference to Robinson’s role in Harrison Square’s development, parish historian Mary Fifield King notes that “to him was due the laying out of Harrison Square where he built houses and was keen enough to realize how this then unique and pleasing section could be developed.”
According to Sammarco, “Robinson was the principal developer of houses bordering Ashland Street at Clam Point.” Norfolk County deeds indicate that Robinson developed most of Ashland Street. Late 19th century resident Alice Burditt credits Robinson in her memoirs with planting trees along Ashland Street during the early years of the Briggs’ development existence, noting that “the graceful elms which arched Mill and Ashland streets seemed like old settlers but I am inclined to think that their presence was due to the forethought of John Robinson and other public minded citizens.” The Robinson-designed Ashland Street became home to some of Harrison Square’s leading families. During the mid-19th century, 1 Ashland Street was the residence of Henry Reed, a Boston commission merchant. From the 1880s to the 1910s the house was owned by Hattie B. Preston, presumably a member of the Preston family of Clam Point. By 1918, Bernard Gilrain, packer, is listed as this house’s owner. During the 1930s, auto mechanic Harold Simpson resided in the old Henry Reed place, while its owner in the 1950s was seaman Norman Nunn.
While the houses bordering the northwest side of Ashland Street, between park and Elm, were extant by 1850, the northeast side of the street developed over a much more extended period of time. The Italianate house at 4 Ashland Street was built by John Robinson between 1850-1858. Owned for a brief period by Robinson, Alice Burditt states that when the schoolhouse built by Franklin King had become outgrown, “a school was opened in what was later Mr. Fifield’s house. This was taught by a Mr. Burton of Plymouth whose scholarship and character was of a high rank.” 4 Ashland was sold during the early 1860s to Dr. William C.B. Fifield (1828-1896), “honored physician of Dorchester.” Dr. Fifield was associated with Boston City Hospital, distinguishing himself as a surgeon. A member of numerous Boston and New England medical societies, he was particularly active in the Dorchester Medical Society.
9 Ashland Street’s lot was acquired in 1845 by John Robinson with “the buildings thereon” from merchant A.A. Frazer. Boston merchant Thomas J. Allen paid Robinson $5,000 for this property nine years later. Allen died in 1887, and his widow Caroline owned the house until 1912. After the First Parish Church burned in 1896, Mrs. Allen funded the Edwin J. Lewis-designed Allen Parlor at the rear of the sanctuary as a memorial to her husband. Later owners of the house included Mrs. Allen’s sister-in-law Anna M. Boach (1918), while Lorenzo Albree lived here from the 1920s until at least the 1950s. Albree was president of the Freeport Marble and Tile Company of Dorchester.
Franklin King (1809-1898), another key figure in the Briggs-designed development at Harrison Square, was a partner in the Boston wholesale drug firm of E.F. King and Company. Additionally, King was active in the paint and oil trade and was a Boston area real estate developer. As early as 1841, King built a substantial house designed by Briggs on the site of the Byrne Playground at Mill, Everett, and Elm Streets. Like many of his neighbors, King was an abolitionist who attended lectures by William Lloyd Garrison at the Meeting House Hill Lyceum. His wife, Sarah Gelton of Nantucket, was a social activist in her own right, being described by Mary Fifield King as “a proponent of women’s suffrage.” Alice Burditt praised Franklin King’s role as a horticulturalist and civic-minded beautifier of Harrison Square in its early days as a residential development: “Mr. Franklin King sent to New York for trees to embellish the grounds of the house he built at the corner of Mill and Everett Street, ordering not only a large supply for himself but many more which he invited his neighbors to use in laying out their places.” Burditt goes on to note that “the sidewalks have always been beautifully shaded but the fact that the trees were planted in the middle of the sidewalk and occupied nearly the whole of it was sometimes objected to by pedestrians.”
Franklin King’s older brother and business partner Edward King was also involved in Harrison Square’s early development as a land speculator and building developer. He hired architects Joseph Howard and Briggs to design the Greek Revival house at 7 Everett Street in 1845, subsequently selling it to Barnard Ford of Dorchester for $3500, Everett Street is described in the deed as “a new street to said Mill Street.” By the late 1850s Edward King owned the old Withington House at 19 Ashland Street. Barnard Ford and wife Priscilla owned 7 Everett until 1868 when it was sold to Robert Pierce. Later owners included the trustee’s of Pierce’s estate, Exchange Place businessman Charles P. Wright (1898), decorator August G. Roedel (1910s), and Anna Scalia (1920s).
Elisha T. Loring (1804-1889), another key figure in the area’s development was born on Cape Cod. Loring began his career in the Chilean tin and copper trades, returning to Boston in 1839. His house at 21 Mill Street was built in the early 1840s. Loring assembled a house lot originally containing over 70,000 square feet from housewrights Joseph Foster and Rufus Kelton of Dorchester, paying a total of $6900 for the two lots. In addition to builders Foster and Kelton, an architect undoubtedly played a role in the creation of 21 Mill Street (photo 1), and the possibility that the ubiquitous Briggs may have been responsible for its construction, although the house’s design recalls the Boston area work of Isaiah Rogers and Asher Benjamin. Loring made a large fortune in the Lake Superior mines, also known as the Calumet and Hecla mines. By 1862 he was the treasurer to the Pewabic and Franklin Mining Companies, and a decade later is listed as “President, National Dock Company.” Later owners of Loring’s estate would include his next door neighbor Franklin King (1898), engineer Francis W. Wilson (1910), Agnes Russell (1918), and by the time of the Depression, Loring’s residence had become a boarding house operated by Mary Budinski.
Norfolk County grantee indexes indicate that during the 1840s Axel Dearborn was active in real estate speculation at Harrison Square. He was the owner of an iron forge at Commercial Point where he manufactured car axles, cranks, and locomotives. Dearborn’s forge was located on a rectangular wharf which projected from the northeast comer of Commercial Point. He built the Federal/Greek Revival house at 13 Everett Street ca. 1845. By 1874 it was one of several properties owned by Franklin King. Later owners included Eliza M. Carr (1880s-1910s), Morris Herwitch (1918), and variety store owner Frank L. Metcalf (1920s).
The first generation of Harrison Square residents were politically active and civic minded. During the ante-bellum period a vocal group of abolitionists emerged under the leadership of Rev. Nathaniel Hall of the First Parish Church on Meeting House Hill. Hall’s pastorate began In 1835, although his vehement protests against slavery were not well received by older, conservative members of the congregation. According to Alice Burditt, “Hall was convinced that the anti-slavery movement was a righteous cause and he bravely bore his testimony in the pulpit though some of his leading parishioners would walk out of the church when he gave utterances to his convictions.” In 1850 Rev. Samuel Johnson of the Harrison Square church recruited four members of his community to join the First Parish Church to lend their support to the valiant Rev. Hall. The men selected were Elisha Loring, Franklin King, Joseph Lindsley (25-27 Park Street) and William Pope. William Lloyd Garrison was a frequent speaker at the Dorchester Lyceum on Meeting House Hill and worked for a time as a cashier at the Mattapan Bank near the Harrison Square depot. Garrison did not advocate a violent overthrow of the slave system, but in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, believed that moral persuasion would convince slaveholders of its evils.
After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, several Harrison Square families offered their residences as way stations on the Underground Railroad. The Act authorized newly appointed slave commissioners to issue warrants for the arrests of runaway slaves. In a Federal proceeding, before fugitive slave tribunals established by the Act, the commissioner summarily ruled whether the person described in the warrant was indeed the person claimed by the slave owner or owner’s agent. After months of debate in the United States Senate, the Fugitive Slave Act was signed into law by Millard Fillmore as part of the Compromise of 1850.
Separated from the rest of Dorchester, its houses large, rambling, and rich in possibilities for hiding, Harrison Square was an ideal place to shelter the escaped plantation workers from southern states. Fugitive slaves bound for Canada found refuge in the homes of Franklin King and Joseph Lindsley. Although King’s role needs additional documentation, more is known about Lindsley’s protection of the runaways.
Joseph Lindsley (1812-1895) was among the Harrison Square gentry who opened their homes to fugitive slaves. New Jersey-born, Lindsley was a partner in the Federal Street, Boston, boot and shoe concern of Lindsley and Gibbs. Lindsley commuted to work with his two partners, Harrison Square homeowners Rufus Gibbs of Elm Street, later 8 Everett Street, and Theoren V. Shaw of 23 Park Street (photos 9, 12). Lindsley was an “ardent abolitionist” who befriended antislavery activists William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. Lindsley’s Italianate villa at 25-27 Park Street was described by Mary Fifield King as “a ready refuge for the fugitive slave,” And his daughter, Mrs. Everett Frazar, remembered as a child “taking food to a slave hidden in a long dark closet in the attic.”
23 Park Street (photos 9, 12) is of interest as a documented Luther Briggs, Jr. designed villa as well as the residence of leading Harrison Square families for several generations. Built for Charles E. Jenkins, a partner in Bailey and Jenkins, suppliers of doors and blinds, later owners included Theoren V. Shaw (1860s), dentist Luther Shepard (1880s), liquor dealer James W. Calnan (1890s), and John J. Murphy, treasurer of Roxbury’ s Star Manufacturing and Producing Company (late 1890s-early 1930s). By 1950, Ilena and Antonio Gobbi, “ship fitter,” are listed at this address.
Dorchester manufacturer Charles Ranstead purchased the Italianate center hall plan house at 17 Park Street from Dorchester merchant and Harrison Square real estate speculator Amherst Frazar in October 1847. Ranstead sold the house to Rachel and William Everett in May 1865. Everett owned a “looking glass and picture frame business” on Washington Street in Boston. Later owners included dentist Luther D. Shepherd (1880s and 1890s), Rachel Everett (1ate 18905 to 1910s), Mrs. Frederick Norris (late 1910s and 1920s), and by the early 1930s, Mary Klepacki and tenants Gino Boldrighni (lab worker) and Ernest Sofulnis (chef).
Other prominent mid 19th century Park Street families included Augustus W. Perrin and John L. Loring of numbers 9-11 and 13 respectively. Perrin, of the extensively altered residence at 9-11 Park Street was a leading Boston real estate agent with offices at 32 Batterymarch in Boston. Perrin’s widow Elizabeth resided at 9 Park Street until the turn of the century. By 1910, Mary and James V. Aieta, barber, lived there, and by the early 1930s Cesare and Lucia Rabufetti are listed at this address.
The Greek Revival house at 13 Park Street (photo 2) was built around 1850 for Elisha Preston’s widow, Anna Preston. By the late 1860s, John J. Loring, insurance broker owned the building. Presumably related to Elisha Loring of 21 Mill Street, John Loring’s heirs owned this house until the mid 1890s. Later owners included Harriet F. Abbott (late1890s to 1920s) and Mrs. Maria Jacobe (1930s and 1940s).
At mid-century, Elm Street, between Ashland and the Old Colony tracks was built up with Greek Revival and Italianate dwellings. The 1850s Italianate house at 9 Elm Street has significant historical associations with the family of John H. Bufford (1810-1870), the principal lithographic printer in Boston during the mid-19th century. Bufford’s son and heir to the family lithographic business, John H. Bufford. Jr. lived at 9 Elm Street from 1873-1877. That the younger Bufford lived for a time at Harrison Square is not surprising, given the picturesque qualities of the area and the presence of genteel, intellectual, neighbors who would undoubtedly have been drawn to the more artistic aspects of his craft. Bufford, Sr. joined Pendleton’s Lithography in Boston in 1829 where he worked as a draftsman specializing in portraits of famous political and literary figures. Ironically, one of his early important commissions was from none other than Alexander Jackson Davis “to transfer to stone designs from Davis and others for A.J. Downing’s Rural Residences (1837), a seminal publication advocating picturesque and gothic styles for country houses.” Returning to Boston from New York in 1845, Bufford Sr. went into partnership in a Lithographic concern with his brother-in-law B.W. Thayer. In 1865, Bufford’s sons Frank and John H. Jr. became partners in the firm of J.H. Bufford and Sons. Two years later the elder Bufford established a separate lithographic firm, which was short-lived as he died in 1870.
The Bufford sons carried on their father’s work until 1890. Interestingly, Bufford, Jr. moved from Hawthorn Street in Roxbury to Harrison Square in 1873 at a time when his company was experiencing financial difficulties and his lithographic equipment was mortgaged to his uncle B.W. Thayer. By March 1876, Bufford Jr.’s fortunes had improved considerably and his presses were running night and day to keep up with a backlog of orders. Bufford’s move from the Square in 1877 occurred at a time when fire destroyed his business, but fortunately insurance covered his losses.
Over time, the Bufford firm was known for maps and plan’s “that were printed for inclusion in the published reports of city and state commissioners.” For manufacturing concerns the Bufford firm printed labels, advertisements, and factory views. The most memorable aspect of the firm’s work was the reproduction of artists’ works that were distributed to a national audience, such as birdseye views of communities and whaling prints.
By 1850 the west side of Mill Street, south of Ashland, had been built up with handsome villas, including 31-41 Mill Street. , This linear collection of substantial, well-designed residences is, in effect, an extension of Briggs’ upscale Harrison Square development of the 1840s. Exhibiting elements of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles, these houses preside over ample lots with generous, uniform setbacks from the street, and deep back yards enclosed by the granite railroad embankment. Alice Burditt in her 1924 memoirs recalls that “on the westerly side of Mill Street, these grounds were terrace gardens sloping down to the railroad, which not being the present hideous upper structure, was hidden from view by tall trees. Trees and lawns surrounded the houses and flower beds were separated from kitchen gardens by trellises covered with grape vines. None of these estates were large, but they were so well laid out that they comprised a great deal often including strawberry beds, courant and other bushes and all variety of fruit.”
H.M. Peters was an early owner of the ca. 1850 31 Mill Street (photo 4). By 1859 this Italianate residence was owned by leather dealer Benjamin B. Converse, but it is said to have been remodeled in the 1860s by Luther Briggs, Jr. Later owners included Boston businessman George K. Guild, who evidently used the Harrison Square house as a summer residence, as his principal address is listed in the South End of Boston. During the 1890s and early 1900s “feathers and bedding dealer” Austin W. Wheeler owned the property. By the World War I era, Bertha and Abraham Schimmel owned the house. Like the previous owner, Schimmel was in the bedding business. By the Depression the house was owned by Agnes and Joseph Mazdinski, a furnace repairman.
The cupola-topped Greek Revival residence at 33 Mill Street (photo 11 )was built in 1844, possibly for Nathan B. Child, a Boston shoe dealer. By 1859, Pearl Street businessman Thomas S. Mitchell owned this house. By 1874 it was owned by clerk Benjamin F. Wilson, who commuted to Mile Street Boston for work. From the late 1890s until at least the 1930s, 33 Mill was owned by Boston restaurateur August Dierkes.
Built in 1847, 37 Mill Street’s owners during the 1850s included Charles Loring, a Boston merchant, and an I. Robinson. By 1874 it was the home of Josiah Carter, partner in a Boston real estate firm, and during the 1880s E. T. Milliken owned the house. In 1894, 37 Mill’s owner was William H. Swift (1850-1899) of the Swift and Tilden Chemical Company. A graduate of English High School, Swift was employed by Fearing, Thatcher & Co., but founded his own chemical business in 1873. Swift’s company manufactured “chemicals and colors” in his East Boston factory, while his office was located on Pearl Street, Boston. From ca. 1915 until at least the 1930s, this property was owned by William H. Thayer, treasurer of the Shoe and Leather Mercantile Agency.
During the mid 19th century 41 Mill Street was owned by Hiram D. Morse. According to Alice Burditt, Morse was “an artist of merit but better known as the discoverer of the process of diamond cutting.” Indeed, Morse is listed as a “diamond jeweler” at Exchange Street, Boston. By the 1880s the house was owned by Dollie and George Foster, a Boston-based salesman. By 1918, watch salesman Joseph Maysleys is listed at this address. Like several other large Harrison Square houses, 41 Mill became a lodging house during the Depression.
Between the end of the Civil War and the financial Panic of 1873, Harrison Square experienced a surge in upscale residential construction activity, triggered in part by the subdivision of several estates, most notably the John Preston-owned lands east of Mill Street. After the war, Luther Briggs, Jr. continued to serve as the neighborhoods “court architect.” He designed imposing, commodious Italianate Mansard residences for a second generation of home owners, creating stylish and substantial houses. During this period, several Harrison Square residents became involved in the controversy surrounding Dorchester’s annexation to the City of Boston. Commercial activities continued to thrive at the margins of the community along Dorchester Bay as well as around the depot.
Providing a physical link with the post Civil War prosperity are a trio of commodious, Briggs- designed residences at 40, 42 and 44 Mill Street (photo 3). Situated at the crest of a hill, their lots carved from the extensive holdings of chocolate mill owner John Preston, these houses were funded by fortunes made in hardware and cutlery. 40 Mi1l Street, the most substantial of the trio was built between 1875 and 1880 for Boston businessman William H.L. Smith and his wife Esther. Between 1910 and the 1930s, Mary E. and Bartholomew Crowley, treasurer of a company of South Street, Boston, owned this residence.
The large mansard house at 42 Mill Street was built in 1869 for Harriet and Charles Burditt “on the slope of Mr. Preston’s apple orchard.” Green Hill Street, which forms the lot’s southern border, is described in the Preston/Burditt deed as a “proposed new street.” Charles Burditt was a Dock Square Boston-dealer in hardware and cutlery. 42 Mill Street was the home of Alice Burditt, whose lively 1924 memoirs describe the appearance and inhabitants of ‘ ‘the Square” during the late 19th century. The Burditt’s owned 42 Mill until the turn of the century. Later owners included a Bessie O. Howell (1910), salesman James McHenry (1918), and contractor John Nelson (1930s).
44 Mill Street was also erected on the former Preston apple orchard. Built ca. 1872 for Boston lawyer and longtime Dorchester resident Albe C. Clark, he and his heirs resided on Mill Street for half a century. By the early 1930s this house was owned by Michael Sarni, assistant treasurer of Dorchester’s Freeport Marble and Tile Company. Sarni continued to live here in 1950, as well as James Casey, machinist, and Gennarino De Gregory, marble worker.
Albe Clark of 44 Mill Street, along with neighbors John Preston and George Woodman of Beach Street were proponents of Dorchester’s annexation. According to Mary Fifield King, “it was inevitable with the growth of Boston that the large adjoining territory of Roxbury and Dorchester should become part of the city. Dorchester people had seen it coming, and on the whole, opposition was slight.” The three men were part of a committee called the Friends of Annexation which was organized under the auspices of the First Parish Church. Franklin King was one of the signers of a petition that called for annexation. In December 1868, the City ordered a committee of three to decide upon the surveys for drainage, street grading, etc. in the event that Dorchester became annexed to Boston. The following year, the Massachusetts legislature reviewed Dorchester’s annexation and all its myriad implications, and in 1870 Dorchester ceased to be an independent town by a vote of 928 to 726. Mary Fifield King observed that “the town became a ward of the city without one person in the alms house and no licensed liquor saloon within its limits. “
Harrison Square Matures: Later Suburban Subdivisions and Summer Hotels, 1875 to 1900.
In 1873 a national depression caused home owners to lose their mortgages and housebui1ding activities to virtually cease. At Harrison Square, a lull in construction continued until the late 1870s. With a handful of notable exceptions, houses built at the Square after 1880 were modest and marketed to middle and working class families. During the 1880s, nearby Commercial Point experienced a dramatic transformation. The chocolate mill of John Preston, a coal wharf, a foundry, and other large industrial enterprises were joined by the two large gas holders and other large brick buildings owned by the Boston Gas Light Company. As early as 1872 this company had purchased considerable acreage at the point for the construction of a gas holder.
During the 1890s, the establishment of two hotels in large houses located between Everett and Freeport Streets added transient summer visitors to the stable population of homeowners and their families. Between the late 1880s and early 1910s, the patriarchs and matriarchs who had set up housekeeping at the Square in mid-century, began to pass from the local scene. The heirs of the Kings, Allens, Prestons, and other first families held on to their estates for a decade or more, selling these substantial houses to Irish, Italian, and Polish families during the early part of the 20th century.
During the tail end of the 19th century several Harrison Square women rose to the fore as community leaders and talented artists. Dr. William Cranch Bond Fifield’s daughter, Mary Fifield King, was an astute observer of the local scene who became the First Parish Church’s historian. At her family’s Ashland Street home she compiled a fifteen-volume scrapbook now in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society, which is a primary source for study of Harrison Square – Clam Point during the period of the 1840s to the 1920s. For many years her mother, Emily A. Fifield was a member of the Boston School Committee, and together with family friend Mrs. Thomas J. Allen “conducted a popular book club and annual book sale from the parlor of her residence at 4 Ashland Street.”
Another local woman of note during the late 19th century was pianist Martha Dana Shephard, who lived in the half of the double-Greek Revival/Italianate house numbered 15 Ashland Street. Born in New Hampton, New Hampshire, in 1842, she began to play the piano forte at age five, and by the time she was eleven, was sent to Boston to study under B.F. Leavens, who recognized her as an extraordinary talent. A graduate of the New Hampton Institute, Martha Dana Shephard began to teach music while still in her teens. At age 20 she played to much acclaim at the first musical convention in Concord, New Hampshire. In 1863 she married Allan B. Shephard of Holderness, and moved to Boston in 1880. Even after her marriage, Mrs. Shephard “performed at concerts from Maine to the Far West.” The Shephard home at 15 Ashland was called “a synonym for hospitality, cheer, and comfort.”
By the late 1870s, economic recovery from the Panic of 1873 paved the way for the construction of a handful of large houses at the Square. By that time, the formality of the Italianate Mansard style had been surpassed by a preference on the part of affluent families for picturesque design rooted in Medieval rather than Renaissance-design traditions. Illustrating this trend and scattered about the district are asymmetrically-massed and artfully rendered Stick Style and Queen Anne residences. Gifted Dorchester architect John A. Fox (1835-1920) was responsible for at least five large houses in the Square. Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Fox moved with his parents to Boston, where he was enrolled in public schools. Initially employed as a surveyor with Garbett and Wood, civil engineers, he made the first survey of the Stony Brook and the marshland that would become the Back Bay district. Early in his career he worked for the distinguished firm of Ware and Van Brunt, architects of Boston mid-century churches and notable buildings at Harvard including Memorial Hall. Fox designed public buildings in Boston and other communities during his fifty-year career, as well as numerous residences in Dorchester. According to Anthony Sammarco, “Fox designed more than seventy houses in Dorchester “after the annexation.” His houses were characterized by a distinct interpretation of the Stick and Queen Anne styles. Examples of his work are scattered around Dorchester. The finest examples of Fox’s mature work are located within the Virginia/Monadnock streets area of North Dorchester as well as at Harrison Square – Clam Point. Fox’s own house at 25 Trull Street was built among at least fifteen other impressive houses that he designed and built on Trull, Rill, Ware, and Bellevue Streets. John a. Fox frequently worked in collaboration with the land development company of S. Pinckney Holbrook and Thomas B. Fox.
Within the district Fox’s work included two houses at the southeast and southwest corners of Mill and Ashland streets. The Stick Style houses at 26-28 and 30 Mill Street continued this crossroad’s reputation as a location of well-crafted and well-designed residences. In 1879 the Stick Style house at 26-28 Mill Street replaced a small, early 19th century cottage associated with the Hersey and Noyes families. According to Mary Fifield King, “the tiny house on Mill Street was torn down to make way for the new houses built for Miss Noyes.” Alice Burditt noted that “Mrs. Hersey had a school for little children in the Noyes House. I remember that each child supplied his own chair.” The Fox-designed double house that replaced the old cottage/school was one of the largest of his Dorchester works. In June 1879 Fox began preliminary sketches for the Noyes and Hersey double house, being paid $340 “for working drawings, specifications, framing plans, and superintendence.” By late September, as the house neared completion, Fox received an additional $68 for “the inspection of the house” as well as for “working drawings for alterations.” The Herseys, along with Mary E. Noyes, co-owned the house until 1884; thereafter it was owned by Mary E. Noyes until World War I. From this point until at least the 1930s it was owned by real estate agent John J. Preston of 32 Mill Street.
In terms of craftsmanship, form, and well-rendered design, 30 Mill Street (photo 8) ranks among the finest examples of Stick Style in the Boston area. Built around 1880 from designs provided by Fox on land that had been part of John Preston’s vast Harrison Square domain, 30 Mill was built for a member of the Thomas Wales family, and was owned by his estate from the mid 1880s until the early 1900s. Later owners included Annie E. Foster (1918) and Edith L. Beal (1933.)
Although sheathed in vinyl siding, the residence at 43 Mill Street, designed by Fox for Erasmus Willard during the early 1880s, retains integrity of siting and form. The Willard house has a generous setback from the street, presides over a triangular lot that slopes down to Victory Road, and possesses one of the most complicated roof configurations in the district.
By the 1880s, Preston lands east of Mill Street had been broken up into house lots and a second grid of streets developed which encompassed the eastern end of Ashland, Green Hill, Everdean, and the upper section of Blanche Streets. The original plan was to extend Harrison Street (later Blanche Street) to Ashland, but by 1890 Blanche Street’s course had been altered to turn west so that it intersected with Everdean Street. The upper Blanche Street development consists of two sections, including 1) a rectangular block bounded by Blanche, Green Hill, and Everdean Streets which contains two large houses numbered 11 and 15 Blanche; and 2) a development of Queen Anne residences numbered 2-14 Blanche Street, located on the east and north sides of the street.
15 Blanche Street was built for Dexter J. Cutter, while his son Frank resided next door at 11 Blanche Street. Both houses were built in 1887 from Fox designs. Dexter J. Cutter (1827-1901) began his career at the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, the first firm to manufacture raw cotton into finished cloth under one roof. In 1874 he settled at “the old Wales House at Commercial Point,” entering the coal business. In 1900 he retired, leaving his coal company to his sons Frank W. and W.H. Cutter. Evidently Cutter became familiar with the work of Fox during the late l870s through the Wales family, his landlords at Commercial Point. Nearly a decade earlier, the Wales’ had hired Fox to design the Stick Style house at 30 Mill Street. 15 Blanche remained under Cutter ownership until the 1910s. From then until at least the early 1930s this house was owned by Margaret T. and Roderick T. O’Neil. A carpenter, O’Neil undoubtedly admired the fine millwork said to characterize the interior of the Dexter J. Cutter residence.
Across the street, to the east, Queen Anne houses numbered 2-14 Blanche Street are set on modest lots. Built between the late 1880s and mid-l 890s, this enclave also includes 46 and 50 Everdean Street. “Conveyancers” Allah and Asahel Wright began to purchase the former Preston lands on the north and east sides of upper Blanche Street beginning ca. 1877. Both Wrights worked at 266 Washington Street in downtown Boston, lived at 44 Magnolia Street in northwest Dorchester, and evidently envisioned Harrison Square as a place to develop housing for prosperous families. The architect of this interesting development remains unidentified; although several early owners were associated with Boston building trades. By 1894 this group’s owners included Carrie A. Wright (presumably the wife of one of the developers); Jennie H. and Frank A. Merriam of 4 Blanche Street, dealer in builders’ suppliers; John F. Small, designer of 6 Blanche; Barney Fuller, boot and shoe manufacturer of 8 Blanche; Josiah P. Clark, master mechanic at 10 Blanche; and Charles E. Currier at 12 Blanche.
Over time, upper Blanche Street heads of households continued to be drawn from the ranks of small company owners, middle management, and skilled labor By 1898, Abbie and Walter A. Bemis, manager of the New England Buff Company owned 2 Blanche Street. While several families remained in the development for decades, five new families had replaced original owners by 1904. Policeman Thomas Connorton resided at 6 Blanche “Street, while H.B. Anthony, Helen L. Fuller, Edwina Richardson owned numbers 4,8, and 12 respectively. By 1910, Charles Needham, foreman, and Michael Schaller, machinist owned number 10 and 12, respectively; and by 1930, a “helper,” policeman, watchman, shoe cutter, salesman, machinist, and a manager owned these homes.
Although located around the corner to the north of the upper Blanche Street development, the scale, form, and facade treatments of 46 and 50 Everdean clearly associate these houses within the Wrights’ development. Built around 1890, Lizzie Ames and salesman John Macksey were early owners. Macksey’s widow, Elizabeth, owned her house until the 1920s. During the 1930s laborer Robert J. Duke and Mary M. Dugan are listed at 50 Everdean, while later owners of 46 included police officer Andrew B. Cuneo (1918), manufacturers McElroy (1930), and Gaetano Abruzzi, tilesetter (1940).
As early as 1874, Cornelia and George Kendall purchased land south of Green Hill Street from John Preston. Then residents of suburban Walpole, the Kendalls subsequently built the Italianate vernacular house at 112 Victory Road. Kendall, a dealer in “curled hair, feathers and bedding,” evidently purchased this house as an investment property, as’ best evidence indicates the family never lived in the area. By 1883, Kendall had drawn up a plan for house lots on the two blocks bounded by Preston (later Victory), Capen (later Everdean), Green Hill, and Harrison (later Blanche) Streets.
Development south of Green Hill Street may have been delayed by the financial Panic of 1893. Lower Blanche Street’s residential development dates to the mid-to-late 1890s. In 1884, lower Blanche Street is shown as a proposed cul-de-sac called Harrison Street; while a decade later it is shown as a proposed street called Hanson Street. By 1898 it had been extended to Victory Road, and both sides of the street were lined with modest houses situated on lot of less than 2,000 square feet.
A.J. McDonald designed 19 Blanche Street which was built in 1896 by E.S. Gay. The pair may have built other houses on this block. The cost of 19 Blanche’s lot was $3200. By 1898 early owners included Frederick C. Mosely, the treasurer of a Kilby Street firm who owned but did not occupy 19 and 21 while a Mary E. Booth purchased 25 Blanche Street’s lot in 1896. John C. Anderson owned number 27. 33 Blanche was built between 1910 and 1918; Michael T. Ahern, custodian, boarded at 33 in 1918.
Across Blanche Street to the east, the even-numbered houses were built between 1894-1898. Early owners included Agnes Anderson (at 20), Mary A. Foster (at 26), Francis Packard (at 28), and Louise Taylor (at 34). By 1918 Nicholas Rowell owned 20, while 26, 30 and 34 were the property of M.J. Ahern, lawyer Carol B.M. Melcher, and B. McDonough. With the exception of Melcher, skilled laborers took up residence in these dwellings during the 1930s and 1940s. During the Depression a steamfitter, a machinist and a phone installer are listed on the block, while by the beginning of Word War II a guard, fireman, attorney Melcher, and a rigger at the Charlestown Navy Yard lived in the even numbers of lower Blanche Street.
Unlike other sections of Dorchester, subdivisions of three-deckers were never a factor at Harrison Square. This unusual state of affairs is due in part because the neighborhood’s large house lots remained under the control of the heirs of the original mid-19th century home owners until as late as the World War I era. By that time, three-decker construction was on the wane. Miraculously, most of Clam Point’s 1840s and 1850s house lot retain their original or near original square footage.
The subdivision of the parcel containing the Greek Revival residence at 19 Elm Street’s lot at the turn of the century exemplifies an anomaly within the Square’s development history. This drastically-altered Greek Revival-house was part of the early Briggs development. Its origins lie in the real estate speculation activities of John Robinson and Franklin King, who purchased 19 Elm’s undeveloped lot from Robinson in 1844. By the following year the house had been constructed, and King sold it to Charles Emery for $3400. After changing hands several times in the 1860s, the house was once again part of King’s portfolio by 1874. The atlas for that year shows a stable on the site of the three-deckers at 13-15 and 17-19 Elm Street. The main house, now obscured by the later multi-family housing, originally faced a lawn that swept down to Ashland Street. By 1884, Charlotte C. Pope, wife of Alexander Pope of Pope’s Hill, Dorchester, is listed as the owner. By 1894, after decades of Yankee ownership, the building had been purchased by Portuguese builder Francis D. Silva who demolished the old stable and built a three- decker numbered 13-15 Elm Street at the rear of the house. Between 1898 and 1904, contractor John Mulvey built the 17-19 Elm Street three-decker, so that by 1910, Mulvey-built, multi- family buildings numbered 14-16 and 18-20 stood on 19 Ashland Street’s front lawn. Later owners would include Everett and Hazel Tomlinson (1918), Timothy F. Donovan, laborer (19305), and chauffeur George T. Steves (1950s).
During the 1890s and early 1900s, Harrison Square enjoyed a brief interlude as a summer resort. Around 1890 the Francis J. Humphreys House, the largest Harrison Square house ever designed by Briggs, was adapted for reuse as a summer hotel. Humphreys was a descendant of a prominent Dorchester family who lived in Upham’s Corner from 1635, until their “ancient” residence was demolished in 1917. Built in 1868, plans at SPNEA show the Humphreys House at 3 Mill Street as a large, 2 ½-story quoin-edged, cupola-topped Italianate/Mansard mansion. Humphreys also owned the beach at the foot of Mill Street that extended from Otis Shephard’s Wharf near Freeport Street southward to Commercial Point. By 1894, Humphreys’ property embraced a six-building complex called the Ellsmere House. Evidently, the hotel’s owner, Esther Robbins believed that Harrison Square’s lingering reputation as an upscale quarter, together with its easy accessibility to Boston and proximity to the waters of Dorchester Bay would result in a successful business venture. The conversion of Humphrey’s mansion for commercial purposes was a bellwether event in the history of Clam Point/Harrison Square, signaling the beginning of the end of this neighborhood’s status as a fashionable suburban enclave. The Ellsmere House’s 68,000 square foot lot contained two Queen Anne houses, now numbered 7 Mill Street and 26 Everett Street, which may have functioned as satellite guest cottages to the main house. The complex also embraced two former Humphreys’ stables and a long rectangular building called Ellsmere Hall on the Freeport Street side of the property.
Across Freeport Street from Ellsmere House was the l880s Dorchester Yacht Club (demolished). Organized as early as 1866, the Dorchester Yacht Club was the focus of summer social activities enjoyed by Harrison Square families. The DYC moved to its present headquarters at Malibu Beach, south of Savin Hill, during the 1920s when the Old Colony Boulevard’s (later Morrissey) construction blocked the club’s access to the bay. From the late l890s until the early 1910s, a James L. Simonds continued to operate the Ellsmere Hotel’s collection of buildings and structures as a hotel. By 1918, contractor Ambrogio Piotti owned this property, adding the three-deckers at 18-22 Everett Street and 315-317 Freeport Street to the buildings already extant on this parcel.
Still extant next door to the Ellsmere Hotel site to document Harrison Square’s period as a summer resort is the former Russell House Hotel at 14 Everett Street. Like the Ellsmere, the Russell House was housed in a mansion-scale residence on an ample tract of land. Built ca. 1870, from designs provided by Luther Briggs, Jr., 14 Everett Street’s original owner was S. Packard Freeman, owner of the Central Street, Boston cotton brokerage firm of Freeman and Company. By 1894 a George Curtis owned this property and by 1898 he was the proprietor of the Russell House. By 1910 it was owned by Russell’s heirs, and had ceased to function as a hotel. Later owners included members of Harrison Square’s early to mid 20th century Italian-American community, including Arthur and Attilio Ianessa, machinists (1910s and 1920s) and plasterers Adriano Furlani and Louis Tonucci.
Changing Demographics and Pre-Depression Era Expansion of Industry at the Periphery of Harrison Square – Clam Point: 1900-1950
In 1924 longtime resident Alice Burditt cited several factors behind the decline of the Square as an upscale residential community, noting that “To those of us who look back with so much pleasure to those days at Harrison Square it is a saddening thought that we must speak of them as vanished days…. I believe that only one family remains of those who were there in the eighties. After that, change came rapidly. The younger generation married and found homes elsewhere.” Indeed, by the 1920s, automobiles had become more accessible to middle-class families. An expanding network of highways, such as the Old Colony (later Morrissey) Boulevard (1922), at the eastern edge of Harrison Square enabled automobile owners to bypass the area in favor of a commute to suburban towns south of Boston. Local families no longer had as large a financial stake in industry at the edges of the neighborhood; the expansion of industrial facilities during the 1910s and 1920s began to be viewed by long-time residents as urban blight rather than evidence of a healthy economy.
Newcomers to Harrison Square during the 1910s and 1920s included families of Irish, Polish, and Italian ethnic heritage. Many of these new owners and tenants earned their living from jobs requiring hard physical labor. Day laborers, tile setters, plasterers, and painters rented rooms in the old Italianate mansions of Mill, Park, and Everett Streets. In regard to those new inhabitants of her old neighborhood, Miss Burditt observed that “those now living in the old houses have no ties of blood with those who built them. They do not trace their ancestry to the pilgrims of the Mary and John, but to far later pilgrims who sailed from many ports.” So great was the influx of immigrants to the eastern United States during the second decade of the 20th century (before the Federal government imposed the first numerical limits with the Quota Law of 1921), that even Harrison Square, one of the more remote sections of Boston, attracted its share. of European immigrants.
Indeed, Boston Business Directories provide evidence of the dramatic change in demographics that took place in the neighborhood after World War I. Irish, Polish, and especially Italian families settled in the former mansions of mid 19th century merchants and mil1 owners. Beginning ca. 1920, the Mosely-Briggs grid became something of an Italian quarter with Mary C. and James V. Aieta, barber at 9 Park Street, Mary arid George V. Jacobbe, salesman, at 13 Park Street (photo 2), and machinist Arthur Iannessa at 14 Everett Street. Contractor Ambrogio Piotti’s firm built five three-deckers on the old Humphreys estate at Mill and Everett Street during the 1910s, bringing the total number of buildings on this parcel to ten rental properties by 1918. In addition to Piotti, Lorenzo Albree, president of the Freeport Marble and Tile company, lived at 9 Ashland during this period.
Irish families who settled at the Square during the first quarter of the 20th century were of comfortable means; families who had left behind the crowded conditions of the North and West Ends for the suburban charms of Harrison Square. Among the affluent Irish families who settled at the Square were those of Mary E. and Bartholomew J. Crowley, treasurer of a leather company, who purchased the mansion-scale Smith House at 40 Mill Street (photo 3) around 1910. Designer Thomas F. McManus acquired the large Queen Anne house at 29 Mill Street (photo 5), while John J. Murphy, treasurer of the Star Manufacturing Company, purchased the Italianate villa at 23 Park Street around 1900.
In addition to these “rootless” newcomers, Burditt cites the decline in the frequency of commuter rail service to Harrison Square as one of the causes for the Square’s fall from the favor of affluent homeowners, noting that “railroad accommodation declined as trolley services developed.” Judging from evidence set forth in Ronald D. Karr’s The Rail Lines of Southern New England, the Old Colony line remained a viable commuting option for residents as late as the 1950s. Karr states that “as late as 1935 the section between Boston and Braintree saw more than a hundred daily passenger trains…Even after World War II the Old Colony carried large numbers of commuters, but the railroad did not profit from them.” Old Colony passenger service ended on June 30, 1959. In 1965, the New Haven sold the Old Colony right of way between South Boston and South Braintree to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which used it to construct a branch of its existing Dorchester rapid transit line. This new route, part of the MBTA’s Red Line, was opened to Quincy Center in 1971 and to Braintree in 1980. Although the ten-minute walk from Clam Point/Harrison Square to Fields Corner is not prohibitive, it is still far enough away to infer that the introduction of rapid transit to the area should not necessarily be viewed as one of the major reasons for the district’s post-1970 renaissance. While earlier generations of Yankee businessmen depended on the railroad to provide a fast, comfortable, commute to Boston, the Italian and Irish newcomers seem to have been working for local employers, such as the tile works that were located on Dorchester Avenue.
Less clear is the popularity of the electric trolley as a transportation option for commuting for Harrison Square – Clam Point residents. The trolley was introduced to Boston’s outer neighborhoods such as Dorchester around 1890. As ridership soared, most neighborhoods experienced a boom in the construction of three-deckers and other types of multi-family housing. Miraculously, the district was spared the extensive subdivision of large house lots for three- decker construction that occurred in other parts of Dorchester despite the neighborhood’s proximity to the Neponset Avenue trolley line. The reasons for the dearth of three-deckers at Clam Point/Harrison Square may lie in the disinclination of the district’s old families to sell their homesteads during the 1890s and early 1900s and the fact that many other sections of Dorchester were saturated with this type of housing by the time a number of the old mansion house estates were sold in the 1910s.
Harrison Square’s decline as a fashionable residential quarter was also linked, in part, to the expansion of industry at the edges of the residential community. Alice Burditt notes that “the approaches to the Square were spoiled by the encroachments of commercial interests.” In a Dorchester Beacon article of September 8, 1944, Lawrence F. Berry lists some of the commercial concerns which were founded and/or expanded around the turn of the century. Berry notes that “some of these establishments became famous as leaders in their field in this part of the country. Excellence rather than magnitude of their product has brought fame to old Dorchester.” The Sturtevant Mill Company, for example, was begun in Hyde Park in 1883, and moved to Harrison Square a decade later. Engaged in the production of grinding and crushing machinery for mining purposes, this business expanded within the area bounded by Park, Clayton, and Sturtevant streets. During the late 19th century, the well-known Darius Eddy Refrigerator Co. was founded on Gibson and Adams Streets while the Harrison Square Foundry was started in 1912 at 110 Gibson Street; The intersection of Adams and Park streets was occupied by a succession of transportation-related facilities which began as stables during the 1840s and were later replaced by automobile garages during the 1920s and 1930s. At the northeast edge of the residential community, the Healy Seaver Company manufactured dextrine products at 90 Freeport Street. Berry notes that “this concern started here in April 1917 at the old McNeil’s Mill plant that had fashioned all kinds of building finish for many years.”
During the first quarter of the 20th century, Victory Road, at the southern edge of the district became an important transportation corridor leading to industrial developments to the east. During World War I, a wooden bridge complete with trolley tracks and telephone poles was thrust across the waters of Dorchester Bay from Commercial Point to the Victory munitions factory located at Victory Point in the Squantum section of Quincy. Preston Street was renamed Victory Road at the end of World War I, and served as the principal Dorchester approach to the bridge until it was dismantled around 1930.
Just beyond the district’s southern boundary, the Dorchester Pottery Works (NRIND, Boston Local Landmark) was established in 1895 at 101 Victory Road. Founded by George Henderson (1863-1928), this firm produced hand-decorated stoneware of distinctive patterns. Among the company’s products were “mash feeders, chicken feeders, cheese crocks, and the patented Henderson Foot warmer, the forerunner of the rubber hot water bottle.” Direct access to the Old Colony Railroad permitted the pottery works to grow, and in 1910 Henderson obtained a permit to construct a new kiln. At 22 feet in diameter and 10 1/2- feet in height, the kiln became an important landmark in the area as well as a reminder that the balance between a genteel residential community and commercial concerns at its periphery had been tipped in favor of the latter. Just as peripheral industries had infringed upon the quality of life in East Cambridge and the South End after the Civil War, commercial concerns had begun to infringe upon the quality of life at Harrison Square by the turn of the century.
The great Depression caused the Dorchester Pottery Company to suffer, but at the same time sparked a period of considerable creativity. To compete with other pottery companies, George’s widow Ethel Hill Henderson began to decorate her stoneware with motifs of “Old New England.” Stoneware which has become highly collectible. The Pottery continued to operate until 1965, when “the huge custom-built kiln was fired for the last time.” The kiln was replaced by a small, gas-fired, one but the quality of the workmanship was no longer fine, and an arson fire caused the final closing of the Dorchester Pottery Works in 1979.
Post 1950: Harrison Square Becomes Clam Point
Since the 1970s, the Harrison Square neighborhood, re-christened Clam Point, has been rediscovered by new waves of homeowners intent on returning Victorian-era residences to their original glory. The influence of the historic preservation movement, along with the fact that the area’s housing stock is more affordable in comparison to real estate in neighborhoods closer to the city’s core seem to account for Clam Point – Harrison Square’s rejuvenation during the late 20th century.
A grassroots movement to preserve Clam Point’s rich architectural legacy is evident in the appropriate paint colors of 32 Mill Street, the removal of a later main facade addition at 2 Everett Street ca. 1980, and the current efforts to expose original clapboards beneath later stucco surface treatments at 4 Ashland Street. The recent construction of three town houses on the Elisha Loring estate at 21 Mill Street illustrates a “win-win” outcome for developers, community preservationists, and the City of Boston Landmarks Commission staff. Indeed, the impact of new construction on a pristine mid 19th century property has been mitigated by the sensitive and judicious placement of the new buildings on the premises. Situated on the northeastern side of the property, the great lawn remains undeveloped and continues to function as a key visual component within the historic streetscapes at the Mill/Ashland intersection.
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The Clam Point/Harrison Square Historic District is bounded by the back lot lines of numbers 9- 25 Park Street on the north. From 9 Park Street, the boundary extends southeastward, crossing Park Street and continuing along the back lot lines 2-14 Everett Street. At 14 Everett Street the boundary turns eastward, following the back lot lines of the vacant lot numbered 3 Mill Street and jogging southeastward to include the pair of three-deckers at 315-317 Freeport Street. The boundary extends southwestward across Mill Street to the eastern lot line of 4 Mill Street and then runs south, following the back lot lines of 4-26/28 Mill Street. The District’s boundary then turns eastward to include the properties numbered 38-40 Ashland Street. The boundary extends southwestward on a diagonal to include 46 Everdean Street and 65 Ashland Street. Turning southward, the boundary runs along the back lot lines of 3-46 Blanche Street. At Victory Road the boundary turns westward, extending to 112 Victory Road and then follows the front lot lines northward from 84-74 Everdean Street. At 74 Everdean Street, the boundary line jogs across Everdean Street and follows the eastern lot line of 10 Green Hill Street, and the front lot lines of 63-51 Everdean Street. The boundary then jogs west continuing along the southern lot lines of 35 and 39/41 Ashland Street, jogging southward and extending along the back lot lines of 51-63 Everdean Street. The boundary then extends along the northern and western lot line of 6 Green Hill Street, crossing the street and continuing southward along the back lot lines of 42-44 Mill Street. Jogging westward along the southern lot line at 44 Mill Street, the boundary line crosses Mill Street to include 43 Mill Street’s triangular lot, and then follows the path of the MBTA Red Line embankment, extending along the back lot lines of 41-29 Mill Street, the side lot lines of 1 and 2 Elm Street, as well as the back lot lines of 5 to 1 Ashland Street. The boundary turns eastward along 1 Ashland Street’s Park Street edge, extending diagonally across Ashland to follow the back lot lines of 36-42 Park Street. Following the eastern lot line of36-38 Park Street, the boundary crosses Park Street to 25 Park and the starting point for the District.