Humphreys / East Cottage Street

Humphreys / East Cottage Street

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

The Humphreys /East Cottage Street area is characterized by one of the most diverse collections of residences of any section in Dorchester in terms of form and style, reflecting a long time frame of development. The area is loosely bounded by the Upham’s Corner commercial district (Dudley Street) on the southwest, the New York and Hartford Railroad tracks on the west, East Cottage Street on the north, and Columbia Road from Edward Everett Square to Uphams Corner on the east.(for more specific boundaries see attached map). Historic resources in this area include a much- altered Federal style house at # 4 Wendover Street through Greek Revival houses at 29 Humphreys Street (important focal point opposite northern end of Gene Street, standing with encircling verandah and broad pedimented gable facing Humphreys Street) and 121 East Cottage Street , a cross-shaped Italianate house with entrance on cast side, gable end to street, exhibiting polygonal bay and return eaves; Its windows exhibit formal, cornice headed lintels. Italianate and Italianate/ Mansard houses tend to be concentrated on Humphreys Place as well as in a small node at the intersection of Hamlet and Belden Streets.(22, 24, 26/28, 30/32 Belden Street). Particularly noteworthy is the row of red brick Mansard / Panel Brick houses at 654-664 Columbia Road. This group of five attached row houses exhibits flat entrance bays and polygonal bays. The front doors are set within narrow segmental arches, narrow panels of billet work bricks appear between the first and second floor windows and this group culminates in pleasing corbelled cornices and a roof with a bell cast mansard profile. Each unit exhibits both single and tripartite dormers with pyramidal roof caps above the end dormers.

These buildings provide a heightened sense of boundary on the east side of this area, “walling off” land to the north that slopes down from Columbia Road to low lands. Queen Anne housing is scattered throughout this area including modestly scaled wood frame houses forming an interesting streetscape along Eastman Street (#’s 21 to 35 and 22 to 34), through well -designed wood frame examples at the bend in Wendover Street, including #31 ( vibrant color scheme, recessed porch set within Turkish style arch at attic level ), the highly plastic massing of #39 (also note well turned, typically Queen Anne porch elements and “skin” of intact clapboards and octagonal shingles) and the towered (with pyramidal roof cap) 3-family at #35 Wendover Street. Another noteworthy Queen Anne residence in this area (despite vinyl siding) is 131 East Cottage Street (Medieval Revival qualities including overhangs, attic gable treatment and corbelled chimney).Multi – family Queen Anne residential structures of note include the twin-towered brick apartment at 76 and 78 Belden Street and the progression of Queen Anne/Colonial Revival three deckers (currently in poor condition but with rehab potential) at 10,12,14,16,18, 20 Eastman Street.

Situated at #11 Humphreys Street, nearly opposite Elder street is a brick light- industrial structure owned for many years by the well – known (in museum circles) fabric cleaning company, L.F. Daloz and Company. This complex of two L-shaped masonry buildings merits further research.

Historical Narrative

The Humphreys /East Cottage Streets area is of primary interest as a residential section on the northeastern edge of Upham’s Corner long associated with the influential Humphreys family .It has the distinction of having had the appearance of a relatively densely settled neighborhood as early as 1830. By that time Humphreys Street was extant as a lane linking Dudley (then Stoughton Street) with East Cottage Street. The not always reliable 1830 map seems to indicate that by that early date as many as a half dozen houses were situated in this section By 1850, the sweeping, elongated U-shaped curve of Humphrey’s Street was clearly in place and bordered by seven houses, all on the north side of the street. Three houses bordered Fast Cottage while two houses were set back at a fair distance from Fast Cottage, seven houses bordered Boston Street, now Columbia Road and four houses bordered the east side of what is now Dudley Street for a total of 23 houses in this area.Humphreys, Beals, Grooms, Holdens, Fosters, Clapps and Birds are among the legible names (when the names are listed at all) on the 1850 map.The principle landmark in the area for many years was the Humphreys House (demolished) at thenorthwestern corner of Dudley and Humphreys Street. According to the Dorchester Book, Illustrated of 1899 I various authors) “The Humphrey’s house has been in the possession of the family since 1634. Though the house has been greatly enlarged and improved, a part of the first building is said to be enclosed within its walls. This house is one of the best known in town, and is in a fine state of preservation, and is still occupied by one of the Humphreys.” The Humphreys were local gentry who intermarried with the Uphams and were active in community life, particularly in the affairs of the First Church. After the Civil War, Richard C. Humphreys was among those who raised money for the soldiers’ monument on Meeting House Hill.Although the old Humphreys house is gone, the family name lives on at Humphrey’s Place, an interesting cul de sac off of the north side of Humphreys Street near Dudley Street.

Dexter Humphreys lived at 1,3 Humphreys P1. by 1874. He is listed in local directories as an employee of the J.H. Upham’s Co., a grocery store at Uphams Corner. Dexter Humphreys was related to Amos Upham (1788-1879) by his 1800 marriage to Abigail Humphreys, daughter of Deacon James and Elizabeth Capen Humphreys. Upham opened a dry goods store at Upham’s Corner in 1804. Richard C. Humphreys, active in the Pickwick Club of Dorchester, a charitable organization, lived at 15 Humphreys Place during the late 19th century.

The aforementioned Humphreys’ houses were built just after the Civil War and while they provide a tangible link with an “ancient Dorchester family they are by no means the earliest houses in this area. 4 Wendover Street, (behind # 742 Dudley Street) appears to represent all or part of a brick Federal style house that may be one of the four unlabeled houses shown on the 1850 Dorchester Map-further research is needed here. 29 Humphreys Street was built c.1840-1850 for Thomas Beals. He was a music printer at 277 Washington Street and was a descendant of Israel and Seth Beals who served in the Revolutionary War. Seth Beals was among the 102 Dorchester men who enlisted in Captain Lemuel Clap’s Company. Beals occupied this venerable homestead until c.1900, after which it was owned by an Olive E. Mathews until c.1920, and by 1933 was owned by Clinton B. Mathews, carpenter, who may well have appreciated its full blown Greek Revival architecture, accounting for why it is in relatively good shape at the present time. 121 East Cottage Street, corner of Humphreys is a Greek Revival/Italianate house which appears on the 1850 map of Dorchester and may have been the home of the Dorchester Historical Society’s first librarian, Edward Holden. It was owned by Ebenezer Holden by 1874. In 1869, the Holden house was valued at $7,000 with a stable worth $500.00. Perhaps of all the historic properties in this area 121 East Cottage retains the most intact landscape features with granite gate posts and mature trees. Holden heirs owned this house until at least 1910. Real estate developer Henry D. Holden built 131, 133 and 135 East Cottage Street in the late 19th century on the former Holden farm land which during the late 1860’s encompassed over 13, 500 square feet. By 1884,the farm was sub- divided up into three large tracts which stretched from 121 East Cottage to the Sumner tract at Columbia Road. The south side of Humphreys Street was evidently slow to develop because of the presence of an open stream which more or less followed the curve of Humphreys Street. 32 Humphreys Street, on the south side of this street, is a well detailed and preserved Italianate house that was extant by 1874 and owned by Andersons (1870s), Beals (1880s), Jennings (1890s-at least the early 1930s). James F. Jennings, its owner for many years was a “finisher”. This house was one of half a dozen Italianate houses built along Humphreys Street and the western part of Belden Street (actually Italianate/Mansard cottages along Belden) that were evidently built in response to the introduction of the New York and New England Railroad through the area after the Civil War (see 6,8,10, 12 Belden Street, all extant by 1874.) The large ItalianateMansard house at 632 Columbia Road (then called Boston Street), corner of Hamlet Street was built by 1869 for farmer Hiram Clapp whose property encompassed almost 15,000 square feet of land along with a house and barn.

Until c. 1890, the south -east corner of this area was owned by Martha Sumner and Caroline A. Sumner. Eastman Street with its fourteen single family Queen Anne houses was developed by the Sumner family c.1890 as middle-class tract housing. (21 to 35 and 22 to 34 Eastman Street).

The Thomas Groom estate encompassed a large tract of land on both sides of Humphreys Steet (118,175 sq. ft.). Groom Street , on the north side of Humphreys Street started out as the driveway to the large Groom Mansion which had an elaborate system of paths through its gardens. Wendover Street was set out c.1890.The east side was part of the Groom holdings while the west side belonged to the Humphreys. It was originally called Iona Street.

The Queen Anne #39 Wendover Street, on the Groom’s side was built c. 1900 and owned by H.W. Marsh who was the manager of a drapery department at 744 Washington Street. Another noteworthy Queen Anne on Wendover is located at #31 Wendover (Humphreys side) and was built c. early 1890’s. It was owned by a family named Merrill until c.1920 and by 1933 was occuppied by a James Fitzpatrick and an Oscar L Short, deputy sherriff.

The single instance of row housing in this area was built at 354 to 364 Columbia Road (6 houses). They were built on part of the Samuel B. Pierce holdings. They were built at some point between 1885-1893 and owners in 1894 included : E.R. Fowls (#354), J.A. Fowls (#356), the heirs of C. J. Savward (#358), the H.S. Chase heirs (#360), William Currier Heirs (#362) and R.B. William, Trustee.

The boxy, Craftsman/Colonial Revival 2-family houses at 8 to 20 and 9 tol9 Gene Street represent the most recent housing in this area , erected between 1910 and 1918.

The highly irregular boundaries of this district speak to the fact that over the past twenty years or so. This area has suffered a decline in terms of housing being lost to fire and neglect (i.e. East Cottage/Columbia Road corner) as well as drastic alterations. These boundaries have been drawn to highlight relatively intact properties which reflect the evolution of an area once in the possession of a handful of families. The farm land and vacant real estate of Humphreys, Holdens , Grooms, Sumners, Claps and Pierces was gradually subdivided into house lots between 1870 and 1915.


Posted on

June 13, 2022

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