The following is from the National Register form proposed October, 2018. At that time the form was not fully approved, so there may be changes.
The Intervale Street Historic District is located in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. The district extends approximately700 feet along the eastern end of Intervale Street where it intersects with Columbia Road. Intervale Street is a residential side street that runs east-west from Warren Street in Roxbury, across Blue Hill Avenue to Columbia Road in Dorchester. The street slopes down considerably at its eastern end from Magnolia Street to Columbia Road. The district is composed of nine brick apartment buildings constructed in the Colonial Revival style between 1911 and 1925. The buildings all rise three stories over raised basements to flat roofs and feature distinctive Colonial Revival characteristics such as accentuated cast stone entrances with classical details and wide galvanized iron cornices. Each building has multiple addresses appearing as a line of row houses with narrow alleys between buildings. The district is surrounded by a generous amount of green space. Much of the north side of Intervale Street across from the district is occupied by a large city park known as Ceylon Park and a play area associated with the King School. The Fredericks Middle School Playground abuts the district to the west and south. The developed parcels directly across from the district at its western end consist of new construction and a heavily-altered triple-decker that dates to the district’s development. A number of the buildings in the district suffer from deferred maintenance and are in need of repair. However, limited investment in these properties has resulted in minimal loss of historic fabric and the district retains a high degree of historic integrity.
Thomas G. White Apartments: 282-284 Columbia Road (BOS.16721, Photo 12)
This 9-unit apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1911 and is located at the southwest corner of Intervale Street and Columbia Road. The building faces east onto Columbia Road. The building is set slightly back on its lot. A stone retaining wall abuts the sidewalk. Between the retaining wall and the building, a small tree and untended shrubs and grasses grow. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of red brick with granite foundation and first floor sill course. The building is accented with cast stone lintels, sills, and door surround, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with dentils and decorative modillions. The cornice begins at the lintel level of the third floor windows. A wide, metal-covered parapet extends above the cornice. The bow-fronted façade is organized into fourteen bays with two rounded bays that hold three windows each located two bays in from each of the ends of the building. Paired entrances are centrally located between the bowed bays. These entrances reached by a long flight of concrete steps. The simple, rectangular entrances are adorned with cast stone quoins and molded arches above the doors. The entries holds non-historic glass doors. Centrally located between the entries on the second and third floors are rectangular, recessed cast stone decorative panels. Windows on the first and second floors are adorned with flat stone sills and lintels. Windows associated with 284 Columbia Road address were replaced with 1/1 double-hung metal sash in 1972 and 1989. Original wood sash windows remain on the portion of the façade associated with the 282 Columbia Road address. The first story windows hold 6/1 double-hung wood sash with a three light transom; the second and third story windows hold 6/1 double-hung wood sash.
The north elevation is a secondary façade. Decorative treatment in the form of the cornice and sill courses carry over from the main elevation. This elevation holds three fenestrated bays, simply adorned with flat cast stone lintels, and displays its granite foundation.
Thomas G. White Apartments: 286-288 Columbia Road (BOS.16722, Photo 13)
This 9-unit apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1911 and is located at the northwest corner of Intervale Street and Columbia Road. The building faces east onto Columbia Road. The building is set slightly back on it’s lot with a stone retaining wall that abuts the sidewalk. Between the retaining wall and the building, trees and small ground plants form the landscaping. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of red brick with granite foundation and first floor sill course. The building is accented with stone lintels, sills, and door surround, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with dentils and decorative modillions. The cornice begins at the lintel level of the third floor windows, and is missing from the northernmost rounded bay. A wide brick parapet with a metal cap extends above the cornice. The bow-fronted façade is organized into fourteen bays with two rounded bays that hold three windows each located two bays in from each of the ends of the building. Paired entrances are centrally located between the bowed bays. These entrances reached by a long flight of concrete steps. The simple, rectangular entrances are adorned with cast stone quoins and molded arches above the doors. The entries holds non-historic glass doors. Windows on the first and second floors are adorned with flat stone sills and lintels. There is a basement-level entrance in the northernmost bay which has a green awning and non-historic glass door. The building is regularly fenestrated. Current windows hold 1/1 metal sash.
The south elevation is a secondary façade. Decorative treatment in the form of the cornice and sill courses carry over from the main elevation. This elevation holds three fenestrated bays, simply adorned with flat cast stone lintels, and displays its granite foundation.
David Yarchin Apartments: 117-121 Intervale Street (BOS.16715, Photos 1, 2 & 16)
The 9-unit tan brick apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1915 and faces north onto Intervale Street. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of tan brick with cast stone lintels, sills, second story sill course and door surrounds, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with brackets and decorative modillions. It sits on a stone foundation. The façade is organized into fifteen bays; the end bays and the sixth, seventh, and eighth bays from the east are canted. The canted bays feature a window in each of their three faces. On the first story, the flat middle bays hold entrances reached by flights of three concrete steps. The building has three entrances; the entrance to 117 Intervale Street is located between the canted middle and western end bays. Entrances to 119 and 121 Intervale sStreet are paired and located between the canted middle and eastern end bays. All of the entrances are identical, adorned with cast stone segmental arches with keystones and Doric pilasters supporting a cast stone frieze. Keystones are either worn or missing at all entrances. The entries hold non-historic metal and glass doors. The building is regularly fenestrated. Window lintels become simpler each story: the first story features hooded lintels with corbels, the second story hooded lintels are not corbeled, and the third story displays flat lintels. Decorative brickwork enlivens the façade between floors and around windows. Second story windows are flanked by raised brick stretcher courses, panels of checkered header brickwork are located between the second and third story windows, and stringcourses of angled bricks run between the second and third floor windows and between the third floor windows and cornice. Windows were replaced in 2002 when the building underwent a renovation. Current windows hold 1/1 metal sash.
Solomon Dvilnsky Apartments: 123-127 Intervale Street (BOS.16716, Photo 3 & 16)
The 9-unit tan brick apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1915 and faces north onto Intervale Street. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of tan brick with cast stone lintels, sills, second story beltcourse and door surrounds, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with dentils and decorative modillions. It sits on a stone foundation. The façade is organized into fifteen bays; the end bays and the sixth, seventh, and eighth bays from the east are canted. The canted bays feature a window in each of their three faces. On the first story, the flat middle bays hold entrances reached by flights of four concrete steps. The building has three entrances. The entrance to 123 Intervale Street sits between the canted middle and western end bays. Entrances to 125 and 127 Intervale street are paired. Entrances are identical and are adorned with cast stone fluted Doric pilasters supporting cast stone friezes with corbeled cast stone cornices surmounted by cast stone, corbeled, rectangular frieze panels. The entries hold non-historic doors. Lintels vary by story: the first story features hooded lintels with corbels, the second story hooded lintels are without corbels, and the third story displays capped keystone lintels. Rectangular recessed panels of herringbone brickwork are located between the second and third story windows. Windows in 123 Intervale Street were boarded up beginning in 1995. Current windows on 125 and 127 Intervale Street hold 1/1 metal sash.
Solomon Dvilnsky Apartments: 129-135 Intervale Street (BOS.16717, Photos 4, 5 & 16)
This 12-unit tan brick apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style by 1915 and faces north onto Intervale Street. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of tan brick with cast stone basement lintel course, second-story sill course, lintels, sills, and door surrounds, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with decorative modillions. It is set on a stone foundation. The façade is organized into eighteen bays with canted bays located at either end and in the center of the building. The canted end bays hold one window in each of their three faces. The centrally-located canted bay stretches two bays across and holds paired windows in each flat bay and single windows in each of its canted faces. On the first story, the flat middle bays hold paired entrances reached by a flight of three concrete steps. The building has four entrances. Entrances are adorned with identical cast stone surrounds comprised of fluted Doric pilasters supporting friezes with corbeled cornices surmounted by corbeled, rectangular frieze panels. The entries hold non-historic glass and metal doors. The building is regularly fenestrated. Narrow, double windows flank the entrances. Lintels vary at each story: the first story windows feature hooded lintels with corbels, the second story hooded lintels are without corbels, and the third story windows display capped splayed lintels with keystones. Current windows hold 1/1 metal sash. In 2015 the building was renovated using historic tax credits. Alterations were aimed at addressing issues of deferred maintenance and included the repair and repointing of brickwork, and repair of concrete stairs slabs, and curbs on the exterior. Interior work was limited to replacing drywall and rotted wood, repairing flooring, and replacing non-historic kitchen and bathroom fixtures. All work met the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
Solomon Dvilnsky Apartments: 137-143 Intervale Street (BOS.16718, Photo 6 & 14)
This 12-unit tan brick apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1915 and faces north onto Intervale Street. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of tan brick with cast stone basement lintel course, second floor sill course, lintels, sills, and door surrounds, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with decorative modillions. Because Intervale Street slopes down to the east, the raised basement is more prominent on the eastern side of the building. Basement windows infilled with glass block are located in the easternmost bays. The façade is organized into eighteen bays with canted bays located at either end and in the center of the building. The canted end bays hold one window in each of their three faces. The centrally-located canted bay stretches two bays across and holds paired windows in each flat bay and single windows in each of its canted faces. The four bays between the canted end and central bays hold paired entrances reached by flights of concrete steps. The four entrances are adorned with identical cast stone surrounds comprised of fluted Doric pilasters supporting friezes with corbeled cornices surmounted by corbeled, rectangular frieze panels. The entries hold non-historic glass and metal doors. The building is regularly fenestrated. Lintels vary at each story: the first story windows feature hooded lintels with corbels, the second story hooded lintels are without corbels, and the third story windows display capped splayed lintels with keystones. Current windows hold 1/1 metal sash.
Louis Glazer Apartments: 145-159 Intervale Street (BOS.16719, Photo 7, 8, 9 & 15)
This 15-unit apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1925 and faces north onto Intervale Street. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of tan brick. The façade is accented with cast stone molded basement belt course, keystones, sills, and door surrounds, with a molded cornice and brick parapet. The façade is organized into fifteen bays grouped in sets of three with the center bay of each set projecting slightly. The projecting bays feature tripartite windows on each story. The flanking bays hold paired windows. The building has five entrances each reached by a flight of concrete steps. Although varying in condition, each entrance is adorned with cast stone surround. Fluted Ionic pilasters support an entablature with shield motifs. Finials above the cornice flank a broken scroll with a circle at the center. Entries hold non-historic doors. The building is regularly fenestrated. Many of the basement windows have been infilled with brick or plywood. Windows feature cast stone sills and brick soldier course splayed lintels with cast stone keystones and endstones Current windows hold 1/1 metal sash. Some of the lintels and parapet were replaced in 2003.
R.A. Gazzam Trust Apartments: 161 Intervale Street (BOS.16723, Photo 10)
The 6-Family apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1914 and faces north onto Intervale Street. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of red brick with cast stone lintels, sills, second and third story sill courses and door surround, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with decorative modillions. Other decorative features include cast stone diamond panels located between stories. The basement is more prominent in the eastern bays due to the slope of Intervale Street to the east. The façade is organized into six bays with a canted center bay that holds one window in each face of the bay. The western-most bay holds the entrance reached by a concrete step that is angled into the hill. The entrance is adorned with a classical cast stone surround. Corinthian pilasters flank a key-stoned arch and support a shallow, pedimented entablature. The entry holds a non-historic wood and glass door with glass fanlight. The building is regularly fenestrated. Window lintels become simpler each story: the first story features hooded lintels, the second story lintels are splayed with endstones and keystones, and the third story features flat lintels. Current windows hold 1/1 metal sash.
R.A. Gazzam Trust Apartments: 164 Intervale Street (BOS.16723, Photo 11)
The 6-Family apartment building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style in 1914 and faces south onto Intervale Street. The building rises three stories over a raised basement to a flat roof and is constructed of red brick with cast stone lintels, sills, first, second, and third story sill courses and door surround, with a galvanized iron ogee-profiled cornice with decorative modillions. Other decorative features include cast stone diamond panels located between stories. The façade is organized into four bays with the eastern two bays encompassed in a rounded bow-front. The western-most bay holds the main entrance which is reached by a concrete step that is angled because of the slope of Intervale Street. The entrance is adorned with a classical cast stone surround which features a shallow triangular pediment supported by Corinthian pilasters and arch with a keystone. The entry holds a non-historic door with a transom light above it. The building is regularly fenestrated. The first story windows feature hooded lintels, the second story windows display splayed lintels with keystones and endstones, and the third story windows are minimally adorned with flat lintels. Concrete quoins run from the ground to the cornice line. Current windows hold 1/1 metal sash.
Statement of Significance Summary
The Intervale Street Historic District consists of a collection of nine residential apartment buildings constructed between the years 1911 and 1925 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Together they represent a cohesive collection of buildings that were developed and occupied primarily by Jewish immigrants during a period of great migration of this population into Roxbury and Dorchester from Boston’s downtown neighborhoods. For its association with the residential development of Dorchester and a vibrant Jewish immigrant community from the 19teens through the 1950s, the district meets criterion A in the area of Community Planning and Development. All of the buildings in the district were designed in the Colonial Revival style, an architectural aesthetic at the height of its popularity during the district’s period of development. The adoption of this national style of architecture reflected the widespread proliferation of a fashionable architectural aesthetic and may also reflect a hopeful enthusiasm by an immigrant community for the values of freedom and opportunity embodied in the architecture of the American colonies. The district is therefore additionally significant under criterion C in the area of Architecture asa well-preserved collection of Colonial Revival apartment buildings that represent assimilation and the aspirations of Dorchester’s Jewish immigrant communityThe period of significance for the district begins with the construction of the first apartment buildings in 1911 andbecause of its continuous use extends to 1967, the fifty-year age requirement for listing on the National Register.
The Development of Dorchester and the Intervale Street Historic District
The Intervale Street Historic District is located in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. Dorchester was founded by English settlers in 1630 and remained an independent town until 1870 when it was annexed to the City of Boston. Dorchester began as a rural farming community with a network of roads connecting outlying farms and small villages that were located at the crossroads of these local highways. Industry was centered on the lower Neponset River in southern Dorchester which was home to various mills. Dorchester remained largely rural, characterized by farms and country estates, until the mid-nineteenth century when the Boston & Providence and Old Colony Railway lines were introduced to the neighborhood in 1835 and 1844, respectively. The Boston & Providence line (later the Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad, the New York and New England Railroad, and the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad until 1968, now part of the MBTA’s commuter rail system) ran through the western portion of Dorchester while the Old Colony Railway line ran through the neighborhood’s eastern villages. These rail lines made Boston accessible to Dorchester commuters and initiated the transformation of the rural town into an early suburb for wealthy Bostonians. Large, single-family homes in proximity to rail station stops were constructed on established streets like Columbia Road (known until 1897 as Columbia Street), while smaller house lots were developed close to the stations.
As the nineteenth century progressed, Dorchester transitioned from a wealthy suburb to an increasingly dense, economically diverse streetcar suburb. Additional modes of public transportation were introduced to Dorchester along major thoroughfares like Columbia Road and Blue Hill Avenue; these included horse cars in the 1870s and electric streetcars in the 1890s. The electric streetcars along Columbia Road were part of a larger project that included the widening and extension of the road, an undertaking that dramatically increased the rate of development along the thoroughfare and its side streets. The formerly modest local road was widened to 110 feet and extended so that it connected Franklin Park to Dorchester Bay. Franklin Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted during the 1880s, is the largest park in a string of Olmstead-designed landscapes and parkways known as Boston’s Emerald Necklace. The Boston Globe reported on the Columbia Road project enthusiastically, claiming the improved new road would “complete the magnificent chain of parkways which now encircles the city…it will be a magnificent boulevard, and over the greater portion of it the electric cars will run.”Another article speculated that the redesigned road would become one of the most significant in the neighborhood: “This improvement will prove a notable one, from the fact the street is used as much as any in Dorchester, and is now destined to be one of the prominent thoroughfares in this part of the city.” The work on Columbia Road was the largest and most expensive undertaking in Dorchester up to that time with total land damages for takings associated with widening the street alone exceeding $500,000.
The introduction of electric streetcars along the new boulevard served as the first affordable mass public transportation to Columbia Road. Railroad fare was significantly higher than the price of a ride on a streetcar, thus the introduction of electric streetcars to Columbia Road and elsewhere made their environs accessible to those who previously could not afford a suburban commute.
As Dorchester became increasingly accessible, speculative developers seized the opportunity for investmentby purchasing large parcels from wealthy land owners and subdividing them for residential development. With the expansion of inexpensive mass transportation, Dorchester absorbed middle and working-class families, many of them immigrants, beginning in the late nineteenth century. The first quarter of the twentieth century saw a boom in multi-family residential development in Dorchester with apartment houses, two-family houses, and triple-deckers lining major thoroughfares and side streets alike. By the end of the 1920s, much of Dorchester was densely developed, and home to vibrant communities of varying ethnicities, most notably Irish and Russian and Eastern European immigrants.
Thesebroad patternsof Dorchester’s development are reflected in the development of the Intervale Street Historic District. Intervale Street is a side street that extends a half a mile from Warren Street in Roxbury across Blue Hill Avenue to Columbia Road in Dorchester. The street was laid out in three stages in 1892, 1908, and 1914 moving from west to east. The majority of the land through which Intervale Street would be laid was owned by two major landowners: Aaron Warner Spencer and Edward McKechnie, whose ownership dates back to the 1870s (Figure 1). The Spencer property comprised approximately 13 acres and the McKechnie property, approximately10 acres.
In the 1870s, this part of Dorchester fit the mold of an enclave for wealthy, enterprising Bostonians who arrived in Dorchester after the introduction of the railroad.Spencer built a sprawling home with a long driveway from Columbia Road sometime between 1850 and 1874.He was a well-known Boston banker who worked at 31 State Street and divided his residence between the Hotel Berkley in Boston’s Back Bay and his large home on Columbia Road.Nearby neighbors like Alonzo Hamilton, Lyman F. Rhoads, and Richard Baker Jr. were of the same wealthy class of Boston businessmen. Hamilton was a dry goods merchant, a named partner with the firm Hamilton, Richardson & Whitney; Rhoads was a leather merchantwith Day, Wilcox, & Co.; Baker was a well-known Boston merchant at the helm of William F. Weld & Co. Unlike these men, McKechnie did not reside on his large property, but lived further up the road on Hancock Street near its intersection with Columbia Road. McKechnie, a native of Maine, was a carpenter by trade, and a real estate developer in practice. He owned land in several locations in Dorchester, on which he constructed houses. McKechnie acquired the property adjacent to Spencer’s after 1869.
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries brought change to the area around the Spencer and McKechnie properties. The two large properties remained undivided in 1894 but suburban development was gaining traction around them along nearby Lawrence, Magnolia and Greenheys streets. Devon, Brunswick, and Intervale streets, extending east from Blue Hill Avenue to the western boundaries of the Spencer and McKechnie parcels, were subdivided and poised for development. (Figure 2) A survey of the Spencer and McKechnie properties in 1893 for the purpose of laying out streetsprovides insight into the qualities of these parcels at the time, and the reason they remained unaltered:
The Spencer estate is under a high state of cultivation, with beautiful gardens and lawns, while the adjacent McKechnie property comprises, on the other hand, and in striking comparison, rugged places, heavily wooded, where troops of gray squirrels are safer from molestation than they would be in the forests of Maine. It is sufficiently diversified to make surveying difficult and tedious. In the plotting of it, it did not seem necessary to provide for any new thoroughfares, because Geneva Avenue and Columbia street (widened) furnish adequate facilities.
A harbinger of neighborhood change came in 1894 when the first Jewish temple in Roxburyopened on Intervale Street near its intersection with Blue Hill Avenue. Agudas Achem, also known as the Intervale Street synagogue, waslocated at 32 Intervale Street. The wealthy enclave of the mid and late nineteenth century had been a Protestant community. The introduction of the synagogue shifted the neighborhood demographics making it a desirable location for Jewish immigrants, who were increasingly able to move into Dorchester and Roxbury with the advent of electric streetcars along Blue Hill Avenue and Columbia Road. The small synagogue was replaced in 1906 by a large new synagogue, congregation Adath Jeshurun, on Blue Hill Avenue just a block from its intersection with Intervale Street (BOS.11136, NR 1999). Significantly, the founders of the new synagogue were all in the real estate business. Of this cultural and professional relationship, historians of Jewish settlement in Boston have observed: “The construction of the new synagogue, while expressing sincere religious sentiments, would also reflect their interest in property development and the affluence that had started to come their way.” Apartment buildings sprung up near the new synagogue almost immediately, much to the consternation of residents who protested that the apartment buildings were not in keeping with the exclusive air of the single-family homes that had been erected nearby a decade earlier. Of the dispute, the Boston Post reported: “It is claimed that Hebrew people desire to cluster in that neighborhood, because their new synagogue practically adjoins that property.” The new synagogue was unquestionably connected to the subsequent development of the surrounding area. Intervale Street was extended to Normandy Street in 1908, and one of the synagogue’s founders, Myer Dana, was involved in a large real estate transaction along the new stretch shortly thereafter.
Jewish migration into Dorchester and Roxbury began in the late nineteenth century and continued unabated through the 1920s. The majority of these immigrants arrived from Russia fleeing state-sanctioned repression of Jewish faith and culture under the Russian Tsar in the late 1880s and early 1900s. Though the first wave of Jewish immigrants arrived in Boston in the 1840s and settled in the lower South End, a majority of Boston’s Jewish immigrants arrived in the 1880s and 1890s and settled in the North End. The West End gradually absorbed this population between 1895 and 1905 and remained the largest Jewish district in Boston until about 1910.Typically, these immigrants arrived as skilled tradesmen. Many found employment in Boston’s textile and shoe industries, often beginning as peddlers and accumulating enough capital to open their own small businesses. Beginning the 1890s and continuing through 1917, many of the Jewish immigrants who had become successful in their trades began moving to less dense areas of the city like Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, which were just beginning to blossom into attractive streetcar suburbs.
With the rising number of Jewish immigrants living in Boston in the late nineteenth century came the demand for Jewish-specific businesses and institutions. These businesses were prevalent in the North and West Ends, and migrated to Blue Hill Avenue as the Jewish population moved into Dorchester and Roxbury in large numbers after the turn of the twentieth century. These included kosher butcher shops, bakeries, grocery stores and fruit shops. As the Intervale Street synagogue and the Adath Jeshurun synagogue attest, religious institutions also migrated into Dorchester and Roxbury in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Adath Jeshurun congregation became one of four major synagogues serving the Jewish population of Dorchester and Roxbury; many smaller congregations were spread throughout these neighborhoods as well. Synagogues were more than just religious institutions, they were places that solidified business relationships within the community and thus served as important centers for the developing neighborhoods of Roxbury and Dorchester.
With the influx of Jewish business along Blue Hill Avenue following the construction of the new synagogue, residential development was beginning to encroach on the boundaries of the Spencer tractby 1910. Given the neighborhood’s proximity to the synagogue, it is not surprising that Bromley Atlases reveal a large number of property owners with Jewish surnames. (Figure 3) An account of the sale of two new brick apartment buildings at 74 and 76 Intervale Street in 1911 reveals the attraction of the neighborhood to Jewish residents: “The property is located not far from the largest Synagogue Orthodox Congregation on the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Brunswick Street, and the district is occupied mainly by orthodox Hebrews.”
Though paper streets are depicted through the Spencer property as early as 1898, Intervale Street was not extended to Columbia Road until 1914, following the introduction of sewer lines to that portion of the street in that year. Changes to the tract were underway prior to 1914, however. The Spencer property had been purchased by Pierce J. Grace by 1910. Grace was a lawyer and real estate developer who lived nearby on Crawford Street in Roxbury.He declared bankruptcy in 1911,and began selling portions of the former Spencer property, spurring development ofthe tract.(Not long after, the Pierce family sold their Crawford Street estate and it became the site first of a Jewish hospital and later a synagogue for the Congregation Beth Hamidrash Hagodol, which is no longer extant).The first buildings constructed in the district were erectedat this time. Thomas G. White, a local builder, about whom little has been uncovered, purchased land at the eastern end of the Spencer tract where it abutted Columbia Roadfrom Pierce J. Grace in 1911. With Jeremiah C. Spillane, White constructedthe Thomas G. White Apartments (BOS.16721, BOS.16722) at 282-284 and 286-288 Columbia Road.These apartment buildings originally contained six residential units each. Units contained six rooms, a bathroom, and offered steam heat, continuous hot water, and janitor service.Spillane was a real estate developer living in Dorchester with offices on Huntington Avenue at the turn of the 20th century. He was active in the real estate business from about 1899-1913. He constructed many two-family houses and triple-deckers in the Francis Street-Fernwood Road Historic District (BOS.ACA, NR 2016).
The next major wave of development in the district occurred between 1914 and 1915, following the extension of Intervale Street to Columbia Road. At this time, six new apartment buildings were constructed along Intervale Street. The owners, developers, and architects of these buildings were all of Jewish heritage. TheR.A. Gazzam Trust Apartments (BOS.16720 and BOS.167223) were constructed at 161 and 164 Intervale Street in 1914. Robert A. Gazzam, a trustee of the Gazzam Real Estate Trust located at 72 Pinckney Street, was the owner. Gazzam was a first generation American born to Russian parents. He was a druggist in the 1920s and 1930s, with a pharmacy on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan. No other real estate transactions involving the Gazzam Real Estate Trust were uncovered. These buildings contained six units each and were designed by the Silverman Engineering Company in 1914. Morris J. Rudnick, who lived at 128 Intervale Street, was the builder.Rudnick, a contractor, was born in Russia and emigrated in 1909. David Silverman, founding partner of the Silverman Engineering Company, was also part of Boston’s Jewish community. He was a first generation American born to Russian Jewish immigrants.The Silverman Engineering Company, later known as Silverman, Brown & Heenan and eventually Silverman & Brown, designed many apartment buildings in Boston neighborhoods includingthe North and West Ends, Beacon Hill, Dorchester and Roxbury, as well as in the Fenway, Brighton and the neighboring communities of Brookline and Cambridge from about 1910 through the 1920s.The Silverman Engineering Company also designed the David Yarchin ApartmentsBOS.16715) at 117-121 Intervale Street. David Yarchin, owner and builder, was a carpenter residing at 126 Intervale Street. He immigrated to New York from Russia in 1906. He was also the developer of three triple-deckers, no longer extant, directly across the street.
The three other apartment buildings developed in the district during 1915 were the Solomon Dvlinsky Apartments (BOS.16716, BOS.16717, BOS. 16718), at 123-127, 129-135, and 137-143 Intervale Street. Solomon Dvlinsky was the owner and builder of all three buildings, though Samuel Levy was the architect responsible for the design of 123-127 Intervale Street. Dvlinsky was a carpenter, living at 236 Magnolia Street when the buildings were being constructed.He was born in Russia and emigrated to the United States in 1897. Samuel Levy was a registered architect who was extremely active in Chelsea where he filed permits for at least thirty projects between 1911 and 1916.He was born in Russia and emigrated with his parents to New York in 1889.In addition to his long list of buildings in Chelsea, Levy worked on a handful of stand-alone projects in East Boston, Brighton, and Brookline between 1912 and 1915.During World War I, Levy worked as an architect for the Hood Rubber Company in Watertown which was expanding their facilities as part of the war effort. After the war, Levy produced a commercial building in Watertown, and three single-family houses of different styles on Verndale Street in Brookline before turning his architectural practice back to brick apartment house construction. From 1924 until 1929, Levy produced at least twenty-one apartment buildings in Dorchester, Roxbury, Brookline, Jamaica Plain, and Newton.In 1928,Levy designed the Congregation Ezrath Israel Synagogue in Malden which is no longer extant. There are no records of commissions after 1929. He lived in a two-family home on Warren Street until his death in 1936.
The new buildings in the Intervale Street district attracted Jewish investors and residents. By 1918 two properties in the district had changed hands: the David Yarchin Apartments and the Thomas G. White Apartments. (Figure 4) Solomon Tarmy purchased the David Yarchin Apartments. Tarmy was a wool cloth manufacturer employed by the Boston Wool Stock Company in Chelsea. Hewas born in Russia, emigrated to New York in 1907, and lived briefly in Dorchester and Everett before settling in Chelsea.The Abraham Shapira Trust purchased the Thomas G. White Apartments. Shapira was also a manufacturer born in Russia. He emmigrated to New York in 1900. In 1915 and 1920 he lived nearby on Crawford Street in Roxbury. The residents of the district in 1920 were first and second generation immigrant families mainly from Russia, but also from England, Hungary, and Poland. With the exception of one family, the Schwall family who owned and resided in the David Yarchin Apartments by 1920, the residents of the buildings were all renters. Most of the family heads were paid workers rather than employers, mainly in clothing and shoe-related businesses, working as furriers, milliners, tailors, petticoat factory workers,and clothing cutters. Some residents were small business owners. These residents owned acigar shop, barber shop, and bowling alley. There were also laborers and salesmen: carpenters, plumbers, chauffeurs, sheet metal workers, insurance agents, and department store salesmen. One resident of the Thomas G. White apartments ran his business out of his apartment advertising in The Boston Globe in 1915: “Furs repaired, remodled, and exchanged. New furs and fur coats at reduced proces, convince yourself before buying elsewhere, monthly chage accounts accepted, L.B. Schiller, 288 Columbia Road.” This vibrant Jewish community was bolstered by Jewish services along Intervale Street. A Hebrew School was completed at 35 Intervale Street in 1916, and a Jewish welfare center opened at 6 Intervale Street in 1918.
The first World War halted new construction in the district until 1925 when the Louis Glazer Apartments (BOS.16719) at 145-59 Intervale Street were erected. The land on which 15-unit apartment building was constructed was owned by R. Elmer Townsend in 1918. Townsend was a well-known real estate broker active during the late nineteeth century into the 1920s, with real estate holdings in Roxbury, West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury. His office was located at 27 State Street in Boston. He also owned three-and-a-half acres on the northern side of Intervale Street, what is now Ceylon Park, and several lots on side streets off of Intervale Street. Louis Glazer was the owner and developer of the new apartment building, working with architect, Max M. Kalman. Glazer was a house carpenter living in Chelsea. He was born in Russia and emigrated to the United States in 1905. Kalman was born in Russia, emigrating to the United States in 1885. He was both an architect and an attorney. Kalman was active in the architectural profession during the first quarter of the twentieth century with projects in Boston, Chelsea, and Brookline. During the 1910s he was a partner in the Tremont Street archietctural firm of Minor and Kalman. He constructed numerous multi-family buildings on the North Slope of Beacon Hill as well as in Allston and Brighton, some of which he worked in a partnership with the Silverman Engineering Company. He also designed the Vilna Shul synagogue at 14-18 Philips Street (BOS.13014, NR District 1966).
The vibrant immigrant Jewish community established in Dorchester and Roxburyin the early decades of the twentieth century continued to expand and thrive in the second quarter of the twentieth century. In 1920 approximately 44,000 Jews were living in Dorchester and Upper Roxbury.As the Intervale Street District reflects, the Jewish immigrants moving into Dorchester and Roxbury in the 19 teens and 1920s were typically working class. At this time, many of the more affluent Jewish early settlers of Dorchester and Roxbury began to move to Boston’s outlying suburbs of Brookline and Newton. However, the working class Jewish population of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan continued to thrive in the second quarter of the twentieth century, increasing their numbers to 77,000 by the early 1930s. This upward trend held through the 1940s.
The Intervale Street historic districtreflects this broad pattern of migration and settlement.The neighborhood continued to attract Jewish property owners and working-class residentsin the 1930s. At this time, property owners Annette Benson, Mollie and Joseph Goldenberg, Maurice Skalsky, Joseph Weinberg, and Marion Levy, sister of architect Samuel Levy, were all Jewish. (Figure 5) The majority of residents in the 1930s emigrated in the twentieth century, some as late as the 19 teens and 20s, and the dominant native language in the district was still Yiddish. These new families emigrated from Russia, Poland, and Holland, as well as Austria, Hungary, Latvia, and Portugal. Like the residents of the 1920s, those who lived in the district in the 1930s and 1940s continued to be employed in many of the same working class tradesserving in the clothing and shoe-related industries as well as in sales and as laborers. By the 1940s, many family heads were first generation Americans.
By the mid-twentieth century, the demographics of Dorchester and Roxbury were changing. African-Americans were moving into these neighborhoods in increasingly large numbers beginning in the 1950s, and the Jewish population of Dorchester and Roxbury was beginning to follow their predecessors into Brookline and Newton. In 1950, about 70,000 Jews resided in the neighborhood.In 1955, however, the large synagogues began moving out of Roxbury and Dorchester and into Brookline and Newton, creating a stronger attraction to the suburbs. Between 1950 and 1960, the Jewish population of Dorchester shrank from 70,000 to 47,000. The leadership and membership of Congregation Adath Jeshurun was part of this exodus. The synagogue was sold to the Mt. Calvary Pentacostal Church in 1967. The trend of closing synagogues and migrating congregants continued over the next decade: in 1970 there were 16,000 Jewish residents of Dorchester, and by the end of the decade only several hundred remained. City directories reveal that a gradual migration of Jewish residents out of the Intervale Street Historic District occurred between 1955, when many residents listed have traditionally Jewish surnames, and 1965 when just one resident with a Jewish surname remained.
The Colonial Revival Movement and the Intervale Street Historic District
The dominant architectural vocabulary of the Intervale Street Historic District is the Colonial Revival. This style was immensely popular in the United States from the late nineteenth through the mid twentieth century. The period of development of the Intervale Street Historic district occurred during the height of the popularity of the Colonial Revival style. While early interest in the colonial past was triggered by the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago cemented the enthusiasm for reviving its relics in the minds of the nation. The occasion marked the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America, and presented visitors with innumerable opportunities to experience the colonial past. Colonial architecture was on exhibit in many of the state buildings erected at the fair; their decorative interiors, commemorative displays, and historical exhibitions flooded the fair grounds. Massachusetts recreated the John Hancock House, built on Beacon Hill in 1737 and demolished in 1863. This Colonial celebration coincided with mass immigration to the United States from Europe in the 1880s and 1890s which fueled a desire to underscore and impart American values. Reviving elements of the Colonial past was reassuring at a time of great change.
Colonial Revival architecture began as loose interpretations of colonial period buildings, but took a more serious turn in the early twentieth century when publications like The American Architect and Building News began publishing measured drawings of colonial buildings and the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs printed photographs of colonial precedents. The single-most defining characteristic that was reproduced in the revival movement is an emphasis on the door surround of the main entrance, which often features pilasters or slender columns supporting a pediment or entablature as seen in the Georgian-style, or a fanlight above the door as seen in the Federal-style. Other characteristic elements of the revival style include elaborate cornices, symmetrical fenestration arrangement, light colored brick, bay windows, multi-pane double-hung sash windows commonly featured in pairs, and in urban examples, bowed fronts, which allowed for increased light to reach apartments in buildings erected on deep, narrow lots.
The apartment buildings in the Intervale Street Historic District share many of the stylistic characteristics of the Colonial Revival.All of the building facades in the district are organized symmetrically with decorative emphasis on door and window surrounds as well as cornice lines. The R.A. Gazzam Trust Apartments are especially ornate examples of the Colonial Revival in the district with double-height, cast stone door surrounds that incorporate classical pilasters, cornices, and pediments. Colonial Revival embellishment of the façade includes cast stone quoining, lintel courses, inset diamond and rectangular panels, and corbeled lintels, as well as a wide, galvanized iron cornice with modillions. The bow-fronted facades also reflect the Colonial Revival aesthetic. The wide cornices of the Thomas G. White Apartments with denticulated friezes and modillions are particularly nice examples of Colonial Revival detailing in the district. The David Yarchin, and Solomon Dvlinsky Apartmentsall employ buff colored brick, bow-fronted facades, classically-detailed entries and wide galvanized iron cornices with brackets, friezeboards, and modillions. Though constructed a decade later than most of the buildings in the district, the Louis Glazer Apartmentsemploy Colonial Revival elements as well. Buff-colored brick with cast stone detailing echoes the apartment buildings to the west, entrances are emphasized with double-height cast stone surrounds that incorporate side lights and transoms, and windows are grouped in pairs and trios.
Given that the developers of the Intervale Street Historic District were primarily immigrants, it may seem incongruous that these men would look to an architectural vocabulary that celebrated a colonial past and American values. Their use of the Colonial Revival may have been motivated by several factors. Firstly, the Colonial Revival would have been an architectural vocabulary that was familiar to them. Apartment buildings and commercial buildings along Blue Hill Avenue, especially between Intervale Street and the congregation Adath Jeshurunsynagogue, employed Colonial Revival forms and details, as did apartment buildings along Columbia Road. A second explanation for the developer’s promotion of the Colonial Revival style in their buildings may be that the district’s developers were businessmen with an interest in constructing marketable properties. Their buildings were typically quickly sold to third parties interested in long-term real estate investment. Operating within a favored architectural vocabulary guaranteed speedy sales. An American architectural vocabulary would have been appealing to future residents as well, regardless of their heritage. The Jewish immigrants who resided in these buildings may have considered the stylistic presentation of the buildings as a welcome means of embracing their adopted country.
Summary of Activity in the Intervale Street Historic District post-1967
The years following the gradual exodus of the Jewish community from the Intervale StreetHistoric District were a transitional period for the district. The demographics of the neighborhood shifted from a predominantly Jewish community to a mixed community largely comprised of African American and Hispanic residents, which continues to reflect the population today.Beginning in the 1960s, deferred maintenance and limited investment resulted in some buildings in the districtbeing cited by Boston’s Inspectional Services Department as being in an unsafe and dangerous condition. Citations for unsecured vacant buildings and vandalism continued through the 1980s and 1990s and into the 2000s.
The Solomon Dvlinsky Apartments at 129-135 Intervale Street have been undergoing ongoing rehabilitation for use as affordable housing since the 1980s. In 2015, the building underwent a renovation for continued use as affordable housing using historic tax credits. Work was focused on addressing issues of deferred maintenance on the interior and exterior of the building including the repointing and repair of masonry, repair of concrete stairs, slabs and curbs, repair of existing drywall, rotted wood, and wood flooring. All work met the Secretary of Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.