Leonard Bernstein, 1918-1990

No. 22297 Leonard Bernstein

In his early years (1921-1926, from 3 years old to 8 or 9) Leonard Bernstein, the composer and conductor, lived in Dorchester.  The family then moved to nearby Roxbury, where they lived until 1934 (Leonard was approximately 10 years old to about 16) , when they moved to Newton, MA.

When Leonard Bernstein was born in 1918, the family lived at 24 Juniper Street, Lawrence.  By the time of the 1920 census, they were in Revere, MA.  As of April 1, 1921, they were living at 6 Courtland Road, Dorchester district of Boston (this is considered Mattapan – Mattapan was a village within the town of Dorchester when the town was annexed to the city of Boston in 1870.  Mattapan has statistically become its own entity although depending of the source, it may be still be referred to as Dorchester).

They were still at 6 Courtland Road in 1925, but by April, 1926, they had moved to 206 Woodrow Avenue, quite close by.  We have found no evidence of where they lived in 1927.  In 1928 they lived at 14 Abbotsford Street, Roxbury district, and in 1929 at 55 Brookledge Street, Roxbury (Roxbury was annexed to city of Boston in 1868).  The 1930 Boston List of Residents and the 1930 census both show the family at 25 Schuyler Street, Roxbury district of Boston.  They were still at Schuyler Street in 1931, but in 1932 and 1933 they were living at 8 Pleasanton Street, Roxbury.  Their house in Newton, MA, was constructed in 1934.

All of these addresses are  not far from Mishkin Tefila where Samuel was a new member in 1926.  The Roxbury addresses are closer to Mishkin Tefila than the Mattapan addresses.  There were two other temples located on Woodrow Street, in Mattapan, near to where they lived in 1921 to 1925, so they could have had their choice.


Boston City Directory for 1925 places Samuel J Bernstein at 6 Courtland Road, Dorchester  (from Google street view this is a three-decker (in 1918 atlas the building was owned by M. Drobins and in 1933 atlas by B. Sirota.)



1920 census shows Samuel, Jennie and Leonard at Revere, Massachusetts



Born in Lawrence in Lawrence General Hospital  per Massachusetts Vital Records

residence of parents 24 Juniper Street



this page at New England Historical Society has info but does not cite sources


Samuel Bernstein left his shtetl in the Ukraine and immigrated to New York at 16. He eventually got a job selling hair supplies in Boston, and in 1923 he started his own business. He sold wings to Orthodox Jewish women who were required to keep their hair covered. In 1927 he bought a license to sell the Frederics Permanent Wave machine for curling hair – the only one in New England. His business took off, and the family moved to better neighborhoods near Boston as their fortunes improved.

While Leonard Bernstein was growing up, his most important musical influence came from the synagogue. He was deeply moved by the organ and choir music played during services at Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill. It was the first real music he heard, he said.

By the time Lenny was nine, the family was living in Roxbury.

A relative gave them a battered old piano, and Lenny became obsessed with it. He took piano lessons from a neighbor, who soon said he needed more advanced instruction. His father didn’t want to pay the $3 a week for piano lessons at the New England Conservatory of Music.


Boston List of Residents – available at Boston Public Library, www.bpl.org

select Research Services, then Research Guides, then Boston Lists of Residents

(there is a gap in the online digital lists of Boston residents from 1911 to 1921 inclusive)

Boston list of residents 1922 Ward 21, precinct 2, page 18   (note that the paging begins over for every precinct)

(daggers indicate females)


reported residence the prior April 1st, i.e., April 1, 1921    Revere


Boston list of residents as of April 1, 1922 Ward 23, precinct 2, page 9


reported residence April 1, 1922 – at this address


Boston list of residents as of April 1, 1924, ward 21, precinct 2, pages 8-9


Samuel is now a manufacturer


Boston list of residents as of April 1, 1925, ward 14, p. 151



Boston list of residents as of April 1, 1926, ward 14, precinct 13


now living at 206 Woodrow Avenue   (this is not far from Courtland and would be considered Mattapan)


Boston list of residents 1928, ward 12, precinct 12

14 Abbotsford Street


note that the building permit for 55 Brookledge Street is dated March 10, 1928.  The permit is for a brick tenement building for 14 families.

so the Bernstein family could not have lived here prior to the end of end 1928 at the earliest


Boston list of residents 1929

not available on line


1930 census

25 Schuyler Street  (This is still in Boston but historically in Roxbury and very close to temple Mishkin Tefila.)


1930 Boston list of residents as of April 1, 1930, ward 12, precinct 15, 25 Schuyler Street


Boston list of residents 1931 Ward 12, precinct 15, 25 Schuyler Street


Boston list of residents 1932, ward 12, precinct 14,

8 Pleasanton Street, formerly lived at 25 Schuyler


Boston list of residents 1933, ward 12, precinct 14, still at 8 Pleasanton Street


1940 US Census

the family was living at 86 Park Avenue, Newton, MA

Samuel, Jennie, Leonard, Shirley, Burton


online it says that the family moved to a newly-built house in Newton.  The property tax assessment record online in the town of Newton shows the house at 86 Park Avenue was built in 1934



Posted on

June 19, 2022

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