Pleasant Street North
From the Boston Landmarks Commission
In many ways, the Pleasant Street North area is the most representative of all the study areas in terms of housing built in Dorchester/ Mattapan over three centuries. Ranging from the Blake House of 1650 through Federal farm houses, Greek Revival residences, Italianate dwellings, Mansard houses, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival mansions to late 19th/early 20th century 3-deckers, the story of Dorchester’s architectural development overtime is encompassed within this area. For the purposes of this survey, this area is bounded by Dorchester Avenue on the east (the boundary line mostly confined to the west side of the street, although a fewarchitecturally significant properties on the east side of the street have been included). The northern boundary takes in East Cottage Street, Pond Street, and Richardson Park. The western boundary begins at Sumner Street and East Cottage, turning south and taking in Sumner Terrace, continuing along the south side of 29 Sumner Street, turning south along the back lot lines of Dawes Street and extending south along Bakersfield Street, jogging west to encompass Stoughton Terrace and then south to Stoughton Street. The southern boundary follows Stoughton Street from Bakersfield to Pleasant, crosses Pleasant along the south lot line of 54 Pleasant Street, jogs around commercial infill at Thornley and Pleasant and continues along the south side of Thornley to Dorchester Avenue. This area is situated on the level land once known as Allen’s Plain.This area is more or less bisected by Pleasant Street which poseses housing representing a long developmental time frame from the 1840s
Architectural Description-Pleasant Street North
At the northwest corner of this area is Richardson Park which, since 1895, has been home to the James Blake House. Built c.1650, the Blake House is the oldest house within the city limits of Boston and is a great “study house” for students of First Period architecture. Owned by the Dorchester Historical Society, this wood shingle clad, 5-bay x 1-bay , gable roofed house’s current appearance dates to a mid- 1890s restoration by Dr. Clarence Blake and Dorchester architect Charles Hodgson. The interior restoration of the Blake House was completed in 1910 and included “stripping, staining, and polishing of exposed oak framing; the replacement of most of the structure’s sills and the bottoms of the posts with new oak which was stained and chamfered to match the original timbers”.
Pleasant Street North’s side streets are generally bordered with housing representative of a particular architectural style or form. For example, Pearl Street possesses a fine collection of Greek Revival residences; the southern end of Dawes Street is built up with modestly scaled Italianate housing; Thornley Street provides a glimpse of mostly modestly- scaled mid- 19th- century dwellings with intact examples of the Italinate and Italianate mansard styles, while examples of the Queen Anne style are represented in a significant way along the side streets off Pleasant, particularly along Willis, Mayfield and Howes streets. The Colonial Revival is mixed in with Queen Anne houses along the aforementioned streets. Three-deckers are also well represented in this area and tend to be built along the entire length of streets such as Dawes, Chase, Taft and Trescott Streets. In a sense the best way to get a sense of the full sweep of Dorchester architecture from English settlement to electric trolley commuter-related housing is to look north along the 3-decker lined Dawes Street to the distinctive First Period form of the Blake House in its park setting.
The boundary lines of this district have been drawn to encompass the Federal Style house at #978 Dorchester Avenue. Presently serving as the Dorchester Baptist Church, this L-shaped structure (5-bay, double pile main block with center entry) is situated on a granite block basement and is enclosed by a low hip roof . Sheathed in wood shingles, this building’s proportions speak to the hand made, rather than machine made, nature of its construction.
The Greek Revival Style is concentrated primarily on Pearl Street, with interesting examples at #’s 20,24, 32,33 37 and 40 Pearl Street. One of the more intact examples of a side hall plan Greek Revival house stands at #32 Pearl Street. This house’s 3-bay main facade features tall windows which open on to a full length front porch with Tuscan columns. This house is enclosed by a pedimented gable.This house’s edges are accented by wide corner, frieze and side boards. Across the street at #’s 33 and 37 Pearl Street is a 3-bay x 2-bay Greek Revival house with unusually broad, paneled Doric pilasters (width of pilasters speaks to the influence of the British Regency style). At the center of the second floor, main facade is a Queen Anne octagonal bay addition. Still extant at #10 Pleasant Street is a relatively substantial, very intact, side hall plan Greek Revival house with a full length Tuscan columned porch, entrance with side lights and transom intact, flush boarding at the main facade and a pedimented gable with pedimented dormers on the Howes Street facade.
The Carpenter Gothic is represented by the T-shaped house at #10 Thornley Street. Standing with a deep set back from the street this house has been altered by the installation of modern siding but retains original barge boards.
The Italianate style in the Pleasant Street North Area is most memorably represented by the mansion-scale residence at # 19 Sumner Street. Possessing proportions and overall large scale similar to the Mill Street/ Clam Point Area houses of similar vintage, this c. 1850s house is sitiuated on a low rise on an ample, tree shaded lot.. This house is composed of a 3-bay x 2-bay main block with a deep rear ell ; the ell exhibits a side porch which retains its fluted Ionic columns, flanked by octagonal bays. Its windows are fully enframed and exhibit cornice headed lintels.All that remains of the original cupola is its octagonal base.
Italianate housing of a much smaller scale is located along Dawes Street (at Willis Street). Here, at 19,23,27 Dawes Street, a small node of cross-shaped Italianate dwellings stand with bracketed 2.5 story gable ends to the street, their main entrances opening on to side porches on their north walls.
The Italianate/Mansard style is scattered about this area with a substantial, stucco -covered double house of this mode at 210/220 Cottage Street adjacent to Richardson Park. Several noteworthy examples of the Italianate/Mansard style line Thornley Street, at the southern end of this area. Good examples include 7 Thornley Street , with its high style surface treatments, including corner quoins, fully enframed cornice headed windows and dentillated cornice. This house is enclosed by a bell- cast mansard roof. This house is also of interest for its extensive wood and brick rear ell and cobble-stone covered driveway. Other Thornley Street Italianate/Mansards of note include 10 and 29 Thornley Street.
Before considering the Queen Anne style, it should be noted that the boundary lines of this district have been drawn to jog eastward across Dorchester Avenue (the boundary line primarily adheres to the west side of the Avenue) to include the large L-shaped Italianate house (now a funeral home) with long, three-bay side facing the street at 10201 Dorchester Avenue, the compact Queen Anne with appropriate paint colors and highly plastic surfaces alive with bays and oriels at 5 Romsey Street, corner of Dorchester Avenue 6/8 Romsey Street which is a charming double mansard house chararacterized by an L-shaped form, paired entrances and a heavy mansard roof.
The Stick Style is generally incorporated with the Queen Anne. By far, the most stylish and substantial Stick/Queen Anne hybrid in the area is 30 Pleasant Street, corner of Mayfield Street. Here, facade treatments include an overlay of vertical and horizontal boards, clapboards and scalloped shingles. This house is also of note for the very high craftsmanship level evident in the turnings of its encircling verandah. The main facade features an attic gable with a small oriel window. Tall, very English Queen Anne chimneys with deep, arched brick work panels, rise from the roof’s intersecting gables. Summer Street, near East Cottage Street, is something of a repository for ornate Stick houses with full blown examples at 18 and 22 Summer Street.
The Queen Anne style is the most widely represented architectural style in this area. On street after street, this style, with its asymmetrical massing, encircling verandahs and in some cases towered components add considerable interest to the Streets such as Howes, Mayfield, Willis and Hinckley possess well crafted collections of Queen Anne’s dating from the 1880s-early 1900s. 24 Mayfield Street is a robust example of a towered Queen Anne house with well formed and detailed front porch (short, squat Tuscan columns support segmental arches, porch entablature exhibits delicate swag and ribbon detailing in raised plaster relief). Across the street at 25 Mayfield Street is a towered , verandah encircled, asymmetrically massed but much less ornate house which is currently painted a vibrant shade of red.
Willis Street is primarily lined with Queen Anne 2-family housing characterized by broad street facing gables with deep scroll bracketed eaves and Palladian attic windows (19,21,23 Willis Street).
Serving as a “gateway” structure to the Queen Anne housing of Willis Street is 11 Pleasant Street which combines highly plastic Queen Anne form (including unusual double dormer with paired Ionic columns and pyramidal roof cap) with Colonial Revival elements. Although one block away from each other, 14 Hinckley Street and 76 Mayfield
Its 3-bay main facade features a center pavilion with heavy scrolled door hood, original multi panel front door set within a well molded segmental arch, a pair of tall arched windows at the second level surrounded by unusual, incised diamond shaped pattern . The front door is reached via a flight of granite steps. Its main entrance is
Although not built as a private residence, the old Dorchester Club at #52 Pleasant , corner of Pearl Street, presents the appearance of an enormous Queen Anne, mansion-scale residence with highly irregular massing, front porch with graceful arches rising from squat, paneled Doric pilasters and a once open ,now enclosed, side porch with broad segmental headed arches.Towered segments project from the Pearl/Pleasant Streets corner and from the Pleasant street facade. The Pleasant Street wall exhibits a well crafted, very medieval -appearing brick chimney with recessed arched panel, plaque bearing the date “1892” and angled corbelling. This club started out in “rooms at Fields Corner” and in 1892 moved into #52 Pleasant which upon completion “contained handsome parlors, reading rooms, billiard rooms and banquet halls, four spacious bowling alleys and a fine concert hall”. For many years this has been (and still is ?) a Knights of Columbus lodge.
In the Pleasant Street North Area, the Colonial Revival style rarely appears in “pure” form and generally appears as isolated elements in concert with Queen Anne form and elements. The noteworthy exception to this rule is the robust Georgian Revival mansion at 38 Pearl Street with its handsome center pavilion composed of paired Ionic columns and deep pedimented gable which i$ edged with brackets and enframes a Palladian attic window. Also noteworthy are the fan and side light enframents of the center entrance and the handsome swans neck scroll lintels of the firsts floor windows. Enclosed by a hip roof with slate shingles mostly intact, this house exhibits well delineated dormers with swans neck scroll pediments.
The Pleasant Street North Area possesses one of the finest collections of three- decker housing in Dorchester. It is probably fair to say that three-deckers with broad, robust and circular corner towered segments is one of the predominant triple decker types in this area and is well represented along Chase Street (7-19 and 8-22 Chase Street) in the north central part of this area.
The Pleasant Street North area is of enormous historical significance within the annals of Dorchester history as one of the areas of first settlement in the 1630s.This area has strong ties with the developement of Dorchester’s first town center; development still evident in the street patterns of the area and the presence of the 1650 Blake House, which although not on its original site, provides a physical link with this distant, seminal time in the history of Dorchester. Secondly, this area’s historical significance lies in its ability to chronicle virtually every phase of Dorchester’s historic architectural development from the mid- 17th- century to 1930. This area was also home to important 17th century Dorchester personages, including Rev. Richard Mather and Roger Williams, founder of Providence R.I.
The Pleasant Street North area is located in the flat area between Jones Hill on the southwest and Savin Hill on the southeast. It was at nearby Savin Hill that the first landing of the company of Englishmen from the Mary and John landed on June 1,1630. Pleasant Street has been in existence since the 1640s and was originally called “Green Lane.” The first meeting house stood on a small island of land on Allen’s Plain, delineated by Pleasant, Pond and Cottage streets. The thatched structure was enlarged in 1634 by a window-lit loft. The meeting house was rebuilt in 1645 and was moved to Rocky Hill (Meeting House Hill) in approximately 1673.By the mid-late 18th century, the Pleasant Street north area was called Allen’s Plain after William Allen whose house on Pleasant Street was destroyed in 1784.The James Blake House was built c. 1650. It is the oldest house within the boundaries of the City of Boston. According to Orcutt” James Blake was a prominent man in the affairs of the town, holding some public office every year from 1658-1685. He was a selectman for thirteen years; and also served as rater, constable, deputy to the General Court, clerk of the writs, recorder, and sergeant in the military company.
James Blake was deacon of the Church for fourteen years, and was ruling elder for the same length of time. He died on June 28,1700. The Blake House remained in the family until 1825. It was moved to its present location in Richardson Park in 1895 at which time it came under the ownership of the Dorchester Historical Society.
In 1804, the Dorchester Turnpike was set out through this area from Lower Mills at the Neponset River to West Fourth Street in South Boston and ultimately linked up with the Dover Street (Berkeley St.) bridge to Boston.The turnpike was said to cost more than had been originally estimated and the charging of expensive tolls caused many travelers to bypass Dorchester in favor of a Roxbury to Boston route. Nevertheless, considerable money was made from the turnpike polls and it was only with the coming of the Old Colony R.R. through the area in 1844 and the corporation losing a costly turnpike -related accident law suit in 1852 that the turnpike faltered, failed, and was finally opened as a free public way in 1844.It was first called Dorchester Avenue in 1854-55 and then was called Federal Street until 1870 when the name reverted back to Dorchester Avenue. The only survivor from the early turnpike days is the hip roofed Federal house at 978 Dorchester Avenue. Built c. 1805-1810, it was evidently built for Joshua Gardner who owned extensive land holdings in the vicinity of Pleasant Street judging by the Norfolk deeds grantee index listings for Gardner. In 1835, George Newhall of Dorchester, merchant paid Gardner $3,500.00 for this house. Newhall lived here until his death c. 1880. Newall’s heirs owned this house until as late as 1920. By the Depression era, May G. Lyons owned this property.
One measure of this area’s growth during the second quarter of the 19rth century was the construction of Stoughton Hall (demolished) c. 1830. This school building stood at the intersection of Pleasant, Pond and Cottage Streets. Evidently administrated as a private academy, the astronomer George Bond received his early education at Stoughton Hall. Dorchester dignitaries such as William Bond, Dr. Benjamin Cushing and Zebedee Cook also studied at this school. Stoughton Hall also served as a community lecture hall where talks by noteworthy scholars such as Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Lucius M. Sargent were presented to the residents of northern Dorchester. Stoughton Hall as a community amenity in this area obviously speaks to the presence of an educated, affluent citizenry.
#10 Pleasant Street (corner of Howard) is a handsome, full blown Greek Revival house that may appear on the 1850 Dorchester Map-deed work is recommended here for a house that probably dates to the mid 1840’s.The earliest readily accessible deed reference to this house appears in a Norfolk County deed dated April 10, 1855. At that time, Richard Uran of Dorchester sold “a certain lot of land with the buildings thereon” to John B. S. Jackson of Boston for $6, 198.00. Reference is made to the fact that Richard Uran purchased this “estate” from Peleg Sprague on November 13, 1824. (Norfolk Deeds Vol. 75, p.13). 10 Pleasant Street’s appearance, however, suggests a construction date of the 1840s rather than 1820s. For many years it was owned by Dr. J.B. S. Jackson and his heirs. Prior to 1885, this house had a much larger lot that extended northward to East Cottage Street. Between 1894-98, this house acquired a larger rear elland a rectangular stable at the rear of its lot. In 1898, Howard Street was a cul de sac off the west side of Dorchester Avenue and was not extended all the way to Pleasant Street until c.1905. Later owners
Pearl Street has the largest number of extant pre -1850 houses in this area. #10 Pearl Street #32 Pearl Street was owned from at least 1869 until c.1895 by a John Ferris. Later owners included Ida M. Waizinger, Catherine A. Griffin and Mary McManus. The Greek Revival house at 37 Pearl Street was moved to this lot in 1892 to accommodate the construction of the Dorchester Club. Built c. 1840-50, it was for many years the residence of John P. May who was the treasurer of the Dorchester Club at the time of its constuction.The May family owned this house until c. 1920. By 1933, Lillian Payton lived here. 10 Pearl Street is a Carpenter Gothic cottage that was built c. 1850. Overtime, it was owned by the Norton (1860s and 70s), Riley (1880s), Gillen (late 1890s) and Corcorans (1900s to 1930s).
The 1850 Map of Dorchester shows the Pleasant Street North area as relatively densely settled. At that time there were no side streets in the large rectangular area bounded by Dorchester Avenue, Pearl Street (which is actually the first side street in this area), Pleasant Street and East Cottage Street. The ancient oval area bounded by Pond and East Cottage Streets that contained the first meeting house is clearly shown. Additionally, Summer Street is shown running between Stoughton and Fast Cottage Streets. Seven houses bordered Pearl Street, ten houses are shown bordering Summer Street, four houses were spread out along Pleasant Street and one house was located on the island created by East Cottage and Pond Streets. Pond Street was named for a long ago filled in pond that was located near Richardson Park.
By 1850, the Pleasant Street North became host to a gentleman’s estate, in addition to the landholdings of middle class farmers. 19 Sumner Street is a mansion -scale Italianate residence located a few yards south of East Cottage Street. Sumner Street started out as a driveway to this residence and Sumner Terrace represents the path that originally lead to a carriage house. For many years this was the home of Nathaniel Tucker, Dorchester gentleman and descendant of Edward Tucker who enlisted in Captain Lemuel Clap’s militia company during the Revolutionary War.By 1884, Mary E. Rhoads owned this house. By 1898, Isaac H. Feinberg owned this property. This house remained under Feinberg ownership until c. 1925 when it passed to Antonio La Greca, barber.
During the mid to late 19th century, the section of Pleasant Street North bounded by Fast Cottage, Pleasant, Stoughton and Bakersfield Street was part of the Captain Ezra H. Baker farm. Between 1870 and 1900, developers chipped away at this 520, 511 square foot tract, gradually buying parcels from Baker and his heirs, setting out house lot bordered cul de sacs which eventually became “through ” streets such as Willis, Mayfield, Hinckley and Trescott Streets.
The modest Italianate residences at 19, 23 and 27 Dawes Street represet a fairly typical development pattern for a discrete enclave of tract houses in Dorchester during the mid to late 19th century. Dawes Street starts out as a cul de sac off East Cottage Street simply called “Court” on the 1874 Atlas. Three vacant lots are outlined and labeled Martin M. Rogers. By 1884, these houses are standing and owned by an F.O. Nash. Dawes Street remained a cul de sac called Turpin Court.The Turpin farm was located on the east side of Dawes Street where three-decker houses stand today. During the 1890s and early 1900s these houses are owned by Mary E. Rhoades, owner of the Italianate mansion at 19 Sumner Street. By 1910 these houses were owner-Occupied with Benson B. Banker at 19, Mary Koe at 23 and Jonathan A. Hickey at 27.
Between 1885 and 1893, Willis Street was set out over Baker farm land. Housing development was slow with 23 and 27 Willis Street built as late as c. 1905. By 1910 , Rose S. Havey, teacher at the John Marshall School owned 23 Willis Street while James H. Frenck owned 27 Willis Street.
The substantial Queen Anne at 11 Pleasant Street, corner of Willis Street provides a fine introduction to the Willis Street development which seems to have been conducted by the Baker Farm Associates (more research needed on this group).This house’s land cost $8,000.00. 11 Pleasant Street was built as a two-family house in 1898 for a Mrs. A. O’Rourke from designs provided by architect T. Edwin Sheehan.
Trescott Street represents the very last piece of the Captain Ezra Baker to be developed. As late as 1910, the Baker farm house was still extant at the south east corner of Trescott and Bakersfield Streets. As early as 1894, the Baker Farm Associates included Trescott Street in a 60- house lot plan for the old farmstead. The first house on Trescott Street, other than the Baker Farm House was 15 Trescott Street. By 1912,Patrick 0′ Hearn, architect/builder and resident of 126 Melville Avenue had built 6 Trescott street and by 1918 all of the three-deckers on this street were extant and owned primarily by an S.F. Kelly ; sadly, the Baker farm house, after a half century of withstanding the intensive real estate development pressures of north Dorchester was no longer standing. 6-26 Trescott Street and 16-36 Stoughton Street, (directly behind the Trescott ‘s three-deckers) form an exceptionally well-rendered node of housing of this type. These three-deckers are of interest primarily for their porch railing treatments which feature angled and slat-work baluster treatments on three floors.
Turning to the development of the east side of Pleasant Street, it should be noted that the land bounded by East Cottage, Dorchester Avenue, Thornley Street and Pleasant Street was controlled by several rather than a single family which has resulted in a longer time frame of development and a more stylistically diverse collection of buildings.
Mayfield Street was set out between 1874 and 1884 partly over the estate of James T. Howe. 24 Mayfield Street, one of the most ornate towered Queen Anne houses in northern Dorchester was built in 1894 for David A. Fowler from designs provided by William H. Besarick, architect of the Roger Clapp School on Harvest Street, Dorchester in 1896.
Victoria Street was set out over William L. Austen’s land c. 1890. In 1884 it is shown as a cul de sac extending eastward to about half its present length. The William Austen House is shown on the site of 38 Pleasant Street with a semi circular drive feeding into Pleasant Street and extensive grounds to the east and south. During the 1890s the Austen House was transformed into one of the most grand and ornate Colonial Revival houses ever built in Dorchester. 38 Pleasant Street was remodeled for Austen’s heirs and remained under their ownership until c. 1910 when it became the “Burnap Free Home For Aged Women”. From the early 1900s until at least the 1930s, an Annie E. Burke lived here.
Pleasant Street North’s status as a stronghold for old families like the Mays, Newhalls, Bakers etc. is underlined by the relocation of the upscale Dorchester Club from rented rooms at Field’s Corner to an enormous Queen Anne clubhouse still standing at 54 Pearl Street that was completed in 1892. Described at the time of its completion as “very attractive, and within it is all that can be desired for beauty and utility. In the large and handsome parlors, reading-rooms, billiard rooms and banquet halls, together with four spacious bowling alleys and the fine concert hall, the members find every facillity for enjoyment.” Women had access to the second floor parlors and the “ladies bowling alley”. The membership is said to have risen from 200 to 250 of “the best people in Dorchester” shortly after this clubhouse’s completion. By the World War I era, the Dorchester Club had sold this building to the Knights of Columbus; this clubhouse appears to be vacant at the present time.
Taft Street was developed exclusively with three-deckers at the turn-of -the century. The introduction of the electric trolley through this area during the early 1890s triggered the final wave of house construction in this area.Several Streets are comprised entirely or almost entirely of three-deckers including Dawes and Chase Streets. 5-30 and 7-33 Taft Street constitutes a collection of three-deckers whose importance is greater than the sum of their parts. Many of these buildings have sustained alterations to fabric via vinyl siding but it is the streetscapes along Taft that are memorable. Here, closely spaced three-deckers with porches fronted by monumental columns are closely spaced, forming rhythmic repetitions of columns, porch railings, octagonal bays and well -molded cornices. The monotony of this repetition of features is relieved by the gentle bend in Taft Street near its intersection with Pleasant Street.
In 1897, the northern edge of this district was radically transformed from a section of spacious estates owned by the Richardson and Andrews families to a densely built- up area of three-deckers bordering the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Columbia Road Parkway. Stretching from Franklin Park to Pleasure Bay in South Boston, Columbia Road opened the Pleasant Street North area to further residential development. Richardson Park was apparently a by-product of the landscaping involved in setting out the new parkway.
The 1650 James Blake House was moved to Richardson Park in 1895. Richardson Park, is a more or less triangular green space that occupies the western part of the historic “island ” bounded by Fast Cottage, Columbia Road, Pond Street and the side lot lines of housing fronting on to Pond and East Cottage. It was at the eastern end of this block that the first and second meeting houses stood during the 17th century. The1650 Blake House was moved here in 1895 from a lot bordering Columbia Road, just before the old North Burying Ground. Richardson Park was created at the turn -of- the- century to show case the Blake House and serves to provide a fine foreground for the William E. Russell School (see St. Margaret’s/Boston Street area) . A key component in Richardson Park is the Edward Everett Statue. Sculpted in 1867, it is composed of bronze and represents the work of the important Boston sculptor William Wetmore Story.(1819-1895). Everett, a Dorchester native, was among other things, a Unitarian minister, professor of Greek at Harvard, and editor of North American Review. Elected to Congress at thirty and governor of Massachusetts at 41, Everett subsequently became ambassador to Great Britain, president of Harvard College and Secretary of State. Everett was the now forgotten “other” orator who shared the platform when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. This statue is said to have been moved three times before settling in Richardson Park (during the early 1900s?).
Pleasant Street North is an enormously rich area in terms of variety and quality of architectural designs and deserves to be studied in depth.