Friday, July 21, 2017

Brookline Police Department, circa 1878

The hirsute and very serious looking men pictured here are the officers of the Brookline Police Department in or around 1878. Only three of the men are positively identified: Chief Alonzo Bowman is third from the left in the front row sitting between Sergeant Harris Head and Deputy Chief Patrick H. Cusick.

Police department c1878

We have a good idea who the other men, all patrolmen, are too (though we can’t match the names to the faces), thanks to a detailed report produced by Chief Bowman that year (and other years that he led the department). Additional research through local newspapers and other sources fills in more details about some of these men.

Chief Alonzo Bowman
Alonzo Bowman was born in Vermont in 1832 and came to Massachusetts at the age of 17. After several years working at a Boston grocery store, he entered the express business in Brookline. (Express companies delivered packages via horse-drawn vehicles and later by rail.) Bowman served in the Union Army during the Civil War, first in New Orleans and later in Virginia. He worked in the weighing department of the Custom House in Boston after the war until joining the Brookline police department in 1871.

Bowman became chief of the department in 1876 and served in that capacity until his death in October 1899. (The photo of Bowman at left appeared on the front page of the Brookline Chronicle that month.)

Little is known about the other two officers who have been identified in the group photo. Harris Head, who was also born in Vermont, came to Brookline in the early 1870s. He apparently had only a brief career as a policeman and later ran a provisions store near the corner of Harvard and School Streets for many years. He died in 1906. Nothing more is known about Patrick H. Cusick.

Later pictures, in photographs and sketches, of three of the 1878 patrolmen are shown below as they appeared in the Brookline Chronicle. Can you match the images of them as older men to their younger selves in the earlier photo?


Charles B. McCausland was born in Vermont and came to Brookline at an early age, living with two uncles in town. He enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 21 in 1861 and was badly wounded at the battle of Fredricksburg. After the war he worked as a mason in Brookline before joining the police force in 1875. He was a member of the mounted patrol who, according to the Chronicle, "was, while in his prime, undoubtedly the finest equestrian in the police force of Boston or its immediate vicinity." McCausland was promoted to sergeant in 1879 and lieutenant in 1892. He died of head injuries suffered in a bicycle accident in 1895.

Albert S. Paige was born in Wellfleet in 1846 and educated at the Phillips School in Boston and in the Brookline public schools. He worked as a clerk in a provisions store and in the wholesale business before joining the police force as a patrolman in 1876. Paige rose to the rank of captain in the detective bureau and was interim chief after the death of Alonzo Bowman. He retired in 1909 and died in 1910 at the age of 64.

George Franklin Dearborn was born into a Brookline farming family in 1840. He joined the police force in 1870 and served at various times as a mounted officer and a truant and probation officer. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and retired in 1905. He died in 1921.

Other patrolman in the group photo include:
  • Mears Orcutt, a member of the police force from 1872 to 1885 after which he served for more than 20 years as janitor of the public library. He was born in Jamaica Plain in 1825 and came to Brookline in his 20s. He drove a stage between Brookline and Boston and later was in the express business before serving in the artillery during the Civil War. After the war, he worked on horse cars in Brookline before joining the police. He died in 1912 at the age of 87.
  • William W. O'Connell, a member of the force from 1874 to 1890. He was born in Ireland in 1844 and came to the U.S. at the age of one and to Brookline two years later. He was educated in local schools and worked as a mechanic before the Civil War. After serving in the artillery during the war, he joined the U.S. Cavalry as a scout and soldier in engagements against Native Americans out west until returning to Brookline and joining the police department. He worked as a carpenter for the town after leaving the force, and died in 1926 at the age of 82.
  • Thomas J. Murray, a policeman from 1873 to 1887 when he was badly injured while chasing down a wagon driver who had run down a child in Brookline Village and had to leave the force. Murray was a Brookline native who was born in 1846 and was educated in the public schools. After leaving police work, he ran a hardware store and roofing business in the Village. He died in 1901 at the age of 55.
A full list of the department in 1878, as shown in Chief Bowman's report of that year, is shown below.


(Note: This article first appeared in Brookline Patch as part of a biweekly series of historical images of Brookline from the Brookline Historical Society and the Public Library of Brookline. A larger, zoomable view of this photo and two others from the exhibit is available on the Digital Commonwealth site.) 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Birds & Birdhouses at the Library, 1914

The current building of the Brookline Library was less than four years old when the photograph below was taken in April 1914. It shows a room on the lower level of the library (where the Children’s Room is now) filled with a display put together by the Brookline Bird Club with help from the town’s Forestry Department.

(Note: This article first appeared in Brookline Patch as part of a biweekly series of historical images of Brookline from the Brookline Historical Society and the Public Library of Brookline. A larger, zoomable view of this photo and two others from the exhibit is available on the Digital Commonwealth site.) 
 
Birds and birdhouses in the library

The Bird Club itself was new, having been formed one year earlier at a meeting in the library. The club organized walks, lectures, round table discussions, and exhibits on bird life. It welcomed both adults and children.

A special Junior Department, described in a centennial history of the club, offered "birding-by-bicycle in Brookline and Cambridge, lessons in drawing birds and conducting a bird census, field contests in naming birds, and visits to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology and the recently opened aviary at Franklin Park Zoo.”

The library exhibit featured an arbor made of trees limbs with various kinds of nesting, feeding, and shelter boxes attached to them. Many of these were made by club members and staff of the Forestry Department. There were others made by students in the Manual Training School. Some of these, reported the Boston Globe, were made from ordinary boxes, tin cans, or old flower pots “to demonstrate how cheaply a bird house or box can be made."

Simple and complex birdhouses and birdfeeders

The exhibit also included bird eggs, nests, photographs, charts, and a variety of stuffed birds. Many of the latter were from a collection of Edward W. Baker, the longtime Town Clerk and the president of the club who, noted the Brookline Chronicle, was “a man who long ago learned that it is better to hunt birds with opera glass and the camera and who consistently devotes his energies to the spreading of that gospel.”

The club’s interest in birds had an economic, as well as aesthetic and scientific purpose. The town’s trees had been devastated by insect infestation. “Brookline has been as hard hit by the work of the gipsys, brown-tail, leopard moths and elm beetle as any of her neighbors,” the club’s vice president Charles B. Floyd wrote in American Forestry magazine in 1915. “In 1908 the town was the worst gipsy moth infested district in New England. Today the gipsys are well under control and due recognition of the work of the birds is made.”

Charles B. Floyd (left), one of the original officers of the Brookline Bird Club, did much to share news of the club and its activities through articles in publications like American Forestry and Bird-Lore, the predecessor to today’s Audubon magazine. He was later a longtime Newton alderman.

(Photo credit: Blackington, Alton H. Charles B. Floyd, bird expert, ca. 1930. Alton H. Blackington Collection (PH 061). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries)

Although the club was unsuccessful in establishing an official bird sanctuary in town, it did persuade owners of several large estates to post signs prohibiting shooting on their property. Officers of the Forestry Department helped enforce the prohibition.

Brookline Bird Club logo
The Brookline Bird Club rapidly expanded beyond Brookline, attracting members from throughout Massachusetts and beyond and organizing trips throughout the eastern part of the state and further afield. Today, the connection to Brookline is largely in name only, but the 1100-member club is the largest and one of the oldest of the many bird clubs in Massachusetts.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A House for Sale and a Mystery in Its Past

Financially-ailing Wheelock College is looking for a buyer (according to news reports) for the Victorian house at 295 Kent Street that has served as home to the college's presidents since 1963. I decided to look into the history of the house and, as is often the case, my research led in unexpected directions.

295 Kent Street
295 Kent Street
The house, built around 1872, has had only three owners. Wheelock purchased it from the estate of hotel executive J. Linfield Damon who lived there from 1901 until his death at the age of 95 in 1963.

But it was the original owner of the house, S. Dana Hayes, whose story proved the most interesting. The house was built for him and remained in his family from the time of its construction until its sale to Damon in 1901. But Hayes himself disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1880 and was never heard from again.

Globe headline on Hayes disappearance
Boston Globe headline, January 30, 1880.

Samuel Dana Hayes, who went by S. Dana,  was born in Roxbury in 1840. His father, Augustus Allen Hayes, was a chemist and one of Massachusetts state assayers of ores and minerals. The younger Hayes studied at his father's alma mater, Norwich University in Vermont, although he did not graduate, and by the 1860s had followed in his father's footsteps as a chemist and state assayer.

The state assayer's office was established by the legislature in 1846. Assayers — there could be more than one  — were to certify the chemical composition of ores and metals submitted to them. They were to be paid "a reasonable compensation by the person securing such assay to be made." Assayers were later given the added responsibility of ensuring that "spirituous and intoxicating liquors [were] of a pure quality, and unadulterated with any mixture, or noxious or poisonous substance."

Hayes quickly established a reputation as one of the leading assayers in the country. He lectured and wrote on chemical properties, testified in court cases (including cases of suspected poisoning) and developed a successful private business certifying the composition of a wide variety of products, including:
  • baking powder
  • mineral water and ginger ale
  • vinegar
  • yeast
  • cocoa
  • whiskey
  • lager beer
  • skin care treatments ("The Queen's Toilet")
  • mineral oil
  • fertilizer
  • cookware and silverware
Advertisements for many of these products in newspapers across the country included endorsements from Hayes, usually noting his official role as a Massachusetts state assayer.

Newspaper ads with Hayes' endorsement
Newspaper ads with product endorsements from S. Dana Hayes. Left to right: Pearl Baking Powder, in the Black Hills Weekly Pioneer, Deadwood, South Dakota; Gaff, Fleischmann & Co. Yeast (yes, it's that Fleischmann's Yeast) in the Boston Post; and Heublein's Lager Beer in the Hartford Courant. (Click image for a larger view.)
One ad, for Hall's Vegetable Sicilian Hair Renewer, noted:

When a discoverer of any scientific subject, asks the co-operation of the learned in science, to test the merit and truth of his discovery by severe tests and practical results, and then to indorse [sic] and recommend it, it is fair to presume it is valuable for the purpose intended. Such has been the course pursued by Mess'rs. Hall & Co., proprietors of Hall's Vegetable Sicilian Hair Renewer. And all those who have tested it (among whom we may mention Dr. A.A. Hayes and S. Dana Hayes, Chemists and State Assayers of Massachusetts ... assert it is the best preparation in use for all cutaneous diseases of the scalp.

Hayes had married a Scottish woman, Margaret Gibson, in Scotland in 1860. In 1877,  few years after moving into the Kent Street home, they adopted a little girl. Three years later, in January 1880, Hayes left Boston for New York and attended to some business for a law firm in a patent infringement case.  That was the last time he was seen or heard from.

Both the Boston Globe and the New York Times reported two weeks later that before disappearing Hayes had made a careful examination of his business, paid all his debts, arranged for his wife to have power of attorney, and left her a note saying he would not be returning but that she would be informed of his whereabouts in the event of his death.

Friends and acquaintances, including his brother, attributed the odd behavior to a temporary "aberration of mind", perhaps brought on by the death of his mother a few months earlier. Business troubles were dismissed as a possible cause, as his business was in good shape. They expected to hear from him shortly.  The Globe correspondent, however, reported that "domestic troubles are really at the bottom of the matter." In any case, he did not return.

Margaret Hayes placed an ad in the New York Herald in August 1881 looking for word of her husband. (It was reproduced in the Boston Globe.)  In the ad, which the Globe titled "Where Is S. Dana Hayes?", she noted that he had "gone West in April last" so perhaps she had obtained additional information since his disappearance 19 months earlier. But there was no new news.

Where Is S. Dana Hayes
Boston Globe, August 4, 1881
Hayes' father Augustus died in June 1882. His will left one third of his estate to S. Dana and his heirs, provided he came forward (or was proved dead) within three months. Otherwise his share would be divided equally between his brother and sister. The family placed a personal notice in a New York paper, reproduced in the Boston Post, urging him to come forward but there is no record of him having responded.

Ad placed after Hayes' father's death
Boston Post, September 14, 1882

Margaret Hayes lived in the Kent Street house on and off until selling it in 1901. (She rented it out and lived elsewhere in Brookline when not living there.) She died some time after 1910. The Hayes' adopted daughter, Hope Beatrice Hayes, graduated from Smith College in 1899, married a florist, and was a school teacher in Pittsfield, Newton, and Pelham, New Hampshire. She died in 1929 at the age of 54.

Product advertisements citing Hayes' stamp of approval continued to appear periodically for years. An ad in the Washington Post for the Forest Glen resort in North Conway, New Hampshire promoting "the purest water in New Hampshire" noted that "S. Dana Hayes, State Chemist of Massachusetts, said this is a remarkably pure and excellent water." That was in 1906, more than a quarter century after Hayes disappeared.


Monday, June 19, 2017

1898: Devotion House Saved from the Flames

One-hundred and nineteen years ago today (June 19, 1898) sparks from a barn fire across Harvard Street threatened the Edward Devotion House in Coolidge Corner. Firefighters were able to douse the flames, saving the then 158-year old house, one of the oldest in town.

The fire began in the new barn on the farm of William J. Griggs, adjacent to the Griggs house at 330 Harvard Street. By the time it was spotted by a boy passing along the street a little after 7:30 in the morning it was too late to save the barn and the Griggs house itself was smoldering in several places.

Devotion House and Griggs farm, 1897
This 1897 map shows the Willliam Griggs house, just below Shailer Street, across the street from the Devotion School and Devotion House. The new barn that burned a year later was built adjacent to the house.

Strong winds carried embers onto the roofs of several nearby houses, including the Devotion House. Neighbors used garden hoses, pails, and fire buckets to fight the fires until firefighters arrived. The Griggs house was saved, and firefighters were stationed at the Devotion House to make sure it did not suffer major damage. (The Town had recently allotted funds toward the preservation of the historic structure.)

Edward Devotion in 1895
The Edward Devotion House as it appeared in 1895, three years before the fire that briefly spread to the house from across Harvard Street

William J. Coolidge
William J. Griggs
Brookline Library photo
Click for larger view
William Griggs (1821-1906) whose family farm occupied the site for many years, lost everything that was in the barn, including four horses, three cow, and five dogs, as well as carriages, wagons, harnesses, a bicycle, and several tons of hay.

Griggs and his brother-in-law David Coolidge founded the Coolidge & Brother store, operated by David's younger brothers William and George, in 1857. The store's location, at the intersection of Harvard and Beacon Streets, became known as Coolidge's Corner and, later, as Coolidge Corner.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Gillette & Sias Mansions, Beacon Street

This stretch of land on the north side of Beacon Street just west of Lancaster Terrace would be unrecognizable today except for the stone wall, which still stands. It is now the site of the apartment building at 1550 Beacon, built for senior housing in the 1970s, and Temple Beth Zion at 1566 Beacon, completed in 1948.

(Note: This article first appeared in Brookline Patch as part of a biweekly series of historical images of Brookline from the Brookline Historical Society and the Public Library of Brookline.)

Gillette & Sias Mansions
 
The two large houses formerly on the site were associated, at different times, with the heads of two well-known consumer product companies. The house on the left was the home from 1907 to 1913 of King C. Gillette, inventor of the safety razor and founder of the company that bears his name. It was torn down in 1944. The house on the right was built by Charles D. Sias, a senior partner in the Chase & Sanborn coffee company. A later owner moved it up the hill to Mason Terrace, where it remains today.

A present-day view of the site, via Google Street View, is below.

1550-1566 Beacon Street Today

Both houses were built after the 1880s expansion of Beacon Street from a narrow country lane to a wide boulevard, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and with trolleys providing easy access to Boston. The older of the two is the Sias house, built in 1889 for Charles Sias, who began as a salesman with Chase & Sanborn before rising to become senior partner with the firm. It was designed by Arthur Vinal who was also the architect of the Richardsonian Romanesque High Service Building at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, now condominiums and the Waterworks Museum, and the gatehouse at what is now Fisher Hill Reservoir Park.

The next owner, lumber company executive Frederick McQuestern, had the house moved up the hill to 41 Mason Terrace, shown below.

King Gillette

The Gillette house was built in 1892 for Benjamin Lombard Jr., a banker and real estate executive. It was designed by the architectural firm of Little, Brown, & Moore, which also designed the main house of the Brandegee Estate in South Brookline. King Gillette purchased the house for his family in 1907 and lived there until 1913 when they moved to Los Angeles.

Gillette had first come to Brookline in 1895 when he was a salesman for the Crown Cork Company, maker of disposable bottle caps. It was while living here that he came up with the idea for the safety razor, as described by Gillette himself in a company magazine in 1918:

"I was living in Brookline at No. 2 Marion Terrace at the time [1895],” he wrote, "and as I said before I was consumed with the thought of inventing something that people would use and throw away and buy again. On one particular morning when I started to shave I found my razor dull, and it was not only dull but it was beyond the point of successful stropping and it needed honing, for which it must be taken to a barber or to a cutler. As I stood there with the razor in my hand, my eyes resting on it as lightly as a bird settling down on its nest—the Gillette razor was born.”
It took years of experimentation to solve the technical difficulties involved in producing the kind of razor Gillette had in mind, but a patent was granted in 1904 and sales took off, making Gillette a great financial success and a household name. Three years later he bought the Beacon Street house.

A close look at a section of the stone wall in the old and new photos (below) makes it possible to pick out individual stones. This section is to the right of the tree in the modern image and further to the right in the older one.

Stone Wall

Friday, June 2, 2017

Richards Tavern, Chestnut Hill


The 18th century building shown here was known as the Richards Tavern or Richards Hotel. It stood on Heath Street (foreground) near the intersection with Hammond Street, approximately where 521 Heath Street is today. 
 
(Note: This article first appeared in Brookline Patch as part of a biweekly series of historical images of Brookline from the Brookline Historical Society and the Public Library of Brookline.)
Richards Tavern
View larger size image

It was built sometime between 1750 and 1770 — sources vary — by Ebenezer Winchester, a member of the religious splinter group called the “New Lights,” one of many groups that arose as part of the religious revival known as The Great Awakening. In addition to serving as the Winchester home, it included a large hall for meetings of Winchester’s co-religionists.

The house passed through two other owners before being sold to Ebenezer Richards who operated it as a tavern and hotel until about 1830. The Worcester Turnpike (now Route 9) which opened in 1806 passed just to the rear of the tavern. A toll gate and a toll house for the gatekeeper were placed at that spot on the Turnpike which no doubt contributed to the success of the tavern (It became something like an early 18th century version of a modern highway rest stop.)

The former tavern was acquired by Irish immigrant William Fegan in 1863. Fegan operated it as a boarding house. Harriet Woods in her Historical Sketches of Brookline (1874) described it as “now occupied by many Irish tenants.” Fegan died in 1911 at the age of 87. The house, deteriorating in condition (as seen in the 1927 photos below), remained in the Fegan family until it was torn down in 1928. 
Richards Tavern 1927
View zoomable larger size image


 
The map below, adapted from a segment of the 1927 Brookline atlas, shows the former Richards Tavern (highlighted by the red rectangle and with the name J.J. Fegan) on Heath Street near the corner of Hammond Street. Boylston Street (Route 9) runs from the top edge to the right edge. The Baldwin School is at lower right and part of Holyhood Cemetery is at lower left. 
 
Richards Tavern on 1927 map
Click image for larger view
 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Brookline Village Coffee Shops & Their Pasts

In one short block in Brookline Village, two international coffee shop chains compete for business in storefronts just three doors apart. The more established Starbucks is at 7 Harvard Street, and the newcomer, Caffé Nero, is at 1 Harvard Square.

Woolworth's interior
Employees in the Brookline Village F.W. Woolworth store (now Starbucks) in 1914
Those retail locations, of course, have a much longer history than either coffee chain and, remarkably, we are able to get a glimpse of what the interiors of both spots looked like more than a century ago. Interior images from that far back are hard to come by. But for these two locations we have views via a newspaper sketch for one and two photographs for the other.

National Bank Building in 1893
National Bank Building in 1893
The older of the two buildings is the one that is now home to the first Brookline location of the London-based Caffé Nero. Designed in 1892 by the firm Hartwell & Richardson, the building, originally known as the Lowe Building, had stores on the ground floor and apartments above. One of the first tenants was the Brookline National Bank and the building soon became known as the National Bank Building.

The bank purchased the building in 1902 and engaged architects Peabody & Stearns to expand and redesign it. They enlarged the third floor by raising the roof eight feet. (It became home to a hall for the Beth-Horon Lodge of Freemasons.) Apartments on the second floor were turned into offices.

On January 1, 1903, the new Brookline Post Office opened on the ground floor, in the space that is now Caffé Nero. The Boston Globe previewed the new post office with the headline “Brookline’s New Year’s Gift from Uncle Sam” and a sketch showing the public space, as well as the redesigned exterior.

Sketch of the interior of the new Brookline Post Office in Brookline Village, now Caffé  Nero. Boston Globe, December 30, 1902
Sketch of the interior of the new Brookline Post Office in Brookline Village, now Caffé  Nero. Boston Globe, December 30, 1902
Mail slot in Caffe Nero women's room doorWhen shown the image, employees at Caffé Nero were intrigued. They also thought it solved a mystery: Why did the door to the women’s bathroom, shown here, have a mail slot in it? (It was probably an interior door reused in later renovations.)

This was to serve as the main Brookline post office, relocated from an inadequate space on Washington Street in the Village, until the construction of a new post office in Coolidge Corner (in space now occupied by Zaftig's deli, Jin's restaurant, and Cool Edge Salon) in 1923. The location that is now Caffé Nero remained the Brookline Village branch of the Post Office until some time after World War II.

7-15 Harvard Street in the early 1980s.
Town of Brookline photo.
The more modest two-story building housing the Brookline Village Starbucks was built in 1911 to house stores and offices. A year later it became home to Brookline’s first F.W. Woolworth five-and-dime store, which was to stay in business there for more than three quarters of a century.

Woolworth’s occupied half of the first floor, space now divided between Starbucks and Vizio Optic, until closing in 1989. The Historical Society was lucky to obtain the two photographs below of the interior of that store from another historical society. Sales banners hanging from the ceiling in one of the photographs helped us to date the images to 1914.

The banners advertise a Spring Sale, April 20th to April 25th. Why six days, not seven? Because from Puritan times until 1983 Massachusetts Blue Laws banned Sunday store openings. (April 19th was a Sunday in 1914 and 1926, but the clothing appears a better match for the earlier date.)

Interior of Woolworth's store, Brookline Village, 1914
Two interior views, above and below of the Brookline Village Woolworth's in 1914
Interior of Woolworth's store, Brookline Village, 1914
To explore these photos of the Brookline Village Woolworth’s in more detail, visit supersize versions on the Historical Society website: Image 1 | Image 2

One puzzle: there are skylights clearly visible in the photos. How can that be in a two-story building? Records in the town building department provide the answer: the building was originally only one-story at the back; the second story was added to that part of the building later.

Next time you’re enjoying a coffee or tea or a pastry in either of these Brookline Village coffee shops, be sure to reflect on what had been there more than a century ago.