Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Candy Made in Brookline

Christmas shoppers in Brookline a century ago could pick up "a box of solid goodness and pleasure",  chocolates and other candies made right in Coolidge Corner by the Farquharson Candy Company.

Advertisement, Boston Globe, December 22, 1922

 The Farquharson company opened for business in 1914 in a brand new building (still standing) at the northwest corner of Beacon and Centre Streets.  William J. Farquharson had worked as a confectioner for more than 20 years at Page & Shaw and later at Bailey's, both on West Street in Boston. His factory and store took up about half of the building. Farquharson leased space at first and purchased the building in 1919.

The Farquharson Building at the corner of Beacon and Centre Streets
(Image via Google Street View)

The retail operation took up the corner spot, #1366 Beacon Street, now occupied by the Yasu Korean & Japanese restaurant Hamilton Restaurant & Bar. Additional stores were opened in Allston, Brighton, and Dorchester, with all of the candies made at the Brookline headquarters.

Advertisement, Boston Post, December 17, 1920

Classified ad, Boston Globe, October 2, 1919

A January 1924 fire that started in the basement destroyed the candy factory and the store and damaged three other stores in the building. Ammonia fumes from a cooling system inside Farquharson's added to the difficulties firefighters faced in extinguishing the fire. The contents of the store as they burned made for a spectacular scene, as described the next day in the Boston Globe.

The breaking through of the flames in the candy store presented a remarkable effect. It appeared as though the lighting system had been suddenly turned on. The artistic displays, the gay colored candy boxes and glass jars, trays of candy, little jazz dolls and other bright decorations stood out in bold relief as the flames whipped about them.

After the fire, the store presented an entirely different picture. The chocolates and other softer molds of candy were a melted mass, the firmer brands of candy alone withstanding the tremendous heat.

Farquharson's rebuilt after the fire, expanding the second floor of the building and adding about 50% more floor space to the store. Candy manufacturing was moved to Brighton although ice cream continued to be made on site. The Brookline Chronicle described the new interior after its reopening in July 1924:

The inside finish, including that of the booths, which are a new feature in this concern's stores, is of gumwood, and the walls are of cream-colored plaster of Georgian design. A most unusual and attractive tile floor has been laid, and the soda fountain has been doubled in size, providing plenty of room for the employees to carefully handle the wants of the customers. Leaded glass sliding windows protect the window displays, and most pleasing and restful prism chandeliers furnish the lighting effect. The ceiling is beamed and prism-effect mirrors are built into the walls behind the fountain.

The Brookline store was sold in 1929 to the St. Clair's chain of candy stores/soda fountains. Farquharson Candy continued to operate at its other locations for a few more years.

St. Clair's, which had had a store on Temple Place in Boston since the late 19th century, remained at 1366 Beacon Street until the late 1950s. Like Farquharson's, St. Clair's advertised its candies as an ideal gift at Christmas, as seen in the 1933 ad below.

Advertisement, Boston Globe, December 21, 1933

The Farquharson company continued to own the building, leasing space to St. Clair's and others, until 1951. William Farquharson died in 1955 at the age of 80.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ralph Waldo Emerson in Brookline

Ralph Waldo Emerson is most famously associated with Concord and Boston. But did you know that this leading figure in the Transcendentalist movement lived in Brookline for a brief time early in his career?

In May 1830, Emerson, then a young pastor at the Second Church in Boston, moved with his wife Ellen and his mother Ruth to the old Aspinwall House. (The house stood where the Billy Ward Playground, on Aspinwall Avenue opposite St. Paul’s Church, is today.)

Emerson described the lodgings in a letter to his brother William:

“I expect mother in town Thursday or Friday & she will go to Brookline & take possession of our lodgings at Mrs. Perry’s — (in old Aspinwall House where Uncle Ralph lived one summer long ago) where we have a parlor & 3 chambers one for mother one for wife & one for you when you will come & welcome. “ 

It was hoped that the new home would help Ellen recover from tuberculosis, with Emerson’s mother there to keep house. Emerson, however, found it inconvenient “traveling four miles out & home daily” to and from his position at the church. In September, after only four months in Brookline, they moved into Boston. (Ellen would die of tuberculosis in February at the age of 19.)

The old Aspinwall House on Aspinwall Avenue, shown more than half a century after Ralph Waldo Emerson, his wife, and his mother occupied four rooms there in the spring and summer of 1830.
(Brookline Historical Society photo)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mini Golf in Brookline: Past & Present

Did you know that Brookline once had an indoor miniature golf course designed by perhaps the most famous golf course architect of all time?

Littlputt Links, designed by Donald J. Ross, opened in 1930 on the second floor of the building at 308-312 Harvard Street in Coolidge Corner. That’s the space now occupied by Michael’s Salon, above Magic Beans and the Regal Beagle restaurant.

Chronicle Ad
Brookline Chronicle, 11/27/1930
Ross, according to the World Golf Hall of Fame, “was, and still is, considered the Michelangelo of golf.” He was the first architect (and one of only five to date) inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Among the best known of the more than 400 courses he designed over a half-century career are Pinehurst #2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Seminole in Juno Beach, Florida, Oak Hill in Pittsford, New York, and Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Ross was also a successful golfer, playing in seven U.S. Opens and finishing as high as fifth (in 1903).

Ross designed what was to be a second 18-hole course for The Country Club in Brookline in 1921 but it was never built. He was also invited to submit a design for the municipal course that eventually became the Robert T. Lynch Golf Club at Putterham Meadows, but he declined. (He reportedly was opposed to entering design competitions.)

Boston Globe, 10/26/1930
But despite these setbacks, Brookline did have its Donald Ross-designed course, if only in miniature and only for a short time. In October of 1930, Ross took out a lease on the second floor of the commercial building next to the Coolidge Corner Arcade. Littlputt Links announced its November 15th opening with an ad in the Brookline Chronicle promising “features that appeal to the experienced golfer as well as the miniature golf fan.”

Chronicle Ad
Brookline Chronicle, 11/13/1930
 The course does not appear to have lasted long; the last ad for Littlput ran in the Chronicle less than three weeks after the opening and it was not listed in the town directory the following year. Later occupants of the second floor included the Oriental Restaurant (with a band and dancing) and, as seen in the photo below, 20th Century Billiards.

Photo of building with billiard parlor on second floor
Photo from Town of Brookline Preservation Office
I contacted the Donald Ross Archives in North Carolina to learn more about Ross’ design for the Brookline mini-course. But despite extensive collections of plans and other documentation of Ross’ work, they had no record of Lillputt Links. It remains an oddity and a bit of a mystery from Brookline’s past.

There may no longer be a Donald Ross-designed miniature golf course in Brookline, but mini-golf fans can have fun, test their skills, and help support the Public Library of Brookline at the main library on Washington Street this Saturday, June 20th. See Tee Off @ the Library for details.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Blacksmith Shop to Auto Garage to Teen Center

New Life and an Old Story at 40 Aspinwall Avenue
40 Aspinwall Avenue before and after
40 Aspinwall Avenue before and after its conversion to the Brookline Teen Center
Brookline’s 2014 Preservation Awards ceremony took place last November at the Brookline Teen Center on Aspinwall Avenue. The Teen Center itself was one of the recipients, recognized for its adaptive reuse of a nearly century old garage. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a gem, inside and out, a tribute to all who worked on it: founders Paul and Saskia Epstein and their community supporters; the architects and builders; the staff; and the Brookline teens who helped design it.

Their efforts have given new life to an old garage built in 1916 for Frank Turner, a blacksmith and horseshoer who may himself have arrived in Boston as a teenager, a stowaway from Northern Ireland on a British cargo ship in 1883.

Turner was born Francis Turner in Drumnavaddy, near Belfast, in 1866, the son of a weaver and his wife.  It can't be said for certain when he arrived in Boston, but the only immigration record matching his name, age, and birthplace was that of a Frank Turner, 17, one of four stowaways on the S.S. Illyria arriving from Liverpool in October 1883.
Turner ship's manifest
Frank Turner, age 17, is the last of four passengers marked "Stowaways" on this 1883 ship's manifest
By 1892 he was living in Boston’s South End and working as a blacksmith near Castle Square.  He was the co-owner of the Turner & Lyons blacksmith shop on Ferdinand Street (now the southern part of Arlington Street).

Listing for Frank Turner in 1899 Boston Directory
Listing for Frank Turner in 1899 Boston Directory
He married another Irish immigrant, Nora Cronin, a dressmaker, in 1901 and became a U.S. citizen in 1902.

Nora and Frank Turner
Nora and Frank Turner in an undated studio photograph
Photo courtesy of Ronald Turner
The Turners had moved to Roxbury by 1906. That year, Turner’s partner, Joseph H. Lyons, died and Turner came to Brookline to work in the blacksmith and horseshoeing shop of P.J. Burns in Brookline Village.

P.J. Burns blacksmith shopAd for P.J. Burns blacksmith shop

The Burns shop stood at 152 Washington Street next to the firehouse at the foot of High Street. It moved down the street to 87 Washington when the current firehouse was built on the site in 1908.

Four years later, Turner was in business for himself again, and he and his wife and their son Harold became Brookline residents. In January 1912 they purchased the 42 Aspinwall Avenue home of blacksmith T. W. Burlingame and the wood frame blacksmith shop behind it.

Turner home with sign in alley
Frank and Nora Turner’s home at 42 Aspinwall Avenue (right) with the alley leading to the wood frame blacksmith shop at #40. The sign says “Frank Turner. Scientific Horseshoeing. Carriage and Wagon Repairing.” (Photo courtesy of Ronald Turner)

1913 Frank Turner, Horseshoer ad
Advertisement from the 1913 Brookline Blue Book directory
Construction notice for 40 Aspinwall Avenue garage
Notice in The American Contractor, February 26, 1916
By this time the automobile was rapidly replacing horse-drawn wagons and carriages. In 1916 Turner replaced the wood frame shop with the brick auto garage that houses the Teen Center today. The architect was George Nelson Meserve, a prolific designer of commercial and residential buildings in Boston, Brookline, and elsewhere.

The garage, known variously as Turner’s Garage and the Aspinwall Garage, offered automobile storage and repairs and sold Socony (Standard Oil Co. of NY) gasoline.  Manufacturers and private owners also offered vehicles for sale and lease through the garage, as seen in the ads below.
Ads for Turner's Garage
Ads from Boston Post (left), 1919, and Boston Globe (right) top to bottom 1917, 1917, 1919
Frank and Nora Turner sold the house and garage in 1924 and moved to 29 Auburn Street. Frank then worked as an auto mechanic at the Hinchcliffe Motor Car Co. (900 Commonwealth Avenue in Brookline), New England distributor for Jordan automobiles.

Nora died of pneumonia in 1926. The following year, Frank moved to California with his two sons. He owned an oil well in southern California with his son Harold for a time. Frank Turner died in 1944 at the age of 78.

Dexter Garage ad, 1932
Brookline Directory ad, 1932
The garage passed through two owners in five years after Turner before being purchased by Frank S. Dexter in 1928. He would own it for a decade and a half. Dexter was also the first proprietor of the garage who did not live in the house in front of it at 42 Aspinwall.
Later businesses in the garage building included the B&B Corrugated Box Co. after World War II; the Hayes & Shea auto service company in the 1960s (they tore down the house in front of the garage); and International Tire in the 1980s. Brookline Auto Body and Kenmore Auto Sales were the most recent occupants before the conversion to the Teen Center.

Ads from businesses at 40 Aspinwall Avenue

Frank Turner and his successors may be long gone, but the Teen Center renovation has retained several links to the building’s past in place (below), including an “Auto Body Repairs” sign on one wall, an original steel beam (hanging over the “Auto Body Café”) with the inscription “From the A.L. Smith Iron Works, Chelsea”, and yellow parking space lines on the floor by the pool table.

Auto repair sign in Teen Center
Steel beam in Teen Center

Parking spot lines on Teen Center floor
(A version of this article appeared earlier in the Brookline Historical Society members newsletter)