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Changes along High street.

We have received favorable comment on our recent illustration of the ‘Old Square’ and hope soon to present one of much contrast—of the new square of today.

In Vol. XVIII was a description of ‘High Street in 1870,’ which noted its residential character and the comparatively little change at the time of writing, in 1915. That article incited a long-absent Medford native to furnish some interesting data (Register, Vol. XVI, p. 47), and the queries he made were answered by Mr. Hooper in Vol. XVIII, No. 2. As a matter of history we note now even more recent changes. A dozen or more excellent residences have been erected on ‘Traincroft,’ the new avenue between Winthrop square and Powderhouse road, but as yet none on the sites of the Watson or Train houses. The J. W. Tufts residence was a year ago transformed into the Church of Christ, Scientist. The large double dwelling next Winthrop street has in its rear the Pitman Academy, while recently a diminutive structure beside the street houses the ‘gas booster,’ —some apparatus of the Gas Light Co.

About ten years ago, and subsequent to the acquiring of the Puffer residence by the Home for the Aged, plans were issued and auction sale advertised of the Puffer estate, intersected by Winthrop and High streets, also by Meetinghouse brook. The lots were restricted to one and two-family dwellings,—the bidding not very spirited and but few sales made, at unsatisfactory prices. The former site of the house was said to be added to the present Home, and seven one-family dwellings were later erected between lower Winthrop street and the brook. The big elm in the sidewalk succumbed to the ‘ice-storm’ which damaged trees everywhere. [p. 72]

At this point was once the civic center of Old Medford. Beside the brook was erected the second meetinghouse and first schoolhouse. Here the valley shows little change in three-quarters of a century. Passing over the brook and going up the hill, the ‘great rock on Oborne rode’ is much in evidence; for old High street was the Oborne or Woburn road in the old time when Medford began to be a town. Indeed, the road had to find its way between two great rocks or ledges, one of which crowds it closely. On the lesser one stood the first meeting-house, and farther on the newer road to ‘Mistick Weare’ turned to the left, at Brooks' corner, and keeps the name of High for its entire course. At this corner (which now has a marker, ‘Jerome C. Judkins Square,’) stands, beneath three tall sycamores, the house of Jonathan Brooks, an acconnt of which, written by its occupant, Mrs. Alfred Brooks, may be found in the Register, Vol. XV, p. 67. Across the street, at the corner of Hastings lane, is the much older but well preserved house of John Bradshaw, where the first church of Medford was ‘gathered’ in February, 1712. Next beyond was the newer house of Jonathan Brooks. We are presenting this as it was (since 1840) as our frontispiece, especially because of the very recent changes. At this point High street has its ‘height of land,’ though the land of this estate rises somewhat higher. On this sightly location Jonathan Brooks built his new home, one of those stately two-story houses with towering chimneys and end walls of brick. Later, it was enlarged in the rear and again by ells on both rear corners, making its extreme length nearly one hundred feet.

During the present year all these have been removed and the house restored to its original design. A new house has been erected between the two, and three others of pleasing design in the old garden.

Beside these, ten years ago, Wolcott street was cut through this estate, northward to Wyman street, and the Washburn and Goodspeed residences built at its corners. [p. 73] Around on Woburn street four houses have taken the location of the big barn, and still others in the rear of these.

It was to this newer home of his father that Rev. Charles Brooks returned, after his pastorate at Hingham, to make his home with his sister, Miss Lucy Ann, and to go about his work for normal schools. Here he wrote his History of Medford, and spent his last days. Here also was the home of Sarah Warner Brooks (Mrs. Isaac Austin Brooks), the author of various books, one of which, ‘The Garden with a House Attached,’ describes the old mansion and its then extensive grounds, now so much transformed. Note in the view the easterly entrance porch, with its two pillars. They were relics of the third meeting-house which (on the site of the present Unitarian church) was taken down in 1839, and according to Mr. Brooks' historical item (p. 494) supported the old meeting-house gallery. We are told that they are still preserved by one of the Brooks family.

A part of this Brooks estate lay on the other side of High street and had at its border the same growth of lilacs which gave the place that distinguishing name. Across this tract Austin street and Wolcott park have been built, and numerous dwellings of one-family type erected. These are of varying styles, from bungalow to those of two-story and stucco walls, and the Dutch Colonial now so much in favor.

On the long-vacant lot next Mystic street are five with white siding and pergolas, with exterior chimneys, and an attractive cottage of brick veneer has just come to the opposite corner. There the transformation has ceased, though we note the removal of two houses erected fifty-five years ago just down Auburn street and the nearly completed junior high school, named for the beloved schoolmaster, Lewis H. Hobbs.

Approaching the railway crossing, we omit any description of its present uninviting appearance, trusting to present it in better showing later. [p. 74]

The acute angle between Harvard avenue and High street has been cut off, and new curbing and sidewalks make for public safety. Across High street, in what was the extreme corner of the Edward Brooks estate, there the Real Estate Trust has erected a substantial store property, in which is a branch of the Medford Trust Co. This (all occupied) extends the business section westward. Two hundred and fifty houses erected in this section, where eighteen years ago were but four families, have necessitated another voting precinct in Ward Six, and in the corner of the railway lot is its polling booth.

It was our intention to present here a view (contemporary to that in our last issue) of Mystic hall and the Smith residence1 (the latter burned in 1865) but considering the greater change, are showing Brentwood court, now nearing completion. This is a modern apartment house said to be the last word in modern construction. In 1871 Charles M. Barrett, then of Warren street, erected here his home dwelling, the master builder being Deacon James Pierce of Old Medford. The old granite wall and entrance of the Smith mansion was retained and the house was of two stories with slated French roof (so called) and cupola. Its interior finish was entirely of hardwood, and numerous fireplaces added to all modern conveniences of the time made it one of the best in town. This has succumbed to the wrecking company, and where once lived a family of three, there stands the ‘Brentwood Court,’ with its thirty suites of this later day.

During the past year this western end of High street has been in a state of upheaval, as the Metropolitan sewer from Lexington has been laid to connect with that built thirty years ago at Warren street. This is thirty-two inches diameter, of concrete, from Kilgore avenue and Sherman street, where it crosses the old Mystic water works conduit, cutting into its top about [p. 75] sixteen inches. (See Register Vol. XX, No. 1, for ‘Disused Subway.’) From this point to the river two twenty-two-inch cast-iron pipes, laid side by side, complete its course in High street. There a dwelling has been removed and a filling station located. With exception of a half-dozen stores at the corner of Boston avenue, High street remains residential. During this present year, at end of Jerome street a two-story brick building has taken the long-vacant corner, with four stores and dwellings above. This is in marked contrast to what has been done all through the city in the erection of one-story store accommodations.

1 See Register, Vol. XXVI, Frontispiece.

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