High street in 1870.
son and daughter of old Medford
have furnished the register reminiscences of old Ship and Salem streets, two of the five that lead from Medford Square. High street as it was forty-five years ago is the present subject of one then a new-comer.
On a pleasant day in early June, 1870, a matter of business took him from Wear bridge to the square, and though provided with a horse a little later, he covered the distance that day on foot.
Wear bridge was not then the substantial structure of today, and beneath the old one, a view of which may be seen in the city report of 1894, the incoming tide swiftly surged.
An island lay a little down stream, and a little farther on the Arlington
side, shaded by large willows, [p. 14]
was the picturesque Wood's mill
, with its low but hated and fated dam. On the left lay the broad acres of the Brooks
estate, enclosed by walls of dark Medford
granite, just behind which were spruce trees, as well as others of deciduous variety.
Well back from the road and on the rising ground were the Mystic
hickories, and farther on, but nearer the highway and approached by a curving drive bordered by spruces, was the farmhouse and great barn surmounted by a cupola with a dragon vane.
This barn was then but ten years old, and replaced the one destroyed by an incendiary in 1860.
Its basement was of Medford
granite, each column and arched lintel cut from a single block.
Just northward from the farmhouse was the granite arch, built fifty years before, over the canal.
This was of Concord
granite, of marked contrast to the somber walls that bordered the highway.
Elms that once bordered the canal banks and shaded the streets later gave the place the name of Elms Farm.
Beyond this, among great oaks, and some pines as well as elms, was the mansion house, the home of Edward Brooks and his son Francis, but this was approached from Grove street, the ancient Cambridge road to Woburn
Fifty years before, Mr. Brooks
' father had begun Medford
's park system by setting trees and fencing the ‘Delta
’ at Grove street. The stone walls beyond extended to a long line of spruces that bordered the railway.
At the right hand from Wear bridge lay a broad open plain that sloped gradually to the river, and beyond its center was a large house of cruciform shape and flat roof surmounted by a two-storied cupola, with roofs also flat.
This was the home of George F. Spaulding
, and his land was enclosed by a fence of not fifty-seven, but many
A few sizable elms were before it, and these, with a few others scattered here and there, a willow or two, and a big dilapidated barn opposite the Brooks
farmhouse, were the only objects to break the monotony of the scene.
This plain was then called the Smith
estate, and along the street for most of the way was also walled.
After passing Grove street there were entrances in the walls, and cellar holes and remains of foundations could [p. 15]
be seen, where the Smith
residence and barns had been burned a few years before.
Next was the house of John Duane
the florist, that had been built four years, and farther on his greenhouses.
This house still remains, and with some additions is now the parochial residence of St. Raphael's Church.
Beyond the greenhouse was a hedge of dogwood, and here the stone wall ended and a wooden picket fence, painted a dull yellow, enclosed the open space in front of the substantial building that bore across its front this legend,
Mystic Hall Seminary,
in gilded iron capitals.
In this building Ellis Pitcher
kept a grocery, and also the West Medford post office.
A very ordinary road led southward by the seminary building past the residence of Henry T. Wood
and the double-decked cupola, to a bridge and across the river.
This was Harvard avenue, and from this diagonally across the field to the railroad was a row of poplar trees that grew to large proportions ere they were cut down.
Opposite the seminary building stood two houses belonging to the railroad, in which Daniel Kelley
and Reuben Willey
, the flagman and station agent, lived.
The station house was near the crossing, and had been built but about ten years. The crossing had no gates, but two huge posts supported a sign-board across the street, whose metallic letters warned passers to ‘Look out for the engine while the bell rings
This was the old formula ere ‘Stop, Look, Listen,’ came in vogue.
was an old employee who had lost an arm while on duty as fireman, and then carried a red flag or light as danger signal.
Across the track to the left was the residence of Hon. J. M. Usher
It stood ‘somewhat back from the village street’ and was heavily shaded by trees, mostly maple, with some mountain ash. A somewhat massive fence was before it, painted a somber brown, as was the house, and beyond was a vacant lot extending to Warren street. At its corner stood a very large horse-chestnut tree, that in its top showed the effects of the wrench and twist it [p. 16]
received from the tornado, twenty years before.
Though much higher, the great Whitmore
elm showed less of disaster, and though a little in the street and nearer the railway, was a noble specimen.
On the opposite side was first a triangular lot, vacant except for a small one-story brown building, in which had been a little store and the post office, but at this time not in use. Beyond this, where the post office now is, was a dwelling-house that may have been built early in the century.
It had evidently seen better days.
It was occupied by John C. Hatch
, who two years later built and moved to a new house on the hill.
Next was the home of Capt. Joseph Wyatt
This was a white cottage, standing with end toward the street, and with three entrance doors, and apple trees in the front yard.
This house had been unroofed by the tornado, and in his repair the captain had put a pitched roof over the whole house, instead of over the front with a lean-to, as those old sloping roofs were styled.
The captain was a nonagenarian in ‘70, and with his white locks and long staff, that he grasped below its top, was a noticeable figure on the village street.
Before his home was, and is, an elm that survived, not only the tornado, but the proverbial small boy. The captain's little grandson, William J. Cheney
(who, eighty years old, passed away on Christmas Day last) has told several times how he was about to cut the little sapling down.
His grandmother said, ‘No, no, William, let it grow and some time it will be a big tree.’
And so the tree grew, and he grew to man's estate and lived under its shade, and remodelled his grandfather's old home, which still remains intact.
The last time the writer saw him he told the story, and said, ‘Tell the people about that tree,’ and our promise is now kept.
Beyond the captain's house was a shady road, Canal street, bordered by lofty elms, and a willow at the entrance drive to the Mystic Mansion
.1 [p. 17]
On the opposite corner was the house occupied by a Mr. Brockway
, a carpenter.
This still remains, but with various additions and alterations.
Its lot was narrow on High street, as Whitmore brook
was close beside it, and beyond the brook a narrow meadow, then a two-story house, now for many years occupied by J. L. Brockway
, Grand Army comrade and grocer.
The two-story house next to Cottage street was then occupied by a Mr. Hooper
, and is but little changed.
Beyond Cottage street the ground rose, and there was a pear orchard and a white cottage house (now removed to Allston street), the dwelling of James W. Wilson
This was close in the corner next Allston street. Beginning back at Warren street on the other side, a large open lot lay between the street and Whitmore brook
, and also beyond the brook was open until on the rising ground was the old gambrel-roofed house of the senior Samuel Teele
This in exterior shape remains but little changed, but modern cornice, porch and windows, with removal of fences and the extension of Brooks street to High, make a difference.
Next beyond was the brown dwelling of Selectman J. P. Richardson
, who kept a grocery at Medford square. This has been removed and a two-apartment house is on its site.
An open lot was between this and Allston
street, and a pile of stones thereon marked the spot from which Mr. Lane
had moved his dwelling to Purchase street.
The house next beyond Allston street was that of John H. Norton
, a builder.
It was an old house, with small windows, fifteen paned, and sat but little above the grade of the lot, while in the rear was the barn and shop of the owner.
The doors were overhung with woodbine, and large apple trees were near by, as the lot was a large one.
It was here that the former owner, Mr. Huffmaster
, was fatally injured during the tornado.
All these buildings were later removed to, and still are on, Allston
Farther on and farther back from the street was, and [p. 18]
is, the stone house of Daniel A. Gleason
, then recently built.
Next came a deep lot on which, but not facing or near the street, are two houses then of Mr. Hastings
, who was styled Commodore
Mystic street curved up the hill, but its course is straight, down.
Opposite Mr. Norton
's the Brooks school
building, then of wood and incomplete within, loomed up large in the middle of its roomy lot, that still speaks well for the good judgment of the town's committee, who secured its location between three streets.
Beyond Auburn street, on the ledge, was the brick residence
of Richard Hallowell
, and next, the substantial one of Edward Hall, both business men of Boston
After the lapse of years no change is noticeable here, save the enlargement backward of the latter.
At Mystic street, that June morning, the writer was impressed with the beautiful view seen in all directions.
The over-arching elms were in their vernal foliage, and the sight was one not to be forgotten.
In fact, the planting of so many trees on that rocky hill and by the sandy streets at its base, speaks well for the foresight of Messrs. Teel
, the former owners.
Beyond Mystic street, among trees, was a large house, soon after turned around to face as at present and a few changes made in its exterior.
It still remains, neglected, disused for years, damaged by fire, a blot upon the scene.
Along the level ridge adjoining the street was no sidewalk and no house, until one came suddenly upon the old Richardson
, or perhaps Bradshaw
, house, screened by lilacs, at the entrance of Hastings lane.
This, enlarged in ‘72, has but a few years since been moved around a little, and with its extensive repair has now a new lease of life, though perhaps one of the oldest houses in Medford
Mystic street has been a favorite locality for clergymen.
On the highest elevation of High street the rector of Grace Church had his residence built in 1851, and just before, Rev. John Pierpont
his, of brick, close by. Rev. Mr. Haskins
' house was, while in construction, entirely [p. 19]
demolished by the tornado, but was soon rebuilt.
In ‘70 it was owned and occupied by Nathan Bridge, a business man of Boston
The terraced slopes below the house were noticeable, as well as the fruit trees thereon, and while the driveway thereto was from Mystic
, there were entrance steps at the farthest corner from the sidewalk of High street.
From this point onward for many rods was a rough stone wall and dogwood hedge, which ended at a substantial fence in front of the residence of Rev. Charles Brooks
, the Medford
historian; later this came to be known as the ‘Lilacs.’
Save the opening of a street through the rocky hill, and the removal of fence and gateway, this side of High street shows little change today.
A high board fence enclosed the back yard of his boyhood home next beyond, and his father's gambrelroofed house closely adjoined the sidewalk.
The great chimneys and sloping roof of the lean — to in the rear proclaimed it an old-timer, and within the scanty front yard three great sycamores towered, and reached out their long branches in kindly shade over the passers along Woburn street.
Thus far the writer had walked over what was once a branch from the main highway, and had come to the old center of Medford
in days agone.
He began to realize that Medford
square was still in the distance, and after looking the old houses over, resumed his walk.
Passing Hastings lane his attention was fixed on the ledge of rock that jutted out toward the road, on which was a wooden structure that proved to be the cupola of the first Brooks schoolhouse, which had just been changed into a dwelling and is still used as such.
Below this ledge was the entrance drive to the great square house of Edmund Hastings
, with the broad green meadow before it, and the house and greenhouses of Mr. Bean
bordering the brook.
The pedestrian was on the left hand, for there was a sidewalk.
Leaving Woburn street he noticed a cellar hole, partially filled, and with sumac and butternut trees in and around it; and next a not [p. 20]
too modern dwelling, succeeded by one occupied by a Mr. Gibson
, and which he afterward learned was the site of Medford
's first meeting-house in 1693.
Then came a lane leading to another house further back, and next a new house in process of building.
Just here the sidewalk was much above the street, somewhat protected by posts and rails and a growth of lilacs.
The Simonds house
came next, and lower down a white and newer cottage after a sudden descent, then a great outcropping ledge, and farther back the quaint gambrel-roof cottage of Mr. Gillard
, and then the meadow through which flowed the brook we know by the name of Meeting-house
Pausing beneath the grateful shade of the big elm, that in the sidewalk still remains, the writer took in the view for a time, and then walked along the slightly upward grade.
Vacant land then as now across the way, but on the left a large white house set squarely facing the sun near the street, in a space as yet, after forty-five years, open, while trees are all about it. This was the home of Alonzo D. Puffer
It resembled very much the one built and owned by Dr. Osgood
, but was doubtless much older.
Two years later it was removed to its present location and enlarged.
A few rods further and he came to where another road crossed at acute angles.
This the reader will recognize as the present Winthrop square.
A big, dark-colored house lay beyond the crossing street, and beyond it a lane.
The house had a long rambling ell and quaint dormer windows, faced the sun, and the first story was almost hidden by the lilacs and other trees that were near it. This was, of course, the Porter
or Turell house.
Steps in the wall and a gravel walk led up to a house on the hill, then more vacant land and another lane, and next an old, old house, quite small, with a lean — to in the rear, and painted yellow.
This was the Roach house
Beyond this the land was higher than the sidewalk and was retained by a brick wall topped by a low fence of wood.
While the fence was upright the wall had been crowded out at the top and looked [p. 21]
ready to fall.
A driveway beyond it led into the grounds of the Train house
Later the brick wall was removed, the street widened, and the front porch and steps of house narrowed a little.
But who of all passers has ever seen those front doors open?
Next more lilacs, the old Watson house, now just gone, and there was the curved carriage path, and the great straw-colored meeting-house of the First Parish.
Its classic architecture, pillared porch and storied steeple, all in massive proportion, could but command attention, and as the clock struck the hour, there was that in the tone of the bell that proclaimed it one of the olden days.
The sign-board of the road beside it said nothing then of powder house, but beyond it in stately simplicity, was another great house, about whose entrance doors the old-time carpenters have shown their skill.
This also near the street (nearer now), as though good Doctor Osgood
wanted to save all the land possible for his garden.
The wide lawn with its trees and walks, and the spacious house in English style of Mr. Boynton
was especially attractive, but no more noticeable than the next, that seemed completely shut in by a high board fence.
Still, the uncommon sight of a three-story ell and two-story house was the same as now. But stately and singular was the next, the residence of the elder Magoun
, the figure-eight house it was sometimes called, with its steep drive and the stable in its rear.
A large open frontage on the street extended up the hillside and on toward another building the stranger thought to be a schoolhouse, though he wasn't sure whether the vane on the cupola was a telescope or a base-ball bat.
Then, close together, were five houses, all but the first (which had a long roof sloping backward) of generous proportions, and by their style of construction proclaiming their respectable bearing and evident age. Then a narrow lane led backward to a brick house, that needed but a glance to show it to be one of old-time importance; and next another, stately indeed, as befitted the old governor's mansion; and then the big horse-chestnut tree, [p. 22]
a monarch indeed, to which the birds of the air still come.
The Simpson tavern
, with its wide porch and balcony.
and another brick building beyond it. Oh!
but there was another before coming to the tavern, i.e
., the Seccomb house
, a little one—what was it, a barber's shop or a reading room?
A vacant lot was next Forest street where had been the old Tufts house.
On the other side of old High street and leaving the place that has since become Winthrop square the land was much below the street, whose retaining wall and sidewalk was fenced for safety.
Large elms were noticeable, and cows were pastured in the enclosure.
A big double house that looked substantial stood here, then another field that sloped away to Meeting-house
brook and the river.
Next was Grace Church, but without the chimes or the chapel extension.
It was then but a few years built, as also the Tufts residence that adjoined it. This had then no outer chimney, but there was a massive fence along the sidewalk, painted, as was the house, in colors blue.
The next house and that of Thatcher Magoun
need no description, except to mention the high fence and gateways with lantern over, and the well-kept grounds, and the statuary.
Next a large house with mansard roof, a porch over the front entrance, and the ground below the street sloping to the river and vacant for some distance.
A small cottage painted straw-color stood close to the way; next the old Grace Church, in which then or later a Medford school was kept.
Then came the house of Dr. Bemis
; next the fire engine house, since moved a little, and now the Grand Army
hall, and next the ‘Orthodox,’ or ‘Mr. McCollom
There was then no clock upon it, but it had a bell which was rung at stated intervals each week day at the town's expense.
A small vacant lot lay beyond the church, and next was the four-story brick block then called the ‘Usher Building.’
Next were some low wooden buildings, in one of which was Wyman
's market, that in later years [p. 23]
gave place to the Odd Fellows building
The two-story wooden building with the Coburn and another store was there as now, and the Town
hall, as everybody knows, was there in 1870, in practically its present appearance.
And here ended, or rather began, High street, over which the writer has since many times walked, driven or trolleyed, but never found it so long as on that day.
In this description he has turned into no side streets, as he did into none then.
Were the walk to be taken today one would find these streets increased by thirteen, ten of which lie west of the railway.
Six of these extend southeasterly across the then open plain, and show attractive views along their maple-bordered lines.
One would look in vain for the great barn of Mr. Brooks
, or the beautiful arch, though the farmhouse remains.
But new streets are here, and new houses, nearly fifty in number, are upon his ancestral estate.
The old-time houses of forty-five years ago are, of course, easily recognized, and the number erected since but small.
Some changes, however, have been made that have been radical.
Below the surface on that day was no sewer, neither water nor gas mains, as now. Today almost the entire length is double-tracked with steel and paved with asphalt or macadam.
No wires or conduits then, only the telegraph needed them, and that was along the railway.
's grocery became Joseph E. Ober
's six months later, but instead of being the only store has numerous competitors.
The greenhouses have given place to St. Raphael's Church, the wooden depot to a larger one of stone, and the Usher house
, with its trees, to a business and residence block.
The Congregational Church (of stone) has replaced the Wilson
home, and the larger Brooks School (of brick) the wooden one. Wolcott road is so new that its mention is scarcely yet history, and the few new houses opposite do not obstruct the view of College Hill
This view is a far different one today, as it has grown from three buildings of the college and three residences on the hill slope.
No new dwellings from the top of the [p. 24]
hill to Grace Church save the rectory on one side and the Jenney residence on the other.
residence was moved, enlarged, and so remodelled as to show no semblance of its former self.
The First Parish Church, of course, replaces the old edifice, the St. Joseph
's parochial residence the old Unitarian
parsonage, and the Magoun residence has become the Public Library
St. Joseph's Church has been built, as has also the armory, on whose site Mr. Magoun
built, in the early seventies, an elaborate stable for his cows, which later became a dwelling-house.
The old Episcopal Church has become a double dwelling, the Dr. Bemis house enlarged, and two more built just below it. James Bean's house, now the Children
's Library, on one side and the Dutton dwelling on the other of the new Hillside avenue complete the residences built on High street since 1870.
The old High School enlargement, the Telephone building
, the two banks, and the Weymouth building
(Tufts Hall) bring us to Medford Square.
's meeting-house (afterward St. Joseph
's) still remains as Page & Curtin
's store, and the two-story wooden building southward was built by J. M. Usher
in ‘71, but the Opera House
block was erected in later years.
In making these changes some eight or nine buildings have been demolished and one removed, and one church burned.
With the exception of the portion next the square, and another but little longer at West Medford, old High street is a residential street, though one of our main arteries of travel.
Twenty-one thousand people have come to Medford
since 1870, but the increase has been little on High street.
With the thought of presenting to the people of today a view of it as it was in ‘70, and with the hope that the coming years of Medford
's growth may keep it in its present beauty, only building on its few remaining spaces attractive homes and substantial structures where business may require, this sketch has been written.