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[p. 10]

History told by names of streets.

In Volume VII the Register noted the significance of the names of Medford streets. In the thirteen years that have elapsed population has largely increased, vacant land been developed and estates divided. The new streets are so numerous as to require a directory and specific instruction for even an old resident to readily find them.

The nomenclature of these is a matter of some interest, as a glance at the list shows. A little book, the result of recent private enterprise, is a handy City Guide to over five hundred streets, avenues, courts, places, roads, squares and terraces. By duplication of the latter the actual number of names is reduced just one hundred. Not all are public or accepted by the city, and thus a few names are duplicated. To a few a former name clings, while the newer or established name is also given.

It would be interesting to know just why we have a “Sayso road” while the more pretentious name of Bowen avenue has official sanction. The title examiner finds difficulties in the many recorded plans and deeds where appear names that of necessity were changed on a street's acceptance.

This City Guide, for convenience, refers to Glenwood, Hillside, South Medford, Wellington and West Medford, which lay around the border and partially encircle the old Medford.

In 1829 the selectmen named the ways radiating from the town pump (which seems to have been the hub of Medford), but prior to that time they were the “roads to” various places.

The Register has told “how Medford began to grow.” She has continued to, and has not yet “got her growth.” Some enterprising speculator develops vacant land or divides an ancestral estate, gives it a name, lays out streets and assigns names of his own fancy to them. For instance, at South Medford the old road to Cambridge [p. 11] and its college was called Harvard street. By and by there was a half-mile race-track beside it, next a brickyard, and after years of vacancy the place becomes College field, with Amherst, Bowdoin, Colby, Dartmouth, Princeton, Radcliffe and Yale, with Andover and Exeter beside. Along comes another, and across Buzzell's lane are the abandoned clay-pits of Buzzell's decadent brick industry, with a piece of upland on Main street extending to College avenue, which name, of course, relates to Tufts college. The ash dumpage of Somerville comes into the clay-pits, Captain Adams' brick house is demolished, and College acres appears.

Stanley and Frederick avenues connect Main street with College avenue and Windsor road with Hinsdale street. Of the significance of these names we are unaware, as well as of Rhinecliff, the next in order. The only dale we see is the remains of the old clay-pit, and the only cliff the edge of the ever-increasing dump, but the slow trickle of Two-penny brook beside it isn't comparable with the great German river.

A lot of the sand of College field has migrated to the acres in the form of the concrete block foundations. Some store-building syndicate has erected its structure on Main street, and the Church Extension Society located on a strategic point the temporary chapel of St. John's Church.

Across the way, where once was Isaac Royall's farmhouse, not many years since was the Mystic trotting park. Blocks of stores, garage and dwellings now line its new streets. These bear the names of former proprietors and turfmen — Wright, Willis, Bonner, Golden and Trott. Hicks avenue leads to the later Combination park and perpetuates its projector's name. Dexter street recalls a former owner, and in the corner of the city are another owner's children's names — Joseph, Lewis, Edward and Henry.

Away back in 1845 Edward Hastings and Samuel Teel laid out the land on either side High street from [p. 12] the Woburn road to the Lowell railroad. A plan of the same has recently come to the Historical Society on which one reads, “offensive trades prohibited by indenture.” The noble elms bordering those streets were also of the proprietors' foresight. The names they gave remain today, save Lowell, which failed to displace the appropriate one of Canal, and there were Canal streets leading to the Middlesex canal in other towns also.

Brooks street then extended from Irving to Woburn streets, but since to High and Winthrop. Doubtless it was named for Hon. Edward Brooks, as was the new schoolhouse erected beside it in 1851. Cottage, probably from the type of houses there erected; Mystic, because of its trend from Mystic mount (now Hastings heights), toward the river. Auburn, Allston, Irving and Prescott are sentimental, reflecting the cultivated and literary taste of Rev. John Pierpont and Charles Brooks.

Woburn street was, of course, the old “Oborne rode” of the early days. Warren street extends through the old farm of Amos Warren, and the newer Wyman street through the old Wyman estate. Gleason street adjoins the Gleason school, both named for Hon. Daniel A. Gleason of the school committee.

Madison street was one of the later streets, and probably suggested by James Madison Usher, a namesake of President Madison. Usher road lies within the limits of his former estate, while Gorham, Clewley, Chardon and Wheelwright are those of relatives of the Brooks family, whose land they traverse. Century road was laid out in the closing year of the nineteenth century. Playstead road is self-evident, as it borders the playground. Chandler road, because of Frank E. Chandler's ownership, and Woods Edge road is on the edge of the wooded hill. Laurel and Vernon are probably fanciful, as also Boylston terrace. Smith's and Hastings' lane and Whittle road were proprietary. Rock hill is also very truly named, and High street reaches its highest point near by.

At the West End one looks in vain for Gorham and [p. 13] Lake parks as shown on Walling's map of Medford, or some streets of old recorded plans. One of these, Winthrop, became Sharon by the town's acceptance. Medford already had a Winthrop street and several names were suggested for this new one, but that of their old home town, suggested by the Morse brothers, whose new home adjoined it, found most favor. Myrtle could not be duplicated, and E. W. Metcalf, an abutter and petitioner, suggested Jerome, in honor of Jerome Bonaparte Judkins, one of the land developers of 1870. He was the grandfather of the young soldier, Medford's first loss in the present war. Mr. Judkins gave the names of Temple and Tontine, Lincoln and Sherman to those streets. Holton street was laid out by Samuel S. Holton, Sr., to subdivide some large lots and provide a corner location for Trinity Church, and so given his name. As old Ship street had become Riverside avenue, a new name had to be found for the western one, which on acceptance became Arlington street. It is a long street, reaching nearly to Arlington line.

In a subdivision of the older plan in 1870 two new streets were called Linden and Hawthorn, both grafted into Myrtle. As the latter was uprooted or transplanted as Jerome, so Linden got the name of a worthy resident, Fairfield. Only Hawthorn remains, and that only on paper.

Minot street of the old plan was laid out by the county commissioners as Boston avenue, and it had been better had a suggestion of eighty feet wide instead of sixty been heeded.

Whatever suggested Monument is a query. Possibly Bunker Hill monument was then visible there over the rise of College hill (not now),, as it was from Grove street near by. Mr. Brooks planted a grove in the “Delta” in 1820; from this may have come the name given the old Cambridge road to Woburn, now Grove street. Bower (not Bowers) street was so called by Thomas P. Smith, land owner, for a Bower street where he had formerly [p. 14] lived, and which similarly got the name from a grove or bower of trees. Harvard avenue was the West Medford way to the college, as was Harvard street before mentioned from South Medford. Circuit street is a circuitous route from Bower, beside the railroad, and to Bower again.

Within a few years a real estate trust has, on the Francis Brooks estate, opened Jackson, Woodland and Newton roads, Kilgore, Pitcher, Johnson and Tyler avenues (all names of the company), and has preserved the Brooks monument to Sagamore John at Sagamore avenue and place. Ravine road and Lakeview are thus appropriately named.

In this article we have covered mainly the South and West Medford sections, with less than one hundred names. To mention the names, with why and wherefore, is merely to skim the surface of the subject. The reclamation of waste places, construction of passable roads, with their arteries of water and gas, nerves of electricity, and intestinal sewers, has been a work of years of private enterprise and public cost. Still the work goes on, even though the town pump, the original radial center, is gone, unknown to the present and only remembered by the oldest inhabitants.

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