Fin De Siecle.
EARLY a century ago (to be precise, at April town meeting, in 1829), Medford
people decided that their highways should have distinctive names, and directed the selectmen to suitably designate them.
Medford square was then known as the market-place, and though nearby were several rum distilleries, the pump in the square supplied man and beast with nature's own beverage, and was the starting point of three principal roads of the baker's dozen the selectmen named.
The first was ‘from the town pump, west
to Charlestown line, High street; second, east
to Malden line, Salem
; and third, south
to foot of Winter hill
Three streets branched to the right from High street to Woburn line.
Purchase (now Winthrop
Today only the three Hall
houses below Governors avenue, the Unitarian
parsonage, and the old Magoun
cottage opposite remain of those standing in 1829.
The present Winthrop square was then called Turell
A new road had then been recently proposed which would have crossed the Playstead and Brooks estate, and also the Aberjona river
, to the West Cambridge
road, but instead, another was partially bought, hence its name.
It made a more direct and level route to Upper Medford
, and left old Woburn street to become a residential section.
Let us now look at old High street, beginning at its terminal, Charlestown line.
An old resident of Medford
did this for us, and his story may be found in the Regis-ter, Vol.
VIII, p. 44. This was Elijah B. Smith
, who passed away August 16, 1903.
His father, Elijah, was born in Lexington
, a few years before the battle, and [p. 22]
came to Medford
in 1810, living in a house close by the Middlesex canal
on High street, where Elijah, Jr., was born in 1813.
speaks of the territory between the canal and river as the ‘fifty-acre Payson farm,’ but mentioned no other buildings on its High street frontage.
This farm, in the fifties, became known as the Smith
estate from its then owner, Thomas P. Smith
He mentions a small house, opposite his father's, of Spencer Bucknam
(in other occupancy), which was torn down.
Also another at corner of Grove street that was later moved, and in which Mr. Brooks
' gardener lived.
As his recollection begins with 1820, this is indicative of the development of the Brooks
Evidently that house remains (the farmhouse long occupied by Lucien Conant
), and last year was remodelled with stucco coating.
His next statement is, ‘an eighth of a mile further east lived Miss Rebecca Brooks
lived in her house and carried on the farm, i.e
., what he styled the Payson farm
plan of 1854 shows the outline of this house, and also the one-hundred-foot barn in which was later the gymnasium of Mystic Hall Seminary.
This was at the site of present Brentwood Court, and ‘Aunt Becky's’ house was later the residence of Mrs. Smith
, and one of the seminary buildings Elijah Smith
He also stated that ‘nearly opposite, Miss Brooks
' brother Caleb lived on the site of present railway station.’
As he told this in 1903 and the present station was built in 1891, and this house is shown on the Fuller plan of 1854, it indicates some later changes.
This was his only
allusion to the railroad, which was opened in 1835, and whose first station house, ‘Medford Gates
,’ was on the east of the tracks, near High street.
He mentioned next ‘the house owned by Leonard Bucknam
, occupied by his brother-in-law, Eleazer Usher
; [p. 23]
and just below the Usher house
lived Deacon Amos Warren
. Warren street was cut through his farm and named in his honor.’
We have been thus explicit in quoting Mr. Smith
's words, as they are good history.
He began his account with Wear bridge, which in his boyhood was at the Charlestown
line the Medford
selectmen named as the end of High street.
mentioned no other house across High street till that of Major Gershom Teel
, later that of Captain Joseph Wyatt
This was at the corner of Canal lane.
An event has recently occurred there which has caused much comment—the moving of a dwelling house from 422 High street to Canal street, causing several days' interruption of street-car and other travel, and curious overlooking by passers-by.
The writer was several times queried by such, and not being able to answer all readily and correctly, replied, ‘Oh, I'm not an information pagoda today!’
and got the reply, ‘We think you know if anybody does.’
Remembering the interest with which we read Mr. Smith
's story, and that in Register, Vol.
XVIII, p. 13, we presented High street as we found it in 1870, leads us to this writing.