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Aberdeen History

Aberdeen is a place name that applies to a much larger area than what is being delineated as "Aberdeen" for the purposes of this survey. This area initially developed as the direct result of the widening of Beacon street during the mid 1880s and the subsequent introduction of Henry M.Whitney's West End Street Railway which was set out over Beacon Street, Brookline in 1886. Aberdeen is historically significant as a planned residential community which complements the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed "Chestnut Hill Loop" system of roads that links Chestnut Hill Avenue with Beacon Street, just east of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

From the seventeenth through late 19th century, this area was remote from major population centers at Brighton Center and Brookline Village. The nearest major thoroughfares were Washington Street, to the north east, a highway that had been set out during the mid 17th century, and the early 19th century Rockland Street (Chestnut Hill Avenue), to the southwest; as late as the 1860s, this area was completely devoid of dwellings. The construction of the 212-acre Chestnut Hill Reservoir during the late 1860s at the Brighton -Newton boundary called attention to the rugged, rural charms of the Aberdeen area but did not trigger house construction in this still-remote section. As early as 1866, Henry M. Whitney, an executive in the Metropolitan Steamship Company, saw the possibilities of Beacon Street, which had been laid out in 1850 as a fifty-foot wide county way. He began buying up farms in the vicinity as an investment, and later formed a syndicate, the West End Land Company, that bought on an even larger scale. Whitney, a member of the Brookline Parks Commission, had originally proposed to widen Beacon Street to 200 feet, a recommendation later scaled hack to 160 feet. Whitney insured the success of residential development on parcels bordering Beacon Street by the introduction of the electrified West End Street Railway over this thoroughfare in 1887; Whitney was also the president of this railway. The Aberdeen section 's creation is inextricably bound to Whitney's far-sighted Beacon Street, Brookline project.

During the 1870s, much of this area was part of a large undeveloped tract owned by Frances Hunnewell. The southwestern edge of this area, in the vicinity of Kinross and Chiswick Roads, was owned by J. Smith Homans. By 1885, 90 percent of this area was owned by the Beacon Street Land Company Trust. Reuben E. Demmon held the remaining 10% consisting of a narrow parcel bordering the south side of Commonwealth Avenue.

Commonwealth Avenue, on the north side of this area, was conceived by the preeminent late 19th century American landscape Frederick Law Olmsted in 1884. Construction on the avenue was completed during the early 1890s but the depression of 1893 delayed the landscaping and accounted for a general halt in Boston house construction. This economic down turn also accounts, in part, for the lag in Aberdeen's house construction between the introduction of the electric railway to Beacon Street in 1887 and the mid -1890s. The streets in this area were set out during the mid -late 1890s with the exception of Sutherland Road which was originally called Roxbury Avenue. It was set out between 1867 and 1874, from Chestnut Hill Avenue to the no longer extant Howard Place north of Commonwealth Avenue. The segment of Sutherland south of Englewood was called Isleworth Street during the late 1880s and 1890s while the northern segment has been called Sutherland Road since the late 1880s. Approximately 77 feet of Sutherland Road was lost to the laying out of Commonwealth Avenue during the early 1890s. Selkirk Road and Chiswick Roads appear on the 1885 Brighton Atlas as proposed streets that did not exactly follow the current paths of these winding ways. Kilsyth Road or "Road No. l" first appears in the Street Commissioner's Report of 1893 and Lanark Road which existed on paper as early as 1889 but was not set out until 1897.

The earliest houses in this area seem to have been built a year or so before the financial panic of 1893. Most of these early residences border the streets of the oval island formed by Lanark and Kilsyth Roads, although survivors from this first "wave" of house construction are scattered about the entire area. Bankers, businessmen, commodities dealers and teachers, were among the original owners of these stylish and substantial houses. For example, 77 Chiswick Road was built in 1892 from designs provided by Boston architect W.F. Goodwin for Frank F. Woods, treasurer of the S.A. Woods Machine Company. By 1909, State Street, Boston businessman Henry Taggard owned this property. Later owners included Orville W. Butler (1910s) and Frank A. McClasky, banker with Hodgdon-Cashman, 53 State Street (1920s). By 1930, McClasky is listed as president and treasurer of the Phoenix Bond and Mortgage Co., 89 State Street. Another W.F. Goodwin-designed residence is 131 Kilsyth Road, a substantial residence characterized by Shingle Style gambrel-roofed forms, Queen Anne fenestration and Colonial Revival elements. It was built by H.H. Hunt in 1892-93 for a Frank Woodruff. Across the street, perched on a high rubble stone foundation and blending almost seamlessly with its ledgy, wooded surroundings, 132 Kilsyth Road was extant by 1899. An early owner was William T. Glidden whose profession is variously listed as "clerk" and "investments". The robust Queen Anne house at 123 Kilsyth Road was extant by 1899. From the late 1890s until the 1910s it was owned by George E. Perrin who commuted to a clerk's job on Devonshire Street, Boston. During the 1920s and 1930s, John Louis Sheehan, lawyer lived here. Glidden owned this property until at least the early 1930s. The splendidly rustic residence of Charles H. Bacall at 155 Kilsyth Road was designed in the Shingle/Craftsman style by Cabot, Everett and Mead, architects of the First Unitarian Church at 189 Chestnut Hill Avenue, Brighton, also in 1892-1893. By the late 1890s, a Winthrop Smith is located at this address with later owners including Gertrude M. Smith during the 1910s and 1920s and Joseph F. O'Connell by 1930.

One of the finest examples of the Shingle Style in this area is 45 Lanark Road which was owned during the mid-1890s by Horace Partridge, president of the Horace Partridge Co., purveyors of "wholesale fancy goods". In 1894, Partridge's residence is listed as North Cambridge. By 1909 a Music teacher named Lizzie E. Orth lived here. Later owners included William a. Fisher (1910s) and P. B Heintz, president and general manager of the National Casket co. at 3 Park Street, Boston.

Selkirk Road boasts a small but choice concentration of Queen Anne and Shingle style residences that are constructed, in part, with local ledge quarried materials including 10 Selkirk Road. Built during the mid-1890s, this house's original owner was a Henrietta Woodman. From 1909 until at least the early 1930s, this house was owned by Miriam G. and Samuel A. Myers. Mr. Myers was a partner in S.A. and A. Myers, 36 Otis Street, in 1899 for Mary and Charles A. Walker. Mr. Walker is listed as an artist with a studio at 20 Beacon Street, later 116 Harrison Avenue. Boston architect George A. Mitchell designed 14 Selkirk Road.

The Queen Anne Forest S. Smith House at 15 Selkirk Road was built during the 1890s for an associate of Hosmer, Robinson Co., dealers in hay, grain and straw at 177 Milk Street. Smith lived here until the late 1920s. By 1930, this house was occupied by Ferdinand S. Bloom, assistant treasurer, William Bloom and Co., a "steamship contracting, stevedore and freight handing company." One of the most elaborate houses ever built in Brighton as well as in the Aberdeen section, is 24 Selkirk Road. Built during the 1890s, this towered Queen Anne /Shingle style house with its great stone entrance arch was built for a Rachel C. Mayo. By c. 1920, Hannah and Edward S. Booth owned this property. Based on Milk Street in downtown Boston, Booth's business is listed as "steam ship contracting, stevedore and freight handling". Situated at the northeast corner of Selkirk and Sutherland Roads, 111 Sutherland Road is a commodious towered Queen Anne house possessing an irregular form. It rises 2.5 stories from a ledge stone basement to an intersecting gable. Its surfaces exhibit a Stick Style overlay of wooden elements evident in the apron panel detail. The southwest wall exhibits an unusual window containing sash in the shape of a six-pointed star. From the 1890s until at least the mid 1920s, this was the home of an Antoinette F. Bartlett.

One of a group of four 1890s houses that managed to escape obliteration for the accommodation of apartments is the Queen Anne style residence at 25 Kinross Road. Possibly built as an investment property for Elizabeth and R. Fenner Curtis, Mr. Curtis was a teacher at the Curtis Peabody School, a private school located at 86 Beacon Street, Boston. The Curtis' are listed as living at 18 St. Stephen Street, Boston during the 1890s.

A rather late example of a single-family house in the Aberdeen area is 77 Kilsyth Road. Built in 1908, on the eve of the introduction of the electric railway to nearby Commonwealth Avenue, this wooden Queen Anne house was built for real estate developer Robert M. Goode of 96 Kilsyth Street, from designs provided by Louis P. McCarron. In 1909, this house's owner is listed as Flora L. Allen. Later owners included Gertrude H. Bowen (1910s) and Margaret G. and John J. Cassidy, florist at 6 Beacon Street, Boston during the 1920s and 1930s.

Turning to the apartment houses of Aberdeen, one of the earliest multi-family buildings in this area are the bow front Georgian Revival apartments at 2-8 Colliston Road. Built in 1908-1909 by John C. Foley, architect and builder who was based at 336 Lowell Street, Somerville, this group's land had been part of the West End Land Co.'s holdings.

This development company was headed by Henry M. Whitney, president of a Boston steam ship company and Beacon Street, Brookline's West End Elevated Railway. During the 1910s and 20s, the owners of this group were of Irish and Yankee backgrounds, a pattern that was atypical for this area as a sizable number of Jewish families rented apartments in this area by the 1920s. Over time, owners of 2-8 Colliston Road included Margaret C. Tobin (1909), John A. and Beile Gardiner (1910s), Margaret M. Culhane and Margaret M. Davis (1925) while tenants listed at this address in 1930 included Frederic J. Wood (#2) , insurance, 184 High Street, Frank A. Halloran (#4), real estate, Ella G. Fiske and Mrs. Ellen Fiske (#6) and Henry J. Horn (#8), railroad analyst.

By the 1910s, the rocky terrain at the northern end of Sutherland Road, near Commonwealth Avenue, had been tamed sufficiently to accommodate large-scale apartment house construction. Blending elements of the Georgian and Egyptian Revival styles, 116-132 Sutherland Road also known as the Kinross Apartments was built c. 1917-1924 on part of a lot that had been the site of the residence of Lillian B. Kelly (early 1900s) and Arabella S. Mudge who owned the entire block bounded by Lanark, Kinross and Sutherland Roads. By 1925, 116-132 Sutherland Road were extant and owned by Mary I. Gardiner et als, trustees. Across the street at 119-127 Sutherland Road, these Georgian Revival apartments were built c. 1925-1930, replacing a c. 1890s brick residence that had been built for a Velma E. Maxwell.

Prominently sited at the north west comer of Commonwealth Avenue and Sutherland Road, is a V-shaped configuration of three, 12 family apartment buildings at 1706-1710 Commonwealth Avenue and 148 Sutherland Road. Designed in the Georgian Revival style in 1915, from designs provided by Somerville architect John C. Foley, this ensemble was constructed by Dorchester builder Frederick A. Corbett. A review of its tenants in 1930 reveals an eclectic mix of Jewish, Irish, Italian, and Swedish names.

Among the best known apartments in Allston-Brighton is the group of James A. Halloran-designed apartments at 1714-1742 Commonwealth Avenue. These apartments were built by the Dorchester contractor Frederick A. Corbett. Douglass Shand Tucci, in Built in Boston. Citv and Suburb, includes photographs of these eight six-unit apartment buildings noteworthy for their lively Tudor Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival surface treatments. During the late 19th century, this group's land had been part of the J. Homans tract (1870s), Reuben E. Demmon tract (1880s) and the Horace W. Jordan and George A. Wilson lands. The latter, a major "mover and shaker" in late 19th century Brighton, having operated the Brighton Hotel, won a teaming contract along with B.F. Ricker related to the construction of the Chestnut hill Reservoir and ,above all, was a major property owner and real estate developer. By 1916, 1714-1742 Commonwealth Avenue was owned by Josephine Ringrose of Dorchester. By 1925, this group was owned by a Thomas Rush and real estate developer Victor Brusendorf. By 1930, this group's roster of owners included Samuel W. Hurwitz, printer (1714), Sidney R. Paul, wholesale women's coats, 600 Washington Street (1718), Albert R. Hussey, salesman (1722), Arthur R. Stott, salesman (1726), beauty shop-owner Sadie Gillespie (1730) and Charles R. Werner, real estate (1736- 1742).

Continuing southwestward along Commonwealth Avenue, is the Georgian Revival group at 1746-1762 Commonwealth Avenue. Possessing a late 19th/early 20th century lot history identical to that of 1714- 1742 Commonwealth Avenue, 1746-1762 Commonwealth Avenue was built in 1926 from designs provided by the amazingly prolific Boston architectural firm of Silverman, Brown and Heenan, a firm that, to a great degree, shaped the face of Park Drive in the West Fens as well as many of the streets in the apartment districts of Allston-Brighton during the first quarter of the 20th century. This group replaced the house and stable of Florence L. Smith whose address was 8 Kinoss Road. These apartments were originally owned by Allston-Brighton apartment developers Berson and Berrish.

By 1920, the Aberdeen area was almost completely developed, thanks to steam rollers, dynamite and macadamized road construction that was widely utilized by municipalities during the late 1880s and 1890s to make rugged terrain viable for house and road construction. A late addition to this neighborhood is the small, curious development of three deckers at Wilson Park. Situated at the northeast comer of the Aberdeen area, this oval green space is tucked away behind a commercial block at 1686 Commonwealth Avenue. This "pocket" park and adjacent house lots were carved from the extensive holdings of Henry M. Whitney, Boston steam ship company president and owner of the West End Railway that began operating on Beacon street, Brookline in 1887. Although Wilson Park was set out by 1916, the three deckers on the east side of the park were built c. 1920. Residents of the three-deckers numbered 25 and 33 Wilson Park included Phillip J. Hurlburt, upholsterer and Joseph C. Leighton, manager, at 25 Wilson Park and Phillip J. Eon, auto mechanic at 33 Wilson Park.


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