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Chandler's Pond


Chandler's Pond between Lake and Kenrick Streets in Brighton lies in the so-called Nonantum Valley, which is enclosed by Nonantum Hill on the north and Waban Hill on the south. The pond is a man-made body of water, dating from 1855. It was excavated for ice-making purposes by local horticulturist and entrepreneur William C. Strong.


1885 Map with Chandler's Pond on the right and Strong's Pond (formerly Downing's Pond) to the left



Chandler's Pond 1890 (courtesy of the Boston Public Library).  Note the lack of houses on Lake and Kenrick St



Cattle grazing next to Chandler's Pond c1885



Chandler's Pond

In 1865, Strong created a second pond just west of Chandler's (also for ice-making), called Strong's Pond. While a small portion of Strong's Pond survives on the grounds of the Chestnut Hill Country club, Chandler's Pond is, for all practical purposes, the last survivor of nearly twenty ponds, which once dotted Allston-Brighton.


Strong's Pond is visible from this photo from the Eliot Memorial off Kenrick St in Newton (courtesy  of Images In America - Newton)

Chandler's Pond is fed by Dana Brook, which flows out of Newton. After leaving the Nonantum Valley this watercourse meanders more than a mile in a generally northeastern direction, before emptying into the Charles River in the vicinity of the present Soldier's Field Road Extension. The portion of the brook situated north of Chandler's Pond now lies underground in conduits.

The Nonantum Valley has a long and fascinating history. In October 1646, the Reverend John Eliot, who was known as the Apostle to the Indians, performed his first conversions of native-Americans to Christianity at the western end of the Nonantum Valley. The leader of the local natives at that time was the enterprising Waban, (called The Merchant by the white settlers), the man for whom Waban Hill was named. It was also at the western end of Nonantum Valley that the first Praying Indian community in British North America was established, and named Nonantum, which signified rejoicing in the Algonquin language. In 1650 the Praying Indians of Nonantum relocated to Natick. A monument stands on the site of Nonantum Village, erected by the City of Newton in the mid-19th century.

The land on which Chandler's Pond is situated was first owned by Richard Dana, progenitor of a family that produced many notable statesmen, writers, and reformers. The Dana family owned this land more or less continuously until the early 19th century. Their homestead which stood in nearby Oak Square, at the corner of Nonantum and Washington Streets, was destroyed by fire in the early 1870s.

By 1837 the southerly portion of the Dana property had passed into the hands of Horace Gray, an influential Boston businessman and horticulturist, who played a leading role in establishing the Boston Public Garden. (Gray was also, incidentally, the father of a future Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court and U.S. Supreme Court Justice of the same name). The senior Gray build an imposing country house at the crest of Nonantum Hill, overlooking the valley in which Chandler's Pond would later be created. In the late 1850s George Greig, British Consul to Boston, occupied this house as a country residence. According to Wilder's, The Horticultural History of Boston and Vicinity, Gray erected on the grounds the largest grape houses known in the United States, in which were grown extensively numerous varieties of foreign grapes. For the test of these under glass in cold houses, Gray erected a large curvilinear-roof house, two hundred feet long by twenty-four wide. This was such a great success that he build two more of the same dimension.

In 1848, however, Gray was forced by financial difficulties to sell his Brighton property. The purchaser was William C. Strong, who expanded the horticultural business there by laying out additional vines and adding other plants. Strong also build an immense greenhouse for his Nonantum Valley Nurseries.

As previously noted, it was William C. Strong (successor to Horace Gray and Breck's son-in-law), and another Massachusetts Horticultural Society President in the period 1971 to 1874, who excavated Chandler's and Strong's Pond (on the site where the Chandler's Pond Apartments stand today). Strong first leased and then, in 1858, sold the more easterly of these ponds and its adjacent ice house to Malcolm Chandler, and experienced ice merchant who had previously owned and operated an ice cutting business at Hammond Pond in Newton. Ice harvesting in Massachusetts began in the early 1800s with shipments of ice to locations as far away as Martinique1. Ice harvesting Chandler built an imposing Greek Revival style mansion for himself at 70 Lake overlooking the Pond, a building which still stands.



After scoring the ice, the ice blocks were sawed apart and then stored in the ice house


Strong continued ice-cutting on Strong's Pond until 1880. Once refrigeration was introduced, however, a fierce competition developed between the two local ice-dealers for the remaining business in natural ice. Following a destructive fire at Strong's ice-house in 1872, Chandler was arrested and charged with arson. However, he was eventually found innocent of the crime. Strong gradually sold off his Brighton property in the 1880s. Long interested in real estate development, he moved to Beacon Street in Newton's Auburndale section in 1875, where he proceeded to develop a new suburb which he called Waban.

In 1880 Strong sold his Brighton ice-cutting interest to Jeremiah H. Downing. In 1895, the Chestnut Hill Country Club purchased the land on which Strong's or Downing's Pond was located. Chandler's Pond was acquired by Phineas B. Smith in 1883. When the Chandler family failed to meet the mortgage payments, Smith took possession. In 1912, the Chandler's Pond acreage passed into the hands of local contractor John H. Sullivan, who lived in a stucco mansion at the southwest corner of Undine Road and Lake Street, a structure designed by renowned architect Guy Lowell, whose distinguished works included Boston's Museum of Fine Arts on the Fenway. In the following year, Sullivan sold the Chandler's Pond acreage to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.


1909 Map of Chandlers Pond showing the Downing Ice House and supporting buildings near the intersection of Kenrick St and Brayton Rd.  Some of these supporting building still stand today


Downing Ice House (later Keith's) horse stable seen at the bottom center of the above 1909 map


Downing Ice Wagon



Downing Ice Wagon with Kenrick St Houses/Offices near Brayton Rd in the background




Downing Horses c1900


Chandler's Pond Ice Harvesting Relics (courtesy Alex Wajesfelner)

The archdiocese sold the Chandler's Pond acreage to developer George W. Robertson in 1925, whereupon Robertson proceeded to subdivide the property into lots for residential development. House construction along the pond's northern shore (Kenrick Street) began in 1925. Lake Shore Road, on the southern edge of the Pond, was put through in the mid-twenties, and the first houses were constructed shortly thereafter.

The city of Boston acquired the Chandler's Pond acreage from various owners in the late 1930's, some it in lieu of unpaid real estate taxes. In 1941, at the urging of City Councilor Maurice Sullivan, Boston established the Alice Gallagher Memorial Park on the southern western rim of the pond. The wife of long-time Boston City Councilor Edward Gallagher, Alice Gallagher had long been active in charitable work in the Allston-Brighton community. In creating Gallagher Park, the city provided the Allston-Brighton community with an outstanding visual amenity that its people have now enjoyed for over a half century.

Keith Stables, originally the Downing ice house, was used for horse auctions every Sunday. The structure burned down in a catastrophic fire on October 5, 1945 killing 33 of the 52 horses housed there at the time.


Chandler's Pond 1931 (courtesy Stephen Costello)

The Chandler's Pond watershed area is heavily developed and unless prompt measures are taken to dredge the pond and to reduce significantly the levels of phosphates and other pollutants that are entering it, the future for this beautiful body of water looks very grim indeed. In 1996, the pond's many neighbors and friend joint together, under the leadership of long-time Chandler's Pond advocate Genevieve Ferullo, to establish the Chandler's Pond Preservation Society. With support and cooperation of the community groups, such as the Luck Neighborhood Association and the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, the people of Brighton Allston are working to save Chandler's Pond for future generations to enjoy.




Chandler's Pond 1931 
(courtesy Stephen Costello)



Closer look at above 1931 photo. Cars are parked on Lake Shore Rd but many of the houses by the pond were not yet built




More skating on the pond in 1950.  Note in the distance, to the right of center, the original WBZ tower that stood next to the station until being destroyed by the 1954 hurricane



Dredging of Chandler's Pond in 1999



Dredging of the Pond in 1999



2012 Aerial photo with Chandler's Pond to the right and the remains of Strong Pond to the left of Center

Quotes from Brighton residents remembering Chandler's Pond:

Emily Costello: My name is Emily Costello. I married Thomas Costello whose home was built in 1932 at 120 Lake Street in Brighton. My first recollection of the pond was looking out the window in the wintertime, before we had ice skating rinks and all these facilities for people to go skating on, and seeing a magnificent scene---all these children out there skating, all the different scarves and what-have-you flying around, and it was just a nice, happy, peaceful feeling looking out the window...... When I used to walk to the water's edge I didn't have to walk all that distance, say from the sidewalk into where the reeds start growing. It seems like the pond has shrunk.

Genevieve Ferullo: My name is Genevieve Ferullo and I live at 52 Lake Shore Road, and I moved into number 88 Lake Shore Road when I was seven years old, and grew up on Lake Shore Road. It was a dirt road. Our greatest memory as a kid growing up was the skating. And we couldn't go on that pond until the seminarians said it was safe. When the parents saw the seminarians out there, they'd let the kids go skate.

Gertie Dobbratz: I've lived there (#63 Kenrick Street) sixty-three years and we've enjoyed the pond out in the back and we skated with the seminarians, and we've enjoyed it very much, and we still love it, and we're still living there. When we moved here, Kenrick Street was only a dirt road. It had the Keith barn and the horses and things like that, and we enjoyed it very much and I still love it. And I'm still here......... They always told us, when they had the fire---it was a terrible fire---that they put the horses in the water, and they say you could probably find some of their bones in there. I've never been able to find out if it was true.

What kinds of fish were in the pond back then?  E.C.: My son caught eels. I mean huge eels.  G.D.: Sunfish. Peg Haggerty: Catfish. Sandra Kilbride: Carp. E.C.: And of course, huge, huge turtles.

William Marchione: Do any of you have any memories of the Keith Stables, apart from the fire? S.K.: They used to have auctions there. Every Sunday they had the auction.  G.P.: I never used to be frightened to go down there. I used to put on my uncle's boots, he was a little guy. I was about fifteen. Nobody ever bothered you. It was nice. They'd take the horses in, and start bidding on them. It was a lot of fun.  S.K.: They even had a few carriages that were parked, without horses and I can remember, as a kid, sitting on the carriage and pretending that I was a very wealthy person and the carriage going down the street. That was a lot of fun hanging out there. And when I was very young I used to hang out with two older cousins that were very adventurous and we would go into the stables and we'd climb the rafters. If my mother ever knew she would have killed me! I just followed after them, watching the rats scurry by, and what have you. But it was a great place for kids to hang out. 

W.M.: The buildings that are down in the alley, so-called, were they associated with the stables? S.K.: No, there was just one family that lived down there and I think they lived in that little, teeny house, or they kept their horse in there or something, next to the big house, the very last one.  P.H.: Did anybody live in those houses?  Alan Morgenroth: That used to be Mr. Keith's (stable owner) house keeper. I used to go down and sew for her. She used to call me up and I used to go down and I'd pin her clothes, and then I'd take them home and do them and then I'd take them back. Her name was Doucette, I think.

John McLane: Now, as we continue up Lake Street, after the Cenacle Convent came a field, at the corner of Kenrick Street, in which the cows that were not milking from St. John's Seminary would graze. There were other cows in there too. A man named Brady kept cows there also. W.M: You know, on that parcel of land, at Lake and Kenrick Street, there was an ice house for the ice cut from Chandler's Pond. JM: Yes, I saw it. As a matter of fact, skaters on Chandler's Pond used the wood from the dilapidated ice house to make bonfires to keep themselves warm. WM: So it was a ruined building?   JM: There was a lot of debris that we used to burn to make fires to keep our feet warm.   And then going further up Lake Street, on the right hand side, there was nothing much until you got up as far as J. J. Sullivan's [numbers 58 and 54 Lake] almost to Undine Road. For a young kid that was kind of a far place to go.   WM: The old Chandler House [70 Lake Street] was up there as well, the home of the man for whom Chandler's Pond was named. It's now painted white---it's a wooden house


 

References:

  1. "Allston-Brighton in Transition From Cattle Town to Streetcar Suburb", Dr. William P. Marchione, The History Press

  2. "The Bull In The Garden A History of Allston-Brighton", William P. Marchione, Boston Public Library

  3. Massachusetts Ice Harvesting

  4. Ice Harvesting:  page1, page2, page3, page4

  5. Chandler Pond Preservation Society

  6. Heron Newsletters

  7. Chandler Pond related interviews

  8. Nonantum Hill


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