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Cleveland Circle History

During the late 19th century, Cleveland Circle-Englewood Area developed as an area of upscale Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival residences of well-to-do commuters. This area represents the south west corner of an area called Aberdeen by 19th century developers and homeowners. This area encompassed the areas called Aberdeen and Upper Chestnut Hill, for the purposes of this survey. In general, the Aberdeen area was characterized by winding ways set out through rugged, ledgy and wooded terrain. Its streets still bear English and Scottish names that were apparently thought by late 19th century developers to add to the allure and status of a residential development.

Although most of the area bordering Commonwealth Avenue in Allston-Brighton was primarily developed between 1910 and 1930, the Cleveland Circle/Englewood Area has a longer development time frame, roughly the period from 1870 to 1950. Nothing remains to document the earliest development in this area which occurred c. 1870 on the triangular block formed by Chestnut Hill Avenue, Englewood Avenue and Sutherland Road. The large apartment building at 370-374 Chestnut Hill Avenue, 1962-2002 Beacon Street and 2 Sutherland Road currently occupies much of the site of the three houses shown on the Middlesex County deed plan dated 1873 (Vo1.1279, p.64). An early owner of these houses was a Mr. Morton. Once one of the more remote sections of Brighton, this southwest corner of the town came to the attention of the general public beginning in 1865. In that year, work began on the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, just to the west of the Cleveland Circle area. Completed in 1870, the Chestnut Hill Reservoir was the largest public works project in the history of Allston-Brighton, Although its construction was recommended as early as 1859, the Civil War delayed this undertaking. This reservoir was built to concentrate the city's water supply in one large storage facility rather than in the four small facilities which had been scattered around Boston. Despite the scenic presence of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, residential development was delayed by the recession of 1873.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir

By the mid 1880s, house construction, triggered by the introduction of Henry M. Whitney's electric streetcar railway on Beacon Street, Brookline, began to transform this area. In 1890, the Brighton Item described the idyllic neighborhood that awaited prospective Aberdeen homeowners. "Several hundred feet above any considerable portion of land in the neighborhood, commanding magnificent views in every direction, well watered, a perfect combination of woodland, and glade, and admitting the free exercise of the artistic taste of the landscape gardener, these lands are sure to be sought for residential purposes by the most desirable buyers."

Aside from Chestnut Street (originally called Rockland Street) and Beacon Street, set out in 1843 and 1850, respectively, the oldest thoroughfares in this area are Englewood Avenue and Sutherland Road. Forming a great X-shaped street pattern, these streets were set out in 1872 and represent the antithesis of the meandering system of paths superimposed over this rugged terrain around 1890. Precluding house construction on these new streets was the financial panic of 1873.

During the 1870s, three houses were situated on a triangular block bordered by Beacon Street/Sutherland Road, Chestnut Hill Avenue and Englewood Avenue. Currently occupied by the large apartment complex at 1962-2002 Beacon Street and 370-380 Chestnut Hill Avenue, these houses lots were owned by Francis Hunnewell, Francis S. Morton and an unidentified third owner. During the 1870s, Honeywell owned much of this area along with J. Smith Homans. In 1875, Hunnewell owned 23 contiguous, undeveloped lots adjacent to Englewood Avenue. During the 1880s, much of the area north of Cleveland Circle was owned by the Beacon Street Land Co., a real estate concern evidently similar to Henry M. Whitney's West End Land Co. These land companies were organized to purchase undeveloped land on and near Beacon Street, in Brookline and Brighton. These extensive tracts became valuable when the West End Street Railway was introduced to this area in 1887. During the 1880s, real estate magnates B.F. Ricker and George A. Wilson owned several large tracts bordering the future path of Commonwealth Avenue. Ricker and Wilson became acquainted with the Cleveland Circle area while they were employed as teamsters for the Chestnut Hill Reservoir construction projects during the late 1860s.

Not surprisingly, one of the oldest houses in this area is located on Englewood Avenue, one of two original cross streets in this area. Built by H.M. Norton and William E. Stuart in 1886, 89 Englewood Avenue was built for Frank W. Krogman, roofer, from designs provided by C.R. Beal. This brick Queen Anne house, one of the few masonry single family residences built in this remote area prior to 1900, was built a year before the opening of the West End Railway on Beacon Street. By the mid-1880s, the number of families residing in this area by the mid 1880s was sufficient enough to support a small Baptist Church. This wooden structure occupied part of 104 Englewood Avenue's house lot at the corner of Englewood Avenue and Sutherland Roads. Other early houses in this area include the Georgian Revival residence at 126 Englewood Avenue. Constructed c. 1890 by and for Francis S. Morton, carpenter and builder, Morton's advertisement in the 1899 Boston Directory stated that he was "formerly of Morton and Chesley" and was a "contractor for buildings of every kind." Francis S. Morton and his wife Elizabeth settled in this area as early as c. 1870 on part of the triangular lot bounded by Chestnut Hill Avenue, Beacon Street and Sutherland Road.

The Mortons may have been poised, with Francis Hunnewells financial backing, to begin construction of houses on Hunnewell owned lots in this area. The severe economic down turn of 1873 thwarted house construction in Boston and throughout the nation. Morton bided his time, building substantial residences in this area during the late 1880s and early l890s, until the recession of 1893 slowed residential construction throughout the Boston area. During the early 1900s and 1910s, 126 Englewood avenue was owned by Georgian and Charles F. Thomas, Thomas & Co, 27 Kilby Street and 558 Albany Street, Boston.

Set out by 1885, Strathmore Road was originally called Ravine Lane. Several houses in this area were built for families associated with Boston area building trades. The Queen Anne/Shingle Style house at 105 Strathmore Road, was built during the early 1890s for Horace J. Phipps, partner in Phipps, Slocum & Co., "makers of leaded glass" as well as "stained and leaded glass,memorial windows, Prismatic lighting, glass mosaics and beaded glass lamp shades". The Phipps family resided here until c. 1920. By 1925, Mary R.P. Hatch, author, owned this house. By 1930, Manuel Ross, a Lynn leather company dealer is listed at this address.

Braemore Road encompasses a small collection of pre 1895 houses, including, the Shingle style house designed by Stebbins and Watkins in 1892 at 15 Braemore Road and the Eugene Clark designed Shingle-Colonial Revival house at 19 Braemore Road. The latter house was designed for J.M. Jones of J.M. Jones, hides and leather while the former was originally owned by dentist William H. Potter. Examples of Eugene Clark's work are well represented in Allston -Brighton, including the Queen Anne houses of Cambridge Terrace in Allston Heights and the Allston Congregationa1 church in the Glenville-Commonwealth Avenue.

Cleveland Circle 1937

The introduction of the electric street car to Commonwealth Avenue in 1909 triggered an apartment building construction boom along the entire length of this great boulevard. The handsome Georgian Revival apartment house at 9 Braemore Road was built between 1910 and 1915. Built as an investment property for J. M. Jones of 15 Braemore Road, its tenants in 1930 included executives, government employees and administrators, including: Willard O. Ames, cotton broker, Headly & Co., William E. Fay, president of Fay & Co., Sylvester R. Locke, assistant superintendent of delivery, Back Bay Post Office and Robert Newcomb, Massachusetts Mosquito Control Assoc.

Apartment construction continued at a rapid rate until as late as 1930. Built in 1927 from designs provided by Saul Moffie, each of the buildings at 1810-1820 Commonwealth Avenue was built to house 36 families. Typically, for a Commonwealth Avenue apartment building, 1800 Commonwealth Avenue 's list of tenants in 1930 includes a fairly even distribution of Jewish, Anglo and Irish residents including: Carrie Kurrelmeyer, treasurer, Waltham, Herman Kurrlmeyer, professor at MIT, John F. Mahy, investigator, Edward F. Morly, chauffeur, Fred Waller, manager, James H. Stewart, clerk, Harold R. Burger, salesman and Joseph P. Frazier, salesman.

Many Jews left their neighborhoods in the North, South and West End to relocate to Brighton during the period of 1910-1930, attracted by easy access to down town jobs via the electric street car and plentiful modern rental housing. A second settlement of Orthodox Jews from Dorchester and Mattapan occurred during the late 1960s. This later wave of Jews, many of them Orthodox, settled in Brighton and Brookline. Built in 1892, the Walker and Kimble designed yellow brick Chateauesque mansion at 77 Englewood Avenue became the new home of the Chai Odom congregation. Originally based at 103 Nightingale Avenue in Dorchester, near Franklin Field, this congregation moved to the Cleveland Circle area in 1968.


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