At our busy December meeting, we voted that the building at 73-75-77 South Street was historically significant. This residence was built – likely as a duplex – circa 1860 and is located on the south bank of the Mystic River, across from Medford Square. Our determination was made based on the age of the house and its association with the South Street resident and shipyard-owner Jotham Stetson.
Stetson Family Ship Building
Stetson’s Medford shipyard was established on this same south bank of the Mystic (near today’s Winthrop Street Bridge) and produced 33 clipper ships that traveled as far as Calcutta, India. Jotham Stetson and his family lived across the street from that shipyard at 102 South Street – a residence that dates to 1822 and still stands today – and he bequeathed to his daughter Almira Stetson the property at 73-75-77 South Street.
Our architectural historians, who have been surveying Medford neighborhood by neighborhood for the past few years, describe this area of the city as “Medford Square South” – the area just south of the River and extending (more or less) to George Street. They describe it this way because it developed early and the homes and businesses that flourished there were part of the life of early Medford; the Cradock Bridge – which connected the two areas – dates back to the early 17th century. But beyond that, the river itself connected the homes and businesses on South Street – like Stetson’s ship yard, and “Grandfather’s House,” the home of shipbuilder Paul Curtis – to life on Medford’s High Street and in Medford Square. Today, we might think of this neighborhood, which has gradually become more residential, as part of South Medford, or Hillside. However, in the first half of the 1800s the Hillside and South Medford were still mostly undeveloped farms and (literally) hillsides, while “Medford Square South” was already bustling with businesses, multi-family residences, and the large homes of prominent residents like the Stetsons.
Form B and other materials from our surveyors, for 73-75-77 South Street are here.
At our December meeting, we also voted that the home at 15 Hadley Place was “historically significant.” This vote was based primarily on the home’s size and architectural merits and its association with the building practices and development history of the residential neighborhood surrounding it – the late-Victorian neighborhood that is now “east” of 93.
History at 970 Fellsway (pt 2)
Harry Posner’s Paper Box Empire
In the early 20th C the factory buildings of the New England-Anderson Brick Works (which had seen various tenants in the meantime), were taken over by the Worcester Paper Box Company. This company produced paper packaging for a wide range of household products including sugar, tea, coffee, and shoes. Founded in 1914 by Harry Posner, the company had been located in Worcester before its move to Medford. Posner (1881-1962) was born in Mohilev, Russia and emigrated to the United States in 1900, fleeing the pogroms. He first moved to New York, and then to Worcester, where a friend loaned him money to start a company making shoeboxes. After moving his business to Medford in 1927, Posner and his wife Hannah lived at 104 Traincroft Road, off High Street.
Posner was honored in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt for his “enlightened labor policy.” Posner’s paper box company helped to finance workers’ homes and their children’s educations, among other employee benefits. In the 1940s, Posner founded Medford’s Combined Jewish Appeal, which he chaired for over two decades. In 1953 Posner made international news with a $1 million donation, earmarked for medical education, to Tufts University, one of the largest donations that university had ever received. He explained then that the gift was “part payment of the blessings we enjoy in this land of freedom an opportunity.” By 1958 his company employed over 300 people at the Medford plant, and later that year Posner bought the buildings of the New England Bedding Company, next door.
The buildings of the New England Bedding Company formerly housed the Glenwood Dye Works, a second turn of the century factory still standing today on the site of the planned 970 Fellsway redevelopment.
The additional 130,000 square feet of the former Glenwood Dye Works allowed the company to remain in Medford during a period of expansion and transition. In March of 1961 Posner’s company was acquired by the Federal Paper Board Company and once merged, Federal Paper Board called the Medford plant one of their “most efficient and well organized units, serving some of our finest and largest customers.” Federal Paper Board, founded in New Jersey in 1916, had aggressively expanded throughout the twentieth century by buying numerous mills and factories. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1953 and growth continued apace. The Medford facility was one of several purchased in 1961; in addition Federal Paper Board constructed the world’s largest paperboard mill in Sprague, Connecticut that same year.
The Federal Paper Board Company’s earnings were seriously affected by the 1970s oil embargo. This combined, in 1977, with poor weather conditions and a drop in wood pulp prices. That year the company shuttered two of its carton plants – the Medford, Massachusetts plant and one in Pennsylvania. Around 500 people lost their jobs between the two closures. After Federal Paper Board’s departure, the complex was converted for use by numerous smaller businesses and is still in use today.
History at 970 Fellsway (pt 1)
Pressed Brick & Dog Fights
The first major industrial building in the Glenwood area was the 1886 construction of the New England-Anderson Pressed Brick Works (970 Fellsway).
That company was founded in 1877 by James C. Anderson of Chicago; the Medford plant was opened in 1886. The company was well known in the 1880s, a period marked by its innovative use of architectural brick work. Anderson credited itself with developing products that were “full of artistic beauty and capabilities” out of a material more commonly associated with plain buildings. Anderson brick was said to have been used on some of the best buildings of the period, including over 100 buildings in New England, and was well known throughout the US and in Europe.
The Medford facility, which employed 75 workers in 1889, was one of three of the Anderson Company – the other two were in Chicago and New York. At their three plants, the Anderson Company produced a total of over 300,000 bricks a day in the 1890s, through a highly mechanized system they developed in-house. Green, unburned bricks were led through a series of tunnel kilns, heated by a perpetual fire fed by crude oil and hot enough to melt steel. The Glenwood facility alone contained eight steam-powered kilns. The quantity of bricks produced in this manner represented a major fuel efficiency over conventional brick production.
The New England-Anderson Pressed Brick Works followed a robust brick-making tradition already established in this part of Medford. Brick production took place here as early as the mid seventeenth century, and it was Medford’s chief business for over a century during the colonial period. By the nineteenth century the Bay State Brick Works, later the New England Brick Works, produced tens of millions of bricks annually at a large plant on the western side of Riverside Avenue.
But the New England-Anderson Brick Works seem to not have occupied the Glenwood buildings long. A newspaper report in 1896 referred to empty buildings in the area. In fact, the vacant factory had attracted the attention of the police, who broke up a major dog-fighting ring in the building in March of that year. The factory’s distinctive architecture, consisting of a large room adjoined by many small windowless kilns, provided numerous hiding places that hampered the police in their effort to pursue the criminals.
Forty-four people were arrested in a raid on the facility and one was shot and fatally wounded while trying to escape. The dogs, still fighting at the time of the raid, could not be separated or subdued and were also killed. All arrested pleaded guilty and were fined between $20 and $25. Two years later the complex was property of the Attleboro Savings Bank.
To be continued . . .
(Most of this history is taken from our surveyor’s Form A for the Glenwood Industrial Area, available here.)
NOT Historically Significant: 96-102 Winchester St
Classic New England Dairy Delivery
At our October meeting, the buildings at 96-102 Winchester St, near Ball Square, were found to be NOT historically significant and a demo permit was granted.
But the garages at 100 Winchester St were once part of an extensive and long-running commercial dairy operation –
The Whiting Milk Company, active between 1857 and 1973, was one of New England’s first distributors of milk and dairy products door-to-door. It was established by David Whiting (born 1810) in 1857. Whiting’s father, Oliver, owned a large farm in Wilton, New Hampshire. “With the advent of the railroad to Wilton, Mr. Whiting [David] inaugurated operations in the milk contracting business for the Boston market…”
The firm was carried on by his son Harvey Augustus Whiting (1833-1903) and grandsons Isaac Spalding, George, John Kimball, David and Charles Frederick (1875-1972); Charles Frederick used his Harvard (1897) and MIT training to manage the dairy in a modern sanitary manner. Under the direction of David Whiting’s grandsons, the company merged with C. Brigham and Elm Farm Milk (both included in above map) to form a new corporation that, according to the Cambridge Chronicle of 1922, “employs more than 1000 persons and is one of the largest milk distributors in the country.”
In the 1950s, H.P. Hood and Sons and the Whiting Milk Company competed for the majority of the Boston milk market; the photo of the Whiting’s Milk truck at the top of the post is dated 1961. But the business of delivering milk and other dairy product suffered a national decline, due to increased consumer mobility because of automobiles. The company went into bankruptcy in 1973.
Still, most commissioners felt that the history of this company was not reflected in, or represented by the structures on the property at 100 Winchester St. Information above was adapted from the Form B for Winchester St_96-102.
History at 541-551 Winthrop St
Massachusetts Labor Leaders of the Progressive Era
Part 2 of 2 – On a historical note, the two buildings demolished to make way for the Winthrop St development were once home to two of Boston’s great labor organizers. The first, Mary Kenney O’Sullivan, is now publicly honored in the Massachusetts State House, as part of the State House Women’s Leadership Project. A bronze and marble sculpture, installed at the entrance to Doric Hall in 1995, commemorates the contributions of Sullivan, and other Massachusetts women, to the government of the Commonwealth. Mary Kenney O’Sullivan received this obituary in the Boston Globe on her death in 1943,
[In] Chicago, Mrs. O’Sullivan [worked] with Jane Addams in the Hull House movement for the betterment of conditions in the city’s overcrowded tenement districts. While still in her teens she founded the Jane Clubs for working girls, and was active in putting through the Illinois Legislature laws favorable to working people. She organized the first bookbinders’ union of women in Chicago, was the first woman organizer appointed by the American Federation of Labor, and the first woman factory inspector in the United States.
She came to Boston in 1892 as national organizer of the American Federation of Labor […] After [her husband’s] death in an accident she became an inspector in the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Industries […] holding that position until her retirement in 1934. She founded the Boston Women’s Trade Union League, conducted a camp for working girls at Point Shirley in connection with the Dennison House for many years, and spoke for women’s suffrage. She was president of the Boston Women’s Labor League, vice president of the Boston Women’s Trade Union League, and treasurer of the National Women’s Trade Union League. In 1926 she was appointed a delegate from the United States to the annual conference to prevent war, which was held in Dublin, Ireland, under the auspices of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
She was a frequent speaker on economics and labor problems at Ford Hall Forum. She was also a member of the Women’s Industrial League and the Massachusetts League of Women Voters. She wrote a number of articles for the Globe on women’s rights, trade unionism and fair labor practices.
More information about Mary Kenney O’Sullivan’s life and work can be found on the website for the State House Women’s Leadership Project.
The second property demolished, the stone house pictured above, was the home of Philip Davis (1875-1951) and his wife, Belle, both born in Russian Poland, and Jewish immigrants to the US in the late 1890s. According to his Globe obituary, Philip Davis – a friend and colleague of Mary Kenney O’Sullivan’s – was also influential in the settlement house and labor movements of the Progressive Era. While attending the University of Chicago, he too was a protégé of Jane Addams and on her recommendation he attended Harvard, graduating in 1903. He then earned a law degree from Boston University and was active in labor organizing and workers’ rights advocacy in Boston’s North End.
Demo Application: 45-47 Mystic Ave
[At the April 2019 meeting of the Medford HC, this property was found to be NOT historically significant, and the demo permit was granted.]
The Medford Historical Commission has received an application to demolish the *house and* carriage house at 45-47 Mystic Ave. A Massachusetts Historical Commission Form B was recently prepared to detail the history of the property, including the carriage house building.
Horse Racing & the Medford Mustang
For a peek at the life of “Honest” James Golden, a famous horse trainer at the Mystic Trotting Park and beyond, check out the Form B.
Image of the 1872 race of Lucy and Goldsmith Maid, from the Library of Congress
The Commission will post additional information to this page as review of this demolition proceeds.
[Updated April 11 – At our April meeting, the application for demolition of the house and garage at 45-47 Mystic Ave was approved, as these were NOT found to be historically significant.]
At our March meeting, the Commission made the following determinations:
- 421 High Street – Found Historically Significant
- 16 Foster Court – Found Historically Significant
- 104 Winchester Street – Found Historically Significant
- 7 Lauriat Place – Found Historically Significant
Finding so many properties on our agenda historically significant is quite unusual for our commission, but each of these properties represents an interesting aspect of Medford’s history. Together, they make a fascinating timeline of past life and work in Medford.
Shipbuilders on Foster Court
The small Cape Cod on Foster Court was built between 1804 and 1814, making it one of Medford’s earliest surviving examples of the architectural form for which New England is famous. The Cutter House was owned and occupied by Rebecca Cutter, the widow of a soldier in the Revolutionary War, who supported herself after his death by taking in boarders in the small cottage. Her descendents, who later inherited the house, were part of the Medford shipbuilding families of Sprague and Foster.
The stately Italianate Seaver House on Winchester St is one of the earliest remaining buildings in Ball Square, a commercial and residential neighborhood which developed around the old “Willow Bridge” station of the Boston & Lowell Railroad line. The house (ca. 1865) still has much of its beautiful exterior detail and decoration.
7 Lauriat Place (ca. 1890), in Washington Square, was one of several gold-beating workshops owned and operated by the Lauriat family – a family of scientific innovators and experimenters who settled in Medford in the 19th century. They employed highly-skilled men and women in gold-beating – creating paper-thin gold leaf. The building itself is “an exceptionally rare survival of a small workshop for producing machine- and hand-worked artisanal goods.” Similar workshops “were once a common feature of the built environment of New England” but “have largely disappeared” and with them the history of this skilled labor as well. Quotes taken from the Lauriat Pl_7 Form B prepared by our architectural historians.
Cincotti Funeral Home on High St has been a community landmark where West Medford families have honored their loved ones throughout the 20th century.
Each of these buildings will have a public hearing at our April 8 meeting, to determine if it is preferably preserved.
If a building is found preferably preserved, an 18 month delay of demolition will take place, to give the owner time to consider renovation, reuse, relocation and other alternatives to demolition.
Demo Application: 7 Lauriat Place
The Medford Historical Commission has received an application for the demolition of the building at 7 Lauriat Place located within the Washington Square neighborhood of East Medford.
Early Innovators! Gold Leaf & Hot Air Ballooning
The building at 7 Lauriat Place was a large “gold-beating,” or gold leaf, workshop run by the Lauriat family. Louis Anselm Lauriat was an innovator of the gold leaf craft in Boston in the early 1800s; he also pursued chemical experimentation, and hydrogen aerial ballooning in cities and towns throughout New England, and as far away as Milwaukee, WI and Memphis, TN! His family moved to Medford and established a number of successful gold leaf workshops here – on Ashland St and Riverside Ave (both c. 1880) where they employed more than 40 men and women in the highly skilled technical labor. The last of the Lauriat gold leaf workshops was built on 4 Lauriat Place, in the late 1890s, with a Lauriat family residence next door at 5 Lauriat Place. Medford’s Lauriat Gold Leaf Workshop, at 7 Lauriat Place, continued the craft for another 30 years until the workshop became a printing business.
Image from the pamphlet “The History of Gold Leaf and its Uses” published by the Boston Gold Leaf manufacturer F.W. Rauskalb, in 1915.
Medford’s Lauriat Gold Leaf Workshop has already been recommended for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Buildings by our architectural historians. The Commission will post updates below during the review process.
7 Lauriat Place MHC Form B
Washington Square Area Form
Click here for the neighborhood overview for East Medford
Legal Advertisement for 7 Lauriat Place
Determination of Significance for City Clerk
Demo Application: 67 Magoun
The Medford Historical Commission accepted the application for the demolition of the carriage house and barn at 67 Magoun Avenue. The building, and its associated dwelling house, were once “the Medford Hospital,” a private institution that began in the early twentieth century. The c. 1895 Queen Anne buildings are located within the East Medford neighborhood. They were identified as part of a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission in 2014.
More info on the property in our Form B.
The building has been determined significant by the Commission. A letter to the clerk has been submitted and can be found here: Clerk’s Letter – 67 Magoun. The legal posting for the meeting can be found here: Legal Posting – 67 Magoun.
Women in Medicine
Dee Morris wrote an excellent article about Abby Rollins, the doctor who operated the Medford Hospital, for the Medford Transcript. The article can be found online or by viewing the PDF file here: Homeopathy and Medford by Dee Morris
[Updated January 2019 – the Commission unanimously voted the building preferably preserved and enacted an 18 month demolition delay, to consider renovation, reuse, relocation and other alternatives to demolition.]