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.

pressed brick

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.)

Comments on 970 Fellsway

As we’ve mentioned here before, the Historical Commission is often asked for “site review” comments on potential redevelopment projects. Three of our commissioners attended a site visit at 970 Fellsway (near Amaranth and Myrtle Streets) last week and took these lovely photos. 

IMG_3754001

But why all the beautiful parquet brickwork at this old Glenwood industrial site across the street from BJs? What’s the story and is it worth preserving? 

Plans are available for public comment through the Office of Community Development at Medford City Hall. 

Brooks Park Presentations

If you missed our November info meeting about the Brooks Park, or if you just want to take in all that information more slowly, we now have the presentation slides available to share!

Here they are, in PDF form – Brooks Park Info Meeting Presentation Slides

brooks house wall.png

Maps, and the history of the property’s ownership and uses, were discussed by landscape architect Peter Hedlund.

Richard Iron, a masonry preservationist gave an analysis of the present condition of the Old Slave Wall (with photos), and some general history of bricks and brickmaking in New England (with bricks!).

Finally, the archeological potential of the site was discussed by Suzanne Cherau, a Senior Archeologist and Principal Investigator from the Public Archeology Laboratory.

The videos of each presentation are coming soon – the audio is helpful to listen to as you flip through the slides.

Meeting Dates for 2020

We’ve set our 2020 Meeting Dates – the Commission will continue to meet on the second Monday of every month (except October, when we meet on the third Monday) at 7 PM in Room 201 of City Hall.

January 13
February 10
March 9
April 13
May 11
June 8
July 13
August 10
September 14
October 19*
November 9
December 14

Cincotti’s Redevelopment Plans

We’ll be discussing the redevelopment plans for 421 High St (formerly the location of Cincotti Funeral Home, in West Medford) at our upcoming November meeting. Public input has been important to the process so far, and the current version of the developer’s plans are available here –

 417-421 High Street Plans

The rest of the meeting agenda isn’t finalized yet, but our November meeting will be held on Monday, Nov 18 at 7 PM in City Hall Room 201; it’s a week later than usual because of the Veterans’ Day holiday.

Street View of 421 High Street

A Google street view of the Funeral Home.

According to the report from our architectural historians, the building was a large single-family home until the 1950s, when it became the property of Concetta Cincotti, “daughter of Italian immigrant Ciro Cincotti (1883-1963), who operated a funeral home first in Boston’s North End, and later moved the business to Medford.”  Historical Commission members walked through the building this fall, and although the interior has some interesting details, the building is, inside and out, “heavily altered,” as the Form B (below) puts it.

421 High Street MHC Form B

NOT Historically Significant: 96-102 Winchester St

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.

Whiting Milk
Photo from the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, dated 1961

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…”

milk map
Map from the USDA publication, “The Milk Supply of Boston” 1898

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.