Mass.) Boston Landmarks Commission (Boston.

Kittredge square survey and planning area: historic preservation statement online

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Historic Preservation Statement


Robert B. Rettig

Project Director

Boston Landmarks Commission

December 20, 1971

The Kittredge Square Survey and Planning Area is full of potential for historic
and architectural preservation. The area is located between the historic center of
Roxbury (John Eliot Square, with its imposing First Church of 1804) and the
high ground of Highland Park (the site of a Revolutionary War fort, since 1869
crowned by an ornamental 130-foot water standpipe). Just outside the Kittredge
Square area, toward Highland Park, is the William Lloyd Garrison House (125
Highland Street), a National Historic Landmark. Both topographically and
architecturally, the area is interesting and varied. The ground slopes considerably,
providing handsome views in several directions; on this land, well endowed with
trees and other foliage, is a full cross section of suburban architecture of the period

Historical Background

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Kittredge Square area was
undeveloped agricultural upland. Centre Street existed as part of the road from
Boston to Dedham and points south, but Highland Street and the various cross
streets of the area were not laid out until the second quarter of the nineteenth
century. In the summer of 1 775, a fort was built at what is now Highland, Linwood,
and Cedar Streets; this was the Roxbury Lower Fort, a companion to the High
Fort (now Highland Park) in the chain of defenses that helped bring about the
evacuation of the British from Boston.

The beginnings of suburbanization in the area occurred when Highland Street was
laid out in 1825. Other streets followed in succeeding years, until by 1860 the
present-day street pattern was virtually complete. In 1835, Alvah Kittredge (after
whom Kittredge Square was named) purchased several large parcels of land, one
of which included both sides of Cedar Street from Centre Street to Washington
Street. The following year he built his columned Greek Revival mansion (now at
10 Linwood Street) on the old Lower Fort site. Kittredge was responsible for
developing much of the area in the years from 1835 until he sold his mansion
in 1866 (he died in 1876). The pattern of development during this period consisted
of a gradual selling off of individual lots on which detached single or double houses
were built, either by the original developer (such as Kittredge), by a builder on
speculation, or by the new owner for his own use.

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

Boston Public Library

Besides the Kittredge house (owned after 1871 by architect Nathaniel J. Bradlee),
the other major Greek Revival mansion in the Kittredge Square area is the Edward
Everett Hale house, originally fronting on Highland Street but now around the
corner at 12 Morley Street. The Hale house was built in 1841 by a carpenter
named Benjamin Kent; it came into Hale's ownership in 1869, on a considerably
reduced parcel of land.

The easterly parts of Dorr, Millmont, Lambert, and Norfolk Streets were developed
beginning in the 1830's by Nathaniel Dorr, who built the two stone houses on
the parcel-21 Dorr Street (1830's) and 34 Lambert Street (ca. 1840), the latter
his own residence. Other sections of the Kittredge Square area were developed
in a similar way, so that by 1870 there was a scattering of buildings throughout
the area. All were single or double houses, and nearly all were of frame construction.
Their size and elaboration varied, and small and large houses were often built in
close proximity, although the mansions were generally located on the largest or
highest pieces of land. All the mid-nineteenth century styles are represented-Greek
Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Mansard.

Row housing first appeared in the Kittredge Square area about 1870, and for a
few years it dominated the building scene. Unlike the Back Bey,, where most row
houses were built for individual owners, the suburban rcw housing of Roxbury
Highlands was built in blocks by developers and then sold off house by house.
Some rows were elaborate, such as the brownstcne block at 15 27 Highland Avenue
(1873). Most were built of red brick, such as those on Morley Street (1872) or
at 1-3 and 5-8 Kittredge Park (1871-1874). The row-house bocm was a phenomenon
of the early 1870's; subsequent development took the form o x multiple-family
housing types rather than single-family row houses. The frame three-decker became
the most prevalent type in the 1880's and 1890's. The most dense and most urban
development occurred at the turn of the century, when two estates on Kittredge
Park were subdivided and built up with three-story brick tenements. This was when
the Kittredge house was moved to its present position at 10 Llnwood Street, and
another Greek Revival house that originally fronted on Kittredge Park (9 Millmont
Street) was all but enveloped.

By about 1900, the Kittredge Square area had reached its maximum density. More
recent years have brought a reduction in intensity of land use, as vacant or
unmaintainable buildings have been demolished. Throjgh this process, more vacant
lots exist now than in the late nineteenth century. The reasons for this situation
are tied up with the decline of the neighborhood as a desirable place to live, despite
its architectural and environmental assets. The original farming community became
suburbanized in the mid-nineteenth century, reaching its high point of development
around 1870. Fast, efficient streetcar service from Boston made this development
possible, but extension of the service westward opened up outlying regions for
settlement for those who wished to move on. The coming of the automobile in
the twentieth century enormously increased the commuting range. The Kittredge
Square area was passed by, occupied by successively poorer groups of people as
their predecessors moved away. The next chapter of the area's history is about
to be written, as urban renewal helps make inroads against the physical decline
of the aging buildings. The architectural historian hopes that the best of these
buildings will be respected and enhanced as the Kittredge Square area enters its
next phase of development.

Major Landmarks

The two most important buildings in the Kittredge Square area, both meeting
National Register Criteria of Evaluation for historic or architectural significance,

Alvah Kittredge House , 10 Linwood Street, 1836. A handsome Greek Revival
columned mansion important both for its embodiment of the distinctive
characteristics of its type and period and for its associations with the lives
of two locally important persons-Alvah Kittredge, early developer of the area,
and Nathaniel J. Bradlee, noted Boston architect. Although hemmed in by
later buildings, the house occupies a key position visually on Kittredge Square,
being clearly visible to anyone approaching the square on Highland Street.

Edward Everett Hale House , 12 Morley Street, 1841. Another fine Greek
Revival mansion with columned front porch, embodying the distinctive
characteristics of its type and period and associated with the life of an
illustrious person-Boston minister and writer Edward Everett Hale.

Also an important landmark, though not a building, is:

Milestone , Centre Street (opposite No. 45), 1729. Marking the three-mile
distance from Boston, this was one of a series of eighteenth-century milestones
on the route to Dedham and points south. It is comparable to the nearby
Parting Stone (1711) at the intersection of Centre anc Roxbury Streets,
already listed in the National Register as one of the 1767 milestones along
the old Boston Post Road.

Other Buildings of Architectural Interest

While of less significance than the Kittredge and Hale houses, the following buildings
in the Kittredge Square area embody the distinctive characteristics of their type,
period, or method of construction and may also qualify for the National
Register-either individually or collectively. They are all of more than ordinary
architectural interest.

1-2-3 Alvah Kittredge Park (1871). Handsome group of three mansard-roofed
brick row houses, specifically adapted to the corner site (the entrance to No.
1 is around the corner on Linwood Street). Alvah Kittredge Park, now
unfortunately asphalt covered, was originally known as Highland Park, then
(beginning around 1870) as Lewis Park. In the present century it was renamed
after Kittredge, whose own house, mentioned above, faces the park at 10
Linwood Street.

140 Cedar Street (ca. 1890). Wodden three-decker of ample proportions and
considerable style, in admirably original condition.

146 Cedar Street (ca. 1860). Imposing Italianate house with overhanging hip
roof, wide corner quoins, and projecting front entry with round-arched door.
Later asphalt siding does not obscure the original trim.

6-8 Centre Street (ca. 1860) Bow-fronted brick double house with mansard

48 Centre Street (ca. 1840). Two-story Greek Revival house with full-height
facade pilasters.

64 Centre Street (ca. 1840). Greek Revival cottage with one-story temple
portico. Unusual pediment treatment.

21 Dorr Street (1830's). Small, hip-roofed stone house, built for and occupied
by Captain Nathaniel Dorr, early developer of the surrounding blocks.

41 Dorr Street (ca. 1890). Well-preserved three-decker with round bay at the
corner of Lambert Avenue.

15-27 Highland Avenue (1873). Row of seven high-stooped, mansard-roofed
brownstones with angular bay windows. In derelict condition but still the
most imposing row-house group in the area.

26-28 and 32-34 Highland Avenue (1859). Pair of originally identical double
houses set back from the street on elevated grounds. Built at the same time
by the same builder, both originally had cupolas; only 25-28 (which is in
better condition) does now. The roofs are mansards cut off at either end,
giving a gambrel profile.

38 Highland Avenue (ca. 1840). Greek Revival house with two-story pillared
porches at either end and one-story pillared porch across the front.

3-5 Highland Street (ca. 1880). Brick double house with Queen Anne dormers
and an oriel bay. Although the entrances are paired at the center in the
standard double-house pattern, the two halvas are not identical-No. 3 is
somewhat larger and more ornate than No. 5.

74 Highland Street (ca. 1850). Wooden Italianate house with later brown
shingle siding but retaining most of the original trim-entrance porch, dormers,
bracketed cornice, round-arched windows.

82 Highland Street (ca. 1890). Bow-fronted brick Colonial Revival house,
originally the left end of a three-house row (the other two houses have been

67 Lambert Avenue (ca. 1860). Frame house with a one-story front porch
and a gambrel-like, cut-off mansard roof facing the street. The house is set
unusually far back on a deep, narrow lot.

54 Linwood Street (ca. 1840). Greek Revival house with a boxed pediment
and a one-story side porch. Faces Linwood Park, a small circular park in
Linwood Street.

56 Linwood Street (ca. 1870). Elaborately detailed mansard cottage with
corner tower. Faces Linwood Park at the corner of Centre Street.

29-31 Millmont Street (ca. 1870). Brick double house with one-story front
porch, high mansard roof, and segmental-arched window lintels.

39 Millmont Street (ca. 1910). Well-preserved twentieth-century three-decker
with front and back porches for all three flats.

Groups of Buildings of Architectural and Environmental Interest

In addition to a grouping on Highland Avenue formed by several buildings
mentioned above (15-27, 26-28, 32-34, and 38 Highland Avenue), the Kittredge
Square area contains two groups of buildings of considerable architectural and
environmental interest. In these groupings, the architectural quality of the individual
buildings is less important than the combined environmental effect.

Linwood Square. A cul-de-sac extending north off Linwood Street. Bounded
on the east by a group of seven brick row houses (2-14 Linwood Square),
on the west by a double house (25-27 Linwood Street) and four mansard
cottages (5, 7, 9, and 13 Linwood Square). The street narrows at the end
and turns into a dirt path leading down the hill to the intersection of Centre
Street and Highland Avenue. The final house on the west has an extravagant
tower that takes advantage of the commanding view of the Boston skyline.

Morley Street. A cul-de-sac extending northwest off Highland Street. Beyond
the Edward Everett Hale house at 12 .Vlorley Street, two groups of brick
row houses (both built in 1872) face each other at an angle across a triangular
open space (now part of the street but potentially a pedestrian courtyard).
The ground drops off beyond, providing views (as at the end of Linwood
Square) of downtown Boston.


Major landmarks, buildings of architectural interest, even groups of buildings of
architectural and environmental interest do not tell the whole preservation story
for the Kittredge Square area. There are a number of lesser buildings that make
an important environmental contribution, and many of the area's badly maintained
buildings could be rehabilitated to bring back their original style and character.
Furthermore, the various parcels of vacant land offer the possibility of new
construction that respects and enhances existing historic assets. In sum, Kittredge
Square has the potential for broadly based preservation activity that, coupled with
conventional rehabilitation efforts, could enormously enhance the physical
appearance of the area. There is no reason why the future of Kittredge Square
should not be as varied and interesting as its past.


Major Landmarks

Other Buildings
of Architectural

Groups of Buildings
of Architectural / /'
and Environmental




Online LibraryMass.) Boston Landmarks Commission (BostonKittredge square survey and planning area: historic preservation statement → online text (page 1 of 1)