Sunday, September 17, 2023

September 17th - September 23rd

The Aspinwall Elm after it came down on the Aspinwall homestead
September 18, 1863
(Click image for larger view)

September 18, 1863 - A Tree Falls in Brookline: The Aspinwall Elm
September 20, 1913 - Francis Ouimet wins U.S. Open
September 21, 1925 - Selectmen bar boarders, roomers
September 20, 1953 - Handwriting controversy in the schools

September 18, 1863

A Tree Falls in Brookline: The Aspinwall Elm
When 19th century Bostonians talked about great elm trees, there were three that usually came to mind: the Great Elm on Boston Common; the Washington Elm on Cambridge Common; and the Aspinwall Elm, towering over the Aspinwall family home in Brookline Village.
The Aspinwall Elm before it fell
The Aspinwall Elm before 1863
Half the tree fell in 1844.  Nineteen years later, the rest of the tree came down in a gale, crashing on top of the 200-year old family house and punching a hole in the roof.  Three generations of the family posed in front of the house with the toppled tree, as shown at the top of this post.

The loss of the Aspinwall Elm was big news, and not just locally. Word of its demise was mentioned in newspapers as far away as Wisconsin. The Aspinwall House was itself torn down in 1891.  The land was acquired by the town in 1914 for a park.  Expanded in 1972, it is now the Billy Ward Playground.

September 20, 1913
Francis Ouimet wins U.S. Open

Francis Ouimet, the 20-year old Brookline native, shocked the golfing world when he upset British veterans Harry Vardon and Ted Ray to win the U.S. open at the Country Club in Ouimet's home town.

Headline: Brookline boy the champion
Brookline Townsman, September 27, 1913

Ouimet, working with 10-year-old caddy Eddie Lowery, tied Vardon and Ray in the final round on September 19th, then won a playoff on the 20th. The upset received national and international attention and spurred local pride as seen in the Brookline Townsman headline above and the following quote from the Brookline Chronicle.

"While we admire his skill in the game, we think the town is particularly to be proud of the sand and nerve he showed in his contest with the two great English players. Not merely as a golfer, but as a man, Ouimet has qualities that promise to be the making of an unusual career."

September 21, 1925
Selectmen bar boarders, roomers
The Board of Selectman issued an interpretation of the town's zoning laws that would prohibit owners or residents of single-family homes from taking in roomers or boarders. The ruling came in response to a complaint that the resident of a house on Corey Hill had advertised rooms for convalescent or elderly people.

Boston Globe headline: Zoning law bars boarders, roomers
Boston Globe, September 22, 1925

The action was taken in to response a petition signed by 45 neighbors of the house at 44 York Terrace, members of the Corey Hill Improvement Association. It blocked the proposed use on that particular house only, though similar action was possible against other residences, reported the Boston Globe.

The Brookline Chronicle decried the ruling. "Imagine an elderly woman, to whom the acceptance of a lodger or roomer might be the sole available means of eking out a small income and so of maintaining her old family home, being advised by the police that such an undertaking was against the law! The idea is preposterous and highly unacceptable."

September 20, 1953
Handwriting controversy in the schools

An ongoing controversy over how handwriting was taught in the Brookline schools reached new levels with a petition from parents calling for more emphasis on cursive writing. Brookline had been focusing on the manuscript, or print, style of handwriting in the lower grades for about 10 years.

A group called the Parents Research Committee said it had collected signatures from about one-third of the parents in the school system calling for the change, claiming children could neither read nor write cursive, which the committee called "the one universal common denominator of social communication."

The School Committee argued that the manuscript, or print, form of writing was easier to learn and an important part of learning to read printed text. The controversy was the subject of letters to the editor of the local and Boston papers, many of them supporting the School Committee. In the end, the Committee decided to continue with the existing program, while adding an optional course in cursive beginning in the seventh grade.

Three sister show their manuscript style of writing
These three sisters, daughter of a Brookline firefighter and his wife, were shown in the Boston Globe with examples of their manuscript handwriting.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

September 10th - September 16th

September 15, 1841

September 15, 1841 - Lyceum of the Town of Brookline
September 14, 1862 - Dr. Edward Wild wounded in Civil War
September 13, 2009 - Marking the graves of enslaved African-Americans
September 15, 2013 - Teen Center official opening

September 15, 1841
Lyceum of the Town of Brookline
A new corporation called the Lyceum of the Town of Brookline formally took over ownership of the recently constructed Lyceum Hall in Brookline Village. The hall, which stood for nearly a century, hosted lectures, concerts, meetings, and other public events.

The building, shown above, stood where the Dana Farber Cancer Institute administrative offices (10 Brookline Place) are today. It had businesses on the first floor with the hall above. 
A 1912 fire left Lyceum Hall in ruins. Initial reports said the then 71-year old building would be torn down, but it was restored and continued to house businesses and a lecture hall. (Click image for a larger view)

Lyceum Hall was torn down 25 years later, in 1937, to make way for the town's second movie theater.

September 14, 1862
Dr. Edward Wild wounded in Civil War
Dr. Edward Wild of Brookline was badly wounded at the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland. Two days later his left arm was amputated, ending his medical career but not his role in the Civil War.

Civil War photograph of Edward Wild. The empty left sleeve indicates this was taken after the loss of his arm.
Wild, who grew up in a house, still standing, on what is now Weybridge Road, went on to recruit and lead troops of formerly enslaved African Americans in a unit informally called Wild's African Brigade. He was hated in the South for his harsh treatment of Confederate prisoners in retaliation for the ways captured Black troops under his command had been treated.

After the war, Wild was involved in mining in the West and in South America. He died in Medellin, Columbia, in 1891 and was buried there.

September 13, 2009
Marking the graves of enslaved African Americans
A stone honoring the memories of enslaved men and women buried in Brookline's Old Burying Ground was officially dedicated in ceremonies at the Walnut Street graveyard.

The effort to place the marker was led by the Hidden Brookline Committee, formed in 2006 to bring to light the history of enslaved people of African descent who lived and worked in Brookline, and to educate the public as to the involvement that Brookline residents had with regard to slavery and the abolitionist movement. 

State representative Byron Rushing was the main speaker at the event. A video recording of his speech is available on the Hidden Brookline website.

September 15, 2013
Teen Center official opening
The Brookline Teen Center was officially opened in an old auto garage at 40 Aspinwall Avenue. When opened, it included a recording studio, a bowling alley, a gym, a tutoring space, a computer room, an eating area, a small stage, and a court that could be used for basketball or volleyball or as an auditorium.

Brookline Teen Center
The multi-year effort to create the Teen Center was initiated by Brookline High School social worker Paul Epstein and his wife, Saskia. The Epstein's, reported the Brookline TAB, "noticed there was a real need for a place where teens could hang out, interact with their peers and be themselves."

"This place is a Youth Center, but it's a Youth Center with a heart," Epstein told a local news program when the center marked its 10th anniversary this past February. "It's a Youth Center with a mission to help every kid. Whether it's a kid that comes from the richest family or the poorest -- and anywhere in between. We are here and there's something here for them to enrich their lives."

Sunday, September 3, 2023

September 3rd - September 9th

View of open air influenza hospital
September 9, 1918

September 9, 1918 - Camp Brooks opens for flu victims
September 3, 1946 - Ground broken for Hancock Village
September 8, 1966 - Brookline one of first seven communities in METCO
September 8, 1975 - JFK birthplace damaged in anti-busing attack

September 9, 1918
Camp Brooks open for flu victims

The Brookline company of the Massachusetts Guard erected an open-air tent camp on the east side of Corey Hill to treat virulent cases of influenza that had struck merchant marine trainees in Boston Harbor. The camp was called Camp Brooks after noted surgeon William A. Brooks, surgeon-general of the State Guard, whose hospital (now condominiums) was on Summit Avenue.

The camp, shown at the top of this post and below in photos from the National Archives, treated patients outdoors under the theory that fresh air and sunshine would aid in their recovery. Thirty-five of the 351 patients treated at the hospital died, a much lower rate, according to Brooks, than in indoor hospitals despite the fact that the open air hospital took in some of the worst cases.
A nurse getting water at Camp Brooks (Photo via National Archives)

The camp operated for a little more than a month. Read more about Camp Brooks and 1918 flu pandemic in Brookline in these Muddy River Musings blog posts: Part 1 | Part 2

September 3, 1946
Ground broken for Hancock Village
Governor Maurice Tobin joined other state, Federal, and local officials to break ground for 250 homes for returning veterans and their families in South Brookline and West Roxbury. The Hancock Village project was financed by the John Hancock Life Insurance Company and announced in an ad in the Brookline Chronicle.

"Hancock Village [announced the company in the nearly full-page ad] is the first of this company's answers to the nation's housing crisis. It will build upon the soundest principles of healthful living with safety of homes and roads particularly stressed...With the present acute need for housing, especially for veterans, the importance of this activity is obvious."
This sketch of the future Hancock Village development appeared in the Brookline Chronicle and in Boston newspapers

James Love, a World War II veteran and an amputee from Brookline, joined a National Housing Agency administrator in turning the first spadeful of earth, using "a regulation G.I. foxhole shovel," reported the Chronicle.

September 8, 1966
Brookline one of first communities in METCO
75 children from the Roxbury, Dorchester, and the South End neighborhoods began school in Brookline as part of the METCO program. The students included 25 children enrolled in Brookline High School and 50 in the various K-8 schools.

METCO logo

Brookline was one of seven Massachusetts communities participating in the METCO program at its launch. Dr. Leon Trilling, an MIT professor and the president of the Brookline School Committee, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the METCO program.

The broad purpose of the METCO program, according to a 1966 report of the School committee

"is to promote quality integrated education and to develop modes of cooperation between urban and suburban school systems in the Greater Boston area. It aims to provide a more meaningful educational experience for both city and suburban children." 

September 8, 1975
JFK birthplace damaged in anti-busing attack
An unidentified man threw a Molotov cocktail into the kitchen at the rear of the John F. Kennedy birthplace in protest of Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy’s support of Boston school integration through busing.  The attack caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to the Beals Street home.

Two men were seen driving away from the site after the attack. They left a message -- "Bus Teddy" -- scrawled on the sidewalk in front of the home. The fire and smoke damaged the kitchen and an upstairs bedroom at the house.

News photo of JFK birthplace after the anti-busing attack.
The message "Bus Teddy" can be seen on the sidewalk in front of the JFK birthplace in this AP photo

The site, run by the National Park Service, was closed for more than a year while repairs were made.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

August 27th - September 2nd

The first three buildings of the Beaconsfield Terraces, with the Casino, or clubhouse, in front
August 31, 1889

August 30, 1632 - First colonial mention of Muddy River
August 31, 1889 - First ad for Beaconsfield Terraces
August 29, 1910 - Opening of new library
August 31, 1954 - Hurricane Carol

August 30, 1632
First colonial mention of Muddy River

John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, noted in his journal that a group of indigenous people had been reported at "Muddy River." 

"Notice being given of ten sagamores and many Indians assembled at Muddy River, the governor sent Capt. Underhill, with twenty musketeers, to discover, etc.; but at Roxbury they heard that they were broken up."

In November 1634, there was a note in the records of the Town of Boston about making "a rate for the young cattle and cows keeper at Muddy River."  One year later, five men were allotted land in Muddy River, which remained a part of Boston until becoming the independent town of Brookline in 1705. 

Muddy River (shown as Muday R.) is indicated west of Boston and Roxbury in this portion of a 1634 map of "The south part of New England" by William Wood 

There were, of course, Native Americans in the area long before the arrival of Europeans. An 1897 history of the town noted that "an Indian fort stood on what is now the eastern corner of Beacon and Powell streets; it covered one-eighth of an acre, was surrounded by a ditch about three feet deep and by a parapet nearly three feet high."

August 31, 1889
First ad for Beaconsfield Terraces

The first three units of Eugene Knapp's Beaconsfield Terraces complex were advertised for sale in the Boston Transcript. The units were most likely in Richter Terrace at the corner of Beacon Street and Dean Road, the first building completed in the seven-building, 49-unit development .

Beaconsfield advertisement

The Beaconsfield Terraces were the most unusual development constructed in the wake of Henry Whitney's 1880s expansion of Beacon Street from an unpaved country lane to a grand boulevard with electric streetcars running down the middle.

The complex included a central heating plant, a stable, a shared six-acre park, and a clubhouse, known as the Casino. An 1890 view of the Casino, with three of the Terraces buildings behind it, is at the top of this post.

August 29, 1910
Opening of new library
Brookline's new library opened in Brookline Village, replacing the old library on the same site without any disruption of service. The extraordinary effort involved physically moving the old library building to make room for the new one. Here's how it was described in a 2007 sesquicentennial history of the library by staff members Cynthia Battis, Anne Reed, and Anne Clark:

"Since the new building would be erected in the same spot where the library now stood, the old building would have to be moved to accommodate the new structure.  $244,000 was appropriated for this purpose.  The old building was cut from its foundation and raised on jacks.  It was shifted westward 144 feet, 8 inches and then southward 88 feet, 8 inches to the spot where the Civil War Monument now stands.  It took two months to complete the move.  During this time library service was never interrupted – not even for a single hour! "

Photos of old library being readied for move
These images from the 2007 history of the library show the 1869 library building raised on railroad ties and ready to be moved. (Click image for larger view)

It took two weeks, after the new building was completed, to move all of the books from the old building to the new. That was followed by the opening of the new library. (It has since been expanded and renovated several times.)

August 31, 1954
Hurricane Carol

Hurricane Carol, carrying winds blowing at 100 miles per hour, toppled trees, blew out windows, and knocked down power lines, leaving about 75 percent of the town without electricity before it could be restored.

Police car hit by tree
Police car under a felled tree on Washington Street (Brookline Chronicle)

There were only minor injuries in town, but a Brookline woman, Golda Walters, was killed on Cape Cod along with her sister and her sister's three children when the Falmouth home they were staying in was swept into the sea. Walters, a lawyer, had been the youngest woman judge in Massachusetts when she had been appointed, at age 30, to serve on the Ayer district court in 1938.

Brookline was hit, though less severely, by a second hurricane, Hurricane Edna, two weeks later.


Sunday, August 20, 2023

August 20th - August 26th

August 20, 1934

August 24, 1849 - Death of John Pierce
August 22, 1886 - St. Mary’s dedicated
August 20, 1934 - Movie at Coolidge banned
August 26, 1981 - Brookline awards cable TV contract

August 24, 1849
Death of John Pierce

The Rev. John Pierce, minister at Brookline's oldest church for 52 years, died at the age of 76. Pierce had assumed leadership of the church, then the only church in town, in 1797 when he was 24 years old.

Rev. John Pierce and the Walnut Street building -- the second of four in the church's history.  It was constructed under Pierce's leadership in 1806. 

For much of Pierce's time at the church, now known as First Parish, there was little separation between church and state. In addition to his ministerial role, he played a prominent role in town affairs, including decades as a member of the School Committee.

Pierce was minister at the time the more liberal Unitarians split off from the established Congregational Church. Pierce, wrote Ronald Dale Carr, "held his parish together; keeping his theology vague and palatable, he slid the church into the Unitarian camp so gracefully that it is not possible to date the transition with any precision." (Karr, Between City and Country: Brookline, Massachusetts, and the Origins of Suburbia, 2018).

August 22, 1886
St. Mary’s dedicated

Brookline's Catholic parish, St. Mary of the Assumption, dedicated its new church at the corner of Harvard and Linden Streets in Brookline Village. The dedication marked the end of six years of construction since the laying of the cornerstone in 1880.  

The church was designed by the noted firm of Peabody & Stearns. Services were first held in the unfinished Gothic edifice beginning in 1882, when the church left its original wooden building on Andem Place, across from the village railroad station.

The new building was constructed under the leadership of pastor L.J. Morris, who was born in Ireland and emigrated with his family at the age of four in 1849. The congregation had doubled in size, from 1,700 to 3,400, since he assumed the leadership in 1873.

August 20, 1934
Movie at Coolidge banned

One month after banning the Cary Grant/Loretta Young film Born to Be Bad, Brookline's Board of Selectmen banned a second film, The Love Captive, from being shown at the new Coolidge Corner Theatre.

The bans at the town's only picture palace were portrayed as part of a campaign for "better moving pictures." Brookline had fought for years against allowing a movie theater in town, despite theaters being allowed in most neighboring communities. 

The plot of The Love Captive revolved around a doctor who uses hypnosis to seduce women. In Born to Be Bad, Young portrays an unwed mother who seduces a wealthy married man (Grant). Both films were shown in theaters in Boston and elsewhere, but not in Brookline.

August 26, 1981
Brookline awards cable TV contract
Brookline's Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 to award the town's cable television contract to Times Mirror Cable Television. The company was chosen over two other competitors for the contract.

The Times Mirror package would offer 15 channels for the first tier of services, at $2.50 per month per subscriber; 35 channels at a cost of $5.50 per month for the second tier and 60 channels at $8.50 per month per subscriber for the third tier. 

Negotiations with the town dragged out, and it wasn't until January 1984 that cable was finally introduced to Brookline. (Times Mirror had, by then, transferred the license to Cablevision.)

This 1984 article in the Brookline Chronicle Citizen announced the long-delayed launch of cable television service to town.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

August 13th - August 19th

Headline: Mallard Moves Large Family
August 16, 1919

August 15, 1869 - Town Meeting allocates funds for sidewalks
August 19, 1905 - Mosquito control effort
August 16, 1919 - A real-life Make Way for Ducklings
August 19, 1963 - Board of Selectmen rejects Inner Belt Plan

August 15, 1869
Town Meeting allocates funds for sidewalks

Town Meeting responded favorably to a report from a special committee and allocated $8,000 for a major sidewalk construction project in town. The expenditure represented the most comprehensive approach after years of piecemeal efforts at sidewalk construction.

"The condition of the sidewalks of the town being so bad [the report had said], your committee would urge that there be no further delay than is absolutely necessary, and recommend the immediate appropriation of eight thousand dollars, to be expended by the Selectmen in laying such walks as they shall deem best suited to the different streets, always remembering that a good sidewalk should protect from mud at all seasons of the year."


"Attention should be given first to the main thoroughfares leading to the centre of the village and the railroad stations [recommended the committee], laying it on one side of the street only, and, wherever it is practicable, on the south side of the street, that it may the better be kept free from snow and ice." 

Plank sidewalk on Beacon Street
This 1887 photo shows a plank sidewalk laid by the town on Beacon Street, looking east from Englewood Avenue.

Read more in The Long History of Wooden Sidewalks in Brookline

August 19, 1905
Mosquito control effort 
Brookline's Board of Health announced that the town was more free of mosquitoes than it had been in years, thanks to determined eradication efforts. The approach, shared by the town and individual property owners, involved filling common breeding pools or sprinkling them with petroleum to suffocate young mosquitoes before they could mature.

A chapter -- "What New Orleans and Brookline Did" -- in a 1906 book on public health cited the town as a model for other communities to follow. Brookline's efforts, the book noted, had been motivated by three factors: 1) the presence of malaria in town; 2) the "torment" of mosquitoes in summers; and 3) "In certain parts of town the value of property was low because the number of mosquitoes was high."

Illustration from the 1906 public health book Town and City

To implement this means of eradication (archaic by today's standards) the town, according to the 1906 book, "hired two laborers, a horse a wagon and an overseer and sent them off to fill the small ponds and oil the large ones of the town. Watering pots and hose sprinkled the oil though often all that was needed was to pour it on and stir up the water and let the oil do its own spreading." 

August 16, 1919
A real-life Make Way for Ducklings

Two decades before the publication of Robert McCloskey's now classic Make Way for Ducklings, the Brookline Chronicle carried a story about a Brookline police officer holding up traffic on Beacon Street so a mother mallard could lead her brood of not-yet-flying ducklings across the busy road. 

Make Way for Ducklings cover

"At eight o'clock that morning [reported the paper] she set out on the long journey, followed by the nine little ones, then only three days old and so tiny as to be hardly distinguishable in the long grass." 

"Up the bank they went, and down the nearby alley, and a few moments later the astonished gaze of the traffic officer stationed at the corner of Beacon and Carlton Streets beheld them preparing to cross the wide main thoroughfare. Much amused and greatly interested, he stopped all traffic on the busy street until the duck, quacking continuously, had conducted her brood safely to the other side."


Read the original story as it appeared in the Chronicle

August 19, 1963
Board of Selectmen rejects Inner Belt Plan

Brookline's Board of Selectmen voted to reject a state plan for a four-lane double-deck bridge carrying part of the proposed I-695 highway through Cottage Farm and over the Charles River to Cambridge. The board proposed an underground tunnel as an alternative route through the neighborhood for the proposed new highway.

One of several proposals for the section of I-695 passing through Brookline between Roxbury and Cambridge.

The vote was part of a long series of objections to the proposed "Inner Belt" highway. Opposition was particularly strong in Cambridge and in Roxbury and other parts of Boston that would have been even more affected by the proposed road. The project, seen as a more central alternative to the route 128 loop around Boston, was finally killed altogether in 1971.


A clarification on last week's TWIBH: The item about the first Davis Cup competition in last Sunday's This Week in Brookline History should have noted that the Longwood Cricket Club, where the matches were held in 1900, was still in Boston at that time. The club moved to Chestnut Hill in Brookline and Newton in the 1920s.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

August 6th - August 12th

Davis Cup article and illustration
August 8, 1900 (Boston Globe)

August 9, 1775 - John Goddard named wagon master
August 8, 1900 - Davis Cup at Longwood Cricket Club
August 8, 1917 - Community market opens at Bethany School
August 8, 1959 - Brookline Hospital opens

August 9, 1775
John Goddard named wagon maste
John Goddard of Brookline, a prosperous farmer who amassed, stored, and transported arms for Massachusetts forces leading up to the Revolution, was named Wagon Master General of the Continental Army. 

Goddard, whose 1767 house still stands on Goddard Avenue, played a key role in gathering and transporting supplies that would be used against the British once the war broke out. He supervised a surreptitious operation using 300 wagons bringing cannon and supplies onto Dorchester Heights in March 1776, an action that led the British to abandon Boston.

This French-made cannonball with a fleur-de-lis marking on it, was found in a ravine on what had been John Goddard's property. It is now in the possession of the Brookline Historical Society.

Goddard, who later served several terms in the Massachusetts legislature, died in 1816 at the age of 85.

August 8, 1900
Davis Cup at Longwood Cricket Club

The tennis tournament that would become known as the Davis Cup began its inaugural event at the Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline. Teammates (and Harvard grads) Dwight Davis and Malcolm Whitman in singles and Davis and Holcomb Ward in doubles defeated their British opponents.

Boston Globe, August 10, 1900

"No one could have wished for a better all-round exhibition of scientific tennis," reported the New York Times. In the end, though, said the Times, the Englishman were "simply overwhelmed by a style of play with which they were entirely unfamiliar."

The competition, officially known the International Tennis Tournament, became known as the Davis Cup for the trophy commissioned by Davis for the tourney.

August 8, 1917
Community market opens at Bethany School

A community market selling locally-grown produce opened at the Bethany Building at the intersection of Washington, School, and Cypress Streets. The market, a forerunner of WWII Victory Gardens and modern day farmers' markets, was developed by a town committee on public safety formed after U.S. entry into World War I.

The market operated regularly through the end of the war. Producers selling their output included large estates and small plots located throughout the town. Individuals who could not grow produce on their own land could have plots on several town-owned properties. A staff of 15 gardeners supported the community gardens. There were also lectures and classes on food economy and canning and preservation. 

"One thousand gardens will doubtless be under supervision this year, and, should the war continue one or two years longer, the value of the educational feature together with the actual results cannot now be estimated," reported the committee at the end of 1917. "It will result in raising our own food, lowering the price of food products, and meet a vital war demand."

High school students working as volunteers
Brookline High School students from the local chapter of the National Civic Association help out at farm on the Dane estate (just over the Newton border) in the summer of 1917

August 8, 1959
Brookline Hospital opens
The new Brookline Hospital, with an unusual round design, opened on Chestnut Street at the foot of High Street Hill. The new facility replaced the old Allerton Hospital at the corner of Allerton Street and Pond Avenue.


The round building was lauded at the time as an efficient, if unusual, design. (The architect, Joseph L. Eldredge, was later the head of the Boston Society of Architects  and writer on architecture for the Boston Globe, the Boston Review of the Arts, and other publications.)

Brookline Hospital suffered from financial difficulties amid a changing hospital industry. It closed in the 1990s. The round building was demolished and replaced with the Goddard House assisted living facility on the site.