Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I Seek Newton, Part VIII: Upper Falls (Section 3)

From Dave Brigham:

Congratulate yourself. You made it! The third and final segment of my epic review of the Upper Falls village of my adopted hometown of Newton, Mass. These three posts make up the eighth installment of my series, which means there are five more villages to cover. For links to the previous two segments of Upper Falls, and the previous seven villages, see the bottom of this post.

To date, I've covered mills, dams, churches, parks, rail trails, railroad tracks and much more. This post is all about cool houses; old hotels, inns and taverns; a former school; classic commercial blocks; and more.

There are countless photo-worthy homes in Upper Falls. Some are big, beautiful Victorians; others quaint and quirky. I sought out houses that stick out from the crowd a bit, ones that I sensed had back stories. As with the previous two installments of this Upper Falls mini-series, I relied heavily on Kenneth Newcomb's invaluable book, Makers of the Mold, A History of Newton Upper Falls.

I'd long wondered about this duplex at 347-349 Elliot Street, which the Newton Assessors' Database indicates was built in 1900. Situated across from Dunn-Gaherin's Food and Spirits, the building, like much of the Upper Falls village, evokes the working-class roots of Newton. In Makers of the Mold, Newcomb indicates that this is most likely an old tenement or boarding house for workers of the Elliot Manufacturing Company. "Although it has since been enlarged," Newcomb writes, "the original building could be one of the tenements referred to in the deed covering the sale of the mill property in 1814 by General Simon Elliot to the Perkins brothers of the subsequent Elliot Mfg. Co." While I rely heavily on the assessors' database, I've learned that sometimes I need to use other sources to determine the ages of older houses.

Around the corner, at 993-997 Chestnut Street, is another multi-unit building.

Built circa 1825, this building comprises condos now. I'm guessing this was mill worker housing at some point a hundred years ago or so.

I live in a more traditional neighborhood of Newton, where houses, for the most part, have only ever been, well, houses. I grew up in the same type of area, in Connecticut. I am intrigued by houses like the ones above, and others to follow below, that had past lives as tenements or businesses.

(Located at 92 High Street, this converted carriage house caught my eye.)

The house above is 22 Cliff Street. It is located next to the stone barn on Oak Street that I featured in the second part of the Upper Falls installment. Built at the same time as the well-known barn, this house was formerly a caretaker's residence and then used for storage. It was converted to a home many years ago.

This building made me do a double-take as I walked around Upper Falls. I could just tell it used to be something other than a house. Located at 10 Mechanic Street, and built in 1850, at one point it contained businesses including a tailor and grocer, according to Makers of the Mold.

There are some really cool, repurposed houses on High Street. As they are located right around the corner from my buddy Ray's house, I've seen them a lot.

86 High Street was at one time the waiting room for an electric trolley, per Newcomb's book. You can see that the second floor doesn't quite match the first, and was obviously added once the waiting room had been converted to a home. Yes, you saw this photo in the first part of the Upper Falls installment.

Just next door is 80-82 High Street, which was built 1900, according to the assessors' database. According to Makers of the Mold, this address was used by a fruit and confections seller in 1923. I'm guessing the building is older.

Just a bit up the road is 48-50 High Street, which was built in 1900, according to the Newton Assessors' Database. I'm guessing -- wait for it -- that it's older. I believe this address was once known as Arcanum Hall. Arcanum means "mysterious or specialized knowledge, language, or information accessible or possessed only by the initiate," according to the Merriam-Webster web site. Sounds like they had some wild times at this place back in the day!)

54 High Street, below, was built 1842, per a Historic Newton brochure, as a firehouse. It was converted to a private residence in 1872 when a more modern station was built on Pettee Street.

51-53 High Street was built in 1842 as a Universalist church, the first of that denomination in Newton, according to the Historic Newton brochure. It operated as a church for only about seven years before it became Elliot Hall. It was used as a school, for all types of entertainment, as a lodge hall, etc., until 1879, when it was converted to a private residence, per the brochure. And, yes, you saw this in the first part of the Upper Falls installment.

And speaking of churches....Around the corner, on Summer Street, sit two houses built in 1840 [top] and 1835 [bottom]. Because of these cool windows, and the fact that they sit across the street from a church, I'm wondering if they were once owned by the church.

And finally, the top contender for the smallest house in Newton, this 251-square foot, two-room bungalow near the intersection of Chestnut and Boylston streets may have been a gas station in a prior life.

Now, let's move on from residential to commercial concerns and former schools.

Located on Oak Street next door to Jean and Lee Kitchen sits this long-abandoned barber shop. Makers of the Mold lists this address as a barber shop as far back as 1923!

At the intersection of Elliot, Oak and High streets sits the Prospect Block.

Erected in 1901, the building was once home to the Echo Bridge Hotel, per Makers of the Mold. Apartments long ago replaced hotel rooms. All along there have been businesses on the ground floor, ranging from a drug store and a post office in the early 20th century, to a sandwich shop and a hair salon today.

The quaint little building below sits at 8 Hale Street. Most recently home to Knits & Pieces, it was constructed in 1895. I suspect it was once part of a mill, in which case it's likely older than the assessors' database indicates, or that it has served as a small shop of varying purposes for a long time. That's my hope, anyway. I'm not sure what may move into the recently vacated space.

Home since 1991 to the aforementioned great neighborhood bar and restaurant Dunn-Gaherin's, this cool chalet-style building below has a loooooooong history. Located at 344 Elliot Street, the building is actually two structures joined together, according to Makers of the Mold: "The rear half was called the 'back store' and, commencing about 1820, was one of the village’s early 'general stores,' the first known to have been operated by partners Plimpton & Clark in the 1830s and 1840s and also as a store by Otis Pettee in the 1840s.... Dr. Joseph Huckins Warren owned and practiced in the building at 344-346 Elliot Street in the 1850s. During the Civil War, he was personal physician to President Lincoln." I'm not sure what the front half of the building was. The Newton assessors' database lists the built-in date as 1900, which may be when the buildings were combined.

Just a few steps away is Echo Bridge Restaurant. Open since 1962, it isn't much to look at. And I don't have anything else to say.

1007 Chestnut Street was built in 1836, and is now home to a handful of offices. I believe it was once home, on the second floor, to Nahaton Hall, per Makers of the Mold. It may have been mill worker housing at some point, I suppose.

A quick jog and you're looking at this attractive building.

1028 Chestnut Street, a former school built in 1846, is now home to EverPresent, a company that digitizes old VHS tapes, photos and other media. I've used them and they provide excellent service. The building also housed Quinobequin Hall and some stores over the years, and is the oldest former school still standing in Newton, per the Historic Newton brochure.

Speaking of former schools, here's the old Ralph Waldo Emerson School on Pettee Street, circa 1904. It is named for the famous essayist, poet and transcendentalist, who lived in Upper Falls for a time. It is now condos.

The building below, at 1269 Boylston Street, is the former Ellis Hotel [aka Manufacturer's Hotel], circa 1829, per a Historic Newton brochure. It is now a residence.

And now, to wrap it up on a completely mediocre note -- the Mazzone Block!

Built circa 1923, on Chestnut Street, it was converted to condos in 2005. All I've been able to find out about this place is that grocer Andrew Mazzone’s store was here. The name and date chiseled into the lower right corner are not original to the building.

So there you go, as near a comprehensive look at Newton Upper Falls as I could pull off. There are still so many houses and commercial establishments to explore and learn about. And surely some village secrets as well. I hope you've enjoyed my three-part canvassing effort. Here are the links to the other two parts of this mini-series.

Section 1 of Upper Falls -- March 1, 2018, "I Seek Newton, Part VIII: Upper Falls (Section 1)"

Section 2 of Upper Falls -- March 8, 2018, "I Seek Newton, Part VIII: Upper Falls (Section 2)"

And here are the previous seven parts:

March 7, 2017 I Seek Newton, Part VII: Thompsonville

December 5, 2016: Chestnut Hill (#6)

September 26, 2016: Oak Hill (#5)

June 3, 2016: Waban (#4)

March 23, 2016: Newton Highlands (#3)

September 20, 2015: Auburndale (#2)

May 21, 2015: Newton Lower Falls (#1)

And finally, here is a link to a video presentation on local access TV about the history of Upper Falls.

I still have five villages to go: Nonantum, Newton Corner, Newton Centre, West Newton and Newtonville. I'm not sure which one will be next.

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