Thursday, March 22, 2018

WASP Wanderings and Wonderings

From D. Anathopolous Brigham III:

I have a bit of a WASP hang-up. I am a descendant of British settlers who landed in America in the 1630's, but who either squandered the family fortune or never had one to begin with. Thomas Brigham, my many-times-over great grandfather, once owned land that eventually was sold to Harvard University. But by the time that transaction occurred, my family no longer owned that property. I felt I should have dated Ethel Walker girls during high school, joined the Skull and Bones Club at Yale and been fitted for a personalized golf cart at The Country Club in Chestnut Hill.

I grew up among the preppie set in Simsbury, Conn., including one kid who once simultaneously wore more than two dozen alligator shirts and button-down Oxfords just for kicks. But although I share a last name with a guy who founded a well-known hospital in Boston, as well as a dude who started a locally famous Greater Boston ice cream/restaurant chain, I didn't fit into the espadrilles-and-penny-loafer crowd. My family didn't have money to throw away on scads of wide-wale pants and boat shoes.

Still, I love adopting a Thurston Howell III locked-jaw, old-money accent and pretend-shopping online at J. Peterman's web site. I dream of mahogany-paneled private libraries stained by decades of Three Nuns pipe smoke. My eyes light up when I read about any of the dwindling numbers of Boston Brahmin socialites (my favorite -- OK, the only one I know -- is Smoki Bacon. I know, sounds like a drag queen or porn star, but no.). I always wanted to eat at the famous Locke-Ober -- open for 137 years until 2012, host to JFK, business tycoons, politicians of all stripes, blue bloods galore, a place where gentlemen were required to wear jackets -- but never got to do so.

Now, what was my point? Oh yes, old boy! The cluster of pleasant-looking condominiums in the above photo. Built in 1900, the buildings are situated across the street from the Brimmer and May School in Newton, Mass. The school straddles Newton and Brookline in an area called Chestnut Hill that also includes part of Boston. There is a LOT of money in this special corner of the world. Business, sports, entertainment and political success stories abound, as do legacies of Chestnut Hill's WASP origins (see December 5, 2016, "I Seek Newton, Part VI: Chestnut Hill").

I first noticed the backside of the condo complex located along Middlesex Road on Green line trolley trips. Among the stately mansions and well-groomed private school properties, the buildings definitely look a bit out of place. Still, with their bright-white paint jobs, refined porches, circular driveway and elegant foliage, these edifices look like half-scale Southern plantation houses.

My first guess was that perhaps the buildings had once housed the well-to-do students of Brimmer. After quite a bit of searching online, I disabused myself of that surmise (listen to me talking like Charles Emerson Winchester III! -- RIP, David Ogden Stiers). The six buildings currently house at least 19 units. I suppose at one time there may have been fewer units, perhaps as low as six. In my mind, there were a few down-on-their-luck WASPs living here in the early 20th century, cousins to luxury whose trust funds were just a tad underfed, making do in shabby chic quarters just down the road from the Longwood Cricket Club, where perhaps they might cadge a drink once in a while.

For another, shorter entry about a WASP-y property in Dedham, Mass., check out September 9, 2010, "The Privilege Is All Mine."

OK, I'll let the fops from the Upper Crust have the last word.

No comments:

Post a Comment