Fisher Hill has a long history of occupation by prominent individuals, although these early residents were generally located along the base of the hill. During the 18th century Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, famous for the introduction small pox inoculations in 1721, lived in the house at 617 Boylston Street. The Boylston farm, which extended across the road to include what is now the reservoir, was acquired by William Hyslop in 1766, and his family probably enlarged what is the most outstanding example of Georgian architecture in Brookline. At 43 Sumner Road is the Benjamin Goddard House, which was built on Boylston Street in 1810-11 but moved to its present site in 1887. This section of town was still very much the country as late as 1850 when Henry Lee of Lee & Higginson, the largest brokerage and banking house in Boston, purchased the Boylston estate for a summer house. A few years later Jacob Pierce acquired a house on Chestnut Hill Avenue and began to develop an estate.
By 1884 there were a few part-time and year round residents like the Lees and the Pierces, but Fisher Hill remained largely undeveloped. The Boston and Albany Railroad (now the "1" line) circumvented the hill on the north and east, effectively cutting off development from that direction. On the west side Fisher Avenue began at what is now Hyslop Street next to the Pierce estate on Chestnut Hill Avenue and extended up the hill past the covered reservoir established by the town in 1875. The largest estate on the south side of the hill was built by dry goods magnate Joseph H.White in 1881-82 (541-45 Boylston St.). White's house and carriage barn, though still standing, are surrounded by recent development. It was designed by the prominent Boston firm of Peabody & Stearns and was pictured in L'Architecture Americaine. published in Paris in 1886. Frederick Law Olmsted was hired to plan the landscaping for this estate, although little evidence remains of his work.
Both White and Pierce were among the landowners who, in 1884, hired the Olmsted firm to prepare a development plan for Fisher Hill. The others were Arthur Rotch, one of Boston's leading architects, Thomas Lee, the son of Henry, and the Goddard Land Company, which owned a large parcel on the hill. Pierce had already begun to develop his land and it was said that he was careful about who he sold to, "lest he might sell it to someone who would not respect his desire that Fisher Hill remain unblemished by any structure not in harmony with the high character he wished the neighborhood to maintain/7 One can presume these sentiments reflected those of the other large landholders as well.
It was not until the late 1880s that the development of house lots really got under way. With Buckminster already completed most of the new houses were built on that road. Between 1888-1892 there were eleven houses built on Buckminster, including a large stone mansion at 62 Buckminster for Jonathan White, the brother of Joseph White, designed by Peabody & Stearns. Clarence Blackall, writing in an architectural journal in 1889, commented on the Jonathan White House that it was "... pleasing not only for its well-studied details and good general effect, but also for the manner in which Mr. Olmsted's landscape work and the architect's design are so united that the house seems to be just as thoroughly in place, and a part of the surroundings, as though it had grown there."
At the same time Jonathan's brother Joseph began to develop Seaver Street on the hill above his house. He hired Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge to design a large brick Tudor style house at 80 Seaver St. which he rented to his daughter and son-in-law for many years. While these houses were being built other roads planned by the Olmsted firm were under construction, opening up house lots on Leicester, Hyslop, Holland, Clinton, and Dean, as well as an extension of Fisher Avenue north of Buckminster.
With standards for new construction having been established in the 1890s the largest undeveloped section of the hill was purchased in 1903 by a very unusual couple, John and Mary Longyear. These wealthy mid-westerners and devotees of Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science religion assembled a parcel so large that they absorbed a section of Hyslop Road where it originally extended to Leicester (Hayden Road is a remnant of that extension). Incredibly, the Longyears dismantled their stone house in Marquette, Michigan, which had been built in 1890, and had it reassembled at 120 Seaver St, making a large addition as well. The landscaped grounds originally extended down to the intersection of Seaver and Buckminster Road where a portion of their stone and iron fence still stands. The houses on the hill above Seaver were built by Mrs. Longyear for members of her church in the 1910s.
Notwithstanding the fact that by the early 1900s Fisher Hill was clearly a neighborhood of "high class" houses, a number of property owners were concerned about the need to protect their investments in the face of the rapid increase in demand for multi-family homes elsewhere in Brookline. Areas which only a few years before had been dominated by single family homes were giving way to the construction of apartment blocks. Accordingly, in 1914, a covenant was entered into by 165 property owners to protect their holdings against "deterioration through the construction of apartment houses, two family houses, public garages, stores and hospitals." This covenant expired in 1940, by which time zoning regulations had been established by the town to restrict high density residential construction.Walking Tour
The Fisher Hill pump house features all of the picturesque qualities associated the style in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. One might ask why spend so much money for a functional building to house pumping equipment? The answer has to do with civic pride and a belief held throughout the country at that time that public buildings should represent the highest cultural ideals of a community. For this reason even pumping stations were elaborately designed to reflect the latest artistic fashions.
Proceeding south on Fisher Avenue you come to the corner of Leicester Street. At the intersection, up on the hill on your left, is a large house whose access is Hayden Road but with an address at
75 Fisher Ave, built 1898, Little & Browne, Architects.
The great Boston architect Charles Bulfinch was well known for his Federal style three story houses built on and around Beacon Hill. Architects Arthur Little and Herbert Browne, who specialized in what was called the Colonial Revival, were of course very familiar with the houses Bulfinch designed during the early years of the Republic. An interest in American architecture of the 18th century had been growing during the 1880s, and by 1898 "Colonial" architecture was the most popular style. The intensive development of Fisher Hill came at a time when this style was coming into its own and you will find a great many examples on every street.
This house, erected for Katherine and Fred Mead, drew its inspiration from the three story urban dwellings built in Boston in 1790s and early 1800s. It is built of wood instead of brick, but that was common in smaller towns sucri as Salem and Newburyport. Characteristic features include a flat, symmetrical facade with a low pitched hipped roof partially hidden by a balustrade, and a concentration of ornamental decorations around the main entrance. In this case there is sidelights and lunette to light the hall, framed by pilasters and a pediment. Mr. Mead worked as a broker in Boston and would have been quite familar with the great Federal style structures still standing on Beacon Hill.
The landscaping of the site has not been documented, but like many houses on Fisher Hill that occupy large lots there was probably a large garden designed by the architects as this firm's expertise included landscape design. Indeed, Little & Browne were responsible for some of the opulant grounds that were part of the Larz Anderson Estate in Brookline, as well as the redesign of the mansion itself. The tour will now proceed down Leicester Street. You will notice a house on your right which dominates the corner of Fisher Ave and Leicester.
23 Leicester St., built 1902, H.D. Hale, Architect
The house itself is not architecturally unusual; you will find other houses on Fisher Hill which are similar interpretations of Italian Villa architecture. It is the grand polychromatic entrance gate that makes the house a striking landmark. This is the work of Cambridge architect Tom Larson and it was built in 1980. While not historic, the architect has attempted to call upon motifs found in the house to embellish this property.
The original owner of the house was Miss Elizabeth Head, who died in 1945. Unfortunately, we do not known anything more about the circumstances of a single women building this large house.
Walking down Leicester street you will find several houses on the right which date from the early twentieth century. Two, however, make claims to having 18th century antecedents. The first is
33 Leicester St., built 1920, A.F.Law, Architect
Part of this house may actually be one of the oldest structures on Fisher Hill. According to oral tradition, a barn which was part of the 18th century Hyslop estate was moved from Boylston street to this site in 1920 and converted into a residence. This story seems plausible when you look at the center section of the house with its second story windows which are close to the eaves in the manner of a low-posted 18th century building. It was the son of Dr. Thomas Homan who claims that his father renovated an old barn, but if this was true there is very little left of the original structure, probably only the frame. Dr. Homan hired Andrew F. Law of the firm of Strickland, Blodgett & Law to spend about $23,000 on a home, and while he may have had an antiquarian bug, prompting him to save a portion of an historic building, he certainly did not want to end up in a residence that looked like a barn.
Dr. Roman made several improvements to his property over the next few years. In 1923 he added a garage, and the west wing was built in 1926. A 12 x 6 foot extension was made in 1929. Law's design for the original section with the second floor windows close under the eaves featured a Georgian style doorway and wooden belt course between the two floors.
The next three houses date from the 1920s. The second one, 55 Liecester, was built in 1923 and recently completely renovated so that there is little left from that period except the walls. The third is perhaps the most elegant of the three.
71 Liecester St., built 1923, John M. Barnard, Architect The style is what was known as early as the 1920s as "French Provincial" As the name implies, the style derives from French country house architecture. Its characteristic features are the steeply pitched hipped roof, the dormers with curvilinear roofs, the smooth stucco walls with decorative panels, and the use of casement windows.
The house was built by Emile F. Coulon, who was the owner and manager of the Hotel Westminster on Trinity Place in Boston. Ordinarily there is no connection between the choice of an historical style and the owner's background, but in this case Mr. Coulon's house is just what you might expect for the home of a hotel owner of French or Swiss ancestry.
Further up the street you come to another house which claims 18th century antecedents
83 Leicester St., built 1790s?, remodeled 1922, Bellows & Aldrich, Architects
Based upon available information, the center section of this house dates from the 1790s. It was constructed as a "summer house" by William Hyslop, whose residence was at the bottom of the hill. There is no record of the appearance of the original structure, but its location near the top of the hill afforded a fine view for the owner. The remainder of Hyslop's estate is no longer extant.
It was Donald Moffat who remodeled the old summer house in 1922. This work, which cost about $15,000, included rearranging the hall and rooms in the existing structures and adding two ells. Like his neighbor at 33 Leicester, Mr. Moffat also continued to enlarge his property, adding a garage in 1924, a 44 x 22 ell in 1929, and a second floor to one of the ells in 1936. William Hyslop would not have recognized his former summer house.
On the opposite side of the road is the large Longyear Estate, which has one of the most unusual stories of any property in Brookline.
Longyear Estate, built on present site 1903-05 Charlton, Gilbert & Kuenzli, Architects
This great stone mansion originated in Marquette, Michigan, where it was built in 1890 by John and Mary Longyear. Mr. Longyear became wealthy through his mining interests in northern Michigan and in Spitzbergen, Norway. His stone house, designed by a firm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, comprised about half of the present structure. The Longyear became involved in the then Chicago-based Christian Science Church and when Mary Baker Eddy moved back east to establish the mother church in Boston, they decided to follow and brought their house along.
After purchasing one of the best sites on Fisher Hill, the Longyears hired their architects to dismantle the house in Marquette, transport it by railroad to Brookline and reassemble it on this site. At the same time they considerably enlarged the structure, changing the original asymmetrical Romanesque design to a symmetrical, less picturesque configuration. Instead of one gable end and a corner tower, the house as rebuilt featured a larger porch with three round arches between flanking gable ends with paired dormers on the roof. The entire estate was also landscaped with a fence, garden, drive, and other features. At least two landscape architects worked on the property, James Bowditch, who lived in Brookline, and Benjamin M.Watson of Forest Hills. When Mrs. Longyear died she left the property to the Longyear Foundation, which was established to honor the memory of Mary Baker Eddy. The house and grounds now forms one of the most extraordinary turn-of-the-century estates in the region.
Continuing down Leicester to the intersection of Seaver you come to two houses which are completely different from each other but were designed at about the same time by the same architects.
73 Seaver Stv built 1892, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, Architects
This is one of the early house lots sold off by Joseph White on the hill above his residence. It was purchased by a Boston lawyer named Charles Perkins. Perkins hired a well-known firm to design the Queen Anne style residence with its picturesque, asymmetrical massing. The large round corner tower and varied surface treatments, such as clapboards and shingles cut in wavy patterns, and complex roof treatment, are all hallmarks of the style.
In many respects a house such as No. 73 is ideally suited to its site with all of its porches and large corner tower. By 1892, however, it was no longer the most fashionable way to design houses. Joseph White may have been aware of this when he hired the same firm to build a larger house across the street for his daughter.
80 Seaver St., built 1893, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, Architects
The fact that the same architects could design two so very different houses at the same time is an indication of the range of work often produced by main-stream firms. Joseph H. White, one of the original developers of Fisher Hill, had erected his large residence further down the slope of the hill ten years earlier. His estate also included a farmhouse, a stable with tenements, a barn, and a greenhouse. He may have wished to set the tone for future construction on Fisher Hill by erecting this large Jacobethian style house on his property for his daughter and son-in-law. The completed house was rented rather than given to the couple. The son-in-law was John Batchelder, Jr., of Batchelder Brothers, Coal and Lumber.
The Jacobethian style derived from 17th century English precedents and, with its strong Anglo-Saxon connotations, was considered one of the more appropriate historical styles to choose for those who were proud of their Britishheritage. While the entrance on Seaver Street with its fence and curved drive, suggests a restricted site, the rear of the house originally featured a large open brick terrace which afforded views to the south.
Continue down Seaver Street and notice, on your left, the house with the tile roof on the curve of the road.
53 Seaver St., built 1909, Thomas M. James, Architect
Dr. J.R.Taylor built this house in 1909 in what was based on Italian Villa architecture. The architect, Thomas M. James, was well-known for his specialty in the design of bank buildings. The Taylor House takes the best advantage of its site by embracing the curve of the road and throwing out its two wings at acute angles to the main body of the house so that the most important rooms are able to take advantage of natural light and the views. The ironwork supporting the second story oriel window over the main entrance are replacements dating from 1961.
Former Joseph White Estate, built 1881, Peabody & Stearns, Architects
Fisher Hill Estates is the large housing development constructed in the 1980s on the south side of Seaver Street. Joseph White's Queen Anne style mansion, which was built half-way up the hill, is no longer visible from Seaver Street. The carriage barn, however, can be seen between the new houses if you are standing opposite 53 Seaver Street. Peabody & Stearns was the leading Boston firm in New England during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Although the interior has been completely altered, the exterior is an outstanding example of the Queen Anne style. This style originated in Britain with architect Richard Norman Shaw looking at early English buildings. Shaw7 influence is quite clear in the use of features such as half timber ornamentation in the gable ends.
Continuing down the hill you will notice a deteriorating stone and iron fence on your left. This was part of the land purchased by the Longyears for their estate. Looking up he hill are several houses built by Mary Longyear after her husband's death. The house at 91 Seaver Street, for example, was constructed in 1912 for Archibald McLellan, an editor of the Christian Science Monitor. The steps which provided access to the houses from Seaver Street have long since deteriorated and are over-grown.
When you reach the intersection with Buckminster there is a modern house that stands out on your left.
5 Seaver Street, built in 1975, Karlis Grinsberg, Architect
This severe, modernistic design with its sharp, geometric lines was designed by the architect who was also responsible for the large number of new units on the former White Estate that you have just passed. Whether or not his own house is compatible with the neighborhood, or whether compatibility should even be a concern, is for you to decide.
The tour now continues straight on to Buckminster.
149 Buckminster Rd., built 1900, Chapman & Frazer, Architects
Galen Stone, a broker who worked in Boston, hired one of the most popular firm's in Boston for the design of suburban homes. Chapman & Frazer actually consisted of only Horace S. Frazer, as Chapman had died in 1895. Frazer lived in Brookline in a house he had built on Boylston Street not far from Fisher Hill. The English Tudor Revival style was perhaps Frazer's most frequently used historical style and the Stone House is a good example of his work. Characteristic features included multiple gables ornamented with Tudor half-timbering, windows with diamond pained lights, and large sturdy porch posts. The historical antecedents of English Tudor lay in medieval architecture of 16th century England, but that period merely served as a source to borrow historical motifs.
It is not surprising that Galen Stone selected the architect employed by many of his neighbors as in his career he served as a trustee for 22 corporations and institutions, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Wellseley College.
Proceeding down Buckminster Road you will see several houses on both sides which were built in 1890-91 in what was the first major episode of concentrated development on Fisher Hill.
161 Buckminster Rd., built 1891, Rand & Taylor, Architects Anson Lyman, who purchased this newly built house in 1891, was a partner in the law firm of Perkins and Lyman. Mr. Perkins built the house you passed at 73 Seaver Street at the same time, although in a completely different style. Where Mr. Perkins wanted a house with large porches, a corner tower, and a view of Boston, Mr. Lyman's tastes were evidently more traditional. His house is a fairly modest example of the Colonial Revival style. The Lyman House has a central entrance between two bay windows and a simple porch with columns and balustrade.
169 Buckminster Rd., built 1891, Rand & Taylor, Architects
Both this house and Lyman's next door were built by G.W. and Henry Taylor on speculation. Edwin Cox purchased this house soon after it was completed. The architectural firm of Rand & Taylor was as prolific in the 1880s as was Chapman & Frazer in the early 1900s. The majority of their work was done when the Queen Anne style was popular and this house shows evidence of the transition from the exuberance of that style to the more conservative approach employed in the Colonial Revival. The sizes of both houses are similar, and even the floor plans may not differ substantially; however, note how large and aggressive are the designs for the porch and dormer, and how instead of a traditional bay window the entire right corner is rounded. In building these houses the Taylor's played it safe by offering two quite different designs for sale.
172 Buckminster Rd., built 1890-91, C.H.Blackall, Architect
Edwin Story Smith, part owner of a paper supply firm in Boston, selected a commanding site at the intersection of Holland Street for his residence. The architect, Clarence Blackall, published his design for the house in an architectural journal in 1890, although details were changed as built. The house has also lost some of the architecturally important trim, such as the balustrade on the porch roof and on the top of the main roof.
185 Buckminster Rd., built 1891, CH.Blackall, Architect
Architect Blackall designed four houses on Buckminster, including this one which he briefly lived in himself before selling to a retired army general. It is more grand in its interpretation of the Colonial Revival, which is perhaps not surprising if the architect wished to promote his abilities. The size of the house may not be much larger than its immediate neighbors, but by constructing a large pediment supported on paired Ionic columns the building achieves a grander appearance. Note the large windows over the front porch which probably serve to provide a flood of light to the entrance hall and staircase.
182 Buckminster Rd., built 1891, Hartwell & Richardson, Architects
This long, shingled house was built for William Whitney, whose family firm manufactured brushes. The architects were another firm which did a great deal of work in the environs of Boston. An unusual feature of this site is -the massive stone wall in front of the house, which corresponds to the stone carriage house. It is possible that stone for the main house was originally planned, but wood was substituted mid-way through the project as a cost saving measure. In any case, the Shingle Style house has many interesting features which are characteristic of the style. For example, the narrow left end of the house illustrates the plastic character of wood shingles in terms of the potential to vary the surface treatments. Tucked behind the engaged corner tower on that end of the house is a chimney and a second story over-hang supported on a corner bracket which is itself completely shingled so that it appears to grow out of the wall. The chimney extends up through that end of the house, emerging just inside the gable end porch, before its final reappearance above the roof. The little porch itself has a shingled railing which is bowed out to form a curving over-hang.
214 Buckminster Rd., built 1900, Chapman & Frazer,
219 Buckminster Rd., built 1909, Frank Chouteau Brown, Architect
These two houses illustrate different influences of British architecture. No. 214 Buckminster is in the Tudor style by Chapman & Frazer, a simplified variation on their design for Galen Stone at 149 Buckminster built in the same year. In contrast, 219 Buckminster owes its inspiration to contemporary British domestic design which developed in conjunction with that country's Arts and Crafts movement. Architect Frank Chouteau Brown was editor of The Architectural Review and was aware of the most progressive trends in architecture. The client, Grace F. Tyler, was the widow of Clifford Tyler, who manufactured tiles for fireplaces, walls and floors. As ceramic tile was an important part of Arts and Crafts design, it is not surprising that Mrs. Tyler would choose a house which reflected the influence of those ideas.
On the exterior of the Tyler House the characteristic features of the Arts and Crafts influence are the smooth stucco walls with brick and tile trim highlighting the entrance. Arts and Crafts is not really an architectural style, however, as it had mostly to do with interior decor. One can only guess if the inside of the house reflects Arts and Crafts theories, but the Y-shaped plan of the building certainly suggests a more unconventional approach to domestic design.
248 Buckminster Rd., built 1905, Ernest N. Boyden, Architect
If 219 Buckminster is an example of progressive taste in architecture, this house, built four years earlier, can be viewed as somewhat regressive. It is an impressive building for its picturesque use of large cobblestones in the construction of the first floor walls and porte cochere. The round arches, corner tower, and wood shingles, however, call to mind a house dating from the 1880s rather than the early 1900s. It was constructed for Edward and Georgie Townsend. Mr. Townsend was a lawyer in Boston.
As you walk up Druce Street you will see on the right a modern house with a flat roof which was built in 1987. This structure replaced a large wooden house that was built in 1902 which must have had a commanding presence overlooking the intersection of Buckminster, Druce and Hyslop. Turning up Hyslop Road you see on the right
37 Hyslop Rd., built 1905, Chapman & Frazer, Architects
It should be clear with this house how popular Chapman & Frazer were in Brookline. It is another Tudor style residence, and the original owner was Edward Ruhl, who was a very active member of the Fisher Hill Association. It was that group which, in 1914, prepared an agreement to prohibit the construction of multi-family homes in the neighborhood. In the days before zoning laws this was a method to protect property values where the construction of multi-family units had already irrevocably altered other neighborhoods formerly occupied by large single family homes on large lots.
This house was later the home of Serge Koussevitsky, the renowned conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra who lived here for over twenty years.
70 Hyslop Rd., built 1888, Rotch & lilden, Architects
This house on your left is one of the oldest surviving homes from the earliest period of nineteenth century development. Architect Arthur Rotch, who was one of the major landowners that engaged the Olmsted firm to prepared plans for laying out Fisher Hill, built this house. Rotch was an exceptionally talented artist and architect who formed a partnership with George Tilden. Rotch & Tilden was immediately recognized as one of Boston's major architectural firms, but was short lived due to Rotch's premature death at age 44 in 1894. Arthur Rotch is perhaps best remembered for the Rotch Traveling Scholarship Fund to provide training for young architects. His house is a excellent early example of Colonial Revival interpretations of 18th century architecture.
67 Hyslop Rd., built 1928, Kilham, Hopkins & Greeley, Architects Across the street on your right is a house built for Mrs. Harold Hammond designed by the firm which was responsible for the Devotion School and the Brookline High School. These architects were very experienced in the design of suburban residences in a variety of historical styles and a number of their buildings were erected on Fisher Hill. This house is particularly unusual for its use of Gothic windows. The design is probably another which derived from contemporary British suburban design, as the use of Gothic motifs for residential structures was a long-standing tradition in that country.
Continue down Hyslop to the intersection of Fisher Avenue. At that intersection are four large houses.
89 Hyslop Rd., built 1907, Chapman & Frazer, Architects
166 Fisher Ave., built 1918, Edward Nichols, Architect
169 Fisher Ave., built 1912, Benjamin Procter, Architect
184 Fisher Ave., built 1923, Edward Pritchard, Architect
These large, comfortable homes all tell us much about the men who built them, for although there are three styles represented, and all four are different in appearance, they are about the same size, probably have similar floor plans for the main rooms, and are quite conservative as representations of American architecture during the early 1900s. 89 Hyslop was built by the Reverand George Hull a retired Congregational minister, and shows influences of the Arts and Crafts and the Colonial Revival style. 166 Fisher, which is a Spainish Villa style, was the home of William Ellery, a wool dealer. 169 Fisher was built by Stephen Burchard, a textile manufacturer, and 184 Fisher was built by Frank Fahey, Vice President and Treasurer of the Gillette Safety Razor Company. Both of these houses are in the Colonial Revival style. Undoubtedly all four men were conservative representatives of the established business world, as this is reflected in their choice of domestic design. Certainly these houses represent the income level of people which the original developers hoped to attract to Fisher Hill. Neighborhoods in urban areas change over time, but Fisher Hill is perhaps one of the few where for over 100 years development patterns have remained the same.
Continue on up Fisher Hill to the point where the tour began.