The Houses & People of Blake Park
Introduction and Navigation
“The Houses & People of Blake Park” presents information about the 115 or so houses that lie within the boundaries of the old Blake estate -- AND about the people who lived in those houses up until the end of World War II.
Each house has its own page (or two pages for those few houses with more than one address.) You can navigate to these pages from the street directory at right, which lists them alphabetically by street. Each street page provides an overview of the street and links to pages about each house.
Information about the Houses
More than 90% of the houses in this neighborhood were built between 1920 and 1941 during the two phases of the development of Blake Park. Another six houses existed prior to 1920. Three others were added to the neighborhood in the 1950s, and two more in the early 21st century.
Information provided about each house includes (as available):
When it was built
Who built it, designed it, and owned it. (The owner listed on the building permit was not necessarily the first occupant.)
How much it cost to build
Most of this information was obtained from building permits and other information available from the Town of Brookline Building Department. Additional details were gleaned from old maps, real estate ads, and other documents.
There is a thumbnail picture of each house on the street page. Click on the picture for a larger view and a full description of the house. (Most thumbnails and larger pictures are from the online Town of Brookline Assessor’s Atlas.) Additional pictures are included for some houses, as well.
Information about the People
Each house page includes details of who lived in the house from the time it was built until the end of World War II, when development was completed and all of the houses were occupied.
The Blake Park mini-biographies included in these pages can be dry, filled with dates, occupations, places of birth, and lists of family members. But there are also rich and colorful stories of success, of scandal, and of accomplishments large and small. Overall, the personal profiles present a picture of the varied types of people who lived in Blake Park in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, if not necessarily of how they lived.
The primary source for determining who lived where (and when) is the Street List published annually by the Town of Brookline since the late 19th century. For the period surveyed, these lists included all individuals aged 20 or older with their ages, their occupations, and, if they were new to a particular address, where they had lived before.
There are inaccuracies and inconsistencies within the Street Lists, but they remain the best source in terms of date coverage, comprehensiveness, and accessibility. Whenever possible, problematic information in the Street Lists has been checked against other sources. (It should be noted that the information shown in a particular Street List may more accurately reflect the residents of the town for the previous year.)
Additional information is provided for the 70 houses that were in place, occupied, and surveyed at the time of the 1930 U.S. Census. This is the only source that lists all occupants of any age.
The amount of detailed biographical information provided about the people of Blake Park varies greatly from house-to-house and from person-to-person. This information has been gathered, as available, from a wide variety of sources, including:
U.S. Census data. Data on individual households is made public 72 years after the year it was compiled. 1930 Census data, the most recent year available, was, of course, particularly valuable for Blake Park, but earlier years provided details about individuals and families as well.
Obituaries, especially from the Brookline Chronicle, the Boston Globe and Herald, and the New York Times. The Boston Public Library’s online index of Globe and Herald obituaries, although limited in date coverage, was particularly helpful.
News articles from these same newspapers, as well as the Christian Science Monitor (which had excellent local coverage early in the 20th century), and other publications.
Genealogical databases. Ancestry.com, a subscription-based service, provided well-organized access to such valuable sources as Census reports, the Social Security Death Index, selected directories from other Massachusetts cities and towns, World War I draft registration cards, and family trees.
There was, at times, a certain amount of conjecture and speculation involved in matching biographical information to the individuals involved. I have tried to indicate whenever there is uncertainty about a particular fact or set of information. (Dates, for instance, will often by preceded by the letter “c” for circa, i.e. “c1889”, to indicate an approximate date of birth.)
There is less information provided about the servants – mostly maids and housekeepers, but also chauffers, cooks, nursemaids, and others – that both lived with and worked for families in approximately one-third of the homes in Blake Park. These individuals are harder to trace for a variety of reasons (more common names, less consistency of residence from year-to-year, lack of family members to connect with, etc.). This is certainly an area for further research.
I am continuing to gather and verify biographical and other historical information, and will be happy to hear from anyone who can qualify, enhance, or dispute any of the information shown in these pages.
- Ken Liss, firstname.lastname@example.org