|1860s, 1920s, & 2010s|
Architect (1921 Remodeling):
|Clarence T. McFarland|
as Part of Blake Park:
26 Weybridge Road, built around 1822 for Dr. Charles Wild, is the oldest house in Blake Park. Extensively remodeled in the 1860s, it was acquired by the Blake family in the 1880s and redesigned again in the 1920s as part of the Blake Park development. A third remodeling in the 2010s inlcuded extensive interior changes while restoring the exterior largely to its 1925 design.
Charles Wild (1795-1864) was born in Boston, graduated from Harvard in 1814, and was granted a medical degree in March 1818. (His dissertation was on delerium tremens.) Coming to Brookline less than a month later, he boarded with a widow, Mrs. Croft, on Washington Street. (The Croft family had owned land in this part of Brookline since 1746.)
Around 1820, the widow gave him two acres of land on the south side of Washington Street, near the base of Aspinwall Hill. Dr. William Aspinwall, the town's principal physician, was gradually winding down his own medical practice at that time -- he died in 1823 -- and Wild soon took over as the leading physician in town.
Harriet Woods in her Historical Sketches of Brookline, published in 1874, presented a lengthy profile of Dr. Wild. (Pages 163-170).
Those who can remember the doctor in his prime [wrote Woods], can well recall his tall, well-formed figure, his firm tread, his deep voice which seemed to come from cavernous depths, and eyes which seemed to look from behind his spectacles into and through one.
Woods described the doctor's typical way of announcing his arrival to see a patient:
He had a breezy way of entering a house, stamping off the snow or dust with enough noise for three men, throwing off his overcoat, untying a huge muffler that he wore around his neck, and letting down his black leather pouch with emphasis. There was an indescribable noise he made sometimes with that deep gruff voice of his which cannot be represented in type.
Dr. Wild, widely respected in town for his knowledge, abilities, and advice, was skilled in the mixing and administering of potions, in bloodletting, and in other techniques practiced by the physicians of his day. In 1839, he became interested in the emerging ideas of homeopathy. The second meeting of New England physicians interested in this new kind of practice took place at the house on Washington Street in 1841. It led to the formation of the Massachusetts Homeopathic Fraternity.
Dr. Wild was active in town affairs, serving at various times on the School Committee and as a justice of the peace, among other responsibilities. He was also an active member of the Rev. John Pierce's Unitarian church, where he sang in the choir and played the flute in the days before the church had an organ.
Charles Wild and his wife Mary (1799-1883) had eight children. Their second son, Edward Augustus Wild (1825-1891) followed in his father's footsteps, graduating from Harvard in 1844 and earning a medical degree in 1846. He practiced medicine in Brookline until 1855, when he went to Turkey (with his new wife) and served as a medical officer with the Turkish Army during the Crimean War.
Returning to Brookline after the war, he resumed his medical practice until the outbreak of the Civil War when he was commissioned captain of a company of troops comprised principally of men from Brookline and Jamaica Plain. Wild was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines in Virginia and, after returning to action as a colonel, was wounded again at the Battle of South Mountain, during which his left arm had to be amputated. (He supposedly supervised the amputation himself.)
An ardent abolitionist, Edward Wild became involved, after his recovery, in the formation of regiments of African-American troops for the Union Army. He advised Col. Robert Gould Shaw on the selection of officers as Shaw was forming the 54th Massachusetts (celebrated in the movie Glory and the St. Gaudens sculpture on the Boston Common opposite the State House.) In 1863, Wild was appointed a brigadier general and sent to North Carolina to recruit troops from among freed slaves in areas the Union Army had occupied. He continued to recruit and to lead these troops until the end of the war.
(An excellent account of Wild's efforts, "Raising the African Brigade: Early Black Recruitment in Civil War North Carolina," from the North Carolina Historical Review, has been made available on the Web.)
Unable to practice medicine after the war because of his injuries, Wild becoming involved in mining ventures in the West and eventually in South America. He died in Columbia in 1891 and is buried in the city of Medellin in that country.
The Wild house was sold in 1864 to William Lincoln and sold again in 1868 to Stephen Dexter Bennett who made alterations to both the house and the stable. (The picture at the top of this page shows the house after the 1868 alterations. There are no pictures showing the house as it had looked before.)
Stephen Bennett (1838-1906) was a merchant. He had been in the rubber business in New York early in his career and maintained an office in Boston although, according to his obituary in the Brookline Chronicle, he had not been active in business for some 30 years at the time of his death. He and his wife Helen (1841-1927) moved to Brookline from Cambridge. They had four children. Their oldest son Henry (born 1862), offered the following description [excerpted] of the family's time in the Washington Street house in a reminiscence in the Brookline Chronicle (May 8, 1924).
In April, 1868, our family moved to Brookline from Cambridge, my father having bought about four-and-one-half acres of land known as the Dr. Wilde [sic] place, well laid out by both Dr. Wilde and Mr. William Lincoln, a later owner. After some alterations to the house and stable, we settled down and lived there until 1882. A more ideal place on which to bring up a family of three children, later four, would be hard to find. A long cobble-guttered driveway, with hedge on each side about six feet high, led to the house, with a turnaround in front and an avenue at the side leading to the stable and sheds in the rear of the house...The whole place was well laid out with fruit trees and flower beds by two former owners and kept up by my parents...Washington Street was then the Old Brighton Road, with its traffic of animals to market on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the racing by our place in sleighing time. Our lawn was a fine place on which to coast and also to see the sleighing, which had two lines on either side and a racing space in the middle. Many were the accidents there in the season. In '82 my father sold our beautiful place to Mr. Arthur Blake.
The first occupants of this house after its acquisition by the Blakes were William and Jane D. Whitman and their family. William Whitman (1842-1928) was a leading textile manufacturer. He was the head of Arlington Mills and other companies and for many years was president of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers. He wrote frequently on economic topics and was a prominent voice in debates over tariffs for the wool industry.
Whitman was born in Nova Scotia and came to Boston at the age of 14. He worked for a dry goods commission house for 11 years, according to his obituary in the New York Times (8/21/1928), "showing such aptitude that he attracted the attention of woolen manufacturers." At the age of 25, he was named treasurer of Arlington Woolen Mills (later Arlington Mills) in Lawrence. He later became president of this and other textile firms and of William Whitman Co. Inc., a Boston-based dry goods firm.
William Whitman and his wife Jane (1842-1929) had a large family. One of their sons, Malcom D. Whitman (1877-1932) later became a tennis champion. He beat Harvard schoolmate Dwight Davis (of Davis Cup fame) for his first of three straight U.S. National Championships (now the U.S. Open) in 1898. Two years later, he teamed with Davis and a third Harvard player to win the first Davis Cup competition for the U.S. over Great Britain in 1900.
The Whitmans were listed here in various Brookline directories from 1883 until 1894 when they moved to Goddard Avenue.
Following the Whitmans here were Henry A. Young and his family. Young (born c1838) was a Boston bookseller, but was listed alternatively as a merchant and an "estate trustee" in various directories during the time he lived in the old Wild house. His wife Sarah had apparently died before the family moved to Brookline, but three grown children, daughters Agnes and Elsie (or Essie) and son William, lived with him for at least part of the time he was here. The Young family was listed in this house from 1894 to 1902.
Major changes were made by the Blake family to the property in the years that the Whitmans and Youngs were its occupants. First, the portion of the property farthest from Washington Street (approximately between today's Stanton and Somerset Roads) was broken off into separate lots in the 1880s.
More significantly, a new road across the property, leading from Washington Street to Gorham Avenue, was cut through as far as Cypress Place and maintained as a private road known as Greenough Street. (See the 1895 plan by Ernest Bowditch, from the files of the Olmsted Brothers firm, below.) In 1899, the road was taken over by the town and extended to Gorham Avenue.
Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
(Click on image for a larger version)
Some time after the private road was built, the portion of the property across the new street from the house was broken off and divided into separate lots. The house itself, which was first listed with a numbered address (446 Washington Street) in 1897, later had a separate entranceway added from Greenough. It was briefly listed as 9 Greenough Street during part of the Youngs' occupancy, before reverting to the Washington Street address.
The house and the stable underwent some renovations in 1904, after the departure of the Youngs. (They moved to 35 Gardner Road.) A permit was issued in August 1904 for a $1,500 project to change something. (The word after "change" on the permit may be "driveway," but it is difficult to read.) Additional buildings permits were issued in September and October. Those permits are recorded in town records, but the permits themselves, with any details of the work, have apparently been lost.
The architect for one of the stable permits is listed in town records as Frederick S.W. Richardson. This could be a typographical error; he might actually have been Frederick L.W. Richardson, Frances Blake's son-in-law and the youngest son of H.H. Richardson. No architect is listed for the work on the house itself.
The builder on all of the 1904 permits was Burton W. Neal. A prominent Brookline builder and businessman, Neal did work for the Blakes on several of the older buildings that were later incorporated into Blake Park, including 12-14 Lowell Road, 128 Gardner Road, 53 Greenough Street and 55-57 Greenough Street. He also built 150 Gardner Road for the Inter-City Trust in 1922 and did additional renovations on 26 Weybridge Road for its new owner in 1929.
The occupants of the house changed frequently between 1904, when the renovations were done, and 1916, when the property came under the ownership the P.H. Park Trust as part of the Blake Park development. (Sources for those years include both the official Street List and the Brookline directory published by the W.A. Greenough Co.)
William Wyndham, the British consul in Boston, lived here in 1906 and 1907, according to the Greenough directory. (The 1905 edition was not available.) The Street List, however, showed the residents as two coachmen: James Corbett (born c1879) in 1905 and 1906; and Thomas Ryan (born c1877) in 1907. (One possibility is that Wyndham lived in the house itself, and the coachmen in the carriage house.)
There was no one listed again in 1908 and 1909. The 1910 Street List showed Fisher Ames Jr. (born 1869), a lawyer and writer, while the Greenough directory for that year listed him and his father, former Boston city solicitor Fisher Ames Sr. (1838-1919). Abbie F. Ames, Fisher Ames Sr.'s stepmother, was listed (without the two Fishers) in 1911.
The last residents of this house (1911 to 1916) before it was sold to the P.H. Park Trust were Mary Izod Weld and her brother-in-law Richard Poe-Palmer. Weld and Poe-Palmer were both natives of Ireland who came to the U.S. in 1886 or 1887.
No occupation was given for Weld in the Greenough directory (she wasn't listed at all in the Street List), but she was shown as proprietor of a sanitarium before and after she lived here (in both the 1910 and 1920 U.S. Census; the 1900 Census had listed her as a church missionary.) In 1910, she was at 50 Cypress Place, along with three sanitarium servants, one of whom was a nurse, and several boarders. In 1920, she was at 316 Harvard Street with three nurses, four patients, and a housekeeper.
Richard Poe-Palmer (born c1847) was listed with Weld before, during, and after she was in the old Wild house. His wife, Weld's sister, was listed with them in 1910 but not after that. Poe-Palmer was shown as an inspector in the Street List, but as a collector in the Greenough directory. (The 1910 Census listed him as a collector for the telephone company; no occupation was given in 1920.)
In the fall of 1916, the former Wild property was acquired by the P.H. Park Trust from the trustees of Arthur Blake's estate for inclusion in the proposed Blake Park development.
The old Wild house, like the rest of the Blake property acquired by the P.H. Park Trust in 1916, remained unchanged (and apparently unused) when the Blake Park project came to a halt after the death of the Trust's founder Parvin Harbaugh. It was then sold, with the rest of the property, to the new developer, the Inter-City Trust, in 1919.
Two years later, Inter-City's architect, Clarence McFarland, undertook the first major redesign of the house in more than 50 years. The August 1921 building permit included a brief description of the changes: "Take off ell on right rear corner filling in cellar of sand. Take off roof of main house & replace with flat roof & general alterations."
The ell that was removed is visible in the 1919 map at right. McFarland's design, much changed from the 1868 design, can be seen more fully in the the illustration at the top of this page, taken from in an Inter-City ad for Blake Park that appeared in the Brookline Chronicle on November 19, 1921.
The building permit put the cost of the alterations at $2,500. A separate permit (November 1921) called for two eight-foot-by-eight-foot doors to be cut through the outside wall of the stable at a cost of $200. The November ad in the Chronicle said the house would be completed in about two months, but Inter-City's troubles put a halt to the work before it was completed. (Whether this was the result of the Trust's growing financial problems or part of the cause -- along with other promised but unfinished development -- is unclear.)
In any case, work on the house was stopped and it remained unfinished and unoccupied until the property, along with the rest of Blake Park, was taken over by Inter Urban Estates, the new corporation formed to protect the interest of Inter-City's investors. The renovations were then completed by a new developer, Benjamin F. Teel, in 1925. An April 9, 1925 permit listed a cost of $3,000 to complete the work begun by Inter-City in 1921. A separate permit a month later detailed plumbing work to be done -- at a cost of $2,000 -- including a kitchen sink on the first floor, a drain and wash trays in the basement, and "2 baths, 3 WC, 3 lav., 2 showers" on the second floor.
The new owner after the renovations were completed -- and the first occupant of the house in nearly a decade -- was publisher, editor, and writer Porter Sargent. Porter Edward Sargent (1872-1951) was born in Brooklyn and came to Massachusetts to attend Harvard in 1893. He graduated in 1896 and continued with post-graduate work in neurology while teaching science at the Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge until 1904. For the next 10 years, he ran Sargent's Travel School for Boys, taking five separate trips around the world with the sons of wealthy Boston families as his students. It was, according to a 1949 profile of Sargent in the Journal of Higher Education, "'the grand tour' so inherently a part of young Bostonian Brahmins' education."
World War I ended the travel school, and in 1914 Sargent published the first edition of The Handbook of Private Schools, an annual guide that he continued to produce until the end of his life (and that is still published each year by the Porter Sargent Publishing Company.) Sargent's annual prefaces to the handbook, sometimes also produced as separate publications, and other writings earned him a reputation as a fierce critic of American education. A 1947 review of one of these writings, in the New England Quarterly, offered high praise for his views and his willingness to express them.
What Porter Sargent says here and in his various books is important [wrote the reviewer], but not as important as what he is. He is an independent and intelligent dissenter, a type once thought to be rather characteristic of New England and of which we were justly proud. It is our misfortune and the country's that this type is now rare....[Sargent] keeps his thinking open at both ends, knowing the tendency of thought to stagnate and become ideé fixe. He is one of our best provokers of thought, and by taking thought the human venture may still have a future.
Sargent was first listed at the old Wild House in the 1926 Street List. Sargent's sons Upham (1913?-1934) and Porter (1915-1975) lived with him, though they were too young to be listed in the Street List at that time. Sargent's wife Margaret had died in 1920. A housekeeper and governess were also listed in 1926, and various housekeepers, governesses, maids, and secretaries (one or two at a time) were listed with the family until the mid-1930s.
The 1930 U.S. Census listed the residents as: Porter E. Sargent, 57, publisher (books), born New York; Upham Sargent, 17; Porter Sargent, 15; Bertha Johnson, 24, housekeeper, born Vermont; and Beatrice Bannister, 23, secretary, born Vermont. The house was valued at $40,000.
The property, as acquired by Sargent, was further reduced from what it had been a decade earlier. (It was still quite large compared to the typical Blake Park property.) Three separate lots were taken out of it along the Greenough Street side (the sites of 3, 9, and 15 Greenough Street, built in 1925 and 1926), and the Washington Street frontage was taken as a lot for 454 Washington Street (built in 1929.)
The address of Sargent's house was shown as 26 Blake Road East (the original name for Weybridge Road) in the 1926 Street List. It was changed to 26 Weybridge Road beginning with the 1927 Street List. (This was the first year other houses, built as part of the revived Blake Park development, were shown on Weybridge, the former main entrance to the Blake estate from Washington Street. See The Streets of Blake Park for more on the evolution of this and other streets in the development.)
A permit to add a one-story conservatory to the house was granted in 1929. The work, at a cost of $800, was done by Burton W. Neal, who had performed the 1904 renovations on the house for the Blake family (as well as other work for the Blakes.)
Porter Sargent's older son Upham was first listed in the Street List, as a student, in 1933 at the age of 20. He disappeared while on a solo kayak trip in the wilds of northern Canada, near Hudson Bay, in 1934. He was last seen by native Americans in early September and his paddle and parts of his kayak were found later. He was presumed dead.
Upham's younger brother Porter was first listed in the Street List in 1936 when he was 20. He had no occupation listed at first, but he was later listed as a salesman, a manager, a publisher, and a clerk.
Porter Sargent used his Brookline house as an office as well as a home. "In Sargent's early nineteenth-century Brookline house, on a knoll surrounded by terraced gardens, his light can be seen burning until 2 a.m.," wrote a biographer in a 1941 profile in Current Biography. "He and his secretary start editing Private Schools in January and it usually comes out and is sent to reviewers in May ...."
A 1949 profile in the Journal of Higher Education, offered this description of Sargent's endeavors in his Blake Park home:
Today at seventy-seven, when most teachers have long since fallen back on the solace of inadequate annuities, the subtle and constant reassurance of their wives, and the somnolent armchair in thoroughly self-appreciative retrospect before the comforting open fire, this man works from two in the afternoon until early in the morning seven days a week and thinks he is having the time of his life. Work and play are interwoven without a break except when Jane Sargent, his very competent New England housekeeper, insists that he eat, or during the few minutes a day he spends in his beloved Brookline garden. He accomplishes an unusual amount of work, and saves the time usually spent going to and from the office, by having two or more house secretaries constantly available. Once a week he dons his favorite bow tie and makes a journey to the Beacon Street, Boston, office where the Private School Handbook, which sustains his critical ventures, is produced by a competent staff under the direction of his son, Porter. On Saturday nights a group of Harvard graduate students may usually be found around his generous table and, later, the library fireplace, to discuss until early morning any problem that may come up.
Porter Sargent died in 1951. The old Wild house continued to be owned by members of the Sargent family until 2015.