O’Brien’s Market will be the subject of a hearing at the Boston Landmarks Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, at 6:00 pm in Boston City Hall in response to a petition to designate the property a Boston landmark. The Commission has the option of accepting the petition for further study. Please attend if you can to voice your support
1911-1913 Dorchester Avenue/175 Ashmont Street
The surge in residential development in the 1880s must have presented an attractive opportunity to offer household provisions to the area’s growing and affluent population. By 1884 there were several dozen homes in the immediate vicinity, and both Carruth’s Hill and Welles Hill were primed for further development. In 1884 Messrs. Frederick P. Jacques and George C. Griffin decided to open a grocery and produce market at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Ashmont Street in what was then called Ashmont Square.
The two proprietors of what was initially called the Ashmont Market engaged the architect W. Whitney Lewis to design a building to accommodate their provisions business and also to provide two four-room residential suites for the proprietors on the upper floors. (George O’Brien started out as a clerk in the store in 1895, later succeeding to the ownership of the business; hence the current and long-standing name of the building.)
It is not known whether Lewis was first drawn to the Ashmont area by Messrs. Jacques and Griffin or by Frank Fairbanks, a prosperous Boston hatter, for whom Lewis designed a house at 1 Fairfax Street in 1884 (along with several other houses in that neighborhood at the same time), but regardless, in the design of the market, Whitney Lewis placed the first significant building in Peabody Square.
The Peabody Square “Ensemble”
O’Brien’s Market is a critical element in the collection of buildings that make up Ashmont’s historic village center in Peabody Square, an assemblage of 19th century structures that is National Register-eligible and exceptional in the quality and diversity of its components. In addition to the Market, Peabody Square comprises:
The Hotel Argyle (1882-92), an architecturally complementary building to O’Brien’s, and an adjoining red-brick stable directly across the street (166-170 Ashmont Street). The buildings were likely designed by Lewis; the stable was was remodeled to a car barn in 1910 by architects Guy and Proctor.
The Ashmont Block (1892), which housed club rooms and a large, second-floor function hall, designed by local architect-builder H.M. Wallis (164 Ashmont Street).
All Saints Church, Episcopal (1892-1894), designed by Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Goodhue. All Saints was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Property with National Significance in 1980 (NR #80000678) ; the 2012 Historic Structures Report prepared as part of the church’s recent restoration recommended that its status be upgraded to National Historic Landmark, which the parish intends to pursue.
Peabody Square Park (1893), a green space in the center of Peabody Square with horse-watering trough.
The Peabody Square Fire House (1895), designed by City Architect Edmund Wheelwright.
The Peabody Apartment Building (1895-1896), designed by Edwin J. Lewis, Jr. (no relation to W. Whitney Lewis), who also designed numerous houses, primarily in the Shingle Style, in both Ashmont Hill and Carruth’s Hill. The Peabody was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, as a Property with Historic Significance for Architecture, Community Planning and Development (NR#01000872).
The Peabody Square Clock (1909), designed by William Downer Austin and manufactured by the E. Howard Clock Company. It was designated a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission on November 1, 1983.
This remarkable and coherent ensemble of buildings and structures satisfies the National Trust’s Criteria for Evaluation A and C and might also be designated a Boston Landmark District (Criteria A and D). Each of the buildings is makes an essential contribution to the character of the Square, which enhances the neighborhoods surrounding the square as some of the most desirable in Boston.
Text from Vicki Rugo.
The archive of these historical posts can be viewed on the blog at www.dorchesterhistoricalsociety.org