Walk B: Arlington Heights South (including Robbins Park)
This walk explores the history and open spaces of Arlington Heights south of Massachusetts Avenue. Not so long ago, this area was farmland with a single road, Appleton Street, passing through. The terrain is hilly and you'll go up and down, and reach the highest point south of Mass Ave at 282 feet. There are great views to Boston from Coolidge Road and Robbins Farm. The area west of Park Avenue used to be called Peirce's Hill, so look out for the old Peirce Farm near the top.
This walk is a 4.8 mile loop.
88 Park Ave. ca. 1899. Former public school. Converted to condominiums in 1984.
53 Appleton St. ca. 1894. The stature of Idahurst Mansion set the town's socialites abuzz when it was built in 1894. Idahurst was the most valuable of residential and commercial properties in town. Even more impressive to those who kept abreast of happenings in town were the lavish parties staged within the walls of the Appleton Street home. These two aspects made the abode, and its inhabitants, regular fodder for the social pages of The Arlington Advocate at the time. [38: Idahurst a symbol of another time]
Named for the town stone crusher machine that was on the lot, as early as 1889, to supply gravel for building. Back then the lot extended all the way down to Appleton Court, before Ottoson Middle School was built. The town crusher would have been near today's corner of Fessenden Street and Appleton Court.
69 Oakland Ave. ca. 1898. The house is notable as being the home of sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin (1861-1944) from 1899 until his death. The house was built by Jack Taylor and sold to Dallin in 1899. Dallin's studio, no longer extant, stood in the rear of the property. [41: Taylor-Dallin House]
Robbins Spring Hotel
90 Robbins Road. The hilltop views of Robbins Road, along with salubrious air, and ready railroad access, was well suited to summer resort hotels. At least three operated south of Massachusetts Avenue in the last quarter of the 19th century. Extant is the original section of the Robbins Spring Hotel, 90 Robbins Road (operated 1898 to 1910), part of the Robbins Spring Water Company enterprise. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019] The spring emerged from a watershed west of here (Spring Ave and Fountain Rd) and that land was saved from development until 1911. A pipe was laid to the bottling house still standing at the bottom of the hill, 1090 Mass Ave. There were other "spa" hotels in the heights - the Outlook, at "373 feet altitude", built in 1874, was on the north-east corner of Park Circle and Eastern Ave.
View to Boston
From Coolidge Road, near the top, there are beautiful views to Boston.
Highland Avenue and Eastern Avenue
Two of the older roads in Arlington, at least as earlyXW as 1875. Eastern Avenue was called Spring Place back then, for a spring feeding Hill's Pond in the Menotomy Rocks park.
Robbins Farm Park
The Robbins family acquired this land in 1734. Nathan Robbins Jr. built a mansion on the top of the hill in 1880. His grandson farmed the land until 1941, when the town acquired the farm for a park. The mansion was torn down in 1947, but maybe you can find some evidence left behind ... [19: Robbins Farm History Project] Nowadays, you can spot photographers trying to capture that perfect picture of the moon over Boston.
Arlington Reservoir (Water Tower)
A standpipe was erected here in 1894, and replaced by the water tower in 1921. This is the third highest point in Arlington, and the highest south of Mass Ave at 282 feet. [15: Hills of Arlington] There's a historical plaque mounted on the tower.
In 1872, the Arlington Land Company acquired what had become known as "Peirce's Hill" and laid out a subdivision called "Arlington Heights," a name that has since been applied to a much larger territory on both sides of Massachusetts Avenue. [13: Appleton Street (Richard Duffy)] A remarkable group of three houses associated with the Peirce family survives where Oakland Avenue meets Claremont Avenue on Peirce's Hill. Encompassing the last vestiges of the 250-acre Peirce Farm, these Greek Revival-style houses (ca. 1830-1850) reflect Arlington's agrarian past, offset from the existing, late 19th century road grid. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019] There is a connection to the Appletons, for whom Appleton Street is named. After the younger Nathaniel Appleton's death in 1798, the property passed to his daughter Charlotte and her husband Thomas Perkins. They sold it in 1803 to Jonas Peirce. [13: Appleton Street (Richard Duffy)]
Appleton Street is one of Arlington's longest roads, and it is also among the oldest to be formally named by the town, a practice that did not begin until 1846. Before the 1872 subdivision it was the only road through the 500 acre tract of land. [13: Appleton Street (Richard Duffy)]
211 Wollaston Avenue
Perhaps this is the farm house of the Henderson Farm, the last farm to be turned into a subdivision in Arlington Heights.
Lancaster Road and around
Notice how the roads and development in this area are influenced by the hilly geography. Some roads can't go through, and the roads are steeply terraced. Smith Street used to continue south to meet Lancaster Road. Inverness Road used to continue south to meet Wollaston Avenue.
"Little Scotland" gets its name from the obvious fact that nearly all the streets in the subdivision are named for places in Scotland. It's the modern name of the 1895-96 "Arlington Heights Park" subdivision, and came about chiefly through post-World War II real estate advertising. [14: Little Scotland (Richard Duffy)]
Ernest A. Snow House
7 Tanager St. ca. 1899. Ernest Snow was an architect who designed many homes in Arlington, Belmont, Lexington and Winchester. Norfolk Road is one of his developments (see walk F). [47: Norfolk and Farrington Streets (Richard Duffy)]
Walk C: Arlington Heights North (including Mount Gilboa and Turkey Hill)
This walk explores Arlington Heights north of Massachusetts Avenue. It takes in 4 of Arlington's best green spaces, its two highest hills, not to mention other hills, and the Crescent Hill historic district. The area was first settled as farms, and in 1872 modern subdivisions came along.
This walk is a 4.6 mile loop.
Mount Gilboa / Crescent Hill Historic District
Begun in 1872, as a new neighborhood based on a cooperative form of land and home ownership, Crescent Hill differed significantly from the speculative development that characterized most later subdivisions in Arlington. With an emphasis on providing affordable housing for working class residents, the neighborhood preserves a range of house types - workers' cottages, two-family dwellings, and high-style single-family dwellings. Also noteworthy are houses that pre-date the subdivision, such as the Robinson-Lewis-Fessenden farmhouse, 40 Westminster Avenue (ca. 1850) [42: Robinson-Lewis-Fessenden House] and the W. R. Wright House, a mansard cottage at 62 Westminster Avenue (1872), both of which are oriented downhill, toward the Mill Brook Valley, rather than toward the street in a subdivision manner. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019]
Originally intended to be a park for the neighborhood, the open space on Mount Gilboa was not acquired by the town until the 1960s. The "mount" is 312 feet high, making it the second highest hill in Arlington. [15: Hills of Arlington] Some say you can see the ocean from the top. The single house is owned by the town, and rented out.
The town re-acquired the 20-acre Reed's Brook parcel in 1995 after using the site as a landfill from 1959 to 1969. In 1997, the Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) decided to close the landfill properly, mitigate existing environmental hazards, and develop new recreational facilities, including two soccer fields, one baseball field, a skateboard area, and trails. [18: Arlington Master Plan (Open Spaces)]
Turkey Hill is the highest hill in Arlington at 351 feet. [15: Hills of Arlington] It it is said that it was a breeding ground for wild turkeys. Be sure to walk around the 2 acres of trails and take in the panorama of Arlington featuring Arlington Heights - you can see Arlington's other water tower, the Arlington Reservoir, as well as Mount Gilboa.
is a 1911 residential subdivision created by Neil McIntosh, Jr. Some of the street names of the subdivision, Pheasant, Mountain, and Overlook roads, reflected the natural environment of the tract, which advertised "an average elevation of over 200 feet above the sea, and commanding a magnificent view of the Arlington and Lexington Valleys." [17: Arlington Terrace (Richard Duffy)]
This land was a farm from 1864-1995. In 1864, a young Irish immigrant named Michael Cox purchased seven acres of land here. This literally was a new beginning and "the end of the road" for the Coxes, because their home stood near the former terminus of Summer Street. The modern address would be 91 Hemlock Street, but prior to its re-naming, the location was sometimes described as "Summer Street Extension," or by the colorful description "Summer, near Alms-House Lane." In 1889, Michael Knowles migrated from Ireland to Boston. In 1895, Knowles married the farmerˇ¦s daughter, Sarah Cox. At different times Cox and Knowles cultivated the family-owned lands as well as acreage leased from neighbors. When the land was developed in 2004, the house was moved a few hundred feet back from 91 Hemlock Street to its present location at the head of Knowles Farm Road. [16: Knowles Farm (Richard Duffy)]
The town spring rose on the corner of Hemlock Street and Governor Road.
Members of the Hill family were in the area as early as 1689, when Jacob Hill received land in Cambridge Rocks. It was a farm. [15: Hills of Arlington]
Walk D: Arlington's Industrial Heritage (Mill Brook)
Menotomy means "swiftly running water", which refers to Mill Brook. This walk explores Arlington's water-powered industrial heritage by tracing the path of the Mill Brook from its source in the Arlington Meadows to Mystic Lake. When you look at the Mill Brook corridor - the area between the Minuteman Bikeway and Mass Ave - you wouldn't believe how it's been transformed into the landscape you see today. It would have started as a meandering creek through the rocky countryside. Industry then grew up starting in 1635: dams blocked the flow, large mill ponds formed, and mills laid out down the valley through the growing town. The mills were power sources for making everything from food, dyes, and saw blades, to furniture.
Some of the mills and factories along the brook at different times:
- Woodbridge Spice Mill
- Schwamb Picture Frames
- Schwamb Piano Case Factory
- Fessenden Spice Mill
- Hobbs Knife Factory
- Schouler Print Works
- Welch and Griffith Saw Factory
- Cutter Saw Factory
- Fowle's Grist Mill
- Cooke's Grist Mill (the first mill, in 1637)
Today, almost half of the brook is underground in culverts, but that leaves a lot of it still to be explored. We'll keep as close as we can to the brook. Keep an eye out for the channel as we criss-cross its path. You'll have to imagine where the ponds and mills used to be, under the warehouses, parking lots, estates, and playing fields.
This is a 4.3 mile linear walk - you can return through the cemetery (there is a pedestrian gate into the cemetery at the end of the walk) and by way of the Minuteman bikeway, or make two outings of it. 1875 map
Arlington's Great Meadows
Mill Brook, fed by the Great Meadows in Lexington, supplied seven mill ponds and as many as eight major factories along Mill Brook by 1871; the mills were typically family-owned, domestically-scaled, and wood-frame construction. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019] Great Meadows was purchased by Arlington (despited it being located within Lexington) in 1871 to serve as a supplementary water storage area, but was only briefly used for that purpose. [20: Arlington's Great Meadows]
Construction of the Arlington Reservoir on the Lexington border in 1872, unfortunately, ended most water-powered activity on Mill Brook. Many mills switched to other forms of power such as coal and steam. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019]
The brook previously meandered south through farmland and across what is now Hurd Field. The Bolles farmhouse (ca. 1870) is still there between the brook and the bikeway (176 Lowell Street). When the Colonial Village apartment complex was built in the 1960s, the brook was moved and forced into a right angle turn inside a concrete and stone channel running along the western and southern edges of the development. [2: Mill Brook Corridor Report, 2019]
Mill Brook flows parallel to Mass Ave and the Minuteman Bikeway eastward to Arlington Center. [2: Mill Brook Corridor Report, 2019] The 10-mile Minuteman Bikeway was constructed in 1992 over the former Boston & Maine Railroad Lexington Branch. [6: Bedford Depot History] The railway opened in 1846 and carried freight and passengers until 1981.
Arlington Heights Station
The Arlington Heights Station used to be here. The line was used for freight and coal, but commuters could also grab a train into Somerville and Boston. A selling point to attract Boston commuters to "Arlington Heights" was a free three-year travel pass on the railroad. Originally called the Gilboa Station, it was renamed Arlington Heights. [12: Wollaston Avenue (Richard Duffy)] In 1923, you could grab a train in Boston and alight here 22 minutes later! [36: Lexington Branch Passenger Schedule 1923 (Bedford Depot)]
Arlington Coal & Lumber
41 Park Avenue. ca. 1875. The Victorian eclectic Union Hall functioned as a civic center, with a second-floor meeting hall providing worship space for newly formed religious societies, and, later, room for the first branch public library in the western part of town. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019] The Arlington Coal Company was founded in 1914. Shipments of coal would arrive by The Boston & Maine Railroad, offloading into large coal shoots.
Corner of Mass Avenue and Park Street
Construction of 1334 and 1339 Massachusetts Avenue (both ca. 1901), wood-frame commercial blocks at the corner of Park Avenue, contributed to the area's identity as a village center [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019]
Schwamb's Pond (in the area of Gold's Gym and the other warehouses between Massachusetts Avenue and Lowell Street) was filled above Schwamb's Mill by diverting water from the Mill Brook. By means of a channel that crossed Lowell Street, this large pond fed a smaller pond directly in front of the Schwamb Mill. [3: Old Schwamb Mill History] The brook runs underneath the Watermill Condomiums - see if you can find it when it emerges on the other side.
Old Schwamb Mill (Mill 1)
In 1865 Charles and Frederick Schwamb purchased the Woodbridge Spice Mill on Lowell Street. [37: Town of Arlington. Past and Present. 1637-1905 by Charles S. Parker.] The Old Schwamb Mill (ca. 1861) is located on the oldest continuously-operating mill site in the United States. [3: Old Schwamb Mill History] A grist mill and spice mill occupied this site before Charles and Frederick Schwamb began manufacturing wood picture frames here. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019]
Theodore Schwamb Mill (Mill 2)
Founded in 1862, the Theodore Schwamb Company manufactured piano casings, and employed dozens of workers, eventually outpacing the frame factory started by Charles, his brother. [21: Another side of Arlington's Schwamb family] The original mill was actually the smaller wooden buildings you see here, featuring the overhead walkway, and another building now gone. The four-story brick building, which today still bears uppermost on its facade the words, THEODORE SCHWAMB CO., was built in 1905 during a phase of expansion. In the same year, a narrow-gauge spur railroad track was added, linking the firm to the railroad and enabling the company to receive and deliver almost in the manner of a private railroad. [9: Schwamb Family (Old Schwamb Mill)]
Schwamb family home and Kimball Farmer House
1171 Mass Ave. ca. 1845. This was the Theodore Schwamb family home. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019] 1173 Mass Ave. ca. 1826. The original owner of the house at 1173 was Kimball Farmer (1790-1841), a native of Tewksbury who married Rhoda Cutter of West Cambridge. Their prominent home was built in 1826, located at the corner of what today is called Forest Street, which for the next 75 years would be the only road leading northwest to the section of Woburn that is now Winchester. Kimball Farmer purchased and ground grain at one of the Cutter family's historic privileges on Mill Brook, which he then sold at the Boston market. In addition, he farmed 60 acres of crops adjacent to his homestead. Maria Cutter Farmer, his daughter, married Eli Robbins and later donated the funds to construct Robbins Library in memory of her late husband (see Whittemore-Robbins House, Town Center Walk). Elbridge Farmer, his son, took over the farm, adopted the latest scientific methods of agriculture, and contributed to Arlington's fame in market gardens (see Market Gardens Walk). He built Idahurst in 1894, one of the most significant properties in Arlington (see Heights South Walk). [52: Kimball Farmer House]
Gershom Cutter House
1146 Mass Ave. ca. 1802. The Cutter family ran mills (at Mill St) and had many businesses and properties in town. Records indicate that an earlier house near this site had been broken into by British troops on their retreat from Concord. [5: Menotomy Minuteman Historical Trail]
filled the area between Quinn Road and Hobbs Court.
Fessenden Mill / Hobbs Mill (Mill 3)
Hobbs Court was another mill lane that originally led to the spice mill built in 1816 by Ichabod Fessenden. By 1860, the mill privilege was purchased by Alfred and John C. Hobbs, who erected a 100-by-38-foot brick building equipped with furnaces, a metal-tempering room with ice tank, and water-powered trip-hammers. They manufactured "hide-splitting knives" that were in great demand during the era of New England's booming leather industry. After Alfred's retirement in 1879, John switched to making other specialized knives - some up to seven feet long - that were exported to England and Scotland. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019]
The Baptist Meeting House
3-5 Brattle Street. ca. 1790. Arlington's Baptist Society was organized in 1780, and was the first group to split away from the town's dominant Congregational church. The congregation first met in a number of private places, including the Capt. Benjamin Locke House (see Walk E), until this building was constructed in 1790. The building was originally on Mass Ave, and moved back to its present location in 1924. [40: Baptist Society Meeting House (Wikipedia)]
Schouler Pond and Mill (Mill 4)
In 1832, Scottish immigrant James Schouler purchased the Abner Stearns fulling mill and yarn-spinning factory that had been in business from around 1810 until 1817. [4: Mills and Millers Part One (Richard Duffy)] Schouler started a cloth-printing factory and business, Schouler Print Works. This was located approximately where 975 Mass Ave is now, with Prentiss Road serving as the mill lane. The mill pond filled the area to the west of here, where 993 Mass Ave is now and also the parking lot behind. Mill Brook is next to the parking lot, but the modern way is eventually blocked by private property, so you need to go by Dudley Street. The mill worker's local might have been the Great Tavern, at the corner of Prentiss and Mass Ave, which had been there since before the revolution (see entry for Great Tavern).
Brattle Court Pump Station
The historic Brattle Court Pump Station was built in 1907 by Boston Metropolitan Water Authorities. The brick smokestack was originally the exhaust for the coal-fired boilers that ran the pumps. The railroad was the main source of the coal. Today, the pumping station remains in operation, run by electricity. [1: Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2019] Across from the Pump Station is the Arlington Community Orchard, and another chance to see the Mill Brook flowing.
Across from 46 Brattle Street, the empty lot, next to the bikeway, is the site of the train station on the Boston and Maine Railroad Lexington Branch. The station building was originally in Arlington Center where Whittemore Park is today, and was moved here around 1870.
Saw Mill Pond
Wellington Park was a mill pond for the Welch and Griffith saw factory.
Arlington Gas Light Co (Mill 5)
The site was the Welch and Griffith saw factory, the first in the United States. It burned down in 1913. The current complex was built in 1914 to house the Arlington Gas Light Company, which manufactured fuel for home use. The largest surviving building, a power station occupying a significant portion of the back section of the property, is a prominent local example of Romanesque Revival architecture, with corbelled brick decoration on its cornices. [7: Arlington Gaslight Company (Wikipedia)] Now, the complex is the Arlington Department of Public Works.
Cutter Mill Pond
A dam at Mill Street created an eight-acre mill pond (Cutter Mill Pond) that encompassed land as far back as Peirce Field. The pond was drained in the mid-20th century, when Arlington High School and the playing fields were built.
First Baptist Church
In 1827, Mary Cutter, the widow of Stephen Cutter, granted land abutting the Cutter Mill Pond to the Baptist Society "for the erection of a meeting house with the privilege of using so much of the mill pond as necessary for the ordinance of baptism." [9: Schwamb Family (Old Schwamb Mill)] Both the Cutters and Schwambs worshipped here. The current church is the third on the site, built in 1902. [5: Menotomy Minuteman Historical Trail]
Cutter Mill (Mill 6)
Mill Street began as the way across the second-oldest mill dam in Arlington, a site granted in 1671 to the widow of John Rolfe. William Cutter, her son-in-law, came into possession of the property. He dammed the brook in 1704, and built Arlington's first saw mill, and so began a dynasty. [8: Of Mills and Millers Part Two (Richard Duffy)] The mill was located on the east side, near 17 Mill St. (You can take a short extra loop walk along Mill Brook and around the Millbrook Apartments.)
Central Street, mill workers' housing
As you continue on the walk, you will join the Minuteman bikepath, former railway. The granite arch bridge, 1845, carried the railway over the mill brook. On your left is Buzzell Field, which was Fowle's mill pond (see below). On your right you can look down Central street, a mid 19th century neighborhood constructed for the people who worked in Arlington's mills (see walk A) [48: Arlington Center Historic District (National Archives)].
Ephraim Cutter House
4 Water Street. ca. 1804. The Ephraim Cutter House is a historic house at 4 Water Street in Arlington, Massachusetts. Built about 1804 by one of the town's leading mill owners, it is one of Arlington's few surviving Federal period houses. [10: Ephraim Cutter House (Wikipedia)]
Fowle's Pond and Cooke's Hollow (Mill 7)
The English first settled in the area in 1635, and by 1637 they began to make changes to the brook. Captain George Cooke erected a milldam at the end of what is now the Arlington Catholic practice turf, behind the goal, to create a large mill pond (covering both the turf and Buzzell Field). It powered a grist mill. [2: Mill Brook Corridor Report, 2019] The grist mill passed into the ownership of the Cutter family. Its greatest fame came after 1863, when Samuel A. Fowle, the husband of Mary Whittemore Cutter, took over operations. He expanded capacity, and diversified product lines. In 1874 Fowle's "Arlington Wheat Meal," a whole-grain product used for baking and as a breakfast food, began to achieve great commercial success in the eastern United States. [8: Of Mills and Millers Part Two (Richard Duffy)] Cooke's Hollow is below the orginal dam, which is today a six-foot waterfall.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery
At one time the brook was also considered ideal for industrial waste disposal, and thus a good location for the first plant of the West Cambridge Gas Light Co. in the 1850s. [2: Mill Brook Corridor Report, 2019] The plant was located in the bend of the brook behind TetraGenetics. The plant is gone, but the brook is here flowing through the cemetery. The cemetery was dedicated in 1846.
Mill Brook used to run straight north to Mystic Lake, but years of blocking the flow caused the river to flow west, then up into the Lower Mystic Lake. Now the river is reduced to a slow trickle through Meadowbrook Park. [11: Arlington Hidden Gem: Meadowbrook Park]
Walk E: The British Retreat Through Arlington (along Mass Ave)
This walk follows the path of the British retreat, from the west end of Arlington (called Menotomy at the time) to the east, along Mass Ave. You can walk it in either direction. Imagine an early pioneer settlement along the Boston to Concord Road. Houses were spread out sparsely, surrounded by farms and stone walls. More than a 1,000 colonial militiamen had taken up positions along the road. The British, anticipating an ambush, were ordered to clear the houses along the road of snipers, and to sweep the fields either side of the road, effectively flanking the colonials. Fleming [33: Battle of Menotomy - First Blood, 1775 (Thomas Fleming)
] has a good account.
This is a linear 3.3 mile walk. Enjoy a walk along the full length of Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington, something I bet you've never done. Or you could do it one part at a time, and combine it with other walks on this site. 1750 map
Paul Revere Road
Paul Revere and William Dawes rode on this road in 1775 on their way to Lexington to warn that the British we're coming. The road may seem like a diversion from Mass Ave, but this was the path that the main Boston to Concord road took, because it was too rocky on the corresponding stretch of today's Mass Ave (see Mile 8).
Carved in 1790, after the revolutionary war, this historic milestone denotes the point at which the historic road from Boston to Concord was 8 miles from Boston (probably from the Old State House). The road was realigned (to roughly the current alignment of Massachusetts Avenue) in 1811, bypassing the marker. That probably saved the marker. [22: Milestone (Arlington, Massachusetts)]
Benjamin Locke House
21 Appleton Street. ca. 1720. Benjamin Locke served as Menotomy's Minute Men Captain during the Lexington Alarm. After both Paul Revere and William Dawes rode past his house on present day Appleton Street, Captain Locke and his lieutenant, Solomon Bowman, mustered their troops in the early morning of April 19 and left for Lexington. Later it is probable they fought at the Jason Russell House skirmish in Menotomy, the bloodiest fighting of that day. Locke sold his house to serve as the Menotomy Baptist Meeting House in 1780. [23: Benjamin Locke]
Foot of the Rocks (Plaque)
The part of the road was particularly rough and rocky, and the main road actually made a detour on present day Appleton St and Paul Revere Road. The first great battle of the revolutionary war began here, on April 19, 1775, between Colonial Minutemen and British Soldiers, during the British retreat back to Boston. [24: The Foot of the Rocks (Historical Marker Database)] Further along at 1146 Mass Ave, an earlier house on the site of Gershom Cutter House was ransacked by the British. A British soldier who died in the skirmish is reportedly buried in a meadow behind the house. [5: Menotomy Minuteman Historical Trail]
967 Massachusetts Avenue. ca. 18th century. The site of the Great Tavern (also called Tuft's Tavern or Cutler's Tavern in later times). At one time it was the largest tavern in Menotomy and a local landmark. During their retreat, British troops looted the tavern, breaking a mirror with a bayonet, leaving open rum and molasses taps, and used the house linen to start a fire inside. Most of the tavern is gone now (demolished in 1907), but the most easterly building still remains. It has been moved back one lot (to 12 Prentiss Road) and turned 90 degrees to face Prentiss Road. [34: Uncovering Colonial Menotomy]
Jason Russell Farm House (and Marker)
7 Jason Street. ca. 1740. Jason Rusell, a farmer, built the house. The Battle of Menotomy was a running battle from the Foot of the Rocks to Jason Russell's house. Jason Russell joined men from Beverly, Danvers, Lynn, Salem, Dedham and Needham behind a stone wall at his house, when flanking Redcoats came from behind the house, sending the men into the house. Jason Russell was shot down and bayoneted on his own doorstep. 11 patriots and 2 British were killed here, the bloodiest encounter on the first day of the American Revolution. The Arlington Historical Society acquired and restored the house in 1923. [25: The Battle of Menotomy] Note that Jason Street was laid out in 1884. [26: Jason Russell and his house in Menotomy (Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities)]
Stephen Cutter House (Marker)
743 Massachusetts Avenue. On April 19, 1775 this home became famous as the Stephen Cutter House, where the British soldiers went after the battle at the Jason Russell House, stole a year's supply of candles, and set fire in one of the closets. [30: Photo record 1977.9.10E** (Arlington Historical Society)] I don't know why the marker names it as "John Cutter House".
Thomas Russell General Store (Plaque)
669 Mass Ave. The site of Thomas Russell's general store (ca. 1750), plundered during the British retreat - furniture broken up, molasses and rum taps left running, and fires set. The building survived, serving as dry goods store and meeting hall well into the nineteenth century. [34: Uncovering Colonial Menotomy]
Old Burying Ground
Designated in 1724. Prior to this date, many of the early inhabitants of Menotomy were interred in the burying ground in what is now Harvard Square. The granite obelisk honors those killed in the Battle of Menotomy. At the time Jason Russell and eleven other patriots were buried in a mass grave, including Jabez Wyman and Jason Winship (see Cooper's Tavern), without coffins and in the clothes in which they fell. A headstone for Jason Russell was erected near the site of the mass grave. It reads in part "Mr. Jason Russell was barbarously murdered in his own house by Gage's bloody troops on the 19th of April, 1775, aged 59." In 1848, the remains of the twelve were disinterred and placed in a stone vault set under the obelisk. Many of the British dead from that day were buried in an unmarked grave near the wall between the obelisk and the library. [32: The Old Burying Ground]
Supply Wagon Ambush (Marker)
In the afternoon of April 19th, twelve men too old to fight met at Cooper's Tavern (see entry below) and decided to ambush the British supply wagon that they noticed was approaching Menotomy. The successful capture is commemorated by a marker in front of the present-day Unitarian Universalist church.
Samuel Whittemore Marker
During the British retreat, Samuel Whittemore (see Butterfield-Whittemore House), a farmer and former soldier, aged 78, armed himself, and posted himself behind a stone wall near here. The actual location was closer to Chestnut St along Mystic Ave. He managed to shoot three British soldiers before getting bayoneted and left for dead. He was later found and taken to the emergency hospital at Cooper's Tavern. Amazingly, he lived for a further 18 years, and was laid to rest in the Old Burying Ground in 1793. [27: Newspaper clipping 2019.FIC.24 (Arlington Historical Society)] He was declared a Massachusetts state hero in 2005. (The marker, one of four in town erected in 1878, has has some incorrect details.)
Cooper's Tavern (Marker)
Medford Street and Massachusetts Avenue. This was a busy corner on April 19th, 1775. Paul Revere rode past Cooper's Tavern, coming up Medford Street and turning onto Massachusetts Avenue. Dawes rode past here too along Mass Ave, and later the 700 British troops marched through on their way to Concord. In the afternoon, twelve men too old to fight met here and decided to ambush the British supply wagon that they noticed was approaching Menotomy (see entry). Then, during their retreat from Concord, British troops stormed the tavern and killed Jabez Wyman and Jason Winship, local landowners (see Old Burying Ground). [5: Menotomy Minuteman Historical Trail] Finally, the wounded Samuel Whittemore was brought here after the retreat.
Solomon Bowman (Plaque) and Amos Whittemore
411 Massachusetts Ave. Solomon Bowman was a lieutenant in the Menotomy Minute Men, and fought alongside Captain Locke (see entry for Benjamin Locke House). Solomon's house was on the site of the present-day octagonal Arlington Fire Station. Amos Whittemore, grandson of Samuel Whittemore, lived in the house next door to the west, after the revolution.
393 Massachusetts Avenue. ca. 1750. William Dawes rode past the house, once known as the Cutter House (yet another one!). The name "Wayside Inn" wasn't applied to the building until the 20th century. [28: Wayside Inn (Wikipedia)]
Black Horse Tavern (Marker)
Massachusetts Avenue and Tufts Street. The Committee of Safety, run by Samuel Adams, was camped out at the Black Horse tavern in Menotomy, watching for movement of British soldiers on the main road from Boston to Concord. An advance party of British soldiers came through Menotomy, alerting the Committee, which sent word back to Boston to keep an eye out for the go signal there. By the time the full British force marched through Menotomy, at about 3 AM on April 19, everyone in the village knew what was happening. [35: The Revolution Did Not Begin At Lexington Or Concord]
54 Massachusetts Avenue. ca. 1695. Believed to be the oldest house in Arlington. The Butterfield and Whittemore families had owned the Massachusetts Avenue frontage between Alewife Brook and Lake Street, and a farm along the Alewife brook, since Colonial times. The Butterfield-Whittemore House stands as a rare "eyewitness" to the British retreat on April 19, 1775. [30: Photo record 1977.9.10E** (Arlington Historical Society)] The house is set back from the road, because when it was built, Massachusetts Avenue was laid out slightly to the west. It was built by Johnathan Butterfield, who was a field driver in Menotomy. He sold the house to his son, Johnathan Jr., and the property at that point included a 16-acre farm. He sold it in 1749 to Samuel Whittemore the 3rd (the son of the war hero). The elder Sam owned a house across the street from the Butterfield-Whittemore House at the present day's CVS. William Dawes rode past here on his way to Lexington. [29: Resurrecting the past by post and beam] The farm was sold to property developer George Thorndike in 1896, whom Thorndike field was named after. [31: Thorndike Street (Richard Duffy)]
Walk F: Menotomy Rocks (and Jason Heights)
This walk takes you from the height of the rocks down to Spy Pond and back up. The Menotomy Rocks is the town's largest natural space. You'll see one of the earliest modern residential developments in Arlington, Kensington Park, with views over Spy Pond to Boston.
This walk is a short 2.2 mile loop.
Thomas J. Robinson was the much-loved Arlington Town Clerk, who died in 1923. [15: Hills of Arlington]
(Walk a short way north-west on Gray St to get a fabulous view to the north side of Arlington including Turkey Hill (water tower) and the Symmes Hospital site.)
Originally referred to as 'The Devil's Den,' Menotomy Rocks Park was established in 1896 during an era when the importance of recreational woods and park lands was supported as part of major public planning initiatives. The park was originally far from the main population. Today, this 35-acre park is Arlington's largest park. [5: Menotomy Minuteman Historical Trail]
Old Spring Street
In 1875 a long and crooked lane called Spring Place descended from Park Circle, met Highland Ave, skirted around Menotomy Rocks, to finally meet Lake Street at Pleasant Street, next to George Hill's farm. Old Spring Road is small piece of the original lane. The rest was straightened to form Eastern Ave and Spring St when the area was developed. [43: Arlington 1875 map]
The pond is an artificial body of water built as an irrigation reservoir (fed from a spring along Spring Place) for the George Hill farm on Pleasant Street. It was acquired by the town and officially became part of Menotomy Rocks Park in 1924. [39: newspaper clipping (Friends of Menotomy Rocks Park)]
Kensington Park Historic District
Kensington Park was developed in the mid 1890s as a neighborhood for affluent residents whose businesses were located in Boston. The extensive landholdings of the Hill, Lewis, and Gray families were subdivided to create this community. Kensington Park's development represents an early stage in Arlington's transition from a rural, agrarian town to a 'bedroom' suburb of Boston. The forces behind this neighborhood's development were an investment syndicate of Boston and Cambridge businessmen, including architect C. Herbert McClare, the development's manager. These businessmen attracted residents to Kensington Park by extolling the area's "good air, a fine view, and a natural growth of trees on each lot," as well as its modern conveniences, macadamized roadways, water pipes, houses, and proximity to reliable scheduled trolley and train service into Boston. [44: Kensington Park Historic District (National Archives)]
C. Herbert McClare House
9 Brantwood Road. ca. 1898. One of the finest Queen Anne/Shingle Style residences in Arlington, and is a fine expression of this hybrid form. The work of Kensington Park designer C. Herbert McClare, this house retains much of it's original form and fabric, including an oriel window with leaded glass transom on the first floor, a distinctive recessed pointed arch on its third-floor gable, and a tall, corbelled-brick chimney with egg-and-dart terracotta molding. [44: Kensington Park Historic District (National Archives)]
Mrs Edward Hall House
187 Pleasant Street. ca. 1890. This Queen Anne house was built in 1890 on land owned by Charles Bacon, the president of Felt Mills in Winchester, for his daughter, Mrs. Edward Hall. This dwelling owes its distinctiveness to the abundant Art Nouveau-influenced carving on the main gable end and the especially handsome Queen Anne verandah. [45: Edward Hall House (National Archives)]
Edward Hornblower House and Barn
200 Pleasant Street. ca. 1830. This house was moved from an undetermined location to its present site in 1850. Probably dating to the 1830s, it has gable ends facing north and south. The house is an unusual amalgam of mid and late 19th century styles. During the early 1870s, this was the home of Edward Hornblower, a founder of the Boston brokerage firm of Hornblower and Weeks. (Hornblower would later move to 28-30 Academy Street, see Town Center Walk). Homes along Pleasant Street, overlooking Spy Pond, were popular with upper-middle-class commuters in the mid to late 19th century. The small structure at the rear was originally a barn, built in 1805 for the Squire Whittemore House. The barn was formerly situated on the site of St. John's Episcopal Church, further north on Pleasant Street. Like the Whittemore House, the barn was moved, and was placed on its present site ca. 1850. [46: Edward Hornblower House and Barn (National Archives)]
At 100 acres, Spy Pond is the largest body of water located entirely within Arlington. Spy Pond is a 'Great Pond,' meaning it is a naturally occurring body of water 10 acres or greater in size. The pond was formed by a gigantic block of ice that broke away from the glacier leaving a kettle hole filled with glacial waters. [50: Spy Pond (Arlington Land Trust)] From 19th to 20th century, an ice industry thrived on Spy Pond. Ice harvested there was transported to Boston for shipment to the South and even India. [51: Arlington History Facts (Town site)]
This street was laid out in 1909 and developed by the architect Ernest Snow, one of the trustees of Norfolk Real Estate Trust. Snow lived on Lincoln Street, later in this walk, and in Arlington Heights (see Arlington Heights South Walk). [47: Norfolk and Farrington Streets (Richard Duffy)]
104 Bartlett Avenue. ca. 1884. The house was built in 1884-1885 as a rental property by Thomas and John Gray, on the former Fowle estate, and was originally located facing Jason Street. The house was purchased and moved in 1896 by Mr. and Mrs Gardner Cushman, who built their Colonial Revival mansion (72 Irving Street) partly on that land. [49: Cushman House (Wikipedia)] (The avenue is named after Charles H. Bartlett, an architect contemporary of Herbert McClare, see Kensington Park above.)
15 Lincoln Street
The Snows (see above) came to Arlington in the late 1890s and by 1909 had settled at 15 Lincoln St. [47: Norfolk and Farrington Streets (Richard Duffy)] Snow was an architect (see Norfolk Road above).
Walk G: Market Gardens and Ice Houses (East Arlington)
This walk is about two of the great Arlington industries that grew up in the 19th century and flourished into the early 20th century after the mills on Mill Brook started closing up (see Mill Brook Walk). The first part of this walk around Spy Pond is about the ice harvesting industry. The second part is about the market gardens.
The ice of New England was viewed as among the purest and clearest ice available. Spy Pond had a great location, close to Boston, and by 1850 it was a major industry in the winter. Addison Gage was the local king of ice. [152: Past occupations: Ice cutters in Massachusetts
Market gardening was Arlington's signature industry by 1886, with over 60 farms and 100 acres of greenhouses. A market garden was a small farm producing fruit and veg for local consumption, but in Arlington it was industrial. East Arlington in particular had good soil, was flat, had cheap land, and was close to markets in Boston. In the late-19th almost all of East Arlington was taken up by farms, but new residential developments were starting to encroach. [162: Arlington's Farming History
There was symbiosis between ice harvesting and market gardens: The Wyman Brothers (local farmers), for instance, would have a lot of help in the summer time. But there wouldn't naturally be as much to do in the winter time even though they had their greenhouses. And so their surplus help would be over on Spy Pond working on the ice [153: History of the Ice Business in Arlington, Mass.
This walk will require your imagination. There is almost no remnant of the buildings and farms, since they have almost all been developed into residential areas. We will point out the locations, and you can refer to the old maps for more info.
This walk is a flat and easy 5.1 mile loop.
Charles Gott and Sons, Wagon Manufacturer
The modern Moore Court apartments are on the site of Charles Gott's wagon factory, which he purchased in 1875, with an address at 450 Mass Ave. He made farm and market wagons, and ice wagons. Gott was also the Arlington fire chief during this time, and he also made fire wagons. [150: Charles Gott and Sons (Arlington Historical Society)]
One of Addison Gage's ice houses stood where the parking lot next to the boat ramp is today. Spy Pond produced hardy, compact ice that became quite valued for the 19th-century ice trade. The ice blocks were taken to ice houses, where they were cut into smaller ice cakes and raised up into the houses by steam-powered elevators. The blocks were transported on the railroad, that is now the Minuteman Bikeway. [152: Past occupations: Ice cutters in Massachusetts]
William T. Wood Ice Tools
William Wood came here (where the rowing club stores their boat today) about 1841 and started working with Abner Wyman making and repairing ice tools. He purchased the business in 1845 and ran it by himself until partnering with his brother Cyrus in 1858. He made all kinds of tools such as chisels, forks, saws, picks, and tongs. Arlington made the ice tools for the whole of New England, and Wood had stores as far away as Philadelphia. William Wood lived in a fine home at 27 Jason St; the home is still there today. [37: Town of Arlington. Past and Present. 1637-1905 by Charles S. Parker.] [151: William T. Wood]
Linwood Street Ice House
Scannell Field was the site of Addison Gage's largest ice house. Gage was a big player in the Boston ice trade, maybe second only to the "Ice King" Frederic Tudor [154: Crystal Blocks of Yankee Coldness]. His company carved ice out of Spy Pond and other local ponds, and he sold ice as far away as India. The Linwood Street Ice House stored 60,000 tons of ice, enough to last the whole year, through the hot summer. Gage lived at a huge mansion on Pleasant Street (see the Town Center Walk). The ice trade ended in the 1920s with the advent of refrigeration, and this ice house burned down in 1929.
Lake Street Station
Lake Street Station opened in 1846 on what is now this narrow empty lot along the bikeway next to Lake St. It was a commuter rail station on the Lexington Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad. That's the same line as Arlington Heights, Brattle, and Arlington Center stations (see Mill Brook Walk). The station was closed in 1977, and the bikeway built in 1992. [155: Lake Street Station (Wikipedia)]
Old Spy Pond Lane
The original lane from the 1840s, no longer a roadway, leading up to the Spy Pond Hotel. It was the only lane off Lake St into what is today Kelwyn Manor.
Spy Pond Hotel
In 1846 Mr. Seaver bought 6 acres (around the present day 48-49 Spy Pond Lane) and built the Spy Pond Hotel. The location was entirely covered with trees, white and yellow oak, beech, pine, and chestnut. He only cut away trees enough to make room for the hotel, which faced the cove. Stairs were built down the embankment to a boat house where rowboats and sail boats were kept. The hotel had the reputation of setting a fine table. It was a great resort for picnics in the summer. Guests came on a special train, and would march to the hotel headed by a band. The hotel changed hands many times over the years, and eventually burned down in 1877 under suspicious circumstances. [156: Record 1924.27.1 - Spy Pond Hotel (Arlington Historical Society)]
On the west side of the Spy Pond Lane, and on both sides of Lake St, the Wyman brothers (Franklin and Daniel) had a large farm and market garden. (The Wymans were significant landowners and farmers in Arlington). Right where you are standing (on Princeton Road) would have been large steam-heated greenhouses, and nearby, near the hotel, 1-acre of cantaloupes. In 1938, the Wymans sold their land and it was developed into the Kelwyn Manor neighborhood, the name a contraction of The Kelly Coal Company (and investor) and Wyman. [157: Arlington Neighborhoods Kelwyn Manor]
Famous for "Crosby Sweet Corn". Also famous for celery, along with the Wymans and the Butterfields.
This field and all the land along Alewife Brook up to Mass Ave was owned in colonial times by Butterfield families. Their homestead, believed to be the oldest house in Arlington, still stands on Mass Ave at number 45 (see British Retreat Walk). The land was sold to the locally famous Whittemores in 1749. Finally in 1896, property developed George Thorndike took ownership and developed the area. [31: Thorndike Street (Richard Duffy)]
Allen-Butterfield House and Farm
32 Lake Street, ca. unknown. Abbott Allen started farming in 1825, and passed the business down to his two sons. By 1920, the Allen farm had acquired other farms such as the Joseph Butterfield farm on Lake St, and held out to be the last large market garden in Arlington. In 1923, it was sold off and redeveloped into the present-day neighborhood. The house, bought from Joseph Butterfield, is still standing at 32 Lake Street. Herbert road was laid out through the farm, and is named for his son, Herbert Allen. As you walk down Herbert Road you are walking through the Allen celery fields. [158: Arlington's Great Residential Boom 1900-1930]
East Arlington Center
During the market garden era, only farms were along this part of Mass Ave. Then, during the development of the surrounding neighborhoods, a modest town center grew up here with a bank, stores, and the Capitol Theater. The theatre opened in 1925. [163: Capitol Theater Building (Wikipedia)]
In the late-19th century the land between Mass Ave and Broadway, from Winter St to about Harlow St was owned mostly by the Squire family. They also had land on the south side of Mass Ave, running down to the railroad. Their grand house was at 226 Mass Ave (no longer there) in the center of their domain. The neighborhood was developed in the 1930s, including Raleigh St through the middle of it.
Daniel Tappan had a market garden with greenhouses between Tufts St and Harlow St. [158: Arlington's Great Residential Boom 1900-1930]
As you walk up Everett St you are walking through the middle of the fields of Moore's market garden, one of the largest in Arlington. This road, the cross streets, the park, and the school were laid over the farm fields, which took up all the land in the rectangle of Broadway, River St, Mystic River and North Union St. However, River Street was a boundary - it is an old road leading to the bridge over the Mystic River into Medford.
On the other side of River Street, is one of Warren Rawson's farms. The open fields were arc-lighted and the greenhouses steam-heated. Warren Rawson (1847-1908) was a prominent market gardener. Rawson Rd and Warren St are named after him. He had 30 greenhouses covering eight acres, and was a great salesman. He organized the Boston Market Gardeners Association. He was founder of a fruit and vegetable seed company, and author of one of the country's first books on market gardening Success in Market Gardening. Mr. Rawson was responsible for many innovations in greenhouses, such as steam-heating, which allowed farmers to grow produce all year long [158: Arlington's Great Residential Boom 1900-1930].
Warren Rawson House
37-49 Park Street. ca. 1885-1890. A unique survival of multifamily housing for farmworkers in Arlington, this seven-unit complex documents the importance of Arlington as a center for market gardens in the late nineteenth century. [160: Warren Rawson Farm Workers' Dormitory]
Warren Rawson Building
68-74 Franklin Street. ca. 1895. The second of two rare well-preserved farm workers' residences owned by Warren Rawson. (see Warren Rawson House above). [161: Warren Rawson Building (Wikipedia)]
Warren Rawson Homestead
51 Medford Street. Rawson had his mansion at the corner of Medford and Warren streets (where St Agnes Pastoral center is today) with easy access to another set of huge greenhouses behind. Perhaps it was here in 1886 that he developed the Arlington White Spine Cucumber, one of the first great American varieties of cucumbers. [159: The Man 'o War of Cucumbers] His greenhouses are laid out over most of the block bounded by Warren, Franklin, Broadway, and Medford Streets. (see Town Center Walk)
New England Telephone & Telegraph Co.
25 Medford Street, ca. 1907. This proud brick building was Arlington's first telephone exchange. In 1955, a new exchange was opened at 67 Pleasant St, bringing "dial" technology to Arlington. [164: Dial Telephones Debut in Arlington]
For points of interest in walks B - G, I've mostly directly quoted from the
writing of others, and cite the references.
For walk A, I relied on the following resources, and
then wrote my own story.
Follow a link; it may draw you in to learn more about the town.
Copyright © 2021-2022 Philip Edmonds.