Land Ownership on Walnut Street

by Gorham Dana

Proceedings of the Brookline Historical Society.
Spring 1949, pp. 29-31.
(Brookline Public Library: [Brookline Room] 974.45 B77hn)

In 1923 the Brookline Historical Society published an article on “Land Ownership in Brookline from the First Settlement.” This contained ten maps dated 1636-41, 1667, 1693, 1746, 1786, 1822, 1844, 1855, 1888 and 1916. The list of owners of land on Walnut Street taken from the older maps may be of interest.

No streets were shown on this map, but the Walnut Street area was apparently all owned by Thomas Oliver and Thomas Leverett. The Roxbury boundary followed along what is now High Street to the Village, instead of along Muddy River.

Sherborn Road, now Walnut Street, was shown on this map, the land on the south side of it was owned by John White and that on the north side by Thomas Gardner.

On this map, the land on the south side of Sherborn Road from the Village up to about Cypress Street was owned by Benjamin White, and that above by John White. On the north side Joshua Gardner owned the land from the Village to near Kennard Road, and that above belonged to Thomas Gardner.

The Benjamin White land on the south side was then owned by Edward White, and the John White property above by Samuel Clark. On the north side Edward White owned land from the village to about half way to Cypress Street. Rev. James Allen, the first minister of the First Parish, organized in 1717, owned a strip of land from there to about Kennard Road. Cypress Street shows on this plan for the first time.

The Edward White land on the south side was then owned by Benjamin White, and the Clark land remained in the family. On the north side Benjamin White had the Edward White lot, and Benjamin Davis owned the land to Cypress Street, while that above was owned by Edward Kitchen Wolcott and John Lucas.

On this map Boylston Street is shown for the first time, and the land had been divided into smaller lots. On the south side, starting from the Village, we find three lots ending at Cypress Street, namely, Oliver S. Whyte, John Tappan, and Rev. Henry Colman. Beyond this the land nearly to Warren Street was mostly owned by heirs of Samuel Clark. On the north side the ownership starts with the Estate of Thomas White, then Heirs of Samuel Clark and Mrs. S. Clark up to Cypress Street. Above this Timothy Walley owned to about Kennard Road and T. W. Sumner owned to Warren Street.

The town line was shown along the present boundary of Muddy River instead of down High Street. The ownerships along Walnut Street, beginning at the village, south side, were O. Whyte, Philbrick, Guild and Atkinson; on west side of Walnut Place, Kendall, Clark, and Pierce. On the north side: White, Brewer, Ewing, Emerson, Carr. Beyond Cypress Street were Bird and Dr. Pierce.

The Brookline Branch Railroad is shown on this plan. Walnut Place is extended with houses of Slocum, Amos Atkinson and G. Atkinson shown on the extension. The Guild house is about where Dr. Newell’s house now stands. Along Walnut Street the houses are labeled Ward, Will. Dearborn and Kendall. The extension of Cypress Street is shown not quite in line with the old section. West of this is the old Clark property, and a Perrin house at the corner of a short street now Perrin Road. On the north side of Walnut Street are many houses not all labeled. Beyond Cypress Street the houses are labeled John Bird, Jesse Bird, Knapp, J. M. Howe., George Bacon. The reservoir shows for the first time.

The Church of Christ, later known is the First Parish in, Brookline, was built between 1714 and 1717 on the north side of Walnut Street opposite the present Pierce Hall on land now partly in the parsonage grounds and partly on land to the west. The land was purchased by the Town from Caleb Gardner. This building survived until 1806 when it was replaced by a much larger edifice across the street on the site of the present edifice. The architect was Peter Banner, an Englishman, and it was described as “an elegant meeting house said by many to be the handsomest in the state.” It had 74 pews on the floor, 14 in the gallery with a little pew for negroes over the singers’ gallery “in which sat ‘Black Susy’, a well known servant in Captain Crofts family, and other darkskinned outcasts.” It cost $18,000.

The third meeting-house with a tall steeple, on the same site but facing down the street, was built in 1848, and the present beautiful stone edifice in 1893.

The original second school was located in the triangle on the corner of Walnut Street and Warren Street. This was replaced in 1825 by the present stone Pierce Hall, used originally as the Town Hall and public school.

The early ministers of the First Parish occupied a house on the south side of Walnut Street, about where Cypress Street is at present. This house was damaged by fire in 1781.

The two tablets in the triangle at Walnut and Warren Streets commemorate the 200th anniversary of the setting apart of the Town and the planting of the Heath Elm.