Dunroving, Worcester - Edward Lavallee

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I have been progressing in my work on the Dunroving neighborhood in Worcester, and wanted to begin giving a description of the developers who worked in the neighborhood. I'll begin with Edward Lavallee, who developed the southern section of the neighborhood, along Flagg Street. Lavallee laid out the streets that would eventually be extended north by E. Whitehead Inc. He was working at roughly the same time as the Aksila brothers, who developed Old Brook Drive off of Moreland Street.

Lavallee did an interview with the Worcester Sunday Telegram in 1975 where he looked back on his career as a builder; Lavallee was 92 at the time. He had no formal training in the construction industry; he began his working career as a moulder at Crompton & Knowles, a prominent Worcester company that manufactured textile machinery. In the 1920s he began purchasing land and building houses, hiring a crew of workmen to do the construction. Lavallee worked all over the city, and estimated that he built around 400 houses during his career, spanning the 1920s to the 1940s. He was know for the quality of his construction, and this is reflected in building permits: the estimated cost of his houses is regularly a few thousand dollars above other houses of the same period.

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Two of Edward Lavallee's very traditional Colonial Revival style houses, at 1 Aylesbury Road and 22 Brookshire Road.

Lavallee purchased approximately 43 acres in the Dunroving area in 1930. It had been part of the Chamberlain-Flagg farm, and included the late 18th century farmhouse at 2 Brookshire Road. Lavallee apparently planned to demolish the farmhouse, but was convinced to let it stand. Of the neighborhood, Lavallee "knew the city was ready for something big in that section," and he set out to make it one of the most impressive residential areas in the city. Working in the 1930s and 1940s, he constructed a variety of Colonial Revival and Cape style houses. The houses are not overly large, but it is evident from their detail and current condition that Lavallee took great care in their construction. Lavallee's new development quickly developed the reputation he wanted, as many of the earliest residents were executives at some of Worcester's prominent companies, such as Crompton & Knowles, Wyman-Gordon, and Norton Company.

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2 Brookshire Road differs slightly from other Lavallee houses with its Tudor styling; 126 Flagg Street is a modified Cape.

Nearly all of Lavallee's houses in this neighborhood were done in the Colonial Revival style. What is interesting about the buildings is that there is both variety, but several forms also repeat. It is unclear how Lavallee came up with the designs for his houses; while in his interview he mentions hiring a good foreman and a good crew of builders, he makes no mention of the design process. So it is unknown if he designed the houses himself (unlikely, given that he had no formal training) or if he had someone else design the buildings for him. One possibility I considered in my research is that he built Sears houses. During the early part of the 20th century, the Sears Roebuck company sold complete house kits by mail-order. The houses came in a variety of styles and sizes, to suit all tastes and locations. And while one of Lavallee's Capes that repeats several times appears very similar to a Sears house, without interior access to the building, it is hard to say for sure if he did indeed build Sears houses. It is also possible that he took the designs of the Sears buildings and used them as models, building his own houses from scratch to the company's designs.

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Lavallee's house at 122 Flagg Street appears very similar to the Attleboro, a Sears house from 1935. Lavallee used this Cape with the same detailing several other times in the neighborhood, as seen below at 5 Brookshire Road and 136 Flagg Street.

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In addition to this neighborhood, Lavallee also worked nearby, further west down Flagg Street. The neighborhood includes, Gaskill Road, Rittenhouse Road, Beeching Street, and Frontenac Road. In that area he built a mix of Tudors and Colonial Revivals; the same quality and variety is reflected in that neighborhood. In directories from the time he was working, Lavallee is listed as living at 37 Flagg Street, at the corner of Rittenhouse Road and Flagg Street, suggesting he was living where he was working. The house is a very large two-story brick Colonial Revival with four full-height columns supporting a portico over the middle of the house; it is in keeping with Lavallee's style, and it is very likely that he built the house himself. Aside from his 1972 interview, there is almost no other information available about Lavallee. He was a prolific local builder, but he was just one of many local builders working in the middle of the century, a time when the country was experiencing a huge building boom as many city residents sought a more suburban lifestyle.

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Edward Lavallee, and another one of his Colonial Revival houses at 7 Brookshire Road.