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.

Dunroving, Worcester - The Background

For the past several months I have been working on a major project at Preservation Worcester: surveying and inventorying a neighborhood in the city that has a mix of 1930s-1940s Colonial Revival houses and 1960s-1970s Modern (or Contemporary) houses. The neighborhood was brought to our attention by a resident, Kristina Wilson, who is also a professor of Art History at Clark University. She found it interesting because the neighborhood has long been known for its large Jewish population, and she was interested in the connection between the Jewish residents and the Modern houses. I began my work on the neighborhood in the spring, and this past week I assisted Kristina with a class she is co-teaching this fall with a geography professor, Deb Martin. The class is focused on suburbia and the idea of freedom. On Friday, I helped the class begin writing inventory forms about another nearby street (Denison Road) that was nominally part of the development and has 15 1930s Colonial Revival houses on it. 

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The area is in the northwest of Worcester, roughly bound by Flagg Street on the south, Salisbury Street on the east, and Moreland Street on the north and west.  Salisbury Street is a main Worcester artery that heads northwest out of downtown towards the neighboring town of Paxton. The area was originally on the outskirts of the city, and as such was mostly rural, with large farms existing into the 20th century.

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The land the neighborhood now sits on was originally part of the Chamberlain-Flagg farm. The Flagg family owned the property for most of the 19th century, and it was finally sold out of the family in the 1920s, when the developers of the neighborhood purchased it. One of the developers intended to demolish the mid-18th century Chamberlain-Flagg House, but luckily he chose not to, and the house still stands at 2 Brookshire Road. It is thought to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, houses in Worcester.

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As seen above in 1922, the area was still divided into large parcels. 2 Brookshire Road, the Chamberlain-Flagg house, is part of the two-triangles property on Flagg Street. This would eventually be purchased by Edward Lavalle, who would also purchase much of the "(E. Flagg Est.) L. A. Kent" land to the north of it. To the northeast of Edward Lavallee, the large "Wm. MacKay" estate, listed as 92 acres, was purchased by E. Whitehead, Inc. This included land on both sides of Salisbury Street which the firm would develop for single-family housing. The final area covered by my research is the land owned by "P. H. Durrey" to the north of the Whitehead's land. This was purchased by two brothers, Ames and Anton Aksila, who would go on to develop multiple neighborhoods in this area. Below is a modern map showing the developers and their respective parcels.

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The lot marked with an "X" that separates the Whitehead's land into two parcels was purchased by John H. Eresian, an Armenian immigrant. The lot was originally five acres, but Eresian split it into two 2.5-acre lots that would become 162 and 164 Flagg Street. Eresian would keep 162 for himself, and sold 164 to a fellow Armenian immigrant. Both houses are done in the Spanish Eclectic style; however while Ereisan designed and built 164 himself, he hired the architect Jasper Rustigian to design 162. Interestingly, Rustigian was also an Armenian immigrant.  Today the lot of 164 maintains the original long and narrow 2.5-acre configuration, but the lot of 162 was subdivided in the 1950s and 1960s, and now makes up the eastern side of Meadowbrook Road.

The house at 162 Flagg Street, designed by Jasper Rustigian. The Spanish Eclectic styling of 162 and 164 Flagg Street stand out in the neighborhood, which is full of more traditional Colonial Revival houses.

The house at 162 Flagg Street, designed by Jasper Rustigian. The Spanish Eclectic styling of 162 and 164 Flagg Street stand out in the neighborhood, which is full of more traditional Colonial Revival houses.

This is the start of a series of posts highlighting this neighborhood and my work there. Up next, information on the Aksila brothers and their work in the area. 

Hopkinton Center Architectural Tour

Recently I gave an architectural walking tour on behalf of the Friends of Hopkinton 300th Anniversary Celebration. The tours lasted approximately an hour, and highlighted the different architectural styles visible throughout Hopkinton Center.

Hopkinton developed during the early part of the 19th century as a major manufacturer of boots and shoes. A local resident, Joseph Walker, invented the pegged shoe sometime in the 1810s; this was a way of attaching the sole and the upper of a shoe using small wooden pegs, and it made the process of making shoes much easier. By the middle of the century the process had been mechanized, and shoemaking had moved from small "ten-footers" on family farms to large factory buildings in the center of town. Unfortunately, several large fires at the turn of the 20th century destroyed much of Hopkinton's factory infrastructure. After the fires, many of the boot and shoe companies chose to relocate elsewhere, and the town saw little development until Interstates 90 and 495 made the town an outer suburb of Boston in the 1980s and 1990s. So while today Hopkinton's downtown does not have the large factory buildings that you might find in other historic manufacturing cities, many of the houses and shops of the workers and factory owners are still standing. My walking tour focused on these, and showed how the different styles in Hopkinton are representative of its development throughout the 19th century. Below are a few of the highlights from the tour.

8 Hayden Rowe Street  - the Lee Claflin House

8 Hayden Rowe Street - the Lee Claflin House

The Lee Claflin House on Hayden Rowe Street, just off of the Common, is one of the more impressive Greek Revival buildings in Hopkinton. It is a high-style example, with an end-gable layout, fluted Ionic columns, an elaborate door surround, and elongated first-floor windows. The house was built for Claflin by his son, Hon. William Claflin, who was governor of Massachusetts from 1869 to 1871. It is unclear if William ever spent any significant time in this house, but one of the librarians on tour mentioned that the homeowner has been doing some work on the building, and in one of the walls found a metal stamp or press with William's name on it.

28 Hayden Rowe Street  - the Samuel Crooks House

28 Hayden Rowe Street - the Samuel Crooks House

Just a few houses down from the Claflin House is the Samuel Crooks House, another high-style example, but this time of the Italianate style. Hopkinton was still growing rapidly during the second half of the 19th century, when the Italiante style was popular. Its features include asymmetrical massing with a side entrance and projecting bays, elaborate woodwork at the eaves and around windows and doors, and large panes of glass in the windows. Because glass production had advanced so significantly by the middle of the century, later styles often feature one-over-one or two-over-two sash, such as seen here on the Crooks House.  Crooks and Claflin were both prominent Hopkinton factory owners who had money to spend on large and ornate buildings like these.

82-84 Pleasant Street  - image from the town's 1980s survey

82-84 Pleasant Street - image from the town's 1980s survey

Because Hopkinton Center began to grow in the 1830s and 1840s, residents built a different form of housing than what you might find in other factory or mill towns, such as Uxbridge, Grafton, or Worcester. This double house on Pleasant Street from the 1850s is representative of what you might find in those towns, but is one of the only double houses remaining in Hopkinton Center. By the 1850s, much of Hopkinton Center had already been built up with smaller end-gable Greek Revival cottages, leaving little room for larger buildings such as this.


21 Hayden Rowe Street  - the Greek Revival cottage form which is found throughout Hopkinton Center

21 Hayden Rowe Street - the Greek Revival cottage form which is found throughout Hopkinton Center

One common feature on these smaller Greek Revival cottages is that they were often updated with Italianate features at the end of the 19th century. It is rare to see one of these houses in Hopkinton Center that does not have brackets at the eaves or a hood over the door. 

28 Main Street  - the Hopkinton Supply Company Building

28 Main Street - the Hopkinton Supply Company Building

Hopkinton's only building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1906 Hopkinton Supply Company building is representative of later development in Hopkinton. A fire at the turn of the century had destroyed much of the northern side of Main Street, resulting in a new Town Hall and a row of several new shops in the 1900s. The Hopkinton Supply Company was one of these new buildings, but it stands out from its neighbors for its construction - it is a mail-order building. The building was ordered from the George L. Mesker Company of Evansville, Indiana, shipped to Hopkinton, and assembled on-site. The whole building is constructed of galvanized pressed steel, another unique and interesting feature of the building. Because Hopkinton had little to no growth after the turn of the century, this is one of the few newer buildings in Hopkinton Center.