The Odd Fellows Home, Worcester - Lost

The Romanesque Revival style Odd Fellows Home was opened in 1892 to serve as a home for aged members of the fraternal order. A 1902 Classical Revival wing expanded the building’s capacity. Sited on a hilltop overlooking Worcester, the Odd Fellows Home provided sweeping views of the city for its residents. A much-loved local landmark, the building’s five-story clock tower was visible from around the city. One of a number of hospitals and institutions built on the outskirts of Worcester at the end of the 19th century, the Odd Fellows Home occupied this grand building for nearly 100 years until the organization opened a modern facility next door in 1990. After a portion of the building served as a church for a few years, the building was left vacant and deteriorated from a lack of maintenance. The current owner purchased the Odd Fellows Home with the intent to demolish the building and replace it with a single-story nursing home. The demolition was completed during July and August of 2014.

Below are photographs of the Odd Fellows Home during a visit with the current owner in 2012.

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.