City of Homes

Melrose Walks - The Village 

... part of the series on "Homes in Melrose" 

Bernadette Mahoney

The East Side walking tour gave us some pretty impressive samples of how Melrose got the title, "City of Homes". Now what about the area near the three railroad stations where the first houses were built and the building boom began? These older homes have their own charm and style. A few have gone through periods of neglect, but someone always realizes their beauty and restores them to their former elegance. Will samples of these older homes damage Melrose's title?

We decided to look to another of the Melrose Historical Society's walks called "The Village" for some answers. We found that by expanding the tour to include additional homes, you will not only have quite a few samples of the homes in the area but also you might find the bits of Melrose's history interesting. The tour starts at Wyoming Station and passes through the residential and commercial areas of both Wyoming and Melrose/Cedar Park Stations.

Nine of the photographs appearing in this walk were taken by Silver Stringers Bernadette Mahoney and Bill Jodrey.  The picture of the Milano Senior Center was taken by Jack Beckley. By clicking the image you will be able to see the pictures in full size.

We will visit the Melrose Highlands Station area in a future edition of the Melrose Mirror.  Watch for it.

The Village: Overview

This walk begins at one of Melrose's three B&M railroad stations, Wyoming Station, and crosses a second, Melrose/Cedar Park. The Boston & Maine came to Melrose in 1845. Within a few years of its arrival, the sleepy village of North Malden had become a desirable suburb.

This is an easy walk over streets that are level, passing through both residential and commercial areas. Cottage Street is unique in retaining a row of Greek Revival houses that are largely unchanged since they were built in the 1840s.The Beebe Estate is a fine example of a Federal mansion with many Greek Revival details. With its renovated Victorian carriage house, which is now the Milano Senior Center, this property is one of the most attractive public areas in the city.

The intersection of West Foster, Florence and Vinton Street is what was known in the eighteen century as "the village." Before there was a Main Street business district, the residents of North Malden gathered there. An ancient elm once stood on the corner of Gooch Park. The local Minutemen met here on their way to Lexington.

Vinton Street leads into an area of large Victorian homes. They represent many styles: Queen Anne, Italianate, Second Empire and Shingle.

You will pass the businesses near the Cedar Park train station that sprang up to serve the needs of the commuters and those that used the proximity of the railroad line to ship and receive their goods.

You will also pass the First Congregational Church on West Foster Street and St. Mary's Church on Myrtle Street, -- both of which have served as centers of the community for more than a hundred years.

Before you know it, you will be back where you started.

Leave Wyoming Station parking lot and walk down Hurd Street to Cottage.
Turn right on Cottage Street. You are following one of the ancient roads in North Malden, from Hurd to Cottage, to West Foster, to Vinton. Travelers took this "by-pass" of Main Street to avoid the marshy land south of Ell Pond.

Cottage Street. The row of Greek Revival cottages on the west side of the street were all built in the late 1840's, just a few years after the arrival of the B&M. Original residents here were among Melrose's first commuters.

The Fuller House and The Levi Gould House. The two large apartment houses on the right were built in the 1960's and 1970's as housing for Melrose's elderly.

Straight ahead is the Beebe Estate and the Milano Senior Center. Walk down the driveway on the right to observe the property from several sides.

The Beebe Estate. This house was built as a summer house in 1828 (on the site of an earlier Sprague house dating from 1720) by William Foster (1772-1863). It was one of the grander houses in North Malden. Mr. Foster was a businessman and writer who lived on Beacon Hill in the winter. From 1854 to 1963, this property was owned by the Bigelow and Beebe families. Katherine Bigelow married Decius Beebe in 1879 and they raised eight children here and in the Victorian mansion they built next door (on the site of the present Beebe school). Both families were active in organizing and supporting the Melrose Hospital Association.

The Milano Senior Center.The carriage house of the Beebe Estate has recently been renovated and expanded to serve as the Melrose Senior Center. It is named in honor of the Milano Family, including James Milano, Melrose's long time mayor.

Continue west on West Foster Street past the Beebe School.

"The Village."The intersection of West Foster, Florence, Maple and Vinton Streets was known as "the village" in the eighteenth century. There was a public well here, and in the immediate vicinity were half a dozen houses owned by the Sprague and Barrett families. Farmers gathered here to share the news of the day, and talk politics. The original Sprague homestead, dating from the 1650's, was located about a hundred yards down Maple Street.

The Phineas Sprague House, 301 West Foster Street,1798. This Federal style house was built on the site of an earlier Sprague house, ca. 1692. Phineas Sprague (1725-1805) tried unsuccessfully to get to the Battle of Bunker Hill. On the corner opposite (by Gooch Park) he and his fellow Minutemen from North Malden met to go to the Battle of Lexington.

Follow Vinton Street as it bends to the right. This area was developed in the second half of the 19th century by prosperous newcomers. The large houses on the left demonstrate Victorian Melrosians' preference for "a view."

At Cedar Park, take a left up North Cedar Park. This neighborhood, surveyed in the 1850's, was one of the first Victorian "developments" in Melrose.

Continue around the bend to West Emerson Street and turn right.

The house on the corner, 212 West Emerson Street is a Greek Revival/Queen Anne style, built in 1894. The entryway is lighted at night to show off its beautiful doorway.

198 West Emerson Street is a Grand hip-roof Queen Anne style, built in 1890. It has a beautiful veranda with unusual brackets, dentils, a large beehive turret with finial and cut shingles.

As recommended in Melrose Walks, Main Street Tour, "Emerson Street, both East and West, is one of the grander streets in the city, with residences dating from every decade of Melrose's history, well worth a walk from one end to the other."

The Samuel Gooch House, 64 Vinton Street. The Italianate-style house on the rise overlooking Bowden Park was once the home of Samuel Gooch, a six-term US Congressman and prominent Melrose civic leader. (You might want to go over to Bowden Park to view the Samuel Gooch House.)

Bowden Park. This small "vest-pocket" park is one of several in the city. The land was given by the Bowden family who had homes at #56 and #22 Vinton Street.

Cross West Emerson Street to 75 Vinton Street. This Italianate-style house was built in 1869.

Come back to West Emerson Street and continue towards Melrose/Cedar Park Station.

Melrose/Cedar Park Station. The second railroad station we pass. At each of the B&M stations, a mini-business district grew up to service the commuters who used the trains.

Follow West Emerson Street to Lake Avenue.

On the corner across from the Melrose Public Library is 63 West Emerson Street. This Neo-Classical house was built near the end of the building boom in 1899.

Walk down to 49 Lake Avenue. This impressive Gothic Revival house on the shore of Ell Pond has typical high-pitched gables with a pointed arched window in the central gable. It was built in 1852.

Continue down Lake Avenue and take a left on Tremont Street.

Cross West Emerson Street and continue on Essex Street. A hundred years ago, there were several livery stables on this street and on Vine Street (the first left).

Deering Lumber. This Melrose business was established in 1872, and moved to this location in 1921. It has been run by the Deering and Perkins family for four generations.

Turn right on Willow after Essex Street bends to the left.

The William Boggle House, 18 Willow Street ca. 1850. The brown house on your right was built by William Boggle -- who is one of several people credited with suggesting "Melrose" as the name of the newly incorporated town.

Turn left on West Foster. The First Congregational Church is on your left. First founded in 1849, the present church was built in 1969 after the previous church building, dating from 1870, burned to the ground.

Turn right on Myrtle Street.  Saint Mary of the Annunciation Church, on the corner of Herbert Street was the first Catholic parish in the city, and was completed in 1894. The property now includes a rectory, a parish center (formerly a convent) and St. Mary's School.

Follow Corey Street to West Wyoming.

This section of Corey Street was the site of the original Friend's Baked Beans factory, where the Moulton Curtain Company is now located. Victor and Leslie Friend founded the company in 1872.

Turn right on West Wyoming and return to your starting point.

Editors note
Most of this information was taken from the brochure entitled "Melrose Walks: The Village" produced by the Melrose Historical Society and is used here with its  permission.  There are two companion brochures describing other walks - one called "Melrose Walks: East Side, Upham Hill, Overview" and the other "Melrose Walks: Main Street". Our thanks to Jim McArdle who contributed descriptive information on the additional homes.

July 2, 1999

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