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Avon Hill Neighborhood

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Bounded by Massachusetts Ave., Linnaean and Raymond sts., and Upland Rd.

Avon Hill forms one of the richest concentrations of well-preserved late-nineteenth-century houses in the Boston area. Among the earliest houses was that of Albert H. Kelsey (1871, 37 Arlington Street, NRD). Kelsey had a long career as a contractor for large projects, such as the state prison in Concord (CN19) and many of the great textile mills in Massachusetts and Maine. He probably designed this one-story house with a mansard roof and rather grand two-story bay window in the form of an oversized tower. A more substantial house built in the same year is the two-story mansard-with-cupola house of Henry J. Melendy (81 Washington Avenue, NRD). The wide overhanging eaves and elaborate dormers characteristic of the Second Empire style are subsumed by the picturesque forms of the late 1870s. Also, J. Merrill Brown designed the 1893 carriage barn with a steeply pitched hipped roof in the spirit of the main house.

Brown further demonstrated his talents in two nearby houses for the Niles Brothers. For Jacob Niles in 1885 (6 Walnut Street, NRD) he designed a Queen Anne residence with an octagonal tower engaged to the principal gable end—a configuration typical of the period. The Eugene Niles House of 1887 (9 Walnut Avenue, NRD) provides a rare documented example of a house frame, if not most of the woodwork, having been prefabricated and shipped to the site. The Kennebec Framing Company in Fairfield, Maine, manufactured prefabricated houses for shipment around the world; the Niles family was from central Maine. The highly picturesque exterior includes a circular stair tower in the form of a lighthouse.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Avon Hill Neighborhood", [Cambridge, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 346-347.

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