Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Goldsmith Brook - The Last Source

Returning to the Sampson Murdock map, we see the two sources of the Goldsmith Brook marked "F" and "G". One comes down from Lowder's Lane, the other from Pond Street. If you enlarge the full map, the two sources are shown coming together near Custer and Ballard Street - a short block from today's Goldsmith Street. The name Goldsmith shows up on the 1874 Sanborn Fire Map. The heirs of Benjamin Goldsmith owned the land from today's Monument at South and Centre Streets to Jamaica Street, and including the adjacent Arnold Arboretum property approaching Centre Street opposite Moss Hill. The 1858 Jamaica Plain map shows the Brook coming down from Moss Hill, through today's Arboretum, across Jamaica and South Streets, between today's McBride (then Keyes St.)and Boynton Streets (not yet laid out), under the train tracks, and turning north to join Stony Brook near the future Williams Street. Notice that Washington Street was called Shawmut Street at the time.

Goldsmith brook along the Arborway (2007)

Wetlands across from the Arboretum headquarters (2007)

Goldsmith brook disappears under the Arborway (2007)

Here are some pictures showing the brook in the Arboretum . It exits a culvert under the road at the headquarters entrance and runs along the Arborway near the headquarters building. It picks up water from the wet field opposite the Hunewell building, and disappears again into a culvert under the Arborway pointing towards St Joseph Street. Some early maps show standing water in the Custer Street area, so there was probably a small wetland there, later filled in for housing. Flooding at the St Thomas Aquinas Convent is described in this article from the Jamaica Plain Historical Society site.

I went to church at St Thomas in the 1960s, and I spent several years as a member in their CYO band as well. In all that time, in spite of the fact that I knew about the brook in the Arboretum, it never occurred to me that water had once flowed where the St Thomas grammar school stood. In fact, it never occurred to any of us kids that Jamaica Plain had a history at all. Streets, houses, businesses and streetcars seemed to have been there forever. No one ever told us otherwise at the Agassiz School - history was Lexington and Concord, not our own community. And somehow I doubt the teachers at today's Agassiz school bother to teach their students the story of the place at least some of them live in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark,

You are right about local history not being taught in the JP schools. You are uniquely qualified to write some lesson plans on local history. Offer them to the schools and see what happens!