Blake Park: Brookline, Massachusetts
History of a Neighborhood, 1916-2005

The Houses and People of Blake Park


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12 Lowell Road

Year Built:
1910
Architect:
Thorndike & Kiesling
Builder:
Burton W. Neal
Cost to Build:
N/A
Owner
(On Permit Date):
Mrs. Arthur W. Blake
First Residents:
N/A

The origins of 12-14 Lowell Road, like those of its neighbor at 8-10 Lowell, are not entirely clear. The best evidence indicates that the house was built in 1910. The original building permits are missing from town records, but a card indicates that four separate permits were issued for Frances Blake between September and December of that year for construction of a dwelling at "50 off Greenough Street."

It seems likely that this is the same house that is now 12-14 Lowell Road. ("Off Greenough Street" and "Greenough Street within" were used for buildings located where Lowell Road is today before that street was laid out in 1916.) Excerpts from town atlas maps, below, show that the house was not there in 1907 but was there in 1913. (Today's 8-10 Lowell -- the building with the X in it -- can be seen in both maps.)

As early as 1911, various butlers and coachmen were shown in the Brookline Street List as living "off Greenough," or on "Greenough Street within." It's unclear how many of them might have been living in what is now 12-14 Lowell.

The builder of the house, according to the information recorded from the 1910 permits, was Burton W. Neal. Neal, a prominent Brookline builder and businessman, also worked for the Blakes on the former barn that became 128 Gardner Road.

The architects of the house were listed as "Thorndike & Kiesling." The evidence is spotty, but "Thorndike" may have been Frances Blake's nephew John Thorndike who was, in any case, the first person shown in the Brookline Street List as living at this address (although not until 1922.)

John Richard Thorndike (born c1883) was the son of Frances Blake's sister, Florence Greenough Thorndike, and John L. Thorndike, a prominent Boston lawyer. He graduated from Harvard in 1904 and then studied architecture at MIT. He was active in dog circles as a breeder, exhibitor, and judge, and literally wrote the book on Irish Terriers, a 1925 publication called "The Irish Terrier Standard Simplified" that was considered the classic work on that breed.

Thorndike was living in Southboro, MA in 1921, but moved to Brookline shortly before or after his marriage that year to Caroline L. Wyeth of New York. (The wedding, in New York in June, was "one of the most talked of society weddings of that year," according to the New York Times.) The Thorndikes had a son, John, born in 1922.

The Thorndike family was listed in the Street List at 12 Lowell Road from 1922 to 1924. (John was listed by himself in 1922, and with Caroline the other two years. Also listed at the address in 1923 was Norman Riley, a "kennel man.") John continued to maintain a country estate in Southboro.

The Thorndikes were divorced in 1926. Caroline Thorndike, according to a newspaper story, reported that her husband, while intoxicated, had "several times retired to a barn of their estate, taking a revolver with him and threatening to shoot himself." (Tragically, the Thorndike's son, suffering from what the newspapers described as a "nervous condition," would himself commit suicide soon after becoming a father some 17 or 18 years later.)

Caroline Thorndike was granted custody of their son and $300 a month in alimony as a result of the divorce settlement. Caroline lived in Brookline after the divorce, although it is not clear where. She later remarried. John R. Thorndike died sometime before 1941.

The next residents of 12 Lowell Road, Harrison L. and Olive S. Harley, were listed there in the Street List with the Thorndikes in 1924 and again, without the Thorndikes, in 1925. Harrison Harley (1887-1975) was a professor of philosophy and psychology at Simmons College, where he began teaching in 1921. Later in his career, he was caught up in the "Red Scare" of the 1940s and forced to defend himself repeatedly against charges of Communist sympathies.

Frances Blake's son-in-law Frederick L.W. Richardson was listed at this address, with the Harleys but without his wife Anne, in 1925. There was no one listed the next two years, but Frederick and Anne Richardson were listed here together in the 1928 and 1929 Street Lists. (Anne Blake Richardson died in 1930.)

Newly-married Phoebe and Charles B. Barnes Jr. were the next residents of 12 Lowell, living here for five years. Both were listed in the 1930 Street List, and Phoebe (born c1909) alone from 1931 to 1934. (Charles' omission seems to be an error.) Charles Barnes Jr. (c1901-1980) was a lawyer with his father's firm, Hemenway & Barnes. The 1930 U.S. Census listed the residents as: Charles B. Barnes, 29, lawyer; Phoebe W. Barnes, 21; and Signes E. Wright, 21, domestic (born Sweden). They were paying $100 a month in rent.

Jean Fleming, about whom no further information is available, was listed next, for one year, followed by Frances T. Slade, listed from 1938 to 1941. Frances' husband, Winthrop Slade Jr., was listed with her for the first two of those years. (Winthrop was listed as an oil burner salesman in the 1930 U.S. Census, before he was married. The Street List showed him as a broker and a salesman during the two years he was listed.) Frances Slade was listed as a housewife for all but one year, 1939, when she was listed as an author. She may have been the "Mrs. Frances Slade" who wrote the book "Divorce If You Must" in 1938. (That might also explain why her husband was no longer listed the following year.)

The next residents, listed here in 1942 and 1943, were John H. and Cornelia E. Dingle, who moved here from Boston. John Holmes Dingle (1908-1973) was a doctor and bacteriologist who worked at Children's Hosptital beginning in 1939. He was in the Army Medical Corps during World War II and was later director of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Cornelia Dingle (born c1907) may have worked with her husband. (She was listed as a bacteriologist in one of the two years she was in the Street List.)

The last residents of 12 Lowell Road during the period covered by this survey were John B. and Ruth M. Graham. They were listed here for just a few years beginning in 1944. John Graham was a physician.

Note: For the residents of the other half of this house, see 14 Lowell Road.