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

The Houses and People of Blake Park


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31 Weybridge Road

Year Built:
Permit Date:
1925
5/27/1925
Architect:
L.G. Brackett & Co.
See the research note below
Builder:
Fred S. Wells
Cost to Build:
$14,000
Owner
(On Permit Date):
Maurice Dunlavy
First Residents:
Edmund H. & Isabelle C. Brown

The first house built on Weybridge Road as part of the Blake Park development, this house is one of two Blake Park houses designed by Leroy G. Brackett. The other, 33 Somerset Road, is attributed to him and this one to his firm, the L.G. Brackett Co. See the research note below for more on Brackett.

Maurice Dunlavy, who built 25 Blake Park houses in conjunction with architect Royal Barry Wills, was listed as the owner on the building permit for this house, although he was not listed as the builder.

The first residents of this house were Edmund and Isabelle Brown. Edmund Holmes Brown (1883-1979) was a musician in a theater orchestra. His wife Isabella (born c1880) had no occupation listed in the Street List, but was shown as proprietor of a tea room in the 1930 U.S. Census. The Browns had been married shortly before moving to this house. It was the second marriage for Isabella.

The Browns were listed at this address from 1927 to 1930. Daniel M. Webster, an accountant, was listed with them the first two years. Osborne H. Snow, Isabella Brown's son from her first marriage, was listed with them in 1929 and 1930. He worked in a wholesale hardware business.

The 1930 U.S. Census listed the residents as: Edmund H. Brown, 46, musician, (theater orchestra); Isabelle Brown, 50 (wife), proprietor (tea room); and Osborne H. Snow, 29 (step-son), cost man (wholesale hardware). The house was valued at $28,000.

The next residents were Henry F. (Harry) and Madelaine Hamilton. Harry Hamilton was a dentist, born in Maine c1856. Madelaine (1887-1970) was his second wife. They had a son, Benjamin Fisher Hamilton (1917-2004), who attended the Dexter School and Phillips Exeter Academy and earned a degree in industrial engineering at Yale. The Hamiltons were listed at this address from 1931 to 1933.

Following the Hamiltons here were Howard C. and Alice H. Rand. Howard Cheever Rand (born 1875 in New Hampshire) was a banker/investment broker. (In the 1944 Street List, when the Rands lived on Tappan Street, he was shown as a partner with Proctor & Cook.) He and his wife Alice (born in Maine c1880) were listed at this address from 1934 to 1937.

The next residents were Harold K. and Evelyn F. Gross who moved here from Newton. Harold K. Gross (1899-1992) was an executive at Filene's department store. He graduated from Harvard and from the Harvard Business School and joined Filene's in 1922 as to assistant to Louis Kirstein, the store's general manager. Gross was later promoted to promoted to merchandise manager for all ready-to-wear clothes for women, according to his obituary in the Boston Globe. He introduced the French shops at Filene's and introduced the designs of Christian Dior, Yves St. Laurent, Emilio Pucci and others to the store. After retiring from Filene's in 1957, Gross was a principal of the Botany Corp. of New York, a consulting and investment firm.

Harry Gross and his wife Evelyn (1908-2004) were listed at this address from 1938 until the late 1960s.

A Little Note About Missteps
In the Thickets of Historical Research

An earlier list of the houses of Blake Park and their architects, compiled for the Brookline preservation office from index card files in the building department, attributed the design of 33 Someret Road to Lucy Brackett and of 31 Weybridge Road to the L.G. Brackett Co., which I assumed to be the same.

This seemed unusual for the 1920s when there were few women practicing architecture. But when I visited the Building Department, there it was: Lucy Brackett typed on the index card and Lucy G. Brackett written by hand on the building permit.

Additional information about Lucy Brackett remained elusive, however, and it remained one of the more intriguing mysteries of Blake Park.

I found L.G. Brackett & Co. listed in Boston directories in the 1930s and 1940s, but no information about any individual. I also found an L.G. Brackett Co. in Winchester today, a provider of building and land surveying services, but the current owners had no connection to or knowledge of the original L.G. Brackett.

Then, after several fruitless attempts to find any trace of Lucy Brackett, I saw a listing for L.G. Brackett & Co. at 88 Tremont Street in a 1947 Boston directory, later than any I had seen before. It also indicated that L.G. Brackett lived in Lexington. That led me to a 1942 Lexington directory that listed a Leroy G. Brackett, civil engineer.

Hmmm. Could Lucy have actually been Leroy, misread on the handwritten building permit when the information was transferred to the typewritten index card? And misread again by me, seeing what I expected to see?

I went back for another look and, sure enough, the name on the permit was Leroy. The loop on the e was tight enough so that it might have been mistaken, in combination with the r, for a u. And maybe a quick glance would have seen the o as a c. But Lucy was definitely Leroy.

(The signature below is not from the building permit, but from Leroy Brackett's World War I draft registration card [obtained via Ancestry.com]. You can see how the same mistake could have been made reading the signature here.)

So. Mystery solved. Intrigue over. The only woman to design houses in Blake Park was not a woman after all.

- KL