The Aberdeen area contains some of the finest examples of Medieval Revival style architecture in the city of Boston. In terms of planning this area represents the maturation of the type of romantic suburb espoused by mid 19th century landscape architect and influential writer Andrew Jackson Downing. The winding ways, Medieval influenced residences and ledgy, tree-dotted terrain of this late 19th century development reflect the pervasiveness of Downing's legacy.
This area is bounded by Commonwealth Avenue on the west, the back lot lines of Cummings Road on the north and the Brookline town border on the east. The southern boundary follows a meandering path from Commonwealth Avenue, along Chiswick and Selkirk Roads; properties bordering Kilsyth Terrace and 151-155 Kilsyth Road are also part of the southern boundary.
During the late 19th century, the Aberdeen area was considered to encompass the Cleveland Circle and Upper Chestnut Hill areas. These areas, however, have been extensively developed with large apartment buildings. Only the area called Aberdeen for the purposes of this survey retains, to a great degree, the original character of this area.
Encompassing a tangle of winding streets with Scottish names that cut through rocky terrain, this area contains ledge out croppings of considerable size. The oval block ringed by Lanark and Kilsyth Roads is one of the most rustic and least accessible sections of this area. Its highly uneven terrain evidently precluded apartment house construction. Hence it was built up with large Shingle and Queen Anne residences which for the most part blend in with the leafy, rocky surroundings.
Closer to Commonwealth Avenue, apartment construction is the rule, with many fine examples of this building type bordering Sutherland Road and Commonwealth Avenue. Typically these large multifamily buildings are designed in the Classical, Renaissance and Georgian Revival styles as well as the Tudor and Spanish Colonial Revival styles popular during the 1910s and 1920s.
Most of the this area's fine collection of architecturally significant early Medieval Revival style houses line Kilsyth and Selkirk Road, with one or two examples located on virtually every street in this area. One of the more handsome examples of an Aberdeen house with a decidedly Medieval flavor is the c. l890s Jacobethan Revival house at 16 Colliston Road. Possessing an essentially rectangular, wood shingle-covered form with a projecting center pavilion which is actually the antithesis of romantic revival design, this house 's Medieval Revival qualities are evident in the half timbering, ornate barge boards and king posts of the main facade's center gable as well as in the diamond shaped panes of the upper sash of its main facade's first floor oriel and attic windows.
Similarly medieval in sensibility, the Queen Anne, Stick Style house at 111 Sutherland Road was constructed in the early 1890s for Antoinette F. Bartlett. Prominently sited on a lot at the corner of Selkirk and Sutherland Roads, this hip roof-enclosed house is characterized by a rectangular form made complex by all manner of projecting porches, polygonal bays and a corner, pyramidal capped tower. Covered with wood shingles stained dark brown, its Selkirk Road facade 's first floor features a large lunette enframement containing a window in the shaped of a six-pointed star.
One Medieval Revival Aberdeen house with a memorable setting is the c. 1890s 127 Kilsyth Road. Set back from the street by an ample, shrub covered front yard and shaded by old trees, this wood shingle-sheathed Jacobethan Revival house's main facade features a center entrance which is demarcated by a front porch with a broad wood-shingle pediment which is supported by Tuscan Revival columns that strike a playful note in the midst of the romantic Medievalism. To the left of the entrance is a broad projecting two-story bay, which is enclosed by a steeply pitched gable roof reminiscent of New England First Period houses such as the Whipple House in Ipswich. Indeed architects of Shingle style houses with distinctly medieval influences, were drawing on American 17th century New England as well as English 14th to early 17th century sources. 127 Kilsyth Road stands at the gateway to Kilsyth Road, between Lamark and Lanark Roads, a section at the heart of Aberdeen's unique appeal.
Situated along a section of Kilsyth Road that might easily be the Maine woods, but is within the limits of the City of Boston are 131 and 132 Kilsyth Road. The former is a house that combines elements of the Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival styles, its main facade dominated by a broad gambrel while the latter is surrounded by mature trees and rock out croppings, perched high atop a ledge-stone foundation whose materials were probably quarried on site. Standing with a broad gable facing Kilsyth Road, 132 Kilsyth Road was designed by Boston architect W.F. Goodwin and was constructed by builder H.H. Hunt. This house's highly plastic form is characterized by an off-center, 7-sided bay which projects from the main facade. Projecting from the south wall is a porch raised high on a ledge stone platform with high railings of the same materials as its foundation.
Southeastward along the winding path of Kilsyth Road is a fine example of the Shingle Style at 155 Kilsyth Road. This house was built in 1892 by Rich Brothers of 31 Windham Street, Brighton, from plans provided by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Cabot, Everett and Mead. This firm is credited with Brighton's First Unitarian Church at 189 Chestnut Hill Avenue (1890s) as well as the Arlington Public Library (1890s) and other Boston area public buildings and private homes. 155 Kilsyth Road's mass consists of a large, broad, intersecting gambrel and gable roofed form. The three bay main facade features a handsome front porch with heavy, splaid stone piers. These piers support a hip roof surmounted by a second floor porch which is enclosed by short, wood shingle covered piers interspersed between slat-work railings.
One of the best-realized Shingle Style houses in terms of pleasing proportions and overall design, is 45 Lanark Road. Its basement and first floor are constructed of rubble stone while its main facade is dominated by a broad gable with a flared north roof slope.
Selkirk Road's housing represents a section of Aberdeen with a concentration of architecturally significant c. late 1880s to early 1900s single -family residences. Highlights of Selkirk Road include several houses with high ledge stone foundation and first floor walls, clapboard and wood shingle wall coverings and complex roof configurations. For example, 8 Selkirk Road is characterized by a stone basement and first floor surmounted by a heavy, two-level gambrel roof with a three-story porch at the center of the main facade. l0 Selkirk Road is a ledge stone and wood shingle sheathed rectangular residence with a main facade that is dominated by a well executed gambrel roof which exhibits an occulus window near the apex of the gambrel. To the right of the Tuscan, columned front porch is a ledge stone constructed wall containing a segmental arched window. This house is enclosed by a complex intersecting hip and gambrel roof configuration.
Across the street at 15 Selkirk Road is another c. early 1890s house with a decidedly Medieval revival sensibility via the Shingle Style. Built for prosperous hay and grain dealer Forest S. Smith, this house 's rectangular form is characterized by a rubble stone first floor with wood shingle-covered upper floors. The eastern bow is of interest, rising from a foundation of randomly laid rocks, past an enclosed first floor porch to an open porch with Tuscan columns.
14 Selkirk Road, a Queen Anne/Shingle Style house, exhibits an unusually sophisticated design. Designed by Charles A. Walker between 1899 and 1909, this house was intended to be impressive from every vantagepoint. Like its neighbor next door, this house displays a highly sculptural, castle-like form. Set high on a piece of ledge, this massive, three-story structure, with its stone and wood shingle-covered tower and massive stone arch edged by granite voussoirs constitutes an extraordinary design statement.
One of the most spectacular Shingle Style houses in Allston-Brighton is located at 24 Selkirk Road. The main facade is treated as a progression of boldly rendered, wood-shingle covered forms which lend a distinctive, sculptural quality to this house. Projecting from the northwest corner of the main facade's steeply pitched off-center gable is a bowed encircling verandah which is enclosed by a conical roof cap. Access to this porch is gained via a stone arch. A two story towered and bowed bay projects from the left bay, culminating in a conical roof cap which echoes that of the verandah. Half of the northeast wall is recessed beneath the overhang of a broad gable. Projecting from near the intersection of this house's gable roofed components is a fairly substantial brick chimney which nods to the influence of the Medieval Revival.
Scattered about this area are isolated examples of single family residences exhibiting the large scale and sophisticated design typified by the houses of Selkirk and Kilsyth Roads. For example, 77 Chiswick Road with its high rubble stone porch foundation walls is reminiscent of 132 Kilsyth Road. This L-shaped house rises to a height of 2.5 stories and is enclosed by broad intersecting gables with tripartite attic windows deeply recessed beneath subtly bowed wood shingle covered walls. Springing from the encircling verandah are piers constructed of stones and rocks that appear indigenous to the area. These piers support wooden segmental arches of the flat porch roof.
77 Lamark Road, on the other hand, represents a more standard foray into substantial, late 19th century single family housing. Possessing an irregular form, this Queen Anne house rises 2.5 stories from a ledge stone basement to intersecting hip and gable roofs. Its main entrance is sheltered by a small open porch nestled into the intersection of a projecting, pedimented, two story L and the 2-bay main block. This building's corners and windows are crisply edged with narrow corner boards. Adding considerable charm and interest to the main elevation is a dormer with diminutive, twin pedimented gables.
The handsome, well preserved house at 77 Kilsyth Road illustrates how Colonial Revival elements such as Tuscan columned porches and well detailed attic Palladian windows can temper the inherent Medieval Revival qualities of a house with steeply pitched intersecting gambrels and wood shingle sheathing. Its back yard is adjacent to a high ridge that rises up to the houses bordering Cummings Road in the Mt. Hood/Corey Road area.
The Aberdeen section also encompasses a sub area of apartment houses bordering Commonwealth Avenue. The streetscapes of Sutherland Road, between Selkirk Road and Commonwealth Avenue are dominated by apartment buildings primarily exhibiting elements of the Georgian Revival style. The red brick, three story apartment buildings at 116-132 Sutherland Road possess L and T shaped forms which combine to form a series of open rear courtyards. Built c. 1920, the main facade consists of a rhythmic progression of projecting and recessed square bays. In other words, the projecting facades "march" down the street in a manner that is more interesting than a continuous, flat expanse of brick wall. Each entrance exhibits a shallow porch with paired, slender Egyptian Revival columns which support a molded cornice-headed entablature. Windows display wedge shaped, key stone lintels. This building wraps northwestward around the Lamark Road corner to include 120-132 Lamark Road. Its roofline is distinguished by a molded metal Modillion block cornice above the cornice and a low parapet.
Across the street at 119-127 Sutherland Road is another handsome apartment building with elements of both the Classical Revival and Georgian Revival styles. Built during the early 1920s, this rectangular building is divided into three separate and contiguous segments containing two interior light wells. It rises four stories from a rusticated cast stone first floor to a low parapet. The 12 bay main facade is divided into five larger bays which include a pedimented, two bay center entrance facade flanked by pairs of stacked porches. On either side of the open porches are three bay facades. The center entrance opens on to a shallow front porch with monumental Corinthian columns which support a molded entablature with a modillion block cornice.
Representing one of the most memorable and dramatic street walls in Allston-Brighton is 1714-1742 Commonwealth Avenue. This row exhibits elements of almost every style that was widely employed in apartment building design during the first three decades of the 20th century including the Classical Revival, Tudor Revival, Georgian Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival an Craftsman styles. These three story, cross-shaped, three-family residences were designed by J. A. Halloran in 1914. Each building has a series of three-decker like porches projecting from the rear walls. Each of its five bay main facades are parged with stucco. Treatments at the cornice level of this group are unusually elaborate consisting of a stepped parapet that lends an unusual castellated appearance to the tops of these buildings. The Mission style parapets have terra cotta tiled false eaves supported by exposed rafters. Two of the eight facades culminate in broad, paired half-timbered gables. The Craftsman style entrances with half timbered gables are sheltered beneath small porches with square posts and gable roofs with heavy brackets. In contrast, the remaining entrances exhibit entrances recessed behind Classical Revival Ionic columns which support a molded and cornice headed entablature.
It is important to note that not all of Aberdeen's apartment buildings are concentrated on or near Commonwealth Avenue. Kilsyth Road, for example, between Lamark and Colliston Roads, has a collection of masonry multi-unit buildings which includes the V-shaped Tudor Revival-Georgian Revival apartments at 5 Colliston Road and 78 Kilsyth Road, the T-shaped Art Deco buildings at 90 and 100 Kilsyth Road, and the Tudor-Georgian Revival U-shaped apartments at 111-113 Kilsyth Road. Particularly noteworthy as one of the earliest multi-unit groups in Aberdeen, are the bow-fronted Neo Federal apartments at 2-8 Colliston Road. Designed and built by Somerville architect and contractor John C. Foley in 1908, each of these two story buildings were erected to house two families. 2-8 Colliston Road illustrates the pre-1910 tendency to treat multi-family buildings in a way that resembled single family row houses. Such an approach to massing and design visually created the impression that the inhabitants occupied the entire building rather than an individual unit.
Located within the boundaries of the Aberdeen area are buildings and groups of buildings which are not easily categorized within the realm of the more standard single family and apartment building fare. For example, 101-125 Lanark Road represents a collection of six two-family Georgian Revival residences which were built c. 1920. This group stands in contrast to the more massive scale of the apartment buildings across the street. In a sense, these boxy, two story red brick duplexes presented an alternative to the substantial, single family houses and large apartment buildings of the area.
Perhaps the most curious residential anomaly in this neighborhood of Medieval Revival residences and Tudor and Georgian Revival apartment buildings are The Lanark Court Apartments at 129-137 Sutherland Road and 80-84 Lanark Road. Composed of 2.5 story stucco covered rectangular structures which are enclosed by massive tile-covered gambrel roofs, these buildings represent a Craftsman style design which is unique to Allston-Brighton.
Although three deckers are relatively rare in Allston-Brighton, five of these three-family buildings line Wilson Park at the northeast corner of this area including the c. early 1920s three deckers at 9, 11, 25, 29, 35 Wilson Park.