BAHS Home | History | Neighborhoods | Photo Collection

This article by Allston-Brighton historian Dr. William P. Marchione appeared in the Allston-Brighton Tab or Boston Tab newspapers in the period from July 1998 to late 2001, and supplement information in his books The Bull in the Garden (1986) and Images of America: Allston-Brighton (1996).   Researchers should, however, feel free to quote from the material, with proper attribution.  

History of Chandler's Pond

Chandler's Pond in Brighton lies in the so-called Nonantum Valley, which is enclosed by Nonantum Hill on the north and Waban Hill on the south. The pond is a man-made body of water, dating from 1855. It was excavated for ice-making purposes by local horticulturist and entrepreneur William C. Strong.

In 1865 Strong created a second pond just west of Chandler's (also for ice-making), called Strong's Pond. While a tiny portion of Strong's Pond survives on the grounds of the Chestnut Hill Country club, Chandler's Pond is, for all practical purposes, the last survivor of nearly twenty ponds, which once dotted Allston-Brighton.

Chandler's Pond is fed by Dana Brook, which flows out of Newton. After leaving the Nonantum Valley this watercourse meanders more than a mile in a generally northeastern direction, before emptying into the Charles River in the vicinity of the present Soldier's Field Road Extension. The portion of the brook situated north of Chandler's Pond now lies underground in conduits.

The Nonantum Valley has a long and fascinating history. In October 1646, the Reverend John Eliot, who was known as the Apostle to the Indians, performed his first conversions of native-Americans to Christianity at the western end of the Nonantum Valley. The leader of the local natives at that time was the enterprising Waban, (called The Merchant by the white settlers), the man for whom Waban Hill was named. It was also at the western end of Nonantum Valley that the first Praying Indian community in British North America was established, and named Nonantum, which signified rejoicingÓ in the Algonquin language. In 1650 the Praying Indians of Nonantum relocated to Natick. A monument stands on the site of Nonantum Village, erected by the City of Newton in the mid-19th century.

The land on which Chandler's Pond is situated was first owned by Richard Dana, progenitor of a family that produced many notable statesmen, writers, and reformers. The Dana family owned this land more or less continuously until the early 19th century. Their homestead which stood in nearby Oak Square, at the corner of Nonantum and Washington Streets, was destroyed by fire in the early 1870s.

By 1837 the southerly portion of the Dana property had passed into the hands of Horace Gray, an influential Boston businessman and horticulturist, who played a leading role in establishing the Boston Public Garden. (Gray was also, incidentally, the father of a future Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court and U.S. Supreme Court Justice of the same name). The senior Gray build an imposing country house at the crest of Nonantum Hill, overlooking the valley in which Chandler's Pond would later be created. In the late 1850s George Greig, British Consul to Boston, occupied this house as a country residence. According to Wilder's, The Horticultural History of Boston and Vicinity, Gray erected on the grounds the largest grape houses known in the United States, in which were grown extensively numerous varieties of foreign grapes. For the test of these under glass in cold houses, Gray erected a large curvilinear-roof house, two hundred feet long by twenty-four wide. This was such a great success that he build two more of the same dimension.

In 1848, however, Gray was forced by financial difficulties to sell his Brighton property. The purchaser was William C. Strong, who expanded the horticultural business there by laying jut additional vines and adding other plants. Strong also build an immense greenhouse for his Nonantum Valley Nurseries, in which , Wilder noted, under one continuous roof of glass of 18,000 square feet, is an enclosure where plants are grown in the open ground; where immense quantities of rose and flowers are daily cut for the market.Ó By the mid-19th century, the Nonantum Hill area was one of the most important horticultural centers around Boston. Other local nurseries included those of John Kenrick at the Newton end of the valley (the oldest large-scale horticultural business in New England, dating from 1790), Joseph L.L. F. Warren's Nonantum Vale Gardens at Lake and Washington Streets, which attracted such distinguished visitors as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, John D. Calhoun, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and William Cullen Bryant, and the nursery of Joseph Breck, Breck's Gardens, in Oak Square (on the site now occupied by the Oaks Square School).

As previously noted, it was William C. Strong (successor to Horace Gray and Breck's son-in-law), and another Massachusetts Horticultural Society President in the period 1971 to 1874, who excavated Chandler's and Strong's Pond (on the site where the Chandler's Pond Apartments stand today). Strong first leased and then, in 1858, sold the more easterly of these ponds and its adjacent ice house to Malcolm Chandler, and experienced ice merchant who had previously owned and operated an ice cutting business at Hammond Pond in Newton. Chandler built an imposing Greek Revival style mansion for himself at 70 Lake overlooking the Pond, a building which still stands.



Chandler's Pond 1890

Strong continued ice-cutting on Strong's Pond until 1880. Once refrigeration was introduced, however, a fierce competition developed between the two local ice-dealers for the remaining business in natural ice. Following a destructive fire at Strong's ice-house in 1972, Chandler was arrested and charged with arson. However, he was eventually found innocent of the crime. Strong gradually sold off his Brighton property in the 1880s. Long interested in real estate development, he moved to Beacon Street in Newton's Auburndale section in 1875, where he proceeded to develop a new suburb which he called Waban.

In 1880 Strong sold his Brighton ice-cutting interest to Jeremiah H. Downing. In 1895, the Chestnut Hill Country Club purchased the land on which Strong's or Downing's Pond was located. Chandler's Pond was acquired by Phineas B. Smith in 1883. When the Chandler family failed to meet the mortgage payments, Smith took possession. In 1912 the Chandler's Pond acreage passed into the hands of local contractor John H. Sullivan, who lived in a stucco mansion at the southwest corner of Undine Road and Lake Street, a structure designed by renowned architect Guy Lowell, whose distinguished works included Boston's Museum of Fine Arts on the Fenway. In the following year, Sullivan sold the Chandler's Pond acreage to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

The archdiocese sold the Chandler's Pond acreage to developer George W. Robertson in 1925, whereupon Robertson proceeded to subdivide the property into lots for residential development. House construction along the pond's northern shore (Kenrick Street) began in 1925. Lake Shore Road, on the southern edge of the Pond, was put through in the mid-twenties, and the first houses were constructed shortly thereafter.

The city of Boson acquired the Chandler's Pond acreage from various owners in the late 1930's, some it in lieu of unpaid real estate taxes. In 1941, at the urging of City Councilor Maurice Sullivan, Boston established the Alice Gallagher Memorial Park on the southern western rim of the pond. The wife of long-time Boston City Councilor Edward Gallagher, Alice Gallagher had long been active in charitable work in the Allston-Brighton community. In creating Gallagher Park, the city provided the Allston-Brighton community with an outstanding visual amenity that its people have now enjoyed for over a half century.

The Chandler's Pond watershed area is heavily developed and unless prompt measures are taken to dredge the pond and to reduce significantly the levels of phosphates and other pollutants that are entering it, the future for this beautiful body of water looks very grim indeed. In 1996, the pond's many neighbors and friend joint together, under the leadership of long-time Chandler's Pond advocate Genevieve Ferullo, to establish the Chandler's Pond Preservation Society. With support and cooperation of the community groups, such as the Luck Neighborhood Association and the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, the people of Allston-Brighton are working to save Chandler Pond for future generations to enjoy.

BAHS Home | History | Neighborhoods | Photo Collection