In addition to now disused railroads, I am particularly interested in institutions, a kind of institution that we don't expect to see in present day America because some practices or concepts are long gone. Quarantining a mass of TB patients to sanatoriums would be a good example.
Today, I'll show you some of my little findings from old maps. The below is a 1946 map of the southwest Newton.
1946 Map of Newton from MyTopo Historical Map
Look at the lower right section of the map, do you see "Working Boys Home"? "Working Boys Home", what a Dickensian sound in it. We rarely associate the word "working" with "boys" in the context of contemporary American kids; we think of child labors in sweatshops in some countries. I mean kids working like 16 hours a day.
My image of working boys, from eRiding media library
My another image of working boys, from eRiding media library
A lodging for boys who were separated from parents and working some places like factories... This is enough to make me fascinated, and I decided to investigate further.
1903 Map of Newton from MyTopo Historical Map
The above is a 1903 map of Newton. I can recognize something like the precursor of the WBH. Wow, the area is really desolate, hilly, and swampy. I searched the place with my another favorite, the MACRIS database. Oh, I've got it! It's still there!
Imagine such an imposing redbrick tower on a remote woody hill. According to the MACRIS, the building was planned by John and William McGintly in 1896. I couldn't find any more historical information about it, and I wonder what kind of organization did build this institution. It is usually by a Christian one, but it could be by a municipal or nonreligious philanthropic group, too.
The building is currently housing Newton Highlands Jewish Community Center. I should check this place out.
And I went.
It's been beautifully preserved. I have to say it's a lot more cheerful than the black and white picture I saw at the MACRIS. I guess because a part of the building is utilized as a day care center.
Looking at the cheerfully colored playground equipments and toys, I couldn't help thinking how much the view on children has changed in last hundred years. Would the working boys who used to be there imagine a part of the building would become a thing called "pre-school"?
Let's examine the clock on the tower; it's in Hebrew! I'm impressed with the attention to such a detail.
I gotta think, who were the "working boys"? Where did the boys work? And who did build the institution? Information is so limited.
Well, solution is always simple. I should always check the homepage of the current occupant. According to the Leventhal-Sidman JCC, the WBH was operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. So my initial guess about a Christian organization was right.
But where did the boys work? There must have been farms around the facility. Like many Poor Farms, the WBH could have been a self supporting community. The Boston Manufacturing Company (Francis Cabot Lowell's mill in Waltham) is 7 miles (11km) away from the Home. But those mills usually provided boarding to their employees. How about newspaper companies? There is a relatively big textile machine factory only a mile away, too.
My questions deepen.
Locate Working Boys Home @ Google Map
Also read the follow up article: Faces of the Working Boys Home
Historical map of Newton from Mytopo: http://historical.mytopo.com/getImage.asp?fname=nwtn46nw.jpg&state=MA
MACRIS detail of Working Boys Home: http://mhc-macris.net/Details.aspx?MhcId=NWT.3599
MACRIS detail of Saco-Petee Textile Machine Shop: http://mhc-macris.net/Details.aspx?MhcId=NWT.3714
Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center: http://www.lsjcc.org/home/leventhal.html