Brown Square

Pleasant Street (between Green St. and Titcomb St.), Newburyport

Postcard of Brown Square, 1913. Public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

On May 31, 1836, the Essex County Antislavery Society held its first meeting at Brown Square. Among the speakers was the famed poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. Established in 1802, the square was named after Moses Brown (1742-1827), the land’s donor, and, at the time, Newburyport’s second wealthiest individual and largest property owner.

Brown Square features an imposing statue of Newburyport’s most famous son: William Lloyd Garrison. On the base of the statue, which was erected in 1893, are engraved some of his most famous, hard-hitting words. The monument is located very close to what was the North Church, whose pastor, in 1830, invited Garrison to deliver a lecture about slavery. Many in the audience so disliked what the firebrand abolitionist had to say that he was uninvited to speak on a second night.

That the house of worship (the Central Congregational Church now occupies the site) at the western end of Brown Square treated Garrison poorly is related in some ways to the square’s namesake. Moses Brown was a merchant and shipbuilder, and an investor in the sugar, rum, and molasses trade. As such, like many in Newburyport, his wellbeing was tied to slavery. As an informational panel on the green notes, “Brown became wealthy and helped the development of Newburyport based on his profits from the ‘Triangle Trade,’ the economic engine that drove much of the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

In addition to Newburyport’s City Hall, various commercial establishments sit along the perimeter of Brown Square, including the Garrison Inn, a small hotel. Originally known as the Brown Square House, it was built (or commissioned) by Moses Brown.

Getting there:

Commuter Rail from North Station to Newburyport. Brown Square is 1.3 miles away (about a 26-minute walk). You can traverse most of the distance via the Clipper City Rail Trail, which connects the Commuter Rail station to Newburyport’s Harborwalk, along the city’s waterfront.

To learn more:

Susan M. Harvey, Slavery in Massachusetts: A descendent of early settlers investigates the connections in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Master’s Thesis, Department of History, Fitchburg State University, June 2011.

Dyke Hendrickson, “The Economics of Slavery,” Daily News (Newburyport), April 14, 2014.

Planned Parenthood and Preterm Health Services

1031 Beacon Street and 1842 Beacon Street, Brookline

At 10am on Friday, December 30, 1994, John Salvi entered the offices of Planned Parenthood on Beacon Street in Brookline and opened fire with a rifle. Salvi, 22, then drove a short distance westward to Preterm Health Services, one of two other reproductive health clinics on Beacon Street at the time. Upon entering the first-floor office at 10:10am, he again opened fire, after asking if he was in the right place.

Shannon Lowney (l) and Leanne Nichols (r). Source: The Boston Globe.

In addition to wounding five individuals, Salvi killed two people that winter day on what anti-abortion activists called “Abortion Row”: Shannon Lowney, 25, a receptionist and Spanish translator at Planned Parenthood, and Leanne Nichols, 38, a receptionist at Preterm Health Services.

The following day, police finally caught up with Salvi. Authorities apprehended him shortly after he fired a dozen bullets at the Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk, Virginia. At the time of the shootings, Salvi was an apprentice hairdresser living in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Active on the margins of the anti-abortion movement, Salvi suffered from mental illness, and, according to members of his own family, had grown increasingly fanatic in his religious beliefs.

In addition to John Salvi’s idiosyncrasies, the shootings in Brookline reflected a charged political climate regarding reproductive rights—locally and nationally.

Protests outside the clinics on Beacon Street in Brookline were common in the 1990s. They ranged from clinic blockades and prayer vigils to harassment of individuals entering the facilities. On at least one occasion, Salvi himself attended a protest outside Planned Parenthood.

Former site of the Planned Parenthood clinic, 1031 Beacon Street in Brookline. Photo by Joseph Nevins, October 2021.

In Greater Boston, the Catholic Church, then under the leadership of Archbishop Bernard Law, was vocal in its opposition to abortion. In his first public statement after becoming archbishop in 1984, Law called abortion “the primordial evil of our time.” (In 2002, Law resigned from his position in disgrace in the wake of revelations of widespread sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston and his role in ignoring or covering up of many such cases.*)

In the United States, the political climate regarding reproductive rights was not only charged, but also violent at times. In the 22 months preceding the killings in Brookline, there had been three other fatal shootings at clinics elsewhere in the country.

Former site of Preterm Health Services, October 2021.

In early 1996, a jury in Norfolk County Superior Court found John Salvi guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of armed assault with intent to murder. The judge, who had determined that Salvi was mentally competent to stand trial, sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Eight months later, authorities found Salvi dead in his cell in MCI Cedar Junction at Walpole (formerly known as Walpole State Prison); he had committed suicide.

That same year, Preterm Health Services and Planned Parenthood merged and moved to a new clinic, the Greater Boston Health Center, on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

Outside of the former site of the Planned Parenthood clinic, there is a small plaque that honors the memory of Shannon Lowney. For unknown reasons, there is nothing similar honoring Leanne Nichols outside of the former site of Preterm Health Services.

Getting there:

For Planned Parenthood, Green Line (C Branch) to St. Mary’s Street station; the site is diagonally across the street. For Preterm Health Services, Green Line (C Branch) to Englewood Avenue station; the site is directly across the street.

To learn more:

Yvonne Abraham, “Remembering the Horror of the Brookline Clinic Shootings, 25 Years Later,” The Boston Globe, December 28, 2019.

Kevin Cullen and Brian McGrory, “Gunman Opens Fire in Brookline Clinics, Kills 2 and Wounds 5,” The Boston Globe, December 31, 1994. 

Daniel Golden and Brian McGrory, “Clinic Shooting Suspect John Salvi Captured,” The Boston Globe, January 1, 1995.

Abby Patkin, “The Shots that Rang Down Beacon Street,” Brookline TAB, December 30, 2019.

John Zaritsky, Murder on “Abortion Row” (a PBS Frontline documentary), first aired on February 6, 1996.

*See the entry on the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End section of A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.

Braves Field/Nickerson Field

285 Babcock Street, Allston

Nickerson Field, September 2015. Photo by Joseph Nevins.

The former site of the Allston Golf Club, Braves Field, the home of the National League’s Boston Braves was the largest baseball stadium in the country when it opened in August 1915. Prior to then, the Braves had played, since the team’s founding in 1871, at the South End Grounds

While the neighboring American League Boston Red Sox—the last team in baseball to field a Black player—were long marked by racism, the Braves, by comparison, were a progressive team. One year after the Brooklyn Dodgers became the first major league team to field a Black player (Jackie Robinson), the Braves became the fifth one to do so when they debuted Sam “Jet” Jethroe in 1950. By 1952, the Braves’ last year in the city (they moved to Milwaukee), Boston’s National League team had three Black players on its roster. (Today, the team is located in Atlanta, where it maintains its racially offensive name, one first adopted in 1912.)

Boston Braves players (left to right) Luis Marquez and Sam Jethroe at Braves Field, April 1951. Photo by Leslie Jones. Source: Leslie Jones Collections, Arts Department, Boston Public Library, via Digital Commonwealth.

Boston University (BU) purchased Braves Field for $430,000 in 1953. Today it is the site of a university stadium called Nickerson Field, where BU’s men’s and women’s lacrosse and soccer teams play. The offices of the BU police department are in the original building that housed the Braves’ administrative offices. In the entry area (close to Braves Field Way), in back of the stadium, a small monument marks the site of what was Braves Field.

Photo by Baseball Panoramic, June 14, 2014. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Getting there:

Green Line, B Branch to the Babcock Street stop. 0.4 mile (four-minute) walk.

To learn more:

Howard Bryant, Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston, Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.

Niquel Terry Ellis. “‘Dehumanizing’ and ‘racist.’ Native leaders decry Braves’ ‘Tomahawk chop’ ahead of World Series game in Atlanta,” CNN, October 28, 2021.

Patrick L. Kennedy, “Remembering the Wigwam” (Parts 1 & 2), BU Today, April 12 & 13, 2012.

Sharon Brody and Lynn Jolicoeur, “‘The Roots of Boston Baseball’: Former Braves Field Marks 100 Years,” WBUR.org, August 21, 2015.

Somerset Club

42 Beacon Street, Beacon Hill

First established in 1826 as an informal group, what is today the Somerset Club became formalized as the Beacon Club sometime thereafter. In 1851, the club purchased a house at the corner of Beacon and Somerset Streets to serve as its home. Renamed the Somerset Club the following year, it is the oldest of Boston’s private clubs.

Original home of the Somerset Club, corner of Somerset and Beacon Streets, 1860. Photo by Josiah Johnson Hawes. Source: Arts Department, Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

In the years surrounding the Civil War, political tensions permeated the Somerset as many of its members were “Copperheads”—Democrats strongly opposed to abolitionism, the war and President Abraham Lincoln. This led to one of its members on the other side of the political divide to found the Union Club nearby (on 8 Park Street) in 1863.

Reflecting the Harvard ties of many elite social clubs, the Somerset is now located in what was the mansion of David Sears (Harvard class of 1807). The club purchased the property in 1871.

The Harvard Crimson newspaper has characterized the Somerset as “traditionally . . .  the haughtiest and most prestigious of clubs.” One does not to ask to join the Somerset, but rather one is asked. The club is so secretive that one needs to be a member to access its website.

Long associated with Boston Brahmins and WASPs—its members have included powerful Yankee politicians and businesspeople and deans from the area’s elite institutions of higher learning—the Somerset did not admit women until the late 1980s. While its membership still reflects “old money” and proper “pedigree,” the Somerset, like Boston’s private social clubs as a whole, is no longer at the center of the area’s pyramid of power. Given large political-economic shifts over the last several decades and the internationalization of Boston’s economy, the Somerset’s status is somewhat a relic of the past.

Somerset Club, 42 Beacon Street, March 2017. Photo by Eleni Macrakis.

Getting there:

Red or Green Line to Park Street Station. 0.3 mile (seven-minute) walk.

To learn more:

Samuel Hornblower, “Fifteen Minutes: The Old Boys’ Clubs,” The Harvard Crimson, April 27, 2000.

Alexander Whiteside Williams, A Social History of the Greater Boston Clubs, Barre, Massachusetts: Barre Publishers, 1970.

Martin Luther King’s Residence

397 Massachusetts Avenue, South End

In 1952-1953, while a graduate student at the Boston University School of Theology, Martin Luther King resided in a building located at 397 Massachusetts Avenue (as indicated by a small plaque on its façade). At the time, it was likely a boarding house in which residents rented rooms.

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Plaque on the outside of the building at 397 Massachusetts Avenue.

MLK’s apartment also served as the meeting place for the Dialectical Society, a club dedicated to discussing matters of philosophy and theology and composed largely of African American male graduate students. His future wife, Coretta Scott (who he met in early 1952), lived nearby as she was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, and occasionally participated in the group’s meetings.

In the early 1950, the neighborhood was a vibrant, largely Black community with a rich array of restaurants and jazz clubs, ones where the likes of Count Basie and Duke Ellington could be seen. Today, only a few of those institutions remain in the heavily gentrified area.

No longer a boarding house, 397 Massachusetts Avenue is today home to apartments owned and maintained by the South End’s Tenants’ Development Corporation. Founded in 1968, the organization works to increase the availability of housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

397 Massachusetts Avenue, 2016. Photo by Joseph Nevins.

Getting there:

Orange Line to Massachusetts Avenue Station. Exit at Massachusetts Avenue and immediately go left. Number 397 is two buildings away on the left-hand side.

Nearby points of interest:

170 St. Botolph Street. At some point after living at 397 Massachusetts Avenue, MLK lived in an apartment in this building.

Wally’s Café Jazz Club (the last of the area’s venerable jazz and blues clubs), 427 Massachusetts Avenue.

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe. Established in 1927, the white-owned restaurant was featured in The Green Book as it welcomed Black diners and Black jazz musicians during its first few decades, a time when many area establishments. The floor above the restaurant served as the union hall of the Boston branch of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an African-American-led union. 429 Columbus Avenue.

New England Conservatory of Music, 290 Huntington Avenue.

To learn more:

Cara Feinberg, “When Martin met Coretta,” The Boston Globe, January 22, 2003.

Stephen C. Ferguson II, “The Philosopher King: An Examination of the Influence of Dialectics on King’s Political Thought and Practice,” in Robert E. Birt, The Liberatory Thought of Martin Luther King: Critical Essays on the Philosopher King, Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2012:  87-108.

Robert Hayden, “Local activists recall King’s presence in Hub,” The Bay State Banner, January 14, 2015.

For more sites in Boston associated with Martin  Luther King, see the “Malcolm and Martin Tour.” in A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.

Photo credit:

The photo at the top of the entry is from April 22, 1965. MLK is speaking on the front steps of the William Boardman School in Roxbury, in support of parents working to remedy substandard and unequal schools and racial segregation in the Boston Public Schools. Source: Boston Herald.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

600 Rocky Hill Road, Plymouth

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Boston Edison Company’s Pilgrim Station Unit 1, circa 1972. Public domain.

On New Year’s Eve, 1988, Diane Turco was preparing for evening guests, but decided to join friends protesting the imminent restarting of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. (The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had forced the plant to shut down in 1986 because of many safety violations.) By that evening, Turco was sitting in jail, having joined 34 other activists in refusing to obey a police order to remain across the road from the plant. The arrested were soon released on their own recognizances, however. Indeed, even some of the police were sympathetic: one activist recalls an officer saying, “Thank you for doing this because we know this place isn’t safe and we could never evacuate the people [if there was an accident].”

Members of Cape Downwinders, an organization that Diane Turco co-founded in the mid-1980s, protest Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, circa 2013. Source: The Patch.

Built by the Bechtel Corporation for Boston Edison, the station came online in 1972. Very soon thereafter, Boston Edison announced that it would expand the plant. In response, the Plymouth County Nuclear Information Center, or PICNIC, emerged to organize against the expansion and for closing the already existing station. Community resistance waxed and waned over the years in the form of various organizations. Nonetheless, activist efforts frustrated the plans of expansion in the case of Edison and renewal in the case of Entergy, a power company based in New Orleans, Louisiana which took ownership of the plant in the late 1990s, during the Clinton-era deregulation of energy. Community protest and advocacy also dramatically strengthened safety measures and public awareness through dogged litigation, protest, and educational activities. Although public health studies revealed that cancer rates increased with proximity to the plant, it was only after Japan’s Fukushima disaster 2011, and uncertainty about the plant’s economic viability in light of strengthening safety standards that, in 2016, Entergy announced that it would decommission the plant. On May 31, 2019, the plant closed down.

These developments notwithstanding, many are very concerned about nuclear waste that remains on site. There is also alarm at the deteriorating condition of its containment and the fact that the waste storage vessels are located just above sea-level. These will remain radioactive for millennia as well as exposed to rising sea levels and storm surges.

Getting there:

About 7.5 miles south of the Commuter Rail station in Plymouth.

To learn more:

Bruce Gellerman and Robin Lubbock, “Photos: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Shuts Down,” WBUR, May 31, 2019.

Miriam Wasser, “Pilgrims: 50 Years of Anti-nuclear Mass,” Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, March 3, 2018.

George Frisbie Hoar House/Admadjaja House (Concord Academy)

158 Main Street, Concord

George Frisbie Hoar (1826-1904) was the son of a politically prominent family who would go on to be one of the most well-known opponents of U.S. imperialism of his time. Born and raised in Concord, he studied, as a youth, under Henry David Thoreau, who briefly ran his own school in the town, and later visited with him at Walden Pond. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Hoar moved to Worcester where he began practicing law. Within a few years, Hoar won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and, five years later, to the Massachusetts Senate. From 1869 to 1877, he served as member of the U.S. Congress. Thereafter, until his death, he was a member of the U.S. Senate.

George Frisbie Hoar, circa 1870s. Senator Hoar was one of the more prominent members of the Anti-Imperialist League (see the entry on Faneuil Hall in “A People’s Guide to Greater Boston“). Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

While his fellow Republican (junior) senator from Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, vociferously championed the annexation of Hawaii and U.S. military intervention in Cuba, Hoar was very suspicious of these projects, expressing quiet criticism. But with the outbreak of the U.S. war with Spain in 1898, he became a vocal opponent of U.S. imperialism. He was particularly concerned about the Philippines, the colonization of which he saw as an affront to U.S. ideals and a threat to U.S. institutions. In 1902, Hoar publicly denounced those in Washington complicit with the brutal U.S. war and the atrocities—ranging from widespread torture of Filipino captives and sexual assault to extrajudicial executions of prisoners and civilians—associated with Washington’s effort to pacify the territory. “You have devastated provinces,” he proclaimed. “You have slain uncounted thousands of peoples you desire to benefit. You have established reconcentration camps.”

In the Senate, Hoar supported many progressive causes—including public education for African Americans recently freed from slavery, the right of women to vote, and the right of workers to form labor unions. He also opposed Chinese Exclusion, calling Chinese “absolutely fit” for U.S. citizenship. In the case of Portuguese and Italian immigrants, however, he succumbed to the racism of the time, calling them “absolutely unfit.” And while he never wavered in his position on the right of Filipinos to independence, he remained steadfastly loyal to the Republican Party, refusing to denounce Henry Cabot Lodge and President William McKinley, the main champions of the Philippines’ annexation.

Hoar grew up in the house, purchased by his father in 1819, on 158 Main Street. In 1946, Concord Academy, an elite boarding school, purchased the building. It is now a residential house, called Admadjaja House, for students.

George Frisbie Hoar—like fellow Concordians Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau—is buried in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Admadjaja House, 2013. Photo by Daderot. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Getting there:

Commuter rail from North Station (Framingham line) to Concord Station. Walk north (take a left) on Thoreau Street, and then a right onto Belknap Street. Follow Belknap until Main Street. Take a right. Concord Academy and Admadjaja House is on the left side of the street. About 0.3 mils (a 5-minute walk).

To learn more:

Stephen Puleo, The Boston Italians: A Story of Pride, Perseverance, and Paesani, from the Years of the Great Immigration to the Present Day, Boston: Beacon Press, 2008.

Richard E. Welch, Jr., “Opponents and Colleagues: George Frisbie Hoar and Henry Cabot Lodge, 1898-1904, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 2, 1966: 182-209.

Richard E. Welch, Jr., “American Atrocities in the Philippines: The Indictment and the Response,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, 1974: 233-253.

Richard Plumer House

79 Federal Street, Newburyport

Richard Plumer (1812-1881) was the postmaster of Newburyport, as well as the owner and operator of a dry goods store at 46 State Street, a few buildings down from the post office. In 1830, he bought a home on Federal Street, one that would serve as a station on the Underground Railroad.  Plumer and his family members housed and clandestinely transported an untold number of individuals fleeing slavery to other stations or agents of the “railroad” as they headed to Canada. In 1841, Plumer hosted Frederick Douglass at his home.

Built around 1700, Richard Plumer’s house, currently a private residence, still stands. A plaque on the front of the building commemorates Plumer’s abolitionist activism.

Richard Plumer House, 79 Federal Street, Newburyport.

Getting there:

Commuter Rail from North Station to Newburyport. The house is located between High Street and Horton Street.

To learn more:

William Hallett, Newburyport and the Civil War, Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2012.

W. E. B. Du Bois Residence

20 Flagg Street, Cambridge

W. E. B. DuBois, circa 1907. Public domain, Credit: NPS.gov

One of the great civil and human rights advocates of the 20th century and a major public intellectual, W. E. B. Du Bois rented a room at this house from 1890 to 1893 while a graduate student at Harvard University. In 1895, he became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard.

Du Bois, a strong opponent of accommodationist approaches to race relations and an unwavering advocate of full civil rights for African Americans, was politically allied with Boston’s William Monroe Trotter.* Together, they helped to found, in 1905, the Niagara Movement, a forerunner to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1910, Du Bois became the editor of the NAACP’s monthly magazine, The Crisis.

One of the founders of modern sociology, Du Bois was the author of Black Reconstruction in America (1935). His most famous work, among his many books, is The Souls of Black Folk. First published in 1903, it is a collection of essays on race, labor, and culture. In it, he famously decried “the problem of the color line” as “the problem of the Twentieth Century.”

Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868, Du Bois was active in the Pan-Africanist movement. In 1961, he joined the U.S. Communist Party, and then moved to Accra, Ghana, where he died in 1963.

The house at 20 Flagg Street, part of the Cambridge African American Heritage Trail, has a historical marker about Du Bois in front of it. In the 1980s, Harvard sold the building. It is now a private home.

20 Flagg Street, 2017. Photo by Eleni Macrakis.

Getting there:

Red Line to Harvard Square Station. About a 0.6 mile (12-minute) walk via Mt. Auburn Street.

*Regarding William Monroe Trotter, see the site entry associated with his home in Dorchester in A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.

Rockledge (Home of William Lloyd Garrison)

125 Highland Street, Roxbury

William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879. Source: Library of Congress (public domain).

In 1864, William Lloyd Garrison, the famed abolitionist and publisher of the Boston-based, anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, moved to the “Boston Highlands” of Roxbury with his family.

Rockledge was the name given to the half-acre estate. Due to the declining health and limited mobility of Garrison’s wife, Helen—an active abolitionist as well—it was thought best to move to what was then a relatively bucolic suburb. (The City of Boston did not annex Roxbury until 1868.) The Garrison family held onto the property until the deaths of both Helen (1876) and William (1879).

Rockledge, circa 1898. Source: Boston Public Library, Arts Department, via Digital Commonwealth.

In an area today known as both Highland Park and Fort Hill, the original building, altered somewhat over the decades, and a later addition still stand. Beginning in 1904, Rockledge served as a nursing home, one run by the Episcopal Sisters of the Society of St. Margaret for low-income African-American women and children. Today, Rockledge, a National Historic Landmark, is part of Emmanuel College’s Notre Dame campus, where the 30 or so student residents dedicate themselves to community service and social justice.

Getting there:

Orange Line to Jackson Square Station. (0.6 mile, about a 14-minute walk.) The Emmanuel campus is accessed from Highland Avenue, a small street above and behind Rockledge.

Related site:

William Lloyd Garrison birthplace and family home, 3-5 School Street, Newburyport. (We explore this site in A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.)

Nearby:

Highland Park, former home of a Revolutionary War fort and the site of Fort Hill Tower, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It affords a beautiful view of much of Boston. 

To learn more:

Mayer, Henry. All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998.

National Park Service, National Registry of Historic Places nomination application, 1965.

Rocheleau, Matt. “Emmanuel College has lofty mission at quiet Roxbury site,” The Boston Globe, September 22, 2014.