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Brookline Then and Now: Looking east down Heath Street from Hammond Street

April 7, 2024  Updated April 9, 2024 at 5:52 p.m.
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The large house behind the stone wall in the older picture was built in the 1750s by members of a religious movement known as New Lights. It served as their meeting house and as the home of their deacon, farmer and shoemaker Elhanen Winchester, and his large family. Heath Street, on the right in both photos, was then part of the Sherburn Road, the main route west out of Boston and Brookline.

In the 1790s, the house was turned into a tavern by its third owner, Ebenezer Richards. The Richards Tavern became a popular stopping place, particularly after the 1810 construction of the Worcester Turnpike, now Route 9, just to the north of the tavern and to the left of this photo. A toll gate on the turnpike at Hammond Street slowed traffic and brought customers to the tavern, which became a popular community gathering place.

The coming of the railroad in the mid-19th century reduced horse-drawn and foot traffic on the turnpike and the flow of customers to the tavern. The building was converted to a dwelling and later a tenement house, though a later 19th century owner installed a bowling green adjacent to the property for a short time.

By the 1920s, the building was in poor shape. It was torn down in 1928 and the commercial block now on the corner of Heath and Hammond Street, as well as new houses on Heath Street, were built soon after.

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Ken Liss is president of the Brookline Historical Society. 

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