A few months ago when we started construction in the basement of the Kittredge House, we made an exciting discovery. The remnants of a Roxbury Puddingstone retaining wall were found in the basement. It’s hypothesized that this wall may be a relic of the original 1836 foundation of the building, from before the house was pivoted to face Linwood Street in the 1890’s. Unfortunately, the wall was located in what is now the new garden apartment, on the ground floor of the Kittredge House, and so it had to be removed. However, it didn’t go far. We re-used the stone to create a new retaining wall in the back of the renovated building. The discovery got us thinking about Roxbury Puddingstone, and what makes it so special (it is the State Rock of Massachusetts, after all).
In 1830, just a few years before the Alvah Kittredge House was built, the well known, local poet Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem entitled the “The Dorchester Giant”. This poem tells a fantastical tale of the origin of this very famous rock. Roxbury Conglomerate, or Roxbury Puddingstone, among other things, put the “Rox” in Roxbury. It’s a unique rock to the Boston area, most notably in Roxbury, Dorchester and Brighton. Holmes claims in his poem that its arrival was caused by a family of giants who got into an Election Day pudding fight.
Oh, they are in a terrible rout,
Screaming, and throwing their pudding about,
Acting as they were mad.
They flung it over to Roxbury hills,
They flung it over the plain,
And all over Milton and Dorchester too
Great lumps of pudding the giants threw;
They tumbled as thick as rain.
|Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894)|
“Roxbury Puddingstone is a sedimentary conglomerate, comprised of a fine-grained matrix, or silt (the pudding), within which are inclusions of rock, mostly rounded granite. The silt is a mixture of rock flour and the residue of ash left from early volcanic eruptions. The rocks, or “nuts” were rounded as by the rivers, which chipped off sharp edges and wore down the rocks as they bumped along in the current. But the most important component of Roxbury Puddingstone is the silt, which hardened and gripped the rocks like stone jello holding together the pieces of a petrified fruit salad”.
|Roxbury Puddingstone in Horatio Harris Park in Roxbury|
|The Puddingstone memorial to the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry |
on the battlefield at Gettysburg
Puddingstone is truly a physical monument to Roxbury’s unique character, and we were so glad to find such a treasure at the Kittredge House. The new retaining wall will be a constant reminder of what makes Roxbury so special.