Friday, February 27, 2015

The Ongoing Search for Early Images of Fowler Clark Farm

This mural in the living room of the Fowler Clark Farm depicts
an artists interpretation of the farm in earlier days 
Those who regularly read HBI’s blog have probably seen historic photos of all of our projects. Finding historic images can be a bit of a treasure hunt, but we’ve always been able to find some photo from the past – even for those buildings that are not especially architecturally distinctive or a Boston Landmark. Sometimes it takes a lot of digging and the image of the building is not always as clear as we’d like, but we find something. But after months of searching, we have not yet found a historic image of the Fowler Clark Farm in Mattapan.

The Fowler Clark Farm was designated a City of Boston Landmark in 2006, but no historic photos (more than 50 years old) appears in the Boston Landmark Commission’s study report, which was a pretty good indicator that old images of the farm were not readily available. We checked our most reliable sources (Historic New England, The Bostonian Society, Boston Public Library, Dorchester Historical Society, The Boston Athenaeum and The Dorchester AthenaeumMassachusetts State Archives, and more), but so far nothing has surfaced. It seems hard to believe that in the first 200 years of its existence on its original site, relatively untouched and on a major thoroughfare, no one took a photo of the farm or considered it “ancient” enough to photograph it as was common by the late 19th century. The house is a modest, vernacular farmhouse, and admittedly not particularly unique architecturally. But it stands out from everything around it because it still looks like a farm in an otherwise urban neighborhood. The Landmarks report declares it “a rare remaining, highly intact agricultural setting that typified the vernacular landscape of pre-Civil war Boston.” There must be a photo somewhere, but apparently not in the public realm.

The Fowler Clark Farm has had very few owners in its history. Built by Samuel Fowler around 1786, it was sold to the Clark family in 1837 and remained in that family until 1940 – almost 100 years! The original 11+ acres were subdivided over the years into 61 house lots as the neighborhood became a streetcar suburb. In 1941, Jorge Epstein acquired the property and a family trust still owns it. Perhaps there are photos in the Clark or Epstein families’ private collections? If anyone reading this has any suggestions or sources we can contact, we’d love to hear from you.

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