Oak Hill Park
Oak Hill Park (OHP) is a residential subdivision located in the Oak Hill village of Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Oak Hill Park is shown as a separate and distinct village on some city maps (including a map dated 2012 on the official City of Newton website). Situated adjacent to Boston (West Roxbury), Oak Hill Park is roughly bounded by Mount Ida College to its northwest, Dedham Street to the northeast, the Charles River to the southwest, and Mount Lebanon Cemetery and the Boston city limit to the southeast.
The first settler to build a homestead in the area which later became Oak Hill Park was Robert Murdock (b.1665, d.1754) of Roxbury. He purchased 120 acres (0.49 km2) of land from Jonathan Hyde and John Woodward (early settlers of Newton) in 1703, for the sum of £90. The land he purchased, on which he built a homestead, was bounded to the east by land of the Oak Hill School and Dedham Road.
After Murdock died in 1754, the property passed to Capt. Jeremiah Wiswall (b.1725, d.1809), who had been living there since marrying Murdock's daughter Elizabeth (b.1731, d.1769) four years earlier. The Wiswalls were a prominent family of the early Massachusetts Bay Colony, dating back to 1635. Jeremiah Wiswall (after whom Wiswall Road was named) was a great grandson of the founder of this family, Thomas Wiswall. This tract of land would remain the property of the Wiswall family from 1754 until well into the 20th century. With the exception of the adjoining Bigelow Estate and Esty Farm, most of the land upon which Oak Hill Park was eventually built had in fact been the property of the Wiswall family.
The property passed in 1809 from Jeremiah to his son, William Wiswall (b.1796, d.1867). In 1822, James Clement (William Wiswall's brother-in-law) built the house which became known as the Murdock Wiswall House. Wiswall operated the property as a successful dairy and produce farm until his death in 1867. The property next passed to his son (Jeremiah's grandson), William Clement Wiswall (b. 1823, d.1896), who operated the farm until 1884, when his son William Edward Wiswall (b. 1860, d.19??) assumed the leadership role. By 1910, the property was reduced in size to only 28 acres (0.11 km2), with ten to twenty head of dairy cattle. William Edward Wiswall was still living and working on the farm at that time. Many members of the Wiswall family, including Captain Jeremiah, are buried in the Winchester Street Burying Grounds and the Old East Parish Burying Ground, both in Newton. Some time between 1910 and 1946, a large portion of this land passed out of the Wiswall family and came to be owned and used by a business entity known as the Highland Sand and Gravel Pit.
Post World War II
After the conclusion of World War II, there existed in Massachusetts an acute shortage of housing for returning veterans of that war. The City-State Program of Massachusetts was devised as a solution to this problem. This program, approved on 23 May 1946 under Chapter 372 of the 1946 Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts, allowed the city of Newton to borrow and spend money to construct new housing specifically for veterans of World War II.
In January 1948, the City of Newton established the Veterans Housing Department to oversee the development of Oak Hill Park. This agency set the standards and guidelines for the construction, and also sold the houses. A tract of land in the village of Oak Hill in Newton, previously occupied by the Highland Sand and Gravel Pit, was chosen in 1946 as the site to build a new subdivision on which to accommodate returning Newton World War II veterans and their young families. Consisting of 412 homes, a small shopping center and a school, this subdivision was named Oak Hill Park.
In November 1948, the first of these new homes were completed and ready for occupancy. These one-story, three bedroom houses were constructed on concrete slabs with radiant heating - construction atypical of New England and initially viewed with suspicion by some. This suspicion was apparently unwarranted since the market value of some of the original houses is now over $450,000. The cost of a basic house was $7,820; but a homeowner could also add cedar shingles for $319.00; cedar clapboards with gypsum sheathing ($247.00); a breezeway-type porch without a garage ($325.00) or with a garage ($1,250.00); or a detached garage ($925.00). Some homeowners took advantage of these extras when they selected their houses, while others chose to wait and made additions to their houses at a later date.
Shortly after the veterans moved in, they formed the Oak Hill Park Association (OHPA), which dealt with the city and developers, published a monthly newsletter and became the dominant social and political force in the community. The new residents built a playground, planted trees and helped each other build additions to their homes. They put on shows and plays, had block parties and barbecues, and would always be available to help one another. Because of the many children in the area, the Memorial School (now Solomon Schechter Day School) was built.
The Wiswall house which was on Wiswall Road in Oak Hill Park had been abandoned by the 1960s, and was finally demolished in the 1970s after it was gutted by fire. Whether this is the Murdock Wiswall House is unclear; but based on the facts in the "Early History" section above it is likely that this is, in fact, that house. The following picture here, taken in 1935 by Harriette Merrifield Forbes, is of another Wiswall house, located near the north corner of Brookline Street and Dedham Street before its relocation to nearby Carlson Road where it serves, today, as the residence of the President of Mount Ida College. This has also been identified as the Murdock Wiswall House, although that appears to be incorrect for the reasons stated above. The book "Newton" in the "Images of America" series published by Arcadia Publishing, in 1999, shows the rear of what it identifies as the Murdock-Wiswall House, on the bottom of page 24; and this picture is also valuable since it clearly shows the land which later became Oak Hill Park.
The shopping center was later added to OHP and became a vital place to gather for both shopping and socializing. During the period of the 1950s and 1960s most mothers were "at home" and most families had one car, if any. On any day of the week, one could see many mothers and children walking, playing, visiting, shopping, etc.,- a real neighborhood atmosphere and a wonderful place to raise a family. The location was convenient to downtown Boston, while the feeling of OHP was very suburban.
Neighborhood preservation and development
As OHP developed over the years, the OHPA embraced the later developed streets located between Wiswall Road and Spiers Road, including the south side of Dedham Street. OHP bought up park land along the Charles River to protect it from development, as well as building the Shuman Centre, a small house-like building close to the shopping center. This served as a community center and home for the now closed branch library (once located at the northern end of the shopping center, and later in Room 8 of Memorial School). OHP also successfully stopped development on an extension of Saw Mill Brook Parkway that would have connected with the Wells Office Park and sent rush hour traffic zipping through the heart of OHP.
Today, OHP remains a "neighborhood" in an age when many have disappeared. Its residents comprise a congenial mixture of ethnic and economic backgrounds, ages, vocations, interests and talents. The OHPA now includes 650 families. While the shopping center no longer has a grocery store (first Market Basket, then Prime Food Market), a pharmacy (Oak Park Pharmacy), a dry cleaners (Chiswick Cleaners) or a gas station (The Prioli Brothers), it does now have a pizza parlor (which delivers), a hair salon and a plumber, as well as a few condominiums. The western end of Saw Mill Brook Parkway leads to walking trails along the Charles River, eventually leading south to West Roxbury's Millennium Park. Boundary markers for the old Newton Water Works can be found in this area, which is an excellent destination for those wishing to view typical glacial topography -- eskers, drumlins, kettle holes and moraines abound. Transmitter towers for WUNR radio (once WVOM, and later WBOS, at 1600 kHz) are located at the edge of this land, just off Spiers Road and Saw Mill Brook Parkway.
Street and path names
Oak Hill Park is a living memorial to World War II veterans. One of the first acts of the Veterans Housing Department was to choose the names for the 33 streets and paths in the neighborhood. They chose to name them all after Newton servicemen who had died in World War II. On 14 April 1948, a lottery was held to choose the names from a submitted list of 261 Newton citizens. The 33 names now identified with Oak Hill Park were drawn impartially from this list, while the remaining 228 names were memorialized when the Memorial Elementary School was dedicated in their honor.
|Street or path||Named after||Notes|
|Antonellis Circle||Joseph T. Antonellis (1916–1944)||Corporal, United States Army, Chemical Warfare|
|Avery Path||George L. Avery (1925–1945)|
|Bontempo Road||Peter A. Bontempo (1922–1945)||Private First Class, United States Army|
|Caldon Path||Albert T. Caldon (1918–1944)||Corporal, United States Army|
|Callahan Path||William F. Callahan, Jr. (1920–1942)||Second Lieutenant, 85th Mt. Infantry Reg. United States Army (the Callahan Tunnel in Boston was also named after him)|
|Caulfield Circle||John L. Caulfield (1917–1944)||First Lieutenant, United States Army (KIA, Omaha Beach)|
|Cavanaugh Path||Paul R. Cavanaugh (1921–1944)||Sargent, United States Army Air Forces, Tailgunner B24 Liberator|
|Chinian Path||Sarkis Chinian (1924–1945)||Private First Class, United States Marine Corps|
|Cibel Path||Harvey J. Cibel (1918–1943)||Second Lieutenant, United States Army Air Forces|
|Colella Road||Russell C. Colella (1913–1944)|
|Considine Road||Wilfred B. Considine (1920–1944)||Technical Sergeant, United States Army Air Forces|
|Early Path||Lawrence Early (1896–1944)||Captain, United States Army|
|Esty Farm Road||Amos Esty||original owner of Esty Farm, who purchased the land sometime between 1848 and 1855|
|Fredette Road||Francis A. Fredette (1906–1944)||CM 1/c United States Navy|
|Hanson Road||Robert M. Hanson (1922–1944)||First Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps Aviation (Medal of Honor)|
|Hay Road||John S. Hay (1921–1943)||United States Army Air Forces|
|Kappius Path||Mainolph Valen Kappius (1899–1945)||Commander, Medical Corps, United States Navy Reserve (Flight Surgeon)|
|Keller Path||H. Russell Keller, Jr. (1916–1945)||Lieutenant, United States Navy Aviation|
|Kerr Path||William J. Kerr (1921–1942)||Electrician's Mate, 3/c United States Navy|
|McCarthy Road||Francis P. McCarthy (1917–1942)||Captain, United States Marine Corps Aviation (Distinguished Flying Cross)|
|Nightingale Path||William E. Nightingale (1924–1945)||Flight Officer Royal Canadian Air Force|
|O'Connell Road||Frederick P. O'Connell (1921–1944)||Corporal, VMCR Class III-C|
|O'Rourke Path||John J. O'Rourke (1908–1942)||Specialist 5/c United States Army|
|Osborne Path||William H. Osborne (1913–1945)||Sergeant, United States Army Air Forces|
|Shumaker Path||Robert Shumaker (1924–1944)||Ensign, United States Navy Aviation – 2nd Lt. United States Marine Corps (NAVC)|
|Shute Path||George B. Shute (1923–1945)||Private, United States Army|
|Spiers Road||William A. Spiers (1924–1944)||Private First Class, United States Marine Corps|
|Stein Circle||Robert F. Stein (1920–1944)||Co. C 101st United States Army|
|Timson Path||Frederick H. Timson, Jr. (1906–1945)||Private, United States Army Air Forces|
|Tocci Path||Nicholas Tocci (1920–1945)||Private, United States Army|
|Van Roosen Road||Hugh Van Roosen (1922–1943)||LTJG, United States Navy (Purple Heart and Navy Cross). Graduate of United States Naval Academy.|
|Van Wart Path||Paul H. Van Wart (1922–1945)||Sergeant, United States Army Air Forces|
|Walsh Road||George E. Walsh (1906–1945)|
|Wiswall Road||Noah Wiswall (1699–1786) and Jeremiah Wiswall (1725–1809)||Captain, East Newton Company of Minutemen, Concord and Dorchester, American Revolutionary War. Noah Wiswall was wounded at the Battle of Lexington.|
|Young Path||Frank W. Young, Jr. (1912–1944)||Sergeant, United States Army|
- City of Newton Geographic Information System (2012-03-06). "City of Newton, Massachusetts: Villages". City of Newton Map Library. Newton, Massachusetts: City of Newton Geographic Information System. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- Samuel Francis Smith (1880). History of Newton, Massachusetts. Boston, Massachusetts: The American Logotype Company. p. 146. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- William Richard Cutter; William Frederick Adams (1910). Genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of the State of Massachusetts, Volume 4. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company. pp. 2359–63. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- J.B. Beers and Company (1886). Atlas of the City of Newton, Massachusetts: compiled from actual surveys and records. New York: J.B. Beers and Company. p. Section V. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
The current locations of Oak Hill Park (property owned by William Clement Wiswall, A. Wiswall, P. Mullens, and Amos Esty) and Mount Ida College (property owned by William Sumner Appleton (1840-1903), father of William Sumner Appleton Junior) are clearly visible on this 1886 map of Newton Massachusetts.
- Winchester Street Burying Grounds, Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
- Old East Parish Burying Ground, Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
- Secretary of the Commonwealth (1946). "Chap.372: An act to provide housing for veterans of World War II". Acts and Resolves passed by the general court of Massachusetts, 1946. Boston, MA: Wright & Potter Printing Company. pp. 380–6. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- Newton Planning and Development Department; Newton Historical Commission (2002). "Discover Historic Oak Hill Park". Historic Neighborhood Walking Tours. Newton, Massachusetts: Newton Historical Commission. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- American Antiquarian Society: Photographs of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Structures in Massachusetts taken 1887-1945 by Harriette Merrifield Forbes. Murdock Wiswall House, Newton, Massachusetts, August 15, 1935. Accessed 03-26-2010.
- Blake, JB (1848). "Map of the town of Newton". City of Newton Map Library. Newton, Massachusetts: City of Newton Geographic Information System. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- Walling, HF (1855). "Map of the town of Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts". City of Newton Map Library. Newton, Massachusetts: City of Newton Geographic Information System. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- Crowder, Michael J. (2000). United States Marine Corps Aviation Squadron Lineage, Insignia & History – Volume One – The Fighter Squadrons. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 1-56311-926-9.
- "First Lieutenant Robert M. Hanson, USMCR". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
- "Medal of Honor — 1stLt Robert M. Hanson (Medal of Honor citation)". Marines Awarded the Medal of Honor. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 2007-02-20.
- Clarence Augustus Wiswall (1925). A Wiswall line: ten generations in descent from Elder Thomas Wiswall, of Dorchester, 1635, to James Boit Wiswall, Wakefield, Massachusetts, 1925. University of Wisconsin – Madison: the author.
- Frank Warren Coburn (1912). The battle of April 19, 1775. Lexington, Massachusetts: the author. p. 158. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- Richard Frothingham (1903). History of the siege of Boston. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown & Company. p. 81.
- Newton Historical Commission: Discover Historic Oak Hill Park, Newton Neighborhood Brochure Program, July 2002
- Boston Suburbs (section: Newton) (PDF). Boston, Massachusetts. p. 90. Retrieved 2010-03-26.