Cottage Freeman Historic District
The area included in the Cottage-Freeman Historic District was little developed before 1870. The right-of-way for today's Commonwealth Avenue existed in the 18th century, and Freeman Street was open to traffic by the early 19th century. Cottage Street was likely created just before or at the time that intense residential development occurred in the 1880s..Two houses, 4 and 5 Park Lane, appear to date to the 1830s and may relate to the industrial activity on the nearby Ten Mile River that began soon after 1800. Most houses, however, were built over a short period of time, as discussed here in the context of community development.
Built almost entirely between 1870 and 1890 (with only three exceptions, two earlier and one later), the houses in the district document the growth of a significant population of workers at the nearby jewelry factories in The Falls in the last quarter of the 19th century, when jewelry production peaked in the area. Every house within the district has a documented connection with the local jewelry industry: built or owned by a jewelry company or a jewelry manufacturer, built and owned by a jewelry worker, or occupied by a jewelry worker. Only the two early houses on Park Lane predate the area's jewelry-manufacturing escalation and may not owe their origins to individuals associated with it; they were, however, owned in the late 19th century by jewelry manufacturer B.S. Freeman Co.
Most (twenty-five, 86%) of the houses in the district were owned privately by individuals, not by a company. Such a pattern was typical in urban or urbanizing areas, where the real-estate market was sufficiently active to accommodate housing for workers without corporate involvement. Earlier directories do not document the specific workplace of the jewelers who lived here, but many probably worked at the Evans, Freeman, or Blackington plants located nearby on Robinson and Commonwealth Avenues.
The houses in the Cottage-Freeman Historic District offer a fine opportunity to observe the similarities and the variables within the area of late 19th-century vernacular domestic architecture. Their plans, their overall form, and their use of ornament are especially telling. Despite a range of typical late 19th-century visual distinctions among the houses here, they are divided into two basic plan types: the center-entrance, center-hall plan with symmetrical facade, and the off-center entrance, side-hall plan with asymmetrical facade. Ten of the houses (approximately 35%) in the district follow the symmetrical center-entrance plan, and they include all of the larger houses in the district. The earliest houses in the district, at 4 and 5 Park Lane, follow the center-entrance format used predominantly in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Other examples include the houses at 8 to 10 Cottage Street (circa 1880), 13 to 15 Freeman Street (circa 1890), 41 Freeman Street (circa 1880), 49 Freeman Street (circa 1880), 62 Freeman Street (circa 1880), 68 Freeman Street (circa 1880), and double houses at 29 to 31 Freeman Street (circa 1880) and 185 to 187 Commonwealth Avenue (circa 1875).
The nineteen other houses (approximately 65%) follow the asymmetrical facade side-hall plan. This simple organizational format is found more frequently in smaller houses for people of lower and moderate income, probably because it devotes more space to living areas than to circulation. In smaller houses, the maximum amount of useable space is far more important than in larger houses.
Since the early 1950s, the end of the period of significance, the district has experienced change through inappropriate maintenance. The application of artificial siding is perhaps the most significant. It represents, however, an attempt, however misguided, at maintaining largely owner-occupied single-family houses The district has not, however, seen demolition or construction of inappropriate new buildings. Both suggest that listing in the National Register and educational efforts about proper maintenance activities directed toward homeowners could only reinforce the visual and historical significance of the district.