Ballou's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion: The Highland Villas / by Jason Turgeon

Some months back, I picked up a copy of something called Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion from 1855.  This early magazine is a treasure from cover to cover, but I bought it for the 2-page spread detailing 10 elaborate mansions that once graced Fort Hill and surrounding areas from Brookline Village to Warren Street.

At the time, Roxbury Highlands had transitioned out of working farmland and into an era of gentlemen’s estates, with huge houses perched on the high points to command sweeping views of the growing city.  Soon enough, these estates would be subdivided into smaller and smaller lots and the population would shift from Boston Brahmins and other bluebloods to a largely immigrant population.  But for the moment, in 1855, these hills were the equivalent of a gated community or a country club, and the residents lived in style.

I had been meaning to put together a much longer post with a map showing the locations of all of these mansions, several of which still stand, but as you can see by the paucity of my recent posts I haven’t had the time I would like to keep up the blog.  I had also planned on sharing a scan of the two pages at high resolution for people to zoom into.  But Ballou’s was printed on very large paper, 11x17 sheets, and I couldn’t find a scanner big enough to handle the whole thing so I had to scan on several sheets. My first attempt left me with unwieldy PDFs in 2 large files, and my second attempt was better but I managed to leave off 1/2 of the second page.  Between all the files I have a complete scan of the pages, but it’s ugly and I don’t have the time to fix it right now.

So instead of stitching these together into a beautiful large-scale jpeg that you can zoom into to your heart’s content and plotting these all out on a searchable map and even doing some research onto each of the 10 houses and their owners, I’m just going to place all this stuff here and let you enjoy them that way.  You can download 1 1/2 pages from the Flickr slideshow above (pro tip: from each picture’s page, click actions, then all sizes and you can download the pics at any resolution).

You can also download the complete versions of each page (including all of 377) from these 2 PDF links, about 7.5 MB each.

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Page 377