‘Jamaica Plain Through Time’ Takes Readers on Historical Tour of Neighborhood

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Historian Anthony Sammarco's newest book Jamaica Plain Through Time chronicles the neighborhood from the late 19th century through to the 21st century.

The Moxieland Plant was at the corner of Heath and Bickford Streets, and had a large production and bottling plant for the once famous soft drink.

The following is from Sammarco's book with contemporary photographs by Peter B. Kingman.

Known in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the Jamaica End of Roxbury, the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, evolved from agrarian farmland for over 200 years into one of the more dynamic and inclusive neighborhoods of twenty-first century Boston.

Jamaica Plain became one of the earliest streetcar suburbs of Boston with various forms of transportation linking it to downtown Boston. With horse drawn streetcars, the Boston & Providence Railroad as well as the Boston Elevated Railway, by the turn of the twentieth century, the ease of transportation allowed a thriving nexus of cultures to move to a community that not only saw tremendous residential and commercial development, especially with the numerous breweries along the Stony Brook, but also green space and open lands that were laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted as a part of the "Emerald Necklace" of Boston. Its bucolic setting led to Jamaica Plain being called The Eden of America.

In the twentieth century, Jamaica Plain was also to become the location of numerous hospitals and institutions that provided care for Bostonians. The Faulkner, Washington, Shattuck, Vincent Memorial, Massachusetts Osteopathic and the Veterans Administration Hospitals; the New England Home for Little Wanderers and the Trinity Church Home; the Boston School of Physical Education, the Eliot School, the Perkins School for the Blind and the Nursery for Blind Babies; the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Children's Museum all contributed to Jamaica Plain's pride of place in Boston.

Moxieland: The Moxieland Plant was at the corner of Heath and Bickford Streets, and had a large production and bottling plant for the once famous soft drink. Moxie, a sweet drink with a distinctly bitter aftertaste, originated in 1876 as a patent medicine using gentian root and was called “Moxie Nerve Food,” and was among the first mass produced soft drinks in the United States. Between 1928 and 1953 Moxie was bottled at 74 Heath Street and was so popular that it claimed that it helped “recover brain and nervous exhaustion, loss of manhood, imbecility, and helplessness.” The plant closed in 1952 when the City of Boston took the land for the Bromley Heath Housing Development, now named the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments.

Hi-Lo Foods, which literally translates to “High value, Low prices,” was a supermarket at 450 Centre Street in the Hyde Square.

Hi-Lo: Hi-Lo Foods, which literally translates to “High value, Low prices,” was a supermarket at 450 Centre Street in the Hyde Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Knapp Food Group, the Massachusetts-based owners of Hi-Lo, created a well-known and popular source for inexpensive groceries and Latin foods with hard-to-find cookies, produce, sodas, meats and spices from all over the Caribbean and Latin and South America. The almost fifty-year-old supermarket, originally known as Sklars Market, closed in 2011 and was replaced by the Texas based Whole Foods Market.

Midway Café at 3496 Washington Street has long been promoted as Boston’s Best Live Music and has a loyal following.

Midway Cafe: Midway Café at 3496 Washington Street has long been promoted as Boston’s Best Live Music and has a loyal following. Since 1987, the café has presented the best acts, and the widest variety of acts, in Boston. From live music, Open Mic Night, Midway or the Highway Comedy, Hippie Hour with the Mystical Misfits, The Peppermints and Hippie Hour with Uncle Johnny’s Band, as well as Queeraoke, this is certainly one place that has not just a decided vibe but a devoted following of “creative hipsters.”

Anthony Mitchell Sammarco is a noted historian and author of over seventy books
on the history and development of Boston, and he lectures widely on the history
and development of his native city. He commenced writing in 1995, and his books
Lost Boston, The History of Howard Johnson’s: How A Massachusetts Soda
Fountain Became a Roadside Icon, Jordan Marsh: New England’s Largest Store
and The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History have made the bestsellers
list.

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