The following article has been republished on Jamaica Plain News with permission from the author and the Jamaica Plain Historical Society.
“I was introduced to Joyce “Joy” Fisher by a mutual friend who knew I loved Jamaica Plain history, especially the history of houses and the people that lived in them. Joy and I met for the first time in November 2021 to talk about the history of her family. From then on, I visited her every Monday at her house to kibbitz about history and our lives, and most importantly, to bake! The following article is part oral history and part research from primary sources, including publicly available records and Joy’s personal family collection. It is also a labor of love and a way to honor my friend whom I will miss dearly.”
— JENNY NATHANS
Architecture of 48 Rockview Street
At the apex of the hill that is Rockview Street in Jamaica Plain is the home of Joyce “Joy” Fisher, a life-long resident of the neighborhood. Joy began her life at the house at 48 Rockview Street. Though modest in appearance from behind tall bushes, Joy’s house has unusual architectural features. It also contains an exquisite mural painted by her grandfather, a German muralist and interior decorator, who lived next door.
48 Rockview Street is a single-family house that was built in 1930 for Joy’s parents, Nora K. (Bang) Fisher and Dana W. Fisher, Jr. (pictured below). The 1 ½-story house is a fully intact example of a high style Colonial Revival, full Cape. The architect and contractor for the house was Frank Fryer of 1175 East Street in Dedham, Massachusetts. As Joy explained, the house was designed to resemble a house that the designer built in East Dedham.
Classical Revival features include the narrow pilasters and broken pediment around the front door of the portico. Above the door is also a transom with four bullseye lights. The two dormers on the front of the house are topped with simple pediments. The molded box cornice has partial returns across the gable ends, suggesting the shape of a Classical pediment.
Rather than having simple corner boards, there is quoining on the front two corners of the house, a very unusual element for a 1930’s Cape. The house retains its original twelve-over-twelve double-hung sash windows. A few windows also retain their original two-over-two wooden storm windows. The remaining original storm windows are being stored in the basement of the house. Pintels remain on some of the windows where shutters once hung. The windows on the front of the house are flanked with shutters that have cutouts of fir trees, an unusual detail for a high-style design.
The windows on the second floor of the house, on the side elevations, have slightly projecting frames, which can be seen at the band molding around the edges of the windows. Projecting frames are typically an indication of an 18th century or early 19th century plank-construction, rather than the post-1830’s balloon construction. In plank construction, the planks did not allow for sufficient depth for a window to be recessed within the wall, which would cause the windows to project. The design of 48 Rockview Street imitates that pre-1830’s feature. Finally, beneath the gable sits a small and narrow 8-light attic window. The foundation of the house is constructed with concrete block, and the roof has always been covered with asphalt shingles.
The interior of the house also invokes Classical elements, including three embossed figures above the doors and windows of the front vestibule (one pictured here, the rest in the accompanying Photo Gallery). It is likely that those figures were created by Joy’s grandfather, Frederick Marcus Bang. Bang was a muralist who drew on Classical images in his work. Along the ceiling of the large living room is molded trim. At each end of the room is a single herald on each wall. The stained wood and brick fireplace is Colonial Revival in style with pilasters and a broad lintel.
The formal dining room includes crown molding, wainscoting, and a built-in cabinet. The most striking feature of the house can also be found in this room: all four walls are decorated with a hand-painted mural of a landscape. The mural features hills, flowers, trees and clouds, a bridge spanning a river, a castle atop a hill with a village below, Classical Greek architecture, and a statue and fountain, also of Classical design. The mural was painted by Frederick Marcus Bang, a professional fresco painter and interior designer from Germany. Bang was the father of Nora K. (Bang) Fisher, the original owner of the house, and the grandfather of Joy Fisher. Frederick Bang lived next door to the Fishers at 44 Rockview Street and painted the mural in his daughter’s house shortly after it was built.
Joy shared her admiration of her grandfather’s artistry:
“What’s interesting about the dining room is that each of the panels stand by itself. They are all very different scenes. The one that you see that is close to the built-in cabinet, it’s sort of, to me, a combination of the Rhine River and a castle. In the background it looks so very New England, with church steeples and barns and things like that. On another, is a cottage next to a stream with flowers in front that looks very English. When I stop to think about the creativity that my grandfather put into that, and they are all linked together over the tops of the windows by sky, the painted sky. He was a genius.”
Frederick died when Joy was only five years old. But she remembers her artist grandfather in 1944, shortly before he died, looking around the dining room and saying, “I think this needs a little bit of touch-up,” and then him taking up his palate and paint brush and enhancing some of the colors. In contrast to the formal living and dining room, the design of the kitchen is less ornate. The ceiling of the kitchen has a simple trim, and the door surrounds are flat. The contrast in the design of the rooms creates a separation between the social and the utilitarian, the public rooms for entertaining and the private workspace.
The upstairs bedrooms have crown molding, and the small den has its original glass doorknobs and a built-in bookshelf. At the top of the staircase are shallow shapes simulating a balustrade and newel posts. The only major alteration made to the house since its construction was the addition of an enclosed back porch in 1939. Dana W. Fisher, Jr. drafted the original design of the porch, followed by a detailed blueprint from architect Myer Louis of 73 Cornhill, Boston. The porch also appears to have retained its original features, including the latticework at its base. A minor alteration was made to the steps leading to the front door of the house. Originally, they were made of bricks, placed in a half-moon shape. But eventually the steps started to crumble, so Nora Fisher replaced them with the current stoop.
Joy especially enjoyed the beautiful view from her home. She loved to look out the back window of her living room while sitting at her computer. The window looks out over a “wonderful yard” at Chestnut Place and a “wild expanse of open space that the turkeys love, and the rabbits go to, and all this wonderful wildlife.”
FREDERICK MARCUS BANG AND ANNA (OLSEN) BANG
Joy’s maternal grandfather, Friedrich “Frederick”/ “Fredric” Marcus Bang [Footnote 1], was born in the “Toll House” in the municipality of Klixbüll. This town is in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Fredrick was born on April 23, 1867 to Jüergen “Carl” Christian Bang and Catharina “Christine” (Jüergensen) Bang. As shared with this author by the Mayor of Klixbüll, Werner Schweizer, Fredrick’s birthplace, the Toll House (or Customs House) was located west of the B-5 Road between Klixbüll and the small city of Niebuell. German archives indicate that Fredrick’s father worked as a “Sattler/Sattelmacher” (saddler), and later as a “Chauseebaumpächter/Chausseeeinnehmer,” which is a “sort of cashpoint officer to take the fees for the use of a developed country road” (Bettina Dioum, email, 2022). This would explain why Fredrick was born in a toll house – his father was the toll collector! The Toll House was demolished around 1960.
This author is unaware of how many siblings Frederick had, but his birth and baptism records indicate that he may have had at least two sisters, Cathrine Magdalene, born in 1863, and Catharina Maria, born in 1865. After living in London, England, Frederick immigrated to the United States at age 32, sailing in the S.S. Ivernia from Liverpool on April 9, 1901, and arriving in the port of Boston on May 9, 1901. It was his first time in the United States. Frederick’s immigration records indicate that he practiced as a professional decorator while living in Germany. A sketchbook, dated 1884, shows that he was either studying to be, or practicing as, an interior decorator by age 17. It is also possible that he used the sketchbook during his travels around Europe. Joy Fisher explained that Frederick’s family paid for him to tour Europe to study the great artists.
At age 33, Frederick married Anna Otilie (Olsen/Ohlsen) Anderson, age 25, on March 10, 1902, in Roxbury, Massachusetts. It was Frederick’s first marriage, and Anna’s second, her first spouse having died young. At the time of their marriage, Frederick was living at 7 Shawmut St., Boston and was working as a “painter.” Anna was living in Winchendon and worked as a tailoress. Joy’s maternal grandmother, Anna, was born in Oslo, Norway on October 4, 1876 to Jonette Paulsen (born in Norway) and Anders Magnus Olsson (born in Sweden), in the neighborhood called Bislet. Anna was the second of five children, all born in Oslo (called Kristiania at the time): Birthe Mathilde Palma Olsen (“Mathilde”), Anna, Olaf Olsen, Nora Franceska Olsen, and Magda Josefine Olsen.
On October 22, 1899, at age 23, Anna married Ole Anton Anderson in Norway. However, Ole appears to have died no more than a year later, at age 21. Anna immigrated to the U.S. on September 20, 1900, at the age of 23. “Anna Anderson” is included in a list of passengers who were immigrants traveling in the S.S. New England that sailed from Liverpool to Boston, arriving on October 5, 1900. Her stated destination was the home of her uncle, August Hoffstett, in Winchendon. She had last been in the United States in 1895.
Anna’s brother and sister, Olaf and Mathilde, also immigrated to the United States. In 1903, Olaf lived at 274 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, at the same home as his sister, Anna, and her husband Frederick Bang. On February 23 of that year, Frederick and Anna’s daughter, and only child, Nora Anna Katharina Bang, was born. Two days later, on February 25, Olaf married Thea Mathilde Antonsdatter Braaten. Olaf’s sister, Mathilde, had married Thea’s brother, Karl Johan Antonsen Schjoberg, in 1898 in Oslo. So, brother and sister married a brother and sister!
Anna’s brother and sister, Olaf and Mathilde, also immigrated to the United States. In 1903, Olaf lived at 274 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, at the same home as his sister, Anna, and her husband Frederick Bang. On February 23rd of that year, Frederick and Anna’s daughter, and only child, Nora Anna Katharina Bang, was born. Two days later, on February 25, Olaf married Thea Mathilde Antonsdatter Braaten. Olaf’s sister, Mathilde, had married Thea’s brother, Karl Johan Antonsen Schjoberg, in 1898 in Oslo. Thus, brother and sister married a brother and sister! In Norwegian, the term for grandmother is “Bestemor,” which is how Joy referred to her grandmother, Anna. Though the Norwegian word for grandfather is “Bestefar,” Joy always called her grandfather, Frederick, “Bestapapa” because her mother called him Papa. Joy described her Bestemor:
“She was absolutely exquisite. She was very spoiled because she was so beautiful, and because she was so petite at 4’11”, people just wanted to take care of her. According to my mother, she could have been a ballerina she was so graceful. She was also a fabulous skier. She came to the United States initially when she was 18. To me it is so extraordinary, a young girl coming from Norway who had no English, could come into New York, and make her way to Wisconsin to her grandmother’s; how does that happen? To the best of my knowledge [she came on her own]. She returned to Norway and married, but her husband died. She came back to America [in her early 20’s]. Somehow, she came back to Massachusetts, and she met my grandfather in Western Massachusetts.”
Anna was a seamstress by profession and an artist in her own right. She created exquisite inlays of lace and other delicate works. From at least 1903 until 1905, the Bangs lived at 274 Centre St., Jamaica Plain. From 1906 to 1909, the family lived at 100 Wyman Street. A postcard written to Frederick Bang indicates that they lived on Wyman Street in 1913; however, other historical records document that they resided at 51 Boylston Street from 1910 to 1916, so the location of their residence during that time is unclear. It is possible that the postcard was mistakenly mailed to an old address. In 1917 the family moved to 62 Jamaica Street, where they lived until 1924. In 1915, at the age of 48, Frederick applied for citizenship. His Declaration of Intent indicated that he was 5’9”, 152 lbs., and had gray hair and gray eyes. His application for citizenship was denied the following year because his Declaration of Intention lapsed before his Petition for Naturalization was filed. In 1917, the Bangs moved to 62 Jamaica Street in Jamaica Plain. That same year their daughter, Nora, graduated junior high from the Bowditch School. On February 28, 1921, Frederick finally became a U.S. citizen.
By at least 1904, Frederick Bang was working as a fresco painter in Boston. The 1910 U.S. census also indicates that he worked as a house decorator; the 1920 census said he worked as a painter for a “shop”; and the 1930 census stated that he was an interior decorator. Frederick Bang worked for the well-known Boston-based decorating agency Sofus L. Mortensen, Co. During his tenure with Mortensen, including at least during the 1920’s and 30’s, Bang decorated the interiors of churches, including St. Julia’s Church in Weston, Immaculate Conception Church in Easthampton, and St. Catherine of Siena Church in Charlestown. Bang’s artistry can be seen in the drawings/paintings of church interiors that Bang created for his work with Mortensen’s agency.
On September 2, 1922, the Boston Globe reported that artist “F. Bang” painted the interior of the church St. Catherine of Siena in Charlestown, Mass., under the direction of Sofus L. Mortensen, mural decorator. The article stated that Bang was “one of the most noted [muralists] in the country” (Boston Globe, 1922, p.16). St. Catherine opened in 1887 and closed in 2006 when the Boston Archdiocese sold its buildings. The church still stands, with a Dollar Tree store operating in the basement level. It is unknown to this author whether the mural still remains in the interior of the church as she has not yet succeeded in making contact with the owners to visit the inside of the church.
Frederick Bang was also a highly skilled fine art painter and woodworker. Examples of his work are displayed around the house at 48 Rockview Street, including paintings on canvas and on wooden and metal trays, a bookshelf, and dollhouse furniture (see Photo Gallery). As Joy explained in a 2009 oral history documented by youth in the Peace Drum Project:
“When I was growing up during World War II they didn’t have great dollhouse furniture like they do now. My grandfather who was an artist made me all kinds of furniture. He made a couch, a stove, a sink, and all of these wonderful things for my dollhouse” (Peace Drum Project, p. 13).
In addition to his love of art, Joy recalls that her grandfather loved gardening. She can also remember her mother, Nora (Bang) Fisher, telling her that he would go to the Arnold Arboretum and pick the grapes from the vines, and bring them home to make wine. Frederick and Anna Bang traveled often, including voyaging in cargo ships with a limited number of passenger rooms. Joy states, “It certainly wasn’t glamourous in any way, but they would get to see different parts of the world.” Anna also went home to Norway every two years, “except for during the war.” A passenger list shows that Anna, age 38, and Nora, age 11, sailed from Bergen, Norway to New York City in the S.S. Bergensfjord on August 29 to September 7, 1914, returning from a trip to visit Anna’s father, who lived at 62 Pilestredet in Oslo. Joy explained that during that trip her mother and grandmother had trouble finding return passage because of the outbreak of World War I. Nora sailed to Oslo again in the summer of 1926, this time on her own.
In 1924, Frederick and Anna purchased and moved into 44 Rockview Street, Jamaica Plain a two-story frame house which still stands next to Joy’s house at 48 Rockview Street. The Bangs changed the occupancy of the 44 Rockview Street house from a single-family to a two-family home. On October 8, 1930, James J. Long and Olive May Long of Boston, sold to Frederick and Anna Bang lots D and C1 on Bates & Chellman’s plan of land drawn up on September 5, 1930. This property was 48 Rockview Street. The Bangs purchased the land for their daughter and son-in-law. The property contained 14,042 square feet of land and included a barn. The property was located directly next door to the Bangs’ home at 44 Rockview. Almost two weeks later, on October 20th, the Bangs sold 48 Rockview Street to their daughter, Nora K. (Bang) Fisher and their son-in-law, Dana W. Fisher, Jr.
On November 3rd of that year, Dana and Nora Fisher filled out an application to build a two-story, single-family home at 48 Rockview Street. The Boston City Archives and Joy Fisher own the original blueprints of the house. In 1932, Fredrick and Nora sailed in the ship S.S. Reliance to Hamburg, Germany. It is unclear whether they traveled there for a vacation or to visit Fredrick’s family. Frederick Bang appears to have retired either in 1935 or 1940, the year he filed his application for Social Security benefits. He died on November 13, 1944, at 44 Rockview Street, at the age of 77. Anna K. (Olsen) Bang died on March 29, 1960, in Foxborough, Massachusetts, at the age of 84. Her cause of death was pulmonary thrombosis. Her medical condition was coronary sclerosis. 48 Rockview Street remained in the Fisher/Bang family, and Joy Fisher resided there, until she passed away in January 2023.
Part II of the article will be published on Friday on Jamaica Plain News.