Curious About the Names in Glass on Cordis?
Resident history writer Helen O'Neil answers a reader's question.
Patch recently had an e-mail from Audra Kilp asking us to look into the properties at 2,4,6 & 8 Cordis Street. Her e-mail asks: “Do you have any history on these properties? The names Alice, Florence, Ida and Grace are etched into the front door glass.”
Indeed they are. #2 and #4 Cordis is the first double-wide apartment building on the north corner of Warren and Cordis and #6 and #8 are next door. On each glass pane in the middle of each front door is etched one of these names.
It seems these buildings went up in the early 1900’s, and at first there wasn't much available information. Boston Landmarks Commission did a study of 12 Cordis Street—there is, apparently, no number 10—and #12 holds the key.
The home of John Doane, #12 Cordis Street, was built sometime between 1848 and 1852. Doane sold it to the iron merchant Charles Thompson, who was known throughout Massachusetts and within the state Democratic party. Thompson was the first Democratic candidate for mayor in 1847 and was also the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Also a member of the Governor’s Council and a state senator, Thompson apparently lived at 12 Cordis Street until he died in 1871. Dr Henry Arvin Houghton, a popular Charlestown physician, then occupied the house from 1875-1895.
The house at 12 Cordis Street was known for its linked chimney, its deep 'bracketed door hood' at the entrance and its enormous garden, with a fountain in the middle. The garden, famous for a ‘buckthorn hedge along an iron fence on two sides’, stretched to the corner of Cordis and Warren Street. The brick wall at the third side of the garden was ‘covered with begonias, Chinese wisteria, woodbine and other climbing plants.’
In the early 1900’s two beautiful apartment buildings—at 2,4,6, and 8 Cordis Street—were built by Alfred Lincoln on the land where the garden was. Each of the four doors has etched into its glass the names of Lincoln’s daughters: Ida, Grace, Florence and Alice. These are magnificent buildings with unusual girth. The dormer at #2 swells out over Warren Street.
- Where is it? 12 Cordis Street
- When was it built? 1848-1852
- What was it built for and who was the first occupant? It was built for John Doane.
- Why was it built? as a family home
- How was it built? of brick, with a flat front and side hall plan; in Greek Revival. The three-story house has a linked chimney, a granite block foundation and a gable roof. There is a multi-panel Victorian front door.
- What are the future plans for the structure? It is currently occupied and privately owned.
Information for this article was compiled from various research materials, including http://archive.org/stream/listofresidentst191005bost#page/n9/mode/2up/search/lincolns; Old Charlestown, by Timothy T. Sawyer; Boston Landmarks Commission; and great help from Ken Stone.