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Mead Street Home Once Part of Garden Estate

The land owned by successful Morocco dresser Isaac Mead once encompassed several streets, stretching to Bunker Hill.

The land on which the house at 38 Mead St. presently stands was once part of Isaac Mead’s estate. That great swath of land originally encompassed Main, Eden, Mead, Russell and Oak streets and stretched to Bunker Hill Street.

The estate included an enormous garden, known as the Vineyard, at the corner of Eden and Russell. According to Timothy Sawyer’s "Old Charlestown," the Vineyard contained "rare and beautiful plants" known to horticulturalists throughout the United States. Sawyer writes that this experimental garden was "devoted to the testing of foreign varieties of grapes," and to the introduction of Keen’s seedling strawberry from Europe. There was also a greenhouse filled with varieties of camellia.

Isaac Mead was one of Charlestown’s most successful early 19th century Morocco dressers. With several factories at the Neck "and elsewhere, with a store in North Market, Boston," Meade conducted a profitable trade in sheep and goat skins.  He and his wife Alice seemed to be a force for good, with Isaac aiding in founding the First Universalist Society while Alice helped organize the Female Benevolent Society of Charlestown.

The enormous Mead estate was ultimately parceled out, as Mead Street itself was laid out in the late 1820s. Alice Mead sold the lot to Thomas Greenleaf, a carpenter, who most likely built the house at 38 Mead. Ruth Rose Foster was the house’s first owner. Franklin Lane, a milkman, owned 38 Mead until at least the early 1900s.

  • Where is it? 38 Mead St.
  • When was it built? 1840
  • Who built it? Thomas Greenleaf
  • What was it built for and who was the first occupant? Ruth Rose (Mrs. Gideon) Foster
  • How was it built? It is a multi-segment Greek Revival wood-framed house with a rubble stone foundation. A rear ell abuts a stable.
  • What are the future plans for the structure? The house is privately owned and occupied.

Information for this article was compiled from various research materials, including "Old Charlestown" by Timothy Thompson Sawyer and Boston Landmarks Commission.

Mary Brock January 05, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Really fascinating article, Helen. So, if Mead traded in sheep and goat skins, is that why we called it "Nanny Goat Hill"? Thanks for the wonderful, informative story.
Helen O'Neil January 05, 2013 at 08:23 PM
That's a great question, Mary. This is the hill below what used to be St Francis de Sales School (now Orchard Hill condos). I wonder if anyone knows how the hill got the name Nanny Goat Hill.

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