Everett’ Historical Properties: 6-8 Walnut Street — The Wilbur Apartment Building

(The following is a weekly feature in the Independent based on the City’s 2018 Historic Property Survey done to note the many little-known historically significant properties within the city.)

Architectural Description

The Wilbur Apartment Building is a courtyard type apartment building unusual for combining 32 flats with a row of seven storefronts. The three-story, U-shaped brick building has an open courtyard facing Walnut Street with a line of single-story storefronts facing Hancock Street to the west and wrapping around the corner to Walnut Street as well. The brick apartment building has concrete trim including a wide frieze with fine dentil course above the first floor windows and more narrow belt courses below the second and third story windows. Near the top of the building is another wide frieze with more pronounced dentils. At each end of the apartment block and at the center of the courtyard there is a stepped concrete panel decorated by a shield with foliate ornament. At the center of the courtyard, the main entrance to the apartments is emphasized by an elaborate two-story centerpiece. The doorway is capped by a pediment supported by unfluted columns flanked on each side by a single window and outer pilaster. On the second floor, there is a pair of windows set in an earred concrete surround, topped by a segmental pediment. To either side, an individual window is decorated by a side console. Remaining windows on the apartment building include individual, double and sets of three windows all with 1/1 sash.

The single-story storefronts have been heavily altered over the years but retain some elements to suggest their original design including quoining, thin pilasters with foliate capitals and stuccoed wall surfaces. An additional concrete gabled parapet with shield is centered over the Hancock Street storefronts.

The Wilbur is one of a small number of open courtyard apartment buildings constructed in Everett in the early 20th century.

The courtyard type apartment building was originated by Ralph Adams Cram with his design for Richmond Court on Beacon Street in Brookline in 1898. The Everett versions are considerably more modest than the Brookline model – other local examples include Aubrey Manor, 5-15 Hancock Street and The Bucknam at 68 Linden Street.

Historical Narrative

This modern apartment building (“The Wilbur”) replaced a single-family dwelling fronting Hancock Street. It was built in 1928 for Edith M. O’Brien. The 1928 Boston directory indicates that she worked in real estate with an office at 73 Tremont Street in Boston and resided at 209 Linden Street in Everett. No additional information was found concerning Edith O’Brien who apparently sold the property soon thereafter. According to State Inspection Records, the building was designed by Byron Earl Porter (1890-1970) of Lynn.

The 1930 Everett Directory combined with the 1930 Census provides insight into the early tenants who rented apartments in “The Wilbur”. Their occupations included managers, superintendents, salesmen, teachers, a lawyer, and a hotel steward. In some cases, widows occupied units with their daughters. Most were married couples. Monthly rents ranged from $45 to $60/month with both two and three-room apartments. They offered full kitchens and tile baths with showers.

In 1930 the storefront at 63 Hancock Street was occupied by Ella Gerrish, confectioner. By 1940 Williams Pharmacy occupied the space. A barber occupied 65 Hancock for many years (Joseph Nocera in 1930 and Harry Jenkins in 1940). Leo Silviate’s shoe repair business was located at 67 Hancock during this time period while Abraham Gordon’s tailor shop was at 69 Hancock.

The building was designed by Byron Earl Porter (1890-1970) who was born in Lynn. The 1913 directory lists Porter as a draftsman working at 25 Exchange Street in Boston but by 1914 he was listed as an architect, apparently self-proclaimed. He studied evenings at the Huntington School of Architecture from 1907 to 1915 and also studied with the International Correspondence School in Scranton, Pennsylvania from 1908 to 1918 where he earned a diploma (American Architects Directory 1962). Prior to 1922 he maintained an office in Lynn; in 1922 he moved to an office at 1119 Tremont Street in Boston.

MACRIS has 10 references for Byron Porter including buildings in Salem, Marblehead, Medford, Brookline and Boston between 1911 and 1931. The only apartment building listed is located at 148 High Street in Medford, a brick Classical Revival structure with tile roof designed in 1931. He later worked as a designer for E.I. du Pont from 1942 to 1945. He moved to Spokane, Washington where he worked for Whitehouse & Price from 1945 to 1952 and then established his own practice in that city, where he died in 1970. In the 1962 edition of the American Architects Directory, he cited three works from the time spent in the Boston area: O’Hara Apartment Building, Medford, the Palmer and Lorraine Apartment Buildings in Lynn, and the Shay Building in Boston.

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