Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Dutch Cocoa House

Yesterday, my journey from Francis Street in Brookline to Francis Street in Boston took me along Netherlands Road. I'd never been there before and I was amazed to discover this:

It sat among ordinary houses like a mirage. Lost and late as I was, I had to stop, stare, and snap a photo. "Netherlands Road" now made sense. There aren't many Dutch houses in this country, let alone in New England. But there's been a Dutch House in Brookline since 1894.

It was built as the pavilion for the Van Houten Cocoa Company for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. (Ah, cocoa, yet another sugar-laden beverage I should now forego.) When the fair ended, Charles B. Appleton had it moved to Brookline. You can read more about the Dutch House here.

I just looked up Charles Appleton. I didn't find much, but I see he was a Mayflower descendant of William Brewster, as was Dr. Jane Kelly Sabine, who lived at my address. This makes them distant cousins. Perhaps Jane, Wallace, and their daughters were guests at his incredible house. I no longer despair of finding answers to such long-shot questions like that as I continue to research this remarkable family. I've found too many unexpected answers already that I believe anything is possible.

Naturally, I wondered about the interiors. No matter how marvelously a house may be preserved on the outside, the inside is often another, tragic story. Had it been broken up into awkward apartments or condos? Had every scrap of original detail been torn out and replaced with sheetrock and contractor-grade "updates"?

The answer appears to be No, as far as I can tell. If you are curious about the interior, you are welcome to take a look. Keep in mind that those photos were taken four years ago. But a lot of lovely detail remained then, a good sign. I never saw the listing back then because my daily search results never include properties this huge, a ploy to protect me from falling for a massive house like this. (Because if I could have possibly bought this house, I would have.)

I plan to take a walk around the neighborhood to see what other treasures I might find. Brookline and Newton continue to hold wonderful 19th-century surprises for me — often finer and stranger than I ever imagined.


  1. what a beautiful home. Thank you for finding the insides for me, because one of my first thoughts was I wondered what it looked like inside.

  2. What a find! That's part of what we love about strolling in cities...There is always something new and fun to discover. Happy Thanksgiving!


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