7 Merrill Street
Isadore Smart Cottage, c. 1860
One of the earliest surviving structures on Crow Point is the house at 7 Merrill Street, erected around 1860. It was there even before Merrill Street was officially recognized by the town as a “public highway” in 1896. Its mansard roof is one of the remnants of the original construction. After the Civil War, the Mansard style became popular with rich and poor alike because it provided a full attic for living space. The house’s stately portico and fish-scale shingles are modern enhancements.
Along with a few similar cottages dotting tits hillsides, Crow Point boasted four mansions by the 1890s. Living conditions were rather primitive, however: modern sewer service was no introduced in the area until the late 1940s. For a number of years before and after Melville Garden closed, Crow Point’s cottages served principally as summer rentals for Boston families.
7 Merrill was most likely built to serve as a workers’ cottage soon after Samuel Downer purchased the land at Crow Point for his proposed kerosene factory. The first recorded owner was Isadore Smart of Cambridge, who appears to have rented it as early as 1879 to the firm of “Frasier and Smith.” Daniel E. Frasier was a manufacturer of the felt covers for piano key hammers. His main operation was located in Cambridge, but perhaps there was a good market for his wares in the music halls of Melville Garden. By 1892, the house was also serving as a summer cottage for Frasier and his family. Next door, in the newer “Jones” cottage, resided the families of Edwin A. Grozier, editor and owner of the Boston Post, and William J. Covill. Grozier had once served as Joseph Pulitzer’s private secretary. Both Grozier and Frasier lived in Cambridge and were active in the social scene there. The three families had Merrill Street to themselves that summer and could watch the steamboats come in to Downer’s Wharf from their back porches.
In 1897, all of Crow Point was surveyed and subdivided into lots for sale. The lots were small, and it appears that few were purchased singly. The history of 7 Merrill is murky after that. It might have been Daniel Frasier who transferred one of the old pavilions from Melville Garden tp the north corner of the house when the park was dismantled in late 1896. The property doesn’t surface again in county records until 1944 when it was purchased from the Downer estate by George and Margaret Knight. (It is not clear when the house was re-acquired by the Downer estate.) The Knights also purchased the adjacent property where the old “Jones Cottage” stood. They tore down the Jones cottage in 1956 and doubled the size of 7 Merrill the following year, making it a comfortable, modern year-round home. Presumably, most of the old interior was removed at that time. A photo from 1956, just before the Knights began their renovations, shows the Jones cottage before it was razed. It is similar in style and size, and though it would be considered impractically small by today’s standards, no fewer than eight members of the Grozier and Covill families spent the summer of 1892 there.
The Knights’ renovations to 7 Merrill included moving the main entrance of the house to the driveway side to accommodate easier access from a car. The current owners have restored the entrance to the front of the house, where it was originally located, and added the portico and an extra chimney for symmetry. Also new is the extension to the living room overlooking Hingham Harbor and an inviting rear terrace.