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The Ball Hughes moved to Sunnyside at 1 School St. in Dorchester, MA in 1851.

"Here they entertained some of the world's leading celebrities including Charles Dickens, the author, and Jane Stuart, the artist." (Dorchester Atheneum)

Illustration in:
Good Old Dorchester by William Dana Orcutt, Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, UP, 1893, p. 387
    According to the Dorchester Atheneum, "A photograph of this sketch at the Dorchester Historical Society has noted on the back that this scene was sketched by Mrs. Hughes."
    The New England colonial style home was bordered by a white painted fence atop a stone retaining wall.

 Photo of Sunnyside
Circa 1850's?
from a Stereoscopic Card
Image courtesy of Frederick R. Brown III
New Photo

    Sunnyside was also the name of Washington Irving's home in Tarrytown, New York.  Robert Ball Hughes created a plaster bust of the famous author in 1836.  The mansion, as it has been called, was originally owned by Captain Jeremiah Spalding who made his fortune in trade with the Far East.  Orcutt, in Good Old Dorchester, incorrectly states that Jeremiah Spaulding owned the home after the Ball Hughes and before Georgiana Ball Hughes.

"In urging him to give up a too active city life, his friends showed how great was their affection for him; he understood all this, and was soon persuaded that it would be best for himself and family. A large old fashioned house, at the corner of School St on the upper road Dorchester, was the one to which they removed.  It was an old place with large garden, well stocked with delicious fruit – a place where everything around and about it show’d how well it had been cultivated.  I recall those days with intense pleasure said Mrs. Hughes . for my husband seem’d very happy . and gained strength daily – and he began to think that nature was the kindest mother, and Physician for a weary mind.  He selected for his study a pleasant room with two south windows – and a north window was afterwards added _  and for marble works a large part of the barn was turned into a beautiful studio . where he could model anything – for he had brought with him into this new Home, his exhaustless talent, and well he used it, well he knew that feeling is nothing unless it crystallizes into action.  His first work in his barn studio was to carve a Marble Bust of  Dr. N. Bowditch for the family _ Then to gratify his ideal . a life size Fisher boy _ which was exhibited greatly admired – and sold to the late Dr. Weiselhoff –"
    The photo above shows an arbor in front of the entrance and the fruit trees that Eliza described.  Note the similarity of the large tree in the photo above to the one in Eliza's illustration above.

Milestone: 5 Miles to Boston
at the corner of Washington & School Sts.
from 1850's photo of Sunnyside above

    Also note the milestone on the street corner facing Washington St. to the right. A 
Presentation Portrait of a Dog to Pewterer Roswell Gleason by Robert Ball Hughes, shows a milestone that says "Five miles to Boston." Washington St. was called the "Upper Road" at the time. According to the Brookline Historical Society, in 1909: "[the 5 mile] stone should be near the corner of Washington and School streets, Dorchester, but it has disappeared."

    This photo reminds me of the March family home in the movie,
Little Women (1994), which was set in Civil War era Concord, MA. This movie helps me to visualize what life must have been like for the Ball Hugheses in Dorchester.

    In 1866, at the urging of her mother, Georgina Ball Hughes purchased the family home, Sunnyside, in Dorchester, MA.  Robert and Eliza continued to live there, probably with Georgina at times. She spent much of her time (reportedly 23 years) in London, England working as an accomplished artist.  Georgina never married and died in the home in 1911.

    According to an obituary of Georgina Ball HughesCharles Dickens sent the Ball Hughes a picture of himself after his visit.  Shakespearean actor, Edwin Booth, was a friend who visited the family according to the obituary for Georgiana Ball Hughes.  He made his stage debut in Boston in 1849.  For a short time in 1863 he lived at 386 Washington Street, around the corner from Sunnyside.

    The photo below shows a telephone pole, a kerosene street lamp on a pulley, and a "To Let" (For Rent) sign on the tree.  The date of photo unknown but could be in the 1880's after the invention of the telephone in Boston and before the commercialization of electric power. The fence is gone from atop the stone wall and the arbor and fruit trees are gone.


University of Massachusetts Archives
Circa 1880's?


Courtesy Boston Public Library
Available on Flickr
Circa 1898

    The photo above is from the Boston Public Library's Old Boston Photo Collection available on Boston Public Library's photostream on Flickr.  According to the BPL, "The Old Boston Collection, a series of late 19th century photographs of historic Boston sites, was rediscovered by the Boston Public Library in 2007. Although the origin and early history of the collection remains a bit of a mystery, we believe that the prints represent the work of photographers affiliated with the Boston Camera Club (B.C.C.) and that the photographic project was done under the auspices of the B.C.C."  Read more comments about the collection.


Scan from 1894 Bromley Atlas Map by Dorchester Atheneum


Property map from
    The 1894 map above shows the house in two parts, connected and offset from each other.  I originally thought that the right-hand half of the home was demolished since there is a newer commercial building at the corner of School and Washington Streets on the current property map and satellite photos.  In the old photo above from UMass, it looks like the far left corner of the front of the home was open for a porch or carriage.  It also appears that the remaining section is not as long as the left-hand structure shown on the 1894 map.

    The left-hand section is described as the "annex on the School St. side of the rambling old building" in the 1911 obituary for
Georgina Ball Hughes.  She died in the home at age 82 after living there since 1851. In the 
Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, p. 24, Eliza describes the annex as the barn: "for marble works a large part of the barn was turned into a beautiful studio . where he could model anything." 

    The Dorchester Historical Society corrected my assumption by informing me that the house was moved 60 foot west (to the left) to make room for a brick commercial storefront on Washington St.  Many houses were moved in the 19th century to preserve them and make room to new construction.  The house may have been moved after Georgiana Ball Hughes died in 1911 but I don't know when. The address is now 3 School St.

    According to the current assessment record, the house is 1,600 sq. ft.  Originally, it may have been over 3,000 sq. ft. including the structure on the left-hand side.  The house was believed to be over 200 years old in 1911 according to the obituary for Georgina Ball Hughes.  According to the Boston Public Library, the house was built about 1780, making it over 200 years old.  It was assessed at $163,400 in 2010, a decrease of about $60,000 from a high of $223,300 in 2007.  Zillow.com has its' value estimated at $272,500 (2/21/2010).  Zillow incorrectly lists the year built as 1880.

    The newer commercial building at the corner of School and Washington Streets is 423 Washington St., owned by the Boston Society of Vulcans.  It sits on the original location of the right-hand (main) section of the Ball Hughes home.  I don't know when it was built.

    Aerial views from four directions and street views are available at Microsoft Virtual Earth Bird's Eye View from Zillow.com.  Select "Birds eye view" or "Street view".

    You can also see a recent street view on Google Maps.  There are three different School Streets in Boston and two of them cross streets named Washington.  This one is in Dorchester, Zipcode 02124.  If you have trouble with this link, Google "3 School St 02124" for Maps.  Click on the "A" location marker on the map and click on "Street view".  You can move around past the front of the home.  The house is now covered with vinyl siding and has a front porch that was added.  The old stone retaining wall is visible behind the sidewalk.  It looks like the house sits several feet higher than the street. I'm not showing the street view image here for the privacy of the occupants but you can find it at the Google Maps link above.

    The Dorchester Atheneum included the Ball Hughes home on its 2006 Top Ten Endangered Properties.

Please Help

Do you know when the home was built and when it was altered (annex demolished) and moved? 
last update 3/23/2012
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2012

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