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Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House : Records, 1898-1972


3 document cases and 1 oz box


These records were donated to the Archives and Special Collections Department of the Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston Library by Shelly Neill, Executive Director, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House on January 10, 1997.


Between 1889 and 1895 a group of prominent people in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, who were influenced by contemporary writings on social conditions and the settlement house movement, formed three clubs for young people. These were the Jamaica Plan Working Girls' Club, the Junior Girls club and the Aggasiz Boys' Club. Under Mrs. Harold Ernst's leadership, the group opened a central club house named the Helen Weld House on Lamartine Street in 1897. The three clubs enjoyed accommodations at the club house that included classrooms and a large room which served as a gymnasium and lecture hall. In 1900 the House moved to 23 Carolina Avenue. In 1902 the House incorporated as the Helen Weld Association, a Massachusetts charitable corporation. Constituted for both philanthropy and the maintenance of a house in Jamaica Plain, the Helen Weld Association's stated goal was to provide for "the education and improvement of the working people of the community."

The House organized classes in clay-modelling, basketry, printing and gymnastics for boys, and embroidery, knitting and housekeeping for girls. The House also held social evenings and games. In 1907 the name of the Helen Weld House changed to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House Association (JPNH).

In the early years of the JPNH it was determined that Jamaica Plain needed a playground. Unable to obtain the city's cooperation, the House established a playground on the property surrounding 23 Carolina Street in 1902 . The city gradually assumed care for the playground and after persistent lobbying by the JPNH, the city purchased the site at 23 Carolina Avenue in 1912. The JPNH would continue to show an interest in playgrounds throughout its early history.

In 1919 the Jamaica Plain House Association purchased Boylston Hall at 276 Amory Street. The JPNH defined its service area as "that part of Jamaica Plain from Forest Hills on the south to Centre Street on the north; and from Franklin Park on the east to Centre Street and South Huntington on the west."

Over time the House increased its services. A dispensary was established, a library was attempted, and garden plots were planted and cultivated. During both world wars the house organized adult classes in home defense, first aid, and nutrition. However, clubs, classes, games, camping, baseball, basketball, and dances remained the main interests of the House. The House later provided a kindergarten and offered tutoring for school children.

Throughout its history the JPNH enjoyed working relationships with many private and public agencies, including many of Boston area teachers schools and universities In the late 1930s W.P.A. volunteers were among those who assisted the House. It cooperated with many city agencies including Public Health, Public Welfare, and the Probation Department. The JPNH also worked with many local private philanthropic organizations and acted as an intermediary for providing basic medical care in the local community. In its later period the JPNH provided day care services for the neighborhood. The House closed in 1997.

For additional background on the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House Association, see the History of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House Association. For similar settlement houses, see the Little House records (Collection: 78) the Federated Dorchester Neighborhood House records (Collection: 79) and the Dorchester House records (Collection 32) in the archives. The records of the Denison House are at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass.

Scope and Content

The records of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House Association span the years 1898 through 1972. The bulk of the records, however, cover the years 1898-1952. There is little documentation on JPNH activities after 1950. The records are arranged in five series:



This series contains the early by-laws and the minutes of the monthly and annual meetings from 1898 to 1972. The minutes are in five bound volumes. Also included are some treasurer reports through 1945.


Monthly narrative and statistical reports from the Headworker or Director to the Board of Directors. There are reports for 1916 through 1943 with some gaps.


This series contains a few press notices and a copy of a JPNH member newsletter, called The Jam. The Jam was on very poor quality paper and has been photocopied onto archival paper for preservation. The series


In this series are from two large scrapbooks that were acquired with the collection. Both of the scrapbooks contains clippings and printed material in addition to photographs. Some of the photographs are identified, many are not. The first scrapbook covered 1900(?) to 1950. The second was from 1951 to circa 1975. The last series of


These records, contains various broadsides of reports or of events in the House and are all oversize. It also contains some written historical material about the JPNH, including a history written in 1952/53 by Marion C. Balch.





Box 1


    1. By-laws (Rules), 1902

          2-4: Annual Reports, 1898-1945

    2. 1898-1905
    3. 1906-1908
    4. 1914-1945

          v.1-5: Minutes, 1902-1952


      Annual Meetings, 1902-1938
      Regular Meetings, May 1902-May 1912


      Regular Meetings, June 1910-March 1920


      Regular Meetings, April 1920-June 1941


Box 2


      Annual Meetings, 1939-1952
      Monthly Meetings, October 1941-1952



            5-6: Treasurer

      5. Treasurer's Reports, 1911-1945
      6. Treasurer's Annual Reports, 1939/40-1944/45



      7. Attendance Record, 1921

        Receipts, 1921

      8. Reports, 1916-1917, 1917-1918

Box 3

      9. Reports, 1918-1919
      10. Reports, 1919-1920
      11. Reports, 1920-1921
      12. Headworkers Report, 1917-18, 1921-22, 1939-42, 1942-43
      13. Director's Reports, 1920-1946 (missing 1938-39)
      14. Misc. reports etc.



      15. The Jam, v.1, 1932-33
      16. The Jam, v.2, 1933-34
      17. Press Notices



      18-23. Photographs and clippings, 1900?-1950
      24-26. Photographs and clippings, 1951-1975?



      27. History of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House Association by Marion C. Balch, 1952/53 Timeline, 1986?
      Boston Landmarks Commission abstract

Box 4 (oversize)

    oz. Misc. broadsides and reports