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Dispatch From Upper Falls - The Smallest House in Newton

The smallest house in Newton with an interesting history

In many things I tend towards the "small is beautiful" school of thought.  I drive a small car (Honda Civic), we live in a small house by local standards (1300 sq/ft) and for that matter my wife Marie doesn't quite crack five feet tall. Maybe for that reason the house at 1295 Boylston St. immediately caught my eye within days of moving to Upper Falls a few years ago.

The house is located just aside Rt. 9 on the block between Chestnut St and Quinnobequin Rd.  At that spot Rt. 9 goes over an overpass above Chestnut St and the house is just nestled down below.  At first glance I wasn't completely certain it was a house - maybe it was a garage or a shed or some other kind of 'out building' connected to an adjascent property.

Not too long ago I was walking by and bumped into its resident, Fred Pignatelli, just coming out the front door. He stopped and talked a while and he told me what he knew. Fred said that he's been living there for the last six years and is completely comfortable in it. Though the footprint of the house is only maybe 8 x 30 feet, inside there's additional storage space in a cellar and loft.

Over the years he's been there, he's picked up various snippets of unconfirmed history about the house.  He's been told that originally the house was a small gas station along the side of Rt. 9.  In addition to the gas pumps he's been told that the service station also had an ouside lift.  At one time, Chestnut St. and Rt. 9 was just a crossroad but back around the 1930's Rt. 9 was elevated and the Rt. 9 overpass above Chestnut St. was built. Once that happened the gas station lost most of its business since it was no longer beside busy Rt. 9. Shortly thereafter the station went out of business and was converted to a house.

Fred said that I'm not the only one who's been intrigued by his house. From time to time random strangers knock on his door an inquire about the house. He's been told that his house is the smallest free standing single house in Newton though he's never confirmed that in any offical way with the city.

So at least for now, I think we'll declare it the official "smallest house in Newton" and wait for a contender to knock Fred off his tiny perch. So if you know any other houses in Newton that you think might be even smaller or in the same (little) league please post details below. Also, if you know any other details about the history of Fred's house / gas station please post those as well. In the meantime, Fred holds the title and is confident he can fend off any pretenders to his very small throne.
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Upper Falls Christmas - If you're looking for holiday gift for your Upper Falls neighbor, consider giving them a copy of Ken Newcomb's "Makers of the Mold - a History of Newton Upper Falls".  The book was published last year and all proceeds go to the Friends of Hemlock Gorge, the folks who watch out for Echo Bridge and the surrounding parkland. 

You can buy copies at Ye Olde Clip Joint (aka Sol's barbers shop) at 1209 Chestnut St,  the at 527 Washington St or New England Mobile Book Fair at 82 Needham St.   You can also buy it on-line at:  Power of Upper Falls Press or at Amazon.com

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Bob Burke December 05, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Jerry. It was indeed a gas station when I was growing up. This was included in my route when I worked for the Census a year or so back. As I recall, nobody was at home when I knocked.
Bob Burke December 05, 2011 at 08:55 PM
I'm almost certain it was a Texaco station.
Jerry Reilly December 07, 2011 at 03:28 AM
@Bob - "This was included in my route when I worked for the Census a year or so back. As I recall, nobody was at home when I knocked." Well since I've successfully tracked down the resident, am I eligible for a commission from the Census Bureau?
Bob Burke December 08, 2011 at 04:57 PM
I just talked with President Obama and he told me a check is on the way to you.
David Kruger December 09, 2011 at 03:05 AM
I don't think you have the full story Jerry. The assessor's data says the basement is 250 sf which is clearly greater than the footprint of the building. There's a theory on what's under there...
Jerry Reilly December 09, 2011 at 03:44 AM
The plot thickens ! ... it's one of those buildings that's bigger on the inside than the outside.
David Kruger December 09, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Maybe our historian Bob Burke knows the lore. But as a basic, do we know of any other building used as a gas station that has a basement? If fact, if you need basement space, why build such a small building? There's a reason says the lore...
Bob Burke December 09, 2011 at 06:59 PM
This is beyond my knowledge, but in Upper Falls, anything is possible.

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