A little help for city's oldest house

The oldest house in the city of Boston is a Dorchester landmark near Edward Everett Square. The historic James Blake House on Columbia Road has undergone an extensive rehabilitation to correct some deterioration to the external areas, and to correct "well-meaning but unsympathetic changes to the appearance of the building," in the words of local preservationists.

As part of the work, the society used a grant to take sample cores from timbers in the house to determine the age of the building. The analysis showed that the timbers came from "the felling of trees in the winter of 1660-1661." It is now believed the house was built in the spring and summer of 1661.

According to the Dorchester Historical Society (DHS,) the house is a very early example of West England country framing in the United States: "Most of the early colonial homes in Dorchester, such as the Pierce House on Boston Street, were built by housewrights from the south and east of England, where brick and plaster building predominated. However, the Blake House was built in the manner of the homes of western England, which had long used heavy timber framing methods. The James Blake House is a two-story, central chimney, gable-roof dwelling of timber-frame construction. The house is one of a relatively small number of its type - the post-Medieval, timber-frame house - surviving anywhere in New England. It is one of only two known West-of-England-derived houses to survive in Massachusetts, the other being the 1654 Coffin House in Newbury."

The DHS will nominate the exterior restoration for a preservation award to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The deadline for submitting applications is March 3. Historical Society president Earl Taylor is asking persons who support the application to submit a letter to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, 220 Morrissey Boulevard, Dorchester, MA,  02125.

- Ed Forry

 A Boston Radio Legend Passes

We mourn the death of Jess Cain, the longtime host of a popular morning drive-time radio program on the former WHDH radio. Jess died at his home on Valentine's Day after a long battle with cancer. He was 81 years old.

To those of us who remember him, and whose world view was formed in part by his delightfully funny daily morning shows, we are filled with happy memories. For three decades, this pioneering "morning man" was the dominant force in Boston radio, earning ratings share in double figures that have never been equaled in this city.

Cain developed a four-hour flow of music, news, and good humor, creating a cast of comic characters, the memory of which can still bring smiles to his legion of fans. You are a Real Bostonian if you remember names like Sidney Flack, Hap Smiley, Pressgate Fenway, Jack Crack the beat poet and Durt Cloudy - they were all comic creations of the great Jess Cain, a pioneer of morning radio in our town. For many of those years he broadcast from studios on Morrissey Boulevard here in Dorchester, and he enabled several generations of Boston radio listeners to wake up and greet each day with a smile.

Jess Cain was a broadcast giant, a Boston legend, and a good, caring family man who will be missed.

And what wonderful memories he leaves us.


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