Quincy, Mass. Historical and Architectural Survey

21 Gay Street

The South Quincy neighborhood is bounded by the MBTA tracks (west), School Street (north), Quincy Avenue (east) and the Braintree Town Line (south). The old Boston-Plymouth Highway followed two important streets in the area, School and Franklin, and it is on Franklin Street that is found the birthplaces of the two presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, around which the Adams Birthplace Local Historic District is formed. This was a residential area and many of the homes belonged to those connected with the nearby granite industry. The earliest houses were along the old Boston-Plymouth Highway with woods and farmlands stretching behind. Now the major farms in the area, principally those of Charles Francis Adams and Job Faxon, have been subdivided and there is much commercial activity along Quincy Street, Franklin Street, School Street and the beginning of Independence Avenue. A notable feature of South Quincy is the 54-acre Faxon Park, given to the City of Quincy, beginning in 1885, by the Faxon family.

This large house has been the rectory for St. John's Church since at least 1876 and may have been originally built for that purpose. St. John's church was dedicated in 1853 and in 1864 became the central parish. In 1925, three rooms were added to the first floor of the rectory and two rooms to the second floor. The architect for this addtion was Edward T. P. Graham of Boston, who had previously designed Most Blessed Sacrament Church at Sea and Darrow Streets in 1917. The rectory is located on Gay Street, which was named for Henry Turner Gay (1766-1844).

Building Permit, alterations.
H. Hobart Holly. Quincy: 350 Years, 1974, p. 58.
H. Hobart Holly. "Quincy's Granite Hills Were Golden". Quincy History. Spring, 1980.

When this residence was built in the 1860s it was considered very modern for it imitated tbe latest French building fashions. It was concomitant with the Italianate and tbe Gothic Revival Styles which were part of the Picturesque movement. The distinctive roof (which could be convex, concave or straight as in this house) was named for a 17th century French architect, Francois Mansart. In the 1850s, the style was revived in France by Napoleon III, hence the term "Second Empire" or "mansardic" for modest structures. Very little remains of tbe house's original exterior fabric except the dormers on the straight lower slope of tbe slate roof, the compact massing and the modillions under the eaves. The window enframements, corner boards, quoins or pilasters and other ornamentaion have all been removed when the house was sided with aluminum. The porch is uncharacteristic of any of the styles of the 1860s, neither mansardic, nor I talianate nor late Greek Revival; it was a Colonial Revival addition of the 1920s. The property was listed in the previous Quincy inventory. Fronting the house is an elegant cast iron fence with ball finials.