At one time a grand homestead, Wright House waits on the future
What was once one of Dorchesterâ€™s grandest homes sits sadly today at 24 Grampian Way atop Savin Hill overlooking downtown Boston. The residence, deemed a â€œhaunted houseâ€ by neighbors, has fallen into disrepair. It has a history, though: It was once owned by the legendary sportsman George Wright, a Dorchester fixture until his death at age 90 in 1937, who helped revolutionize American sports, particularly major league baseball, in the decades after the Civil War.
The beginning of efforts to preserve the Wright House are underfoot, according to Peter McNamara, who lives next door. â€œIt has become a sore spot in the neighborhood,â€ McNamara told the Reporter last week. He said he is keenly interested in both the story of George Wright and his home and that he has obtained the proper documents from the Dorchester Historical Society to begin the preservation process, adding that several area residents have joined him in his effort to gain landmark status and, he hopes, to restore the house to its onetime glory.
The house was purchased by Raymond Tomasini in the mid-20th century and when he died three years ago, he left it to to his three children. â€œIt was a splendid house to grow up in. We were very spoiled to have the big yard that we had,â€ said his daughter, Virginia Tomasini-Lane of South Boston.
As to any restoration or preservation, Tomasini-Lane told the Reporter that the family is working to sort through their fatherâ€™s estate and has no plans to do anything with the home right now or for the foreseeable future. â€œWeâ€™ve been doing prudently all we can to inch our way through the process, but it has been a very long process.â€ she said.
â€œI donâ€™t think that itâ€™s unique architecturally; itâ€™s probably not the only house of its kind and so itâ€™s harder to make the case based solely on its architecture,â€ said Dorchester Historical Society president Earl Taylor. â€œSo I think youâ€™d have to make the case based on the occupants and it seems as if they would meet at least the preliminary requirements for landmark status,â€ Taylor added. The Boston Historic Commission, in beginning its investigation of the historical value of a house, requires proof that the building itself is unique or that the occupants of the building held significance outside of the local area, Taylor said.
Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association President Maureen McQuillen said that while she personally supports the houseâ€™s preservation, the association would have to vote on a proposal before the community group could give its blessing to any undertaking.
Dorchester resident Eric James Robinson of RODE Architects said that the building is part of Savin Hillâ€™s history and evokes an era when builders and craftsmen were more artistic: â€œIt certainly has fallen into sort of disrepair, but it is a critical component to the fabric of that specific neighborhood, the Savin Hill over-the-bridge area.â€
Born in New York in 1847, George Wright came of age just after the American Civil War. He began playing professional baseball at age 20 and when the Cincinnati Red Stockings were organized as the first full professional team, with ten salaried players, Wright was on the squad. He was a talented all-around player, playing shortstop and batting an average of .633 under the rules of the day, according to the writer Dan Norwood.
After the Cincinnati team collapsed, Wright moved with several of his teammates and the teamâ€™s player/manager, his brother Harry, to Boston and established the Boston Red Stockings ball club. The Red Stockings would eventually become the Boston Braves of the National League, ceding their original moniker to the American League team that was established in Boston in 1901 that today is known as the Boston Red Sox.
After his baseball days, Wright retired to his house on Grampian way and founded the Wright and Ditson sporting goods store, which was headquartered on Washington St. in Boston. It was the storeâ€™s vast collection of sporting goods and equipment that lead George Wright to the game of golf.
The New York Times obituary in 1937 referred to Wright as â€œthe father of the ancient game [of golf] in this country,â€ having been one of the first to popularize the Scottish sport on American shores. Today, Wright is memorialized in Hyde Park by the George Wright municipal golf course.
Wrightâ€™s son, Beals C. Wright, was a legendary athlete in his own right coming out of Harvard. A five-time Davis Cup team member, he won the singles championship in 1905 and was a member of the doubles championship teams in 1904, 1905 and 1906. He was enshrined in the lawn tennis Hall of Fame in 1936. After his career in Tennis, Beals Wright joined his fatherâ€™s company and died in 1961.