The Lost Landmarks of Masonry:
Albert Pike's Birthplace
While recently speaking about
the Scottish Rite in Framingham,
MA, I was approached by a
Brother who was troubled that, though I had mentioned Albert Pike in my presentation, I had not included that his birthplace and childhood home was right up the road in Framingham. I stated that to my knowledge Pike was born in Boston, but our Brother was adamant; Pike was from Framingham, and the family abode was designated clearly as “Pike Haven”.
This got me thinking, and the next day I mentioned it to The Northern Light editor, Alan Foulds, who had just recently expressed his interest in locating Pike’s birthplace. Thus began our historical detective work.
Initially, the task seemed difficult. For much of his early life Pike lived in Byfield and Newburyport, MA, but did attend Framingham Academy for eight or nine months in 1825. The “Pike Haven Homestead” is indeed still in Framingham, but we could find no genealogical connection between its original builder, Jeremiah Pike, and Albert’s father, Benjamin. Every source said Pike was born in Boston.
Online searches yielded no conclusive address for Albert’s family. Eventually, we learned from Walter Lee Brown’s 1997 book A Life of Albert Pike (Arkansas University Press) that Pike’s birth was not recorded in Boston, and the only address Pike had ever given for his birthplace was on Green Street. However, the Boston Directory of 1809, published three months prior to his birth, placed the family on Gouch Lane, which was perpendicular to and ended at Green Street. All of the relative surrounding streets have been re-named over the past 202 years, but by consulting antique Boston ward maps, we were able to establish the names from which they were changed. Brown further states that the Pike residence was “almost in the shadow of the lofty tower of the beautiful West End Church”, which was built in 1806 and still stands on Cambridge Street near Government Center, now called the Old West End Church.
We eventually surmised that in 1809 Green Street would have run between what are now the southern ends of Staniford and New Chardon Streets. We also discovered that Gouch Lane ran from the 1809 location of Green Street north-northeast toward what is now Merrimac Street. All of this is conclusive. Additionally, it is easy enough to resolve that since Gouch Lane ended perpendicularly at Green Street, we could explain why Albert may have thought at such a young age that his family lived on Green Street. The family home could have stood on either the northwestern or southeastern corner of Gouch and Green, plausibly with the egress open to Green Street. Furthermore, this does indeed place the former location of the family home in the shadow of the Old West End Church.
There are no streets there now. Currently standing on the entire city block is the headquarters of Commonwealth of Massachusetts Mental Health Department, whose address is 25 Staniford Street, Boston. Though Alan and I were able to identify the location of the Pike home in a single afternoon, it left us wondering if anyone in the passing of the last 202 years since the birth of Albert Pike had even sought to find this lost landmark of Freemasonry.