History of Land Development in Waltham, Mass.
The South Side →
In 1854, Roxia A. Fuller, David (the younger) Fuller's widow, sold most of what later became the northwest corner of Crescent Street and the southern end of Moody Street to Samuel P. Tolman (MLR 688/118). The lot extended from about today's Robbins Street south to a bit north of Crescent Street (which had not yet been laid out there), and from about today's Adams Street east to Moody Street. It was stated in the deed that the land had been inherited from David's mother, Sarah Fuller. Subsequently, in 1856 and 1857, Tolman sold a portion of the lot, closest to the Crescent/Moody intersection, to David Randall (MLR 752/31 and 778/141, see also 778/142). In 1869, Tolman sold the rest of the lot, north and west of Randall's land, to Charles Harrington (MLR 1078/8). It appears that Harrington then subdivided much of his land into house lots (the south side of Robbins Street and both sides of Orange Street, between Adams and Moody). According to town directories, Charles Harrington lived elsewhere during this period, but his son, Elliot A. Harrington, a lawyer in town and later the first city treasurer, bought a lot at the corner of Adams and Orange in 1879 (MLR 1524/3), and was listed as living there in 1880. The house appears to still be there, today, as No. 198 Adams Street.
Meanwhile, in 1876, Randall sold the remainder of his lot to Benjamin F. Reed (1401/144). Reed established a large estate for himself on the land, with the estate house at the corner of Crescent and Moody (1886 Waltham Atlas). He was listed in the 1877 town directory as living on the corner of Crescent and Moody, and working as a paving contractor in Boston. The house originally faced on Moody Street on the 1886 and 1900 maps, but was not there on the 1918 map. However, the impressive Second Empire house now at 408-410 Crescent Street looks exactly like the Reed house shown on the 1883 panoramic view. Since it was not there on the 1900 map, but was on the 1918 map on land still owned by the Reed family, and it seems late for such an impressive Second Empire house to be built after 1900, it is likely that the house currently at 408-410 Crescent Street is the Reed house after it was moved.
In 1879, Reed expanded his estate by acquiring the remainder of Harrington's land south of the house lots on the south side of Orange Street (MLR 1512/143). Finally, in 1882, Reed completed his estate by acquiring a small slice of land between Crescent Street and his existing estate from Watson Stearns (MLR 1597/541). The land had come to Watson Stearns from his sisters in 1865 (MLR 949/6), and was probably part of the land that came to their father, Nathaniel Stearns, from the estate of George Stearns in 1847 (MLR 525/270). Nathaniel Stearns was George Stearns' son, and Bradshaw Stearns' brother. Soon after this, Reed laid out Chester Avenue (between 1891 and 1894, according to voting lists) and started selling off house lots on Chester Avenue and the north side of Crescent Street.
Now, considering the land south of Crescent Street, north of the Island, and west of Moody Street, prior to 1847, most of it appears to have been owned by George Stearns, father of Bradshaw Stearns and Nathaniel Stearns. How he acquired it is not certain, but George's mother, Hannah Fuller, was the daughter of Isaac Fuller, and the great granddaughter of John Fuller. This land is also in the border area between the colonial Fuller and Williams Farms, so it's previous ownership is hard to follow. In 1847, the lands of George Stearns' estate in this area were sold at auction, and the northern 7 acres went to Nathaniel Stearns (MLR 525/270), and the southern 10 acres went to John E. Tolman (MLR 526/50). In this last deed, it was stated that a street had just been laid out through part of the lot. This was today's Moody Street, along the eastern end of the lot. In 1850, John E. Tolman married Sarah F. Stearns, who was the daughter of Bradshaw Stearns, and the niece of Nathaniel Stearns. The dividing line between the Tolman and Stearns land is reflected, today, in the diagonal boundary between the back yards along Norumbega Terrace and the Waltham Skateboard Park, with Tolman to the east and south, and Stearns to the west and north.
The diagonal line came up to where Crescent Street is today, with only about 45 feet of frontage along Crescent Street for the Tolman land. There is a mortgage taken out by Tolman with William Storer based on at least some of this land in 1848 (MLR 544/447), and it states "with buildings". So the Tolman house, which stood at the southwest corner of Crescent and Moody Streets, may have been built at this time (shown on the 1854 Waltham map and labeled "J.E. Tolman". It later became the Cram house, but was demolished sometime between 1956 and 1966. There were numerous deeds and mortgages related to these lands between John E. Tolman and his brother, James P. Tolman, in the late 1840s and early 1850s (MLR 564/518 & 519, 566/500, 587/395 & 396, and 596/303. Evidently, the house at the corner of Crescent and Moody became the homestead of James P. Tolman, who took out two mortgages on it in 1855 and 1856 with Stephen B. Cram (MLR 727/251 and 734/404). By this time, the homestead lot had been increased to about one acre, stretching about 200 feet along Crescent Street, by a triangular lot acquired from Watson Stearns (MLR 734/403). However, these mortgages were foreclosed in 1861 (MLR 857/463), and it was probably at this time that Cram took possession of the house (shown as "S.B. Cram" on the 1867 map).
In 1869, John E. Tolman and Augustus I. Dexter sold all the land not yet sold, bounded by the Stearns land on the north, Moody Street on the east, the marshland along the Newton border to the south and Crams Cove and former Waltham Improvement Company/American Watch land to the west (about 15 acres by then, possibly including a 4 acre lot bequeathed to Sarah F. Tolman by her father, Bradshaw Stearns, in 1855 – MLR 714/274) to James P. Tolman (MLR 1089/444). The sale was actually related to a mortgage among the parties, and James P. Tolman was related by marriage to Augustus I. Dexter (MLR 714/272). James P. Tolman immediately sold the land to John M. Moore (MLR 1089/445), and what remained of it is shown in the 1918 atlas still belonging to Moore. In 1919, Moore's heirs sold it to Harvey P. Bartlett (MLR 4324/337).
Meanwhile, the Stearns land to the north of the Tolman land, was divvied up in 1865 among the three Stearns siblings: Watson, Mary, and Adaline (or Adeline, who married Frank E. Stanley). Watson got the northern portion, most of which was north of Crescent Street and later went to Benjamin Reed (MLR 949/6); Mary got the southeastern section, mostly Norumbega Terrace (MLR 949/7, also see 1746/414 and 1803/118); and Adaline and Frank got the southwestern section (MLR 949/8), which went to about opposite Adams Street along the south side of Crescent Street.
Adaline Stanley took out a mortgage on her section in 1869 with the Waltham Savings Bank (MLR 1087/273), which was defaulted on in 1888, and the land went to William H. P. Smith (MLR 1846/162). The western boundary was on land of the American Waltham Watch Company, so this was the old boundary of the Bemis Farm – from the Adams/Crescent intersection to Crams Cove. From maps, it was on this Watch Co. land at the southern end of Crescent Street that Charles Vander Woerd built his house, which later became the Free Reading Room, and still later was replaced by today's Hovey House apartments. The 1886 map showed a house on the Stanley land labeled "Stanley" (today 349 Crescent St.). Soon after Smith acquired the property in 1888, he sold the lot at the western end to Murray D. Clement (MLR 1861/465), and the deed specified "with buildings". Clement was the paymaster at the American Waltham Watch Company, at the time, and the city directory gives his house as 349 Crescent St. According to the 1886 city directory and voting list, the house was lived in by Stephen W. Cram that year. Cram worked at the Watch Company, and may have been related to Stephen B. Cram, who was still living at the corner of Moody Street. However, it appears from directories that Frank and Adaline Stanley did not live here at any time. They were living from 1871 through 1886 on Bacon near School. Therefore, the Second Empire house at 349 Crescent Street appears to have been built by Adaline and Frank Stanley sometime between 1869 and 1883 (appeared on the 1883 panoramic view), who probably did not live in it; but was owned and lived in by Murray D. Clement, paymaster at the Watch Factory, after 1888.