1894 Scandal On Birch Street!
Have you ever wondered while shopping at Birch St House and Garden what other stores might have once existed in this same space? Would you be surprised if we told you there was quite a historic scandal that occurred in January of 1894 associated with this very same building?
Birch St. House And Garden, 2023
The building was constructed by Henry Wood in the early 1890s as Roslindale’s commercial district was just starting to take off. One of Mr. Wood’s first tenants was a newcomer to Roslindale, a young man in his early 20s named Arthur Chesley.
Mr. Chesley opened an apothecary shop at the corner of South and Birch in March of 1893. In addition to selling remedies as a druggist, he also operated a soda fountain within the store.
Mr. Chesley rented a room in a boarding house at 143 Poplar St, but was known to take his meals in the dining room of the nearby Roslindale Hotel (situated in what is Adams Park today). There, he met the hotel owner and his wife, Landolin Munz and Mrs. Anna Rehm Munz.
Mr. Munz was born in Germany in 1859 and immigrated to the United States in 1872. A sizeable German community existed in Boston at that time, and it was likely through the community that he met Annie Rehm, who was born in Roxbury in 1869, her parents also having immigrated from Germany.
Landolin and Annie married on March 14th in 1888 in the town of Malden, before making their way to Boston where they would acquire the lease to operate the Roslindale Hotel (formerly known as Taft's Tavern, having originally opened in 1806). They welcomed a son, Linwood in 1889.
The Roslindale Hotel circa 1890
Newspaper articles from 1894 report that Arthur Chesley began spending more time at the hotel during his evening meals. He and Mrs. Munz were said to have had closer relations than considered proper at the time for a married woman and a single man. Apparently the neighborhood noticed the unseemly liaison, which was exacerbated by Mrs. Munz frequenting the shop for a soda, in addition to Mr. Chesley moving into the hotel for his lodging. His new address was brief however, as Mr. Munz asked him to leave a short time later.
It was then that Mr. Chesley and Mrs. Munz hatched a plan to run away together. On January 26th, Mrs. Munz told her husband that she needed to visit a friend in Lowell with a sick child and would be gone a few days. Arthur Chesley quietly sold his shop to another apothecary, Jackson S. Potter (who would go on to run the drugstore in the same location for decades, well into the 20th century).
Birch St. at South St., J.S. Potter's Pharmacy circa 1910
By the time Mr. Munz phoned the family in Lowell where he presumed his wife to be staying and learned she had never arrived, Arthur Chesley and Annie Munz were already aboard a ship headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The two were eventually found by reporters staying in a hotel as husband and wife under an assumed name in New Brunswick. During the three months the pair were on the lam, Mr. Munz went from being worried and desperate for his wife to return home, saying he would forgive and forget, to telling reporters in April that he never wanted to see Mrs. Munz again and he would file for divorce.
Our records indicate that Arthur Chesley and Annie Munz did in fact return to Boston in April of 1894, but what became of them is a bit of a mystery. Landolin Munz’s divorce request was recorded as having been granted later in 1894.
Landolin Munz shuttered the Roslindale Hotel and as far as our research indicates, he may have been the last person to operate the hotel before it closed permanently. The hotel was briefly used as overflow for the nearby Sumner school, but that too was a short-lived endeavor. By 1900, the building was torn down and a new building was put up to become the Roslindale Reading Room–the first ever branch of the Boston Public Library in the neighborhood. By 1916, the new, larger Roslindale public library building was built across the street (what is now known as the community center at Cummins and Washington St) and the former was torn down completely to make way for the new Adams Park, leaving no trace of the former Roslindale Hotel.
What we do know is that Linwood Munz did remain with his father, and Landolin did eventually marry again in 1902, this time to a German widow by the name of Katherine (Chorle) Etling.
Katherine had 3 children from her first marriage, and according to Federal Census records, she and Landolin had two more children together.
Landolin Munz sadly passed from tuberculosis in September of 1910 at the young age of 51. He is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery. Research tells us that Linwood grew up to become a fireman in Boston.
No marriage record was able to be found for Arthur and Annie, and so we can only assume they did not stay together. We did find one record regarding Annie Rehm indicating she may have married a man by the name of Jacob Bishop in 1898, in Pennsylvania, but the trail runs cold from there.
Next time you walk past buildings in Roslindale Village, stop and ask yourself what might have occurred long ago on those very same streets you are standing on today. You never know what interesting facts and scandals time may have forgotten!
- Liz Graham-Meredith, April 2023