Mt Ida Realty Company Houses

The business model for developers in 1890-1910 was to buy a large tract of land and cut it up into standardized lots (usually 25'x100'), put in roads and sidewalks, and sell them bare of improvements. The buyers would put up their own houses. One of these developers was James Groves, who moved up from Norfolk and set up the Mt Ida Realty Co to sell lots on the hillside west of the trolley tracks, now Commonwealth Avenue.

The development opened in 1909 sales and construction were not immediately impressive for a tract that size. Only two houses went up that first year, followed by three in 1910 (not counting one by Groves himself) and another three in 1911.

To speed things up he decided the best course would be to “seed” the development with new houses that the company would build themselves and then rent out. With luck, others would see the hive of activity and be spurred to follow suit.

The Mt Ida Realty Company built six houses in 1912, five classic American four-squares and, inexplicably, one one really early and beautiful example of the California bungalow. Three of the houses are no longer. A four-square at 2706 Hickory had a short life, burning down in 1917. 2408 Commonwealth was demolished in 1980 to put up the pair of duplexes at 1 and 3 West Caton. 15 West Groves was demolished in 2015 to put up a house that was bigger. Remaining are one mid-size foursquare at 12 West Mt Ida, one larger foursquare at 2504 Commonwealth, and the early bungalow at 2304 Commonwealth.